4 Tips for Nurturing Genuine Business Relationships

July 24, 2015

We’ve all heard that it’s “not what you know, but who you know.” That has some truth to it, and that’s why it resonates. Who among us has not benefited from an opportunity that could be traced back to someone else?

From internships, to jobs, to new business opportunities, most of us have someone else to thank. Networking is important even if you are not in a role that necessarily requires it, like sales or entrepreneurship. Frankly, we all benefit from each other.

You never know what opportunities may arise in the future that would help you or your company if only you had known the right point of contact, or even someone who could point you in that direction. It’s a lost opportunity to have met someone, exchanged business cards, only to have not bothered to follow up with them. Soon you’ll find their business card, but won’t be able to put the name to a face, and it would be as if you’d have never met. You’ll probably never know what you missed out on.

Here’s 4 tips on nurturing those business relationships, and creating real connections instead of just another LinkedIn connection.

1. Make your intentions clear

First, if you are trying to sell someone something (which frequently happens at conferences and industry events), make that apparent early on. If there is simply not a good product-company match, then there may not be a need for the back and forth that accompanies a sales discussion. In that case, perhaps there’s common ground or interest in a different subject? It can be interesting to learn more about a company or an individual’s background just for the sake of learning.

You can always ask people what brought them to the event. It may be to learn from notable speakers, to pitch their product, to provide their company exposure, to network, or maybe for the delicious free breakfast. There’s usually common ground to be found, especially when you know each other’s goals.

2. Help others


Once you know what someone is looking for, help them if you can. If they’re looking for a job, think about how you can be helpful. If your company is hiring for their prospective role, chat with them about their background, experiences, and what they’re looking for to see if there’s potential of moving forward with a referral. Perhaps you may know someone who knows someone, or even know someone who knows someone who knows someone. That’s what networking is all about.

Maybe during the conversation, you realize that you know somebody who could help them. You can always mention that you’ll introduce them to someone who would be relevant for them to meet, whether they’re involved in the same space or are looking for advice. If they’re not at the event with you, then you can introduce them via email. What goes around comes around.

3. Follow up right away

We meet people, and we forget their names a second later. It happens to the best of us! Thankfully, looking at a business card later with their name, company, and role can jog our memories and we’ll be able to follow up appropriately.

Follow up the next day with a quick email. Keep it short, and simply say that you enjoyed meeting them and reflect on an aspect of the conversion that you had. Something like, “It was great meeting you at DevWeek last night. Best of luck with the new launch!” If you’d like to schedule a meeting, just add “We started to talk about our techniques for growing our press reach and I’d love to continue that conversation. How does your schedule look next Tuesday to grab coffee or lunch?”

4. Keep in Touch

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LinkedIn is a easy, low-commitment way to keep your contacts front-of-mind for you. It’s a great way for you and them to remember each other’s names and faces, and provide an easy future opportunity for you to reach out, as well as keep in touch. There’s no harm in having them pop up on your newsfeed or email when it’s their birthday, when they have a work anniversary, get a new job, or share content. All of these occasions are fair game for reaching out, if even with a quick and friendly note.

The key is, that you must actually reach out! This is the usual, common way these things go: you request someone on LinkedIn, they accept, you send them a follow up message and they respond, then you never contact each other again. Let’s break that cycle. You can also keep in touch with a relevant email. If you met through an industry event, then feel free to email them to ask how they are and share an interesting article that pertains to their professional interests and that touches on what you’ve discussed. Use your best judgement here: reaching out, especially out of the blue, can feel awkward, inauthentic, or tricky.

Don’t Stop the Process

If you strive to provide real value in your outreach, and are not just reaching out as a self-serving way of broadening networks that may be valuable to you, then people should look forward to your outreach. You want to aim to establish regular communication so it doesn’t appear that you’re only reaching out when you need something. Focus on what they may need, whether that be an introduction or idea. It’s the thought that counts.

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