That tongue-twister of a title aside, if you’re reading this, you’re probably tired of business card swap meets that never go anywhere. You’re tired of “networking” events that accomplish nothing, and of self-congratulatory conventions where no one does anything. Most of all, you’re tired of those closed doors keeping you from the business you really want to make.
Look to this century’s greatest business minds. They did something right.
Building business relationships is a gift, and people like Howard Schultz, Alex F. Bouri, and Indra Nooyi have raised it to an art form. They exemplify many of the traits that all of the books agree make great leaders, but they also carry a personal brand with them that makes them stand slightly apart from the other would-be business giants around them.
So when you admit that you are weary of your growing business card collection, of meeting people you know you won’t call, of the endless insincerity of it all, take a step back. Take a good look at yourself. Then, follow these tips to help build your own business brand, personal brand, and relationships.
Nothing could be more obvious than momentary sincerity. When you’re building a relationship, take an honest interest in the other party, and follow up on their lives. Get to know them and mean it. If you can’t, move on to someone you can, because good businesspeople can smell a phony.
Questions are obviously a great conversation starter, but don’t make them innocuous, either. If you ask about the weather, you out yourself as one of the boring folks, and boring folks don’t inspire confidence. Ask about their favorite books, their interest in film or culture, and let that lead you into a conversation about their life and their business. Above all, never ask them “what they do.”
An old adage goes, “You can’t learn anything with your mouth open.” There’s something to be said for that. If you are doing all the talking, you are missing an opportunity to learn about the other person. Focus on the answers to your great questions. Be now, and avoid drifting off. And here’s the big secret: the most important thing isn’t what’s being said, it’s the subtext.
Don’t be a lone ranger
The whole point of networking and building relationships is to surround yourself with valuable allies in business. People whose talent and drive match or exceed yours are your rocket to success, and being afraid – or too proud – to associate with them is a death sentence.
Don’t be standoffish or insist on titles and formal names, particularly when your business relationship is growing into something that will involve financial gains and losses. Look at the world’s top CEOs and powerful people – they tend to go by short, relatable names, even nicknames. Steve, Bill, Tim, Fred, Meg, Larry. In the past, the CEO was a looming figure, but in today’s world of instant information, people expect transparency. Honesty and personality are your best assets.
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Ashely is a part of a team of writers who have contributed to business blogs and news sites. Follow her @AshelyMarie1985 to see what else she has to say!