Building Relationships that Lead to Business and Career Success

By Leslie Grossman

1. Meet 2–3 people - not 10+ - at networking events.

When you attend networking events, instead of running a race to meet and give your business card to as many people as possible, make it your goal to meet and converse in depth with just a few people to learn about their business or career. If you have a common connection, arrange to meet them after the event for coffee or lunch where you can begin to build a real relationship that could be mutually beneficially for your businesses or careers.

2. Become a great listener – it’s your most important communications skill.

In conversations, always ask the people you are speaking to about themselves first before you start to talk about yourself. The more you discover about them and their interests, the better you will be able to find common ground – and the basis for starting a relationship. Give them 100% of your attention and you will make them feel like the most important person in the world.

3. Help the other person first – before you ask for ANYTHING for yourself.

Are they looking for clients, customers, or to improve their skills? Connect them with someone who can help them. When you see an article or blogpost that would be valuable or hear about an event that relates to their work or their interests, email them the information. Generous people are the most successful (read Give and Take by Adam Grant for the research that supports this).

4. When you are looking for a job or new business, never ask directly for either one.

Get to know the person first, discover how you can help them, and then ask for the person’s advice on something related to your career or your business. People love it when you ask for advice -- it means you respect them. Thank them and share what you want for yourself. Subtly suggest that if the person hears of any positions where your talents can be utilized or companies that could use your services or products to let you know. Then stay in touch through email and phone and always think about how you can help them.

5. Get involved in a community, business or nonprofit organization.

Choose a group whose work you respect or inspires you. Giving your time and energy to a cause or professional organization will open the door to many new relationships. At the same time, it’s an opportunity to show off your skills and commitment to people who would never have a chance to see you in action. Good things come to those who give!