Top 10 Ways to Build Strong Professional Relationships

We’ve all heard the old adage “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” and this still rings true even in today’s world of easy social media connections. You might have thousands of “friends” or “followers” on social media, but people work with (and hire) people they know and trust. So making valuable connections and building strong relationships is key. Whether you are just starting out, changing industries, or simply looking to grow your network, here are some ways that you can build strong professional relationships.

1) Focus on adding value

Selfish networkers are all around us. I receive half a dozen requests a week from people whom I don’t know, looking to spam me. Build trust by finding ways that you can bring value to the other person. What insight or knowledge can you provide? How can you help them meet their goals?

2) Be a connector

Even if you don’t have a way to add value directly, often connecting people can be extremely valuable. Malcom Gladwell talks about “connectors” in his book The Tipping Point. Connectors bring value and influence by helping to connect people. Are You a connector? Take the test here.

3) Be intentional

To build strong professional relationships, you first need to get out and meet new people. For example, when you have a networking event coming up, set a specific goal to connect with X people. Focus on finding a few people with whom to connect, and be intentional about investing your time in conversations with them.

4) Quality over quantity

The value of your network is not simply a numbers game. Having 1000+ connections on LinkedIn with no idea who they are (and vice versa by the way) might feel good, but it is not nearly as valuable as targeted and nurtured relationships with people who know you and the value you bring to the table.

5) Maintain your relationships

A one-time connection is not enough. Find creative ways to stay in touch. Pass on an interesting article that the person might enjoy, introduce them to a new potential resource, or setup lunch or coffee to see what they are up to.

6) Make it easy to connect

Make sure your contact info is easy to exchange and your contacts stay up to date. It’s frustrating when you try to reach out to a connection only to find that they finally shut down that aol email address.

7) Ask for introductions

After you have a solid relationship with someone, you can reach out to them to ask for introductions. Do you know anyone who could help me with XYZ goal? Sometimes just politely asking can not only strengthen your relationship with the person you ask, but also result in valuable introductions.

8) Don’t always be closing

No one likes being on the receiving end of a “hard sell.” We’ve all had the LinkedIn request followed immediately by a sales pitch. Take the time to build a relationship. Understand the person and their needs before pushing to close a sale.

9) Look in all the “right” places

Search out niche organizations and networking opportunities that fit the relationships you’re trying to grow. Look for local meetups, industry events, clubs, and volunteer groups that draw the types of people with whom you want to connect.

10) Be prepared

Avoid the awkward introduction by having your 30-sec pitch refined and ready for the inevitable “So what do you do?” question. Craft an interesting story about what you’re currently working on, how you came to be in your current role, etc.

Incorporating some of these ideas into your day-to-day professional interactions will help you build and strengthen your professional network. We would also love to hear what techniques you use, if you would like to comment.

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Author Sam Gerace

Chief Executive Officer Sam works to build the growth stage ecosystem in Northeast Ohio through entrepreneurial mentoring programs at Jumpstart, Inc., Flash Starts, and in the Entrepreneurial Studies program at Hawken School; through ad hoc mentoring; and by serving on the board of the Ohio Venture Association.

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