“What about this one?” I said to a client as we were analysing her network. A big smile came over my client’s face as she recollected their last meeting, “she makes me laugh, did you know that she does belly dancing to keep fit? I don’t know how she fits it all in, she has a very senior role.”
“What about this one?” I said as we moved on. The reaction was somewhat different as the smile vanished.
“She only rings me when she wants something!”
If I had listed every time I’ve heard that statement over the past 15 years I would have filled many books. Every single one of my coaching clients, without exception, have had this reaction to at least one person as we go through their network contacts. We all know someone who fits this description and have all had, at some time, hesitation to answer the phone when their name pops up on the mobile.
I was reminded of this the other day when I received a call from someone who only rings me when she wants something. We have known each other for over 20 years and in all that time she has never called me just to say hello. Ironically this person also thinks of herself as a fantastic networker!
It has reached a point where I am reluctant to call back as I know she is going to ask me for something. Is that effective networking? I think not. I feel worthless and used.
I dropped everything to help this person a while back, pulled in many favours with friends and donated many hours of precious time. Not once have I been updated on progress. Before you crucify me for being so insensitive I am constantly seeing her whereabouts displayed on social media and it seems that she is absolutely fine and perfectly capable of making a phone call. This is not one of my closest girlfriends, this is a business contact, and not the first.
Am I allowing this to happen? Maybe. Am I saying yes when I should be saying no? Maybe. However, I don’t believe we can go through life saying no all the time. Sometimes we need to help each other with no thought of return or thanks. But, there is a lesson in here and that is to be grateful when someone helps you and to create a relationship that is solid enough to allow favours and requests.
In short, build the relationship first. Here’s how:
1. Keep in touch
This is probably obvious but it is amazing how many don’t. We live in unprecedented times. Everyone is busier than they have ever been. We are bombarded with information from every angle. We are surrounded with clutter. In my opinion solid relationships are the glue that keeps us together, socially and mentally. Invest time in your relationships, keep in touch, and they will pay you back forever.
2. Be on the lookout
With all this information around it is impossible to see it all. Don’t just read for yourself, read for others too. When you see something that is interesting, share it with those you think may benefit. Now, there is sharing and there is sharing. Think about what you share and who you share it with. An interesting article torn out of a newspaper and sent in the post sends not only a great article but a strong message that you are thinking about that person. An email with a link to a great opportunity could literally change someone life.
3. Be a host
There are many fabulous events out there that are all better shared. Invite contacts to events and host your own table. Act like the host within the event for your group and your guests will always be grateful. You can always send the booking link and ask your guests to book their own ticket but request to be seated with you. A great way to catch up with a number of people at one time, build relationships and meet new people too!
4. Make it meaningful
If we are going to invest time and energy into building a relationship it makes sense to like the person. Collect people who inspire you and push you to be a better person. People do business with those they know, like and trust. Like is an essential foundation for trust.
5. Forget work
We are not our business cards. There is so much more to a person that what is printed. Be curious about people and find out what make them tick! You may find that you have more in common than you realised.
I know there are many people in our networks and some who are closer than others. I get that. Those people don’t ask each other for favours. Yet. There are different levels of relationships within our network. Just like a house needs a solid foundation to withstand the elements, a relationship must have a solid foundation to withstand a favour. Without this foundation, it will collapse.
We don’t all have to be belly dancing buddies but the ability to have meaningful relationships and quality conversations is key to a powerful network. Enjoy the person and you’ll not only have a “favour-ready” and responsive network, you might just have some fun along the way. Maybe a good new year’s resolution?