Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Building Relationships, Building Business

So I was talking to a business consultant the other day, and he was talking about the importance of building a relationship BEFORE you ask for business. According to him, timing is everything--and in an ideal world, people would come to know and trust you and then offer you the business--without you having to ask. Of course, the world isn't perfect.

He had an interesting perspective. He told me that talking about business right away with some prospects is like talking about sex right away with a date. Instead of starting off with some basic conversation, getting to know each other and so on, it's like starting off with a "wanna go back to my place?" It's all a bit jarring--and it comes too soon, before you even know the person.

But building relationships does come with its problems. For one, sometimes you need the business now--not months down the road, after lots of coffee shop meetings and casual emails with interesting article links "just because." It seems like a good way to put yourself out there, but not the only way--and it takes the control out of your hands.

Also--and this problem isn't one everyone faces--but as a young single woman, sometimes the response I get when I try to "build relationships" isn't exactly the kind I had in mind. I think I'm asking a web designer out to coffee because I want to explore the idea of working together--but he thinks I have a more personal interest. This leads to awkward misunderstandings and situations sometimes.

Of course, you can build relationships in many ways. It's one thing social media marketing is supposed to do for you. I've done my best to do things for people without asking for anything back--I've passed on several referrals to people I'd like to work with, and I regularly pass on resumes of people I work with to my recruiter friends if there's a match and it's the right situation. Hopefully these good deeds will lead to business down the road, but you never know--and really, if you do this kind of thing just because you want something back, you're kind of missing the point.

Basically, I think relationship building is a good habit to get into--but it's tough to make it your primary business-building strategy. How do you build relationships--and what has it led to?


Isao said...

Interesting: I recently started forming loose friendship on Twitter. I commented on a blog + retweeted the post. Within 24 hours the author read the thread, read my blog, knew I am a fellow nomad-type person, and said thanks + offered me to guest-blog if I am interested in. Asking for guest-blogging wasn't my intention but I am so glad she asked - I didn't know I wanted to write there until being asked. I think the whole event worked because (1) All profiles and communication are open in the field (2) We are physically distant so there is again, no place for ulterior motivations. People say making everything public is like living in a police-state, but I am starting to think probably that it the best way to form relationship based on the best intentions.

Unknown said...

Well, if you weren't so damned cute you wouldn't have that problem. Ugly up already! LOL

I TOTALLY agree with this consultant. And with your assessment that it shouldn't be your primary business-building strategy.

I keep telling a young relative that he could find plenty of connections in his industry on Twitter, but that he has to show actual interest in these people beyond what they can do for him. Approaching someone new and saying "You need to put your money behind my project" is like walking up to someone in a checkout line and saying "You need to have me over for dinner."

Some people just suck at networking. They approach it with a hand-out mentality. When I meet those people, I try very hard to forget their names.