7 Strategies for Building Relationships

“If they like you, they will listen to you. If they trust you, they will do business with you.” -Zig Ziglar

In the digital age, sending a quick email or text can be so much more efficient when compared to a face-to-face meeting or even a phone call but, what’s lost in that interaction? The actual relationship is often the neglected piece sacrificed for productivity, but it’s the most important — especially when it comes to starting, growing and maintaining a nonprofit.

Relationships are the centerpiece of a Business.

Maybe you don’t see a lot of benefit to investing time in networking or getting to know business contacts or customers. But, let’s look at this from another angle. Maybe you don’t feel passionate about relationship building, but what about your customers, employees, suppliers, vendors, clients, etc.? How do they feel?

There are many business leaders that simply refuse to work with clients who don’t have time for them. Key partners or employees may feel the same way. When you make time to get to know others, even if just a few minutes, you are sending a clear message that they matter, that they are valuable to you.

Remember, you are going to be working with these people soliciting support from them there must be a high level of trust, make sure the relationship is solid before you dive into the professional side of things.

You must remember building relationships is the key to fundraising success.

I give you the #BUILDER Approach to Building Relationships

Brand yourself — A good business reputation goes hand in hand with maintaining good relationships. A business will have a difficult time connecting with other businesses and contacts if it has a bad reputation, because who would want to be associated with someone with a tarnished name and image?

A boss once told me your reputation needs to be so good that if someone talks negatively about you no one believes them and in fact, it brings the “bone carrier” character into question.

When you are networking, you automatically become the face of your organization or your brand. You are effectively representing them so that your brand or organization will be immediately identifiable with you. Make a favorable or good first impression but make it a point to make a good impression every single time.

If you have a resting b*tch face. Smile. Do not drive them away by looking gloomy or depressed.

Here is what you can do to Brand yourself

1. Build trust. Never take advantage of people. Don’t even let them think that you’d do so. It’s the quickest way to ruin a relationship and build a bad reputation that can harm other relationships too. The key to building trust is being honest. When you are willing to forego your own interests to help someone else, they know they can rely on you. Do the right thing and be dependable, and you’ll see your relationships grow stronger.

2. Show an interest in others. Pretentious people who talk about themselves all the time don’t get very far. Smart people know that an early step to gaining respect and building a relationship is to show interest in other people. Listen to what people have to say and show a sincere interest in them. Ask questions about their job and kids. Keep track of what they’ve brought up in the past and follow up with them. Everyone is impressed when someone shows they’ve taken the time to remember their stories. For my introverts, you excel at this. You listen and retain information. So, focus on this as your strength not a weakness during networking.

3. Work hard. People want to invest in success and someone who is going to provide results. You might need to show them that you can deliver before you can expect them to have your back or put in a good word for you. When someone asks for something, give a little more. My motto is under-promise and over-deliver. Deliver early and take initiative to help in ways you weren’t asked. It takes effort to build relationships you might have to be the first one to do a favor.

4. Focus on giving. Similarly, many people want to build relationships so that they can have someone to help them out when they need it. Always think about how you can help people in your network. They’re far more likely to return a favor than they are to go out of their way for you, especially early in your relationship.

Here are the NO, NOs in Branding yourself

1. Failing to be consistent. In all relationships, people deserve to know that your good intentions are genuine. If you are good to someone who’s good to you, but they see you failing to treat others the same way, they will question your motives. They may think you are sucking up or being deceptive. Treating everyone you meet the same way helps you come across as sincere and genuine.

2. Failing to admit your mistakes. Part of developing trust is showing that you know how to be accountable. If you mess up, fess up about it. People understand that mistakes are made but lying about them can cause permanent damage to your relationships.

3. Not being reliable. Just like when businesses deceivingly change their policies or don’t meet obligations, you can really offend someone when you’re not reliable. Don’t miss meetings, and don’t flake on promises. These mistakes can cost your relationships significantly. Your value is only as good as your word.

