It doesn’t matter what type of business or industry you are in. In order to be successful, you will need to be able to create and manage relationships with all of your various partners.
Here are some ways to make the most of that effort:
1 – Take a chance … and show up
You’ve heard it before and it’s worth me saying. Half of everything is simply showing up. We all get nervous, excited, bored, comfortable (the list goes on) and it’s easy to sit idle because of any one of those. Those who are successful in meeting new people understand that in order to do so, you have to attend the party, go to the networking event, wander into the bar at the hotel, etc. Nothing ever comes from doing…well nothing.
There’s a line in the movie, “The American President,” where the President is dancing with his date at a State Dinner. His date comments that people are going to wonder who this lady is and why she was there. The President responds by saying her name and that she is there simply because she said yes. I always liked that.
2 – Break the ice … and establish even ground
… so now that you’ve met a potential partner, it’s imperative you break the ice. Introverts have a high disdain for small talk and extroverts thrive on it, so strike a balance, because it serves a purpose. Meeting people or entering into a relationship of any kind is naturally a little uncomfortable at first. Small talk calms those nerves and gives people a chance to relax before diving headfirst into business… and for the introvert in all of us, it doesn’t have to be endless. Just enough to get the conversation flowing.
Furthermore, at times, an inability to do this can create a perception either by yourself or from the other person that you’re above the other in some way. Most of us aren’t celebrities, executives or politicians (yet) and if people are viewing you this way, whether it’s awe, disdain or something in between it’s going to prevent you from being able to connect… and one of you is bound to end up very uncomfortable. No one wants to be studied or stared at from across the room with no chance for a connection.
I found honesty works best. Stating your intentions or that you are indeed a little nervous or dealing with some travel fatigue or bringing up a past failure (and how you want to overcome it), etc. is usually enough to get started. Anything that will make you relatable in some way. It also establishes how the two entities can work together, as either person is going to be able to identify how they can help and what role they will play.
3 – Do the things you say you will do
Once the relationship begins, it’s time to maintain and enhance it. A big part of that (like any relationship) is built on trust. You don’t have to be perfect and you can make mistakes… as long as you keep your commitments. If you said you will do something for someone or a business, you must do that and eventually arrive at an end goal. That comes in the form of regular check ins, status updates, honest assessments of the status of the relationship/project/business. I’ve heard lots of stories about successful sales people being more than just a partner … they become trusted confidants. People who are called in the middle of the night for emergencies, who are invited to celebrate milestones, to vent, etc. That doesn’t happen by accident. It’s earned and treated with the highest regard… and if’s it not present, the relationship will likely not last.
I’m partly stealing this from the current CEO of the company I work for, but I’m amazed at the level of people who just don’t respond to partners and potential partners. In many cases, the company that wins the work is simply the one who responded and gave said company what they actually asked for. I know it sounds so obvious, but take a deeper look at how much this truly happens at your company.
4 – Don’t agonize over the rejection … and leave those people/companies alone.
Easier said than done. In all aspects of my life, I’ve dealt with rejection… and I truly hate it. I’ve been ignored, yelled at, whispered about and flat out told I’ve made people uncomfortable. I’ve talked about in the past that to put so much thought and effort into something and then not have it pan out, well, hurts.
I’m not telling you this in order to throw a pity party, but rather to overcome it. The only reason I’ve been successful in certain endeavors is because I’ve failed at them at one time… and it’s great fuel. If you spend your time agonizing over what didn’t happen, you’ll miss new opportunities to hone the first 3 skills in this blog. Sticking with the Politics theme, President Bill Clinton once spoke about how people have as many chances as they are willing to take. It’s not a one and done thing.
It’s also important to know when someone just flat out isn’t interested. It can be hard to know the mix between being persistent and just annoying. My general rule of thumb is to cease communication after reaching out 3 times with no response. We’ve all been on both sides of this… and it doesn’t make either party bad or evil … so stop wasting your time and energy.
So there you have it. As Digital Technology continues to change the way we interact, I think it’s important to remember that it shouldn’t replace humans…it should enhance our ability to connect with others. Try some of the above. I think you’ll find it rewarding.
Until next time.