By Tracy Vides

Your ability to create a strong network is one of the most critical aspects of conducting business. Everyone has heard the famous saying: “It’s not what you know – it’s who you know.”

This conception has held up for generations and will continue to hold true for years to come. It applies to nearly every aspect of a career trajectory, including recruiting, interviewing, getting jobs, entrepreneurship, and creating partnerships. In fact, a survey by LinkedIn found that 85% of jobs are filled via networking!

All through your career, long or short, the contacts you make along the way are an asset that shapes the impact you make on the world. You never know what opportunities will present themselves as a result of the relationships you’ve formed.

Here are four tips to help turn your business contacts into valuable resources.

1. Be Real

In the professional world, it’s incredibly easy to spot someone trying to be something they’re not. Don’t make promises you’re not one hundred percent sure you can keep. Otherwise, you can easily develop a reputation as someone who talks the talk, but doesn’t walk the walk. Which is the last thing you want.

Your primary goal in nurturing a business relationship is to earn the trust of your peers and clients.

To do this, you must be and come across as authentic. At the very beginning when you’re first making contact, keep it simple. Small talk is perhaps one of the most commonly overlooked factors in building relationships. After you’re introduced to someone, don’t hesitate to continue the chitchat with questions like:

  • Do you have anything fun planned for this weekend?
  • Did you watch <the game last night>?
  • How do you know the host?

Even though these questions seem pointless, they provide opportunities where you can pick up on little cues like body language or phrasing to get a sense of what type of person they are.

Once you’ve started earn the trust, you can elevate to “medium talk” and ask more engaging questions to learn about their professional career and goals they’re working towards.

  • How did you end up in your current position?
  • What have been some of your biggest projects?
  • What’s your take on <the latest business news>?

At the end of the day, no one likes talking to a robotic-sounding person. If you want to create a long-lasting business relationship, you need to be a relatable human first.

2. Demonstrate Value

Building a strong business relationship is a two-way road. Truth be told, your acquaintance will much more appealing if have something to offer. Don’t be afraid to give first.

If you’ve met someone you believe can help reach your business goals or further your career, look for ways in which you can be of service to them. For starters, you can do something simple like share their content to the rest of your network, or give them a shout out on social media.

Getting more in-depth, try to showcase your expertise in a non-aggressive way. How have you helped clients in the past? What is your specialty? How have you contributed to the industry? Most importantly, how can you help make their life easier?

Essentially, however you decide to offer help, it should be clear your intentions are to serve others. Don’t always expect something in return. Showing genuine interest without any ulterior motives can go a long way.

3. Stay in Touch

After meeting someone for the first time, be sure to promptly follow up. This can be a quick gesture like adding them on LinkedIn or a short email saying you enjoyed speaking with them.

Even more, make it a point to project the fact you want to maintain the relationship for the long term. There are many non-intrusive ways to do this. It can be as easy as forwarding an article relevant to them. Or, it could be an actionable piece on a subject that you know will help them – say, if you know they’re planning to bite the online business bullet, send them a few tips on how to start one on a small budget. Be sure to add a humanized recommendation like “Saw this awesome article earlier. Definitely worth the read!”

Making contacts is easy, maintaining them is a whole different ball game. As a general rule of thumb, try to make contact once or twice per quarter. This shows you are actually interested in keeping in contact, rather than only reaching out when you need something.

4. Always Look for More Opportunities

As many professionals will attest, turning off the “business brain” is no simple task. Even in the off hours, many find themselves impulsively reading industry articles, working on a project, or helping out a client. Use this tendency to your advantage. Try to consume content through a subjective lens. Train yourself to constantly be on the watch for potential ways to make improvements that help yourself and the people you know.

How can the information you have help your contacts?

For example, say being a marketing expert, you know Facebook’s algorithm puts an emphasis on quality video content. If you know a reliable video production specialist, as well as someone who’s looking to promote their brand messaging on social media, think of ways you can connect them with each other. This way, both parties benefit, and you get the credit of having shown a proactive, objective interest in helping the people you’ve business relationships with.

Parting Words

Growing your network isn’t just about just making connections. The key to nurturing business relationships is being truly dedicated to helping the greater good. Combining people skills with a knack for seeking ways to provide mutual value is what truly sets you apart. Consequently, you are working to create a bright future not just for yourself, but for anyone and everyone who crossed paths with you.