Beyond the Business Card

9 12 2014

Business Handshake

You met someone at a business / networking event, a hike, a party, or your high school / college reunion. Or you’ve been adding new connections to LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.

In my experience, many, if not most who exchange business cards or connect online stop there. They’re hoping / waiting for the other person to reach out and do business with them. Or, they aggressively reach out looking for business, and if the other person isn’t interested, the process ends there as well.

So, what do you do? You look to build a long-term, mutually beneficial, professional relationship. Why? You can derive many benefits, including acquiring new business, of course. Do you realize that you will usually gain much more business through referrals than from doing business with one person or business (unless it’s a really large account)? How? By getting to know the other person and their business, understanding their needs, who are their clients, and how you can help them.

Yes, it’s about how you can help them that gets the relationship going! Finding out who they do business with, and who are their potential referral sources, offer great opportunities for you to help someone else. You may also have some great ideas that can help them with planning, marketing, operations, finance, or other.  Does it mean they’ll reciprocate? Not necessarily, but you never know, and by helping someone else, you increase the chances they will help you as well. Remember – “mutually beneficial”!

Beyond direct business, you can build friendships, learn from one another, and just feel good about helping someone else succeed.

I was a recruiter for more than 20 years, and over time, the vast majority of my business came from my client base, some directly, and most from referrals. The phone rang more and more, so the number of inbound calls exceeded the outbound calls. And, most of my outbound calls were keeping in touch with my network, developing, building and maintaining those long-term relationships. Today as a career and LinkedIn coach, again, most of my business comes from referrals.

So, look through your stack of business cards and your online contacts, and start reaching out and looking to develop “mutually beneficial” relationships. It takes time, it takes effort and commitment, it takes patience, and it takes a willingness to help others and expect nothing in return. It seems counter-intuitive – when you genuinely help someone else without expecting them to reciprocate, they do more often. And, you both benefit.

So, go beyond the business card and the online connection, and start building those professional relationships!

I coach my clients natural, comfortable and practical methods to build and maintain professional relationships. If you’d like to learn how to do it, please get in touch – (818) 577-1347 / scfried@aol.com / http://www.linkedin.com/in/stuartfried. I’m also presenting the “Beyond the Business Card” workshop with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC), February 11 at 8:30 am (http://cocsbdc.org).

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