Eight strategies for developing and retaining professional relationships.
Make “relationships” a priority. If relationships are important, make them a priority. We’re busy. We have plenty to do. Typically, unless there is a major problem or conflict, relationships won’t logically show up as an urgent item on our to-do lists. If relationships really are important, invest time doing the things that will build relationships, rather than neglecting them.
Develop the friendship. If you want to nurture relationships, you have to sincerely care about people, their thoughts and feelings, and their well-being, i.e. be a friend. Your professional expertise and knowledge matters, of course, but keep it in perspective. When you do, let people know you care. And if you really don’t care, you need to think long and hard about why that is true.
Listen. Roy E. Moody: “”The greatest motivational act one person can do for another is to listen.” M. Scott Peck: “You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” It seems so simple, yet it is most often overlooked. When others listen to us, their listening strengthens our relationship with that person. We can do that for others – any time (including right now!).
Stay In Touch. The frequency will depend on their schedules and preferences as well as our own. Our experience is that bankers touch their closest referral sources and professional relationships once per week and, maybe, more frequently. “Stay in touch” can be a quick text message – “Happy Tuesday, how are things going today?” It could be a question, an introduction, an invitation, or something as simple as sharing a good experience.
Curate and share information. “Too much information moving too fast” is our daily experience. Once you know your COIs’ and professional relationships’ interests, you can search for, prioritize, and share information with them, as in “I think you’ll find this interesting.” Any topic – sports, business, government, the arts, flowers, personal development, sales skills. When we personally curate and share content, each share is a “little gift”. (Caution: Space them out. Don’t flood their email boxes!)
Get them out of their offices/locations. At least once a year, if not monthly or quarterly, invite your COIs and most significant professional relationships OUT. Out to lunch, out for golf, out for a walk, our for ice cream, whatever they (and you) would enjoy together. Best case, make these experiences memorable and personal. Memorable in that it’s different and more fun that the usual “hum drum” networking activity. Personal in that it’s something you’ve chosen because you know they’ll like it.
Help them grow their networks and client bases. Connections come in many forms. On one hand we need to connect with people on things that matter to them. This, of course, starts with caring. We also can make connections for people with other people. Once you know their interests and needs, you can introduce them to others, connect them to resources and/or connect them to anything else that would help them.
Take the lead. Inherent in all of these suggestions is one important element. If you want to nurture relationships in whatever way you choose, go first. Relationships won’t grow unless someone takes action. Be the one to go first. Make the first move. Ask the first question. Take the lead.