This is the age of attracting people to your business - not pushing it at them. You need to use top-notch connecting skills if you are going to build business relationships - proper relationships. Having hundreds of names on a contact list or followers on social media does not automatically mean having a relationship.
There is little point in having hundreds of business connections that you never actually build any meaningful relationship with - agreed? Connecting by email or on social media should be like having a good conversation - note the word 'good'.
What constitutes a good conversation? it should be about connecting - building a relationship and understanding- not broadcasting.
Couple of pertinent quotes on what makes for good conversations - both come from books worth reading -
'Great connectors don't just fall into conversations, they help to shape them with conscious intent. How delicious!' Achim Nowak - Infectious
'When we are poorly connected our communications become verbal bullets…talking at a person rather than listening to him reduces a conversation to a monologue' Daniel Goleman - Social Intelligence
What does a 'bad' conversation feel like then?
Well, have you ever found yourself 'talking' with someone and feeling as if you don’t exist? You can't build a business relationship with someone when you fail to recognise that person as being an interesting individual!
What do you feel like when you are in a bad conversation situation? (Pick as many as you wish)
I could add more feelings – but you get the idea.
There is an inevitable consequence of this bad, non-relationship building experience.
The consequence, I would suggest, is that something along these lines will play out in your head:
‘This person doesn’t listen and people who don’t listen are not the kind of people I want to do business with. I will politely exit as soon as possible and politely distance myself from future contact.’
When this happens it is the result of someone being a ‘poor’ communicator with a focus on self rather than the other person or people. Not good for businesses who need to build relationships in order to attract new clients.
So - is it just about face to face conversations? No - there are many ways in which you should be having a good conversation - in person and online. For example - here are 3 business relationship building opportunities that you really do not want to waste- and 9 actions to ensure you don't.
Have you ever sent a copy and paste style email or LinkedIn message to someone you met at networking event who seemed like they might well be a good potential client or collaborator? None of us are perfect! However, I avoid this at all costs having been on the receiving end of one or two of these emails and experienced the negative feeling that translated into a lack of trust and sense of connection. I was not motivated to engage in a business relationship.
Is it really such a big deal? Am I being a little unfair - after all, they were just trying to give me lots of information.
No! I am not being unfair. They have lost my trust.
Information is fine – but it should be given with the other person firmly in mind! We are all individuals and our businesses are all unique – so a copy and paste approach is a disaster for relationship-building. If you can’t be bothered to tailor your message – then don’t bother sending it at all.
3 rules of engagement for follow up emails:
1. Make notes asap after the networking event – specifics about interesting people.
2. Never cut and paste from your website or document. An email should flow, be specific, short and personalised. It should show that you listened to them and you are interested in them.
3. Don’t overdo the mirroring tactics. I have been guilty of this and shudder now to think of an email I sent back in my early networking days – way too much ‘rapport building’ – beware of sounding cheesy.
If you want to read a very detailed article on how to write a brilliant email to prospects - have a look at this one on Hubspot.
'Social media works best as a two-way conversation, not as a one-way 'push' of information. Warmth is the general dynamic involved: you have to demonstrate that you truly care about listening as well as talking.' Neffinger and Kohut - Compelling People
If your purpose of using Twitter is to build visibility, credibility, curiosity and likability (which is a good goal to have) – then you need to use it skilfully not lazily.
You won’t get it right from day one – it is a learning curve like anything else.
As pleasing as it is to watch your ‘follower’ number increase – that is really not a goal to be setting for the good of your business. It is the number of meaningful relationships you are building that counts. The more conversations you can be involved in the better. You need to show that you are interested in other people, to listen to them and to give without neediness.
What should delight you more than 10K followers is being tagged in a tweet that singles you out as being a top ‘interesting twitter follower’ …. or the tweet that gets a conversation going and then gets re-tweeted.
It only takes one engaged follower to open a whole new world of opportunity.
3 rules of engagement for Twitter posting
1. Pick those you follow carefully – interesting people who regularly post
2. When people interest you – tell them. Reply or re tweet.
3. When you read something of interest elsewhere and you decide to post the link to the article – check that you are following the author first – then post it with that author tagged. This shows them you are interested in them – and guess what they will follow you back. Be genuine.
This article on 'Social Media Examiner' continue the conversation on building meaningful relationships on Twitter.
If you are not using LinkedIn properly you are missing a serious relationship building opportunity for your business.
LinkedIn should be a conversation not a CV – in my opinion anyway.
First step – connecting with people. Like with Twitter – quality not quantity should be the goal. However – don’t over-restrict your criteria for connecting. Some brilliant opportunities come through unexpected connections.
Next step – be yourself and be interested in others. Nobody will engage with a robotic or buzzwordy style for very long. You wouldn’t if you were sat with that person, so you won’t online either. The same rules apply.
Another quote from Achim Nowak (I am a fan) - 'Don't typecast yourself and play the same role over and over again. Notice which roles foster connection, which don't. And above all, enjoy the deliberate exploration of your public self!'
And don't forget to enter discussions – but avoid getting stroppy or political unless it suits your business plan.
3 Rules of engagement for LinkedIn communicating
1. Regular check in. Scroll down your feed for posts that catch your interest – respond.
2. Tag people in your posts when you know it will interest them.
3. Offer links to posts that are specifically of interest to your ‘quality’ connections – be generous
This article in 'Muse' continues this conversation about connecting with your LinkedIn connections.
There you have it. This is a bit longer than my usual blog posts – but this topic is a good way to start a new year. If people feel like you are both interesting and interested – they will want to get to know you more, they will trust you and ultimately, they will give back – because they value the relationship you have taken the time and effort to build. That means opportunities – maybe not instant – but they will come.
You might well have other 'rules of engagement' to add to mine - or you might disagree with mine - engage with me and start a conversation. Share this post and find out what your connections have to say on the subject!
Be heard in this noisy world - be an excellent communicator
If you are a small business owner you need to be an excellent communicator - that is how you become a big fish in a big pond. I am here to help you on that mission. Let's talk about arranging some one-to-one coaching sessions.
Call 07815 933109 or drop me an email at [email protected]
I help people become more effective communicators through the kind of coaching that offers a safe space to explore and rehearse and better understand the impact they have. My blog is full of insights and tactics that will help you break down the barriers that prevent you from being a truly effective communicator. These insights are based on my own experience as well as the issues raised during coaching sessions and workshops.