Relationships are the lifeblood of any business, and the ability to connect effectively with your employees, investors, vendors, customers, and others in your community and industry--the really important people in your business--can open up many doors for you and your company.

Connect and communicate better with the important people in your business and in your life by following these six powerful practices:

1. Connect right away with an email.

When you meet someone new and exchange business cards, send an email immediately afterward reminding the person who you are and what you do, and that you enjoyed meeting. The sooner you reach out the better, before your contact forgets all about you. You never know who you will be able to help or collaborate with, and sending a follow-up email shows that you are timely and professional, shining a favorable light on both you and your business.

2. Call people…

While an email may be necessary during a busy day or for a simple task, calling someone is always more personal and creates a connection between two people that wouldn't exist from just reading the words on a screen. The personal connection that comes from this type of interaction creates positive feedback between you and your new contact, and people are more likely to react positively and respond to voice calls than to emails.

3. ... and then return calls personally (and promptly)!

We all miss calls during a busy workweek, but it really pays off if--instead of sending an email--you go the extra mile to make a personal return call. If you don't have time, send an email to set a date or time to connect on the phone. It's offensive to some to receive a simple return email after taking the time to call you and leave a voicemail, so avoid the miscommunication when you can.

4. Send thank-you notes.

Thank you notes will never go out of style, and because they are so rare in this day and age, they are much more meaningful. Depending on the occasion, thank-you notes can be as simple as an email or a text, or they can be handwritten on a card or in a letter. Thanking someone for his time, whether at an event, a lunch, or on a more personal basis, is always appropriate and warmly welcomed. It shows that you appreciate the time the person took out of his or her day for you and that, in turn, makes others want to work with you. 

5. Have get-togethers.

Schedule informal social get-togethers with customers, employees, and vendors. These get-togethers can be as simple as an after-work meeting at a local restaurant, or you can host an event in your office that combines a relaxed meet-and-greet with food, beverages, and product demos or company tours. The key to success is to make these get-togethers casual and low-pressure--it's all about building relationships, not hard-selling your business.

6. Be genuine in your interactions.

There is no way to shortcut or fake being genuine, but it takes little effort to express real interest in someone else. Make a wonderful impression by being interested and thoughtful throughout conversations with your customers, vendors, employees, and others. Try to stay focused during each interaction and keep any personal problems, worries and judgments out of mind.

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