Relationships are one of the keys to advancement and success within any industry. Building strong relationships with co-workers, employers, and industry leaders can provide the support and the opportunities you need to reach your career goals.
Are there industry leaders -- people you really admire -- that you’d love to connect and develop relationships with? If so, how do you develop these relationships? How do you make that first contact? Why would these uber-successful leaders want to have any kind of relationship with you? What do they need you for? How do you develop those coveted relationships with powerful decision makers and industry shapers?
Before you do anything else, do your homework.
Research the careers, interests, accomplishments, books, pet causes, etc., of those you wish to develop a relationship with. Find areas of commonality that might provide your first connection point -- for instance, if you’ve both written books on the same subject, or both have a passion for the same cause or charity.
Then, armed with this information, find something of value you can offer your prospect. A general rule of thumb is to offer more than you ask for, to the tune of three to one. In other words, offer something with three times as much value as what you’re asking for, or offer three things first before you ever ask for one thing.
What can you offer that would be of interest or of value? You might have to think outside the box for this one. Could you offer a speaking or interview opportunity? Some information pertaining to a project they are working on? An introduction to someone else you know who could be an asset or ally? Remember, influencers are usually busy people with many irons in the fire. Use that to your advantage. How can you help them?
How Do You Make That First Contact?
Once you’ve got your strategy in place, it’s time to get in touch. Should you use Twitter or the person's Facebook page? Depends on the industry and how active he or she is on social media sites. Reaching out with the phone or a direct e-mail is much more personal. I’d much rather have someone call me and be direct. I can get a much better sense of a person and whether or not I’d like to form a business relationship with him or her in a conversation than in a tweet!
On the other hand, if the person you want to connect with is extremely active on his or her blog, Twitter, or LinkedIn account, then that just might be the perfect way to go. You’ll have to make that judgment call.
However you initiate contact, you want to come across as professional and articulate in any connection, whether phone or tweet. Don’t be pushy, don’t sound overeager, overawed, or over-the-top in any way. If the other person seems open to your contacts, stay in touch over time, remembering these guidelines.
Why would uber-successful leaders want to have any kind of relationship with you? What do they need you for?
The fact is, with the exception of Ebenezer Scrooge and his ilk, most people like to help others. And everyone wants to have professional relationships with others who offers value.
Be of value to this person. Keep interactions short and sweet, and follow the other person’s lead. Respect his or her time. Know in advance what you’d like to ask, and make sure it wouldn’t take up too much of this person's time to grant -- 10 minutes, maybe 15 tops. Always offer to reciprocate. If someone does something for you, always, always offer to reciprocate. “What can I do for you?” “I’m so grateful for your help. Is there anything that I can help you with?”
One last tip ...
Three short words ... Thank-you letter.
Thanks for your time. Thanks for your help. Thanks for your support. Thank you.
Have you managed to develop an advantageous business relationship with an industry leader you admire? I’d love to hear about it.
Need more business relationship advice? There's lots of great information in my book, You Can’t Do It Alone: Building Relationships for Career Success and BRODY offers training in this area, too -- "Building Influential Client Relationships."