Nothing, in life and in business, is more important than the relationships you build.

Relationship capital is arguably the most important measure of success. Whether it is your personal network, or your business network, people around you impact the way you work, shape the way you view the world, and make things happen.

People often ask me "How did you achieve the success you enjoy now?" The answer is simple: giving a damn about others.

If you want to be successful, here are the three steps I recommend you follow to build meaningful relationships with the people around you:

Learn, remember, and use a person's name

There is nothing sweeter to a person than the sound of their name. Don't just learn it, remember it. And use it often.

If you work with folks all around the world, don't give them Americanized nicknames to make it easier on yourself, show them the respect they deserve by making an effort and say their names right.

Ask them "What's your passion?"

Once you make the initial contact, instead of making small talk, ask them "What are you passionate about? What project are you really excited about this year?" And then listen. Truly listen and absorb.

Not only are people usually happy to share their interests with others, but the answer to this question reveals person's true nature more so than any other topic you can discuss. Not only that, there is potential of immediately finding common interests, which builds rapport in no time.

Ask them "How can I help you?"

Once you internalize what you've heard, offer your help. Most of the time, you can find easy solutions you can offer up immediately such as connecting your new acquaintance with someone in the same field, offering details on how to solve the problem based on your experience, etc. Even the smallest of solutions can be extremely helpful and show people you truly care about them and their situation.

The key here though is to always follow up. If you make a promise and not make good on it, it will be worse than not offering help in the first place. You will immediately destroy trust you just built. It is really hard to come back from that.

In conclusion, it is important to remember that this approach doesn't only work for people, it works for brands. If we use this framework when building relationships with our customers through enabling amazing experiences that show them that we care, business success is guaranteed. When we make an effort to learn who they are and show them that we care, we build rapport and advocacy that lasts a lifetime.

So my secret to success is: listen, lead with generosity, and follow through. This approach will never let you down.

Published on: Mar 18, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.