The Art of Relationship Networking

The latest buzzword is “relationship” networking. The gurus predict that if you don’t incorporate the principles of relationship networking into your business, you’ll never survive. So what is relationship networking and why is it crucial in cultivating your business?

Relationships are a basic human need. Relationship networking is about connecting with people and benefiting from those relationships. It’s about creating leverage.

The term “leverage” refers to the principle of using a strategic advantage to gain a larger benefit. Leverage is connected to the word force, such as in the number of people in a group or organization, or a “force to be reckoned with.”

Imagine a water lily floating on a pond.1 This fragrant beauty is actually a floating-leaved aquatic perennial herb. The leaves are attached to flexible underwater stalks rising from thick fleshy rhizomes. Its roots are submerged in mucky water up to seven feet deep. Each spring, new shoots grow up through the water until they reach the surface.

Water lilies can be increased by sowing seeds. The key elements to successfully cultivating lilies from seeds are patience, proper drainage, disease and weed control, and protection against creatures and insects that may destroy the pod.

Cultivating a network of people is similar to cultivating a water lily pod. In order for human beings to thrive, they require an environment that will nurture their minds, ignite their passion, and eliminate elements that are destructive to their well-being.

In order to successfully cultivate hardy water lilies, one needs to have patience. Before planting the seeds, it’s imperative to understand the germination requirements and any special treatments needed to grow them. A common mistake many gardeners make is germinating too many seeds at one time. While it’s always a good idea to germinate a few more seeds than necessary, too many seeds can create an overgrowth which can become unmanageable. The same holds true for people.

When Claude Monet2 created his series of forty-eight water lily paintings, he probably wasn’t thinking about leverage. When photographer, Walter Paul Bebirian3 captured the essence of water lilies through the eye of his camera, he probably wasn’t thinking about leverage either. However, both of these artists created a considerable amount of leverage based on their reputation and the quality of their work.

Monet and Bebirian developed strong relationships and people take action on their behalf. This is leverage. The more people you can reach and the more relationships you can build, the more leverage you will create.

Every opportunity you have to meet new people is an opportunity to create leverage.

If you are willing to invest time and patience in the relationship networking process, the payoff can be immeasurable. Expecting instant success in relationship networking is unrealistic. However, you can plan your networking opportunities to shorten the amount of time it takes to build those relationships.

The first step in relationship networking is to determine what you want and need to accomplish. If you want to develop long-term relationships or become involved with your community, join local civic organizations. These include the Chamber of Commerce, business associations, trade groups and non-profit organizations.

Another way to get “up close and personal” is to volunteer your time and talent to a cause. People prefer to do business with those who have similar interests and values. The saying of “If you want to catch fish, go to where the fish are” applies here. Focus your efforts on how and where you meet the people who can help you accomplish your goals. Placing yourself in situations where a group of like-minded people are gathering, will help you quickly grow your network community.

Participating in social and business forums can help you create leverage. Make a point of providing beneficial information to the group and creating meaningful conversations. This will expose your talents, solidify your reputation, and connect you to countless others – all for the same amount of work.

Leverage your forum posts and use the topic to start another discussion in a different group. Post the topic on your blog or website and include it in your newsletter. Leverage the topic even further by expanding it into an article, autoresponder course, or ebook.

Strategic alliances are another popular method of relationship networking. Let’s say you own a donut shop and one of your network members works for a local radio station. You could provide donuts to the radio staff and offer a “giveaway” to their listeners. This creates a win-win situation. For the cost of a few boxes of donuts, you could obtain free airtime and build a rock solid reputation, while providing value to the radio show listeners.

Relationship networking involves two types of skills.

First, you have to listen as much as you talk. When you actively listen, you discover needs, interests, and things you have in common. This lays the foundation for a productive and long-lasting relationship.

Second, you must nurture the relationship. Just as it is unrealistic to expect water lilies to grow and produce pods without creating the proper environment, you cannot expect your relationships to thrive without nurturing them.

Business development and relationship networking are closely related. In order for your business to thrive, it is critical that you cultivate strong, positive relationships based on mutual needs and trust. Take time to develop your business relationships and you can count on achieving the success you desire.

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