Too often, as we are trying to grow our companies, we are all about the business of networking — without considering the human connection needed to forge a real relationship. Local author and business development coach Donna Smith Bellinger, who wrote “You Lost Me @ Hello,” a “practical approach to relationship marketing," frequently stresses the importance of making relationship-building personal. “It is important that a real connection is made,” explains Bellinger. I talked with her more on this:
What is the best way to approach first-time interactions?
Donna Smith Bellinger: Too often people go straight into their elevator pitch vs. asking probing questions like “who do you know here?” or "what brings you here?” Find out what is important to them and determine how you can be helpful and then they will ask what you do. Be genuinely interested in your answer. If you ask for their business card and they don’t ask for yours... you know you have some more relationship building to do.
How do you follow up on that?
Donna Smith Bellinger: When you do follow-up with them to ask for a meeting, do not send your unsolicited marketing materials. It moves you from professional contact to just a salesperson.
What if you were only able to quickly say "hi" at the event?
Donna Smith Bellinger: Send a handwritten note letting them know it was great meeting them at the event, acknowledging the value of their time, mentioning any mutual contacts on LinkedIn: "I noticed we had some shared relationships and would like to find out if there are some synergies between us.” Ask for a 15-minute conversation or quick coffee, and then follow up with a phone call or email to them or their assistant.
What do you do once you have the meeting?
Donna Smith Bellinger: Do your homework: Relationship-building is all about the intel. Research who you and your new contact have in common and find out what matters to them, what boards they are on or what interests they may have. The initial meeting is about connecting on a human level and should not be used to make an initial ask.
Jetta Bates-Vasilatos is founder of Twist Communications and a life stylist with 10+ years of award-winning consumer engagement/strategic planning experience for luxury and global brands like BMW and Coca-Cola. She also serves as an on-air correspondent and writer with a focus on luxury and experiential tourism, lifestyle, sustainability, and personal finance (how to be chic yet savvy). Jetta has appeared on stations such as WCIU-TV, KBS-TV(Korea), ABC-7, CLTV and KBC-TV (Kenya), writes for national print publications such as Essence, Recommend, Ebony and HomeStyle Design and is the host of the Jettasetting segment on WVON radio.