I’m always out and about meeting new and interesting people and I collect business cards like they’re going out of fashion (hence creating Contactzilla).
Keeping track of business contacts is one thing and we think we nailed it with Contactzilla, but how do you make sure you actually stay in touch with someone once they become a business contact?
Most business people will recommend you get on the phone and “touch base” regularly but for many people the thought of this is so daunting they find it difficult to form any lasting business relationships.
Here’s some of my favourite tips for maintaining business relationships simply and naturally…
Stay in touch and listen on social networks
Make sure to connect with and follow new contacts on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Social networks are great places to start or join conversations with new contacts, especially if you don’t have the nerve to follow up more directly with a phone call or email.
Startup investor and business mentor, Thom Holland, believes that social media platforms are also the perfect place to really listen to, and get to know, your contacts.
“As with any relationship, building business relationships requires that you listen more than you speak. Good relationship builders use social media as a way to listen more than they speak.”
Give more than you take
Business writer and entrepreneur Neil Fogarty told Virgin.com that he’s sick of people he doesn’t know asking him for favours without bothering to build a relationship with him…
“I am contacted weekly by people (strangers) and, within the first sentence, they ask me to introduce them to Richard Branson. Seriously, weekly! No hello; no explanation as to why just introduce me to Richard Branson. Am I likely to help?”
Only getting in touch when you need a favour is a sure-fire way to annoy your new contacts. Fogarty suggests that you should offer your contact something before asking them for a favour.
Try giving your contacts free advice and refer them to others who can help when you can’t. Responding to queries they post on social networks is a great way to do this. Your contacts will be much more likely to remember you if you’re helpful, and much more likely to respond to your requests in the future.
Let them know when something reminds you of them
If you’re nervous about phoning or emailing just to say hi, why not drop your contacts a quick email when you see something that reminds you of them?
“When I see interesting news stories I forward them to people who I think would find them relevant… I’ve had many recipients come up to me later and say things like, ‘I can’t believe you remembered that I wanted to go to Thailand.’ It takes less than 30 minutes each morning to send out a handful of these. Do it every day and the care and feeding of your network will be alive and well.”
News stories and blog posts are great for this. For example, if your contact is looking for funding and you see a news story about a new, local funding competition, why not drop them an email to let them know about it?
Don’t forget, they’re experts too
Whatever your business contacts do, don’t forget that they are also experts in their field. Mike Fishbein, author of Customer Development for Entrepreneurs believes that asking your contacts for their advice will make them feel good about themselves…
“Because people tend to be busy, make sure you always have a reason to meet. If you don’t, you can still stay in touch remotely. Ask a quick question over email. People will feel complimented that you’re viewing them as an expert and will be happy to provide advice.”
How do you maintain meaningful business relationships? Share your experiences in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.