Business relationships are critical for top-performing growth. These relationships don't just launch your career to new heights, though. Relationships are a means of cultivating ideas, encouraging collaboration, and contributing to the community in your industry.
But if you want to see true success in your business relationships, you need to stop networking.
The traditional idea of "networking" is transactional. Networking assumes that you are meeting fellow peers and industry players in order to get something in return--whether you're hoping to gain a client, a partner, a vendor, or a job. Networking denotes an idea of taking. The network relationship is only as strong as the amount of value you can provide to one another.
Young Entrepreneur Council founders Scott Gerber and Ryan Paugh have tackled this notion of networking to be more inclusive. What would happen if we looked at business relationships through the lens of "connection" instead? Connection creates a deeper relationship based on an exchange of information and ideas.
The goal of connection is not to further your own business or career but to provide ongoing value to the other person without expecting anything in return. When you provide value, you receive value in return.
In their new book Superconnector: Stop Networking And Start Building Business Relationships That Matter, Gerber and Paugh discuss what it means to be a superconnector like some of the greatest leaders, businesspeople, and communicators.
I learned you need to have these four traits to build successful relationships in your industry and beyond:
1. Emotional Intelligence
If you want to build a genuine relationship with another person, you have to first understand where they're coming from. What are they looking for? Where are they in their business and in their personal life?
You have to be a human talking to and interacting with another human, not a computer trying to transact with another computer.
I'm an extrovert, so I love talking to people and connecting quickly--but sometimes it can come on strong. I had to learn to acknowledge and react to introverts in a subtler way so we could connect. In reverse, if an introvert doesn't approach a conversation with the passion of an extrovert, an extrovert like me might have trouble connecting.
Everyone is different and approaches connection differently. But if you want to foster an association with another person, you have to meet them where they are, understand their perspective, and respond with the same tone.
You need to know and understand your own psychology before you can truly be emotionally intelligent. This helps you understand how you operate and how you manage your interpersonal relationships. You'll be able to find your groove or flow when you embrace your strengths and weaknesses.
Understand in which kinds of environments you thrive, like big conferences or intimate meetings. Find your favorite openers or topics to start the conversation.
When you better understand your own authentic value, you place yourself in a better position to provide that value to others. When you provide value, you start to build deeper and more valuable connections.
The belief that only extroverts can be connectors is a myth. While extroverts get their energy from others, introverts are equally strong connectors. It's simply about building a sense of confidence and self-awareness to play on your own strengths.
You have to be curious about people, ideas, and business if you want to truly connect. Asking genuine questions provides you insight into the other person and their experience. When you're curious about that person, you can better understand what they need and where they are.
When you acknowledge the other person on this deeper level, you can better respond to them. You understand how to provide them with relevant and significant value that initiates a mutually beneficial relationship.
4. Productivity Systems
The best connectors in the world have a system of remembering, recalling, and interacting with others. The more people you meet, the harder it becomes to keep up with all of your connections. But you want to connect with as many people as you can to continuously give value and build your community.
So you need to build systems that allow you to remember each individual and their context. For example, Gerber and Paugh have their own set of notes that they jot down after meeting a new person. Gerber might write in his notes: "Ryan Paugh - co-wrote Superconnector, loves dogs, Penn State football fan." This is about Paugh, not about his work or what Paugh can provide to Gerber.
I personally like to send a follow-up email after meeting someone to reiterate our conversation and save it for later.
Only through a personal, intimate relationship can you exchange true value and build an ongoing, fruitful relationship.