5. Not being careful what you say. Everyone makes mistakes in conversation, but you need to avoid doing so in relationship building. A simple slip of the tongue can cost you a lot in the long run. I have seen people drink a little too much at networking events and start saying things that they would regret later. No matter where you are or who you are with, you are representing yourself, so try to be professional. In addition, if you speak poorly about people behind their backs to someone, that person will be wary that you may do the same to them.

6. Surrounding yourself with untrustworthy people. You’re going to be judged by the company you keep. If your friends or business contacts have shady reputations or histories of dishonesty, then you’re building that same reputation for yourself.

Unleash your potential — We are all busy people. It’s one thing to realize you need to take action and devote some time to nurturing relationships and another thing to actually do it. You must be intentional about building relationships by getting out of the office.

Often you don’t know what people you need to connect with. If you did, connecting with them would be as easy as shooting off a quick email.

But in a lot of cases, it’s the unexpected people who will really add to your network.

So, take action, identify 25 people who can help you move your organization forward. Put them on a list and block time in your calendar to reach out and then schedule meetups with them. This could be a formal meeting, coffee appointment, or going out for happy hour.

Inspire those around you— Give as much as you expect to get from every relationship. Effective relationships in business require reciprocity — not a one-way half-hearted effort. Offer and deliver help, connect people with each other, or share industry or nonprofit-sector information. Only then will you feel satisfied and find others willing to respond when you need help.

Leverage your connections— John Maxwell once said: “Your network is your net worth.” Networking is the key to building successful relationships, and you have many options available to you. I am a member of Rotary, FEMCity, a non-profit board of directors, and a business incubator. I also attend as many mixers and nonprofit events as I can to meet new contacts. However, networking doesn’t have to be this formal. You can strike up a friendly conversation with someone at the gym. I once received a lead from someone I met at a friend’s birthday party. If you are engaging with other people, you are actively networking. Even if you aren’t much of a people person, you can put yourself out there a little bit so that you can make some great contacts. You don’t have to be the life of the party. People would rather you just be yourself.

Discover their story – When you’re trying to get a person to trust you, you can’t be a one-trick pony. You must work for that trust because they are under no obligation to trust you. Saying nice things, especially general things, is insufficient. You need to form a connection through personalization, just like with marketing. Find out what you have in common, learn about their hobbies, families. The goal is to do this without seeming nosy.

Engage your community — Another great way to develop trusting relationships is by reaching out regularly to everyone in your network. Thank them for what they did for you in the past, see how they are doing, and make sure they haven’t forgotten you.

Also, build new relationships by diversifying your networks. Force yourself to go beyond people in your immediate circle, and those you know well, to contact and nurture a real relationship with at least one potential donor, client, supplier, and a competitor. The next step is to seek out relevant people from unrelated organizations, such as media and government.

Reach Your goals — Be strategic about networking. Use the quality relationships method: selectively spend quality time on key relationships. When networking be more concerned with making a lasting impression on a handful of contacts, instead of rubbing elbows with a hundred. The advantage of this method is that your networking will be more concentrated or focused. It has higher probabilities of helping create quality relationships.

Spend time with your most important donors or customers, your most productive employees, and leaders who can make the most difference to your organization. These relationships will generate returns in the immediate future and in the long run. You must think long-term. You have to aim to make long-lasting connections. The beauty of networking is that, when done right, it is an excellent tool to ensure that connections remain for a very long time.

A mentor once advised me that the best goal at a networking event is to get just one good business card. However, that doesn’t mean you turn away everyone else you meet, because you don’t know which contacts are going to be the most promising. Follow up with anyone who you may have a quality relationship with later. Just don’t overwhelm yourself trying to keep up with too many new people.

When you base decisions solely on a spreadsheet and words on paper, you’re missing out on a wonderful opportunity to grow professionally yourself by tapping into the most basic human need — belonging and friendship.

I hope this helps. Your feedback is appreciated. Let me know the great ways you are building relationships.  Leave a comment below. Sharing is caring.

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