Regular readers of my blog may be shocked when they read the title of this post – am I really suggesting that you should make relationship-building all about you?
Yes and no.
For the purposes of this post, let’s separate out the "you" and "them" of relationship-building. When you’re building relationships, the content has to be all about the other person:
- You let the other person do most of the talking, and you do most of the listening.
- You ask pointed questions about what is of interest to them.
- The content you share online and off is directed at what is most useful to your audience.
- You’re sharing some of your own content, but mostly others’, because that’s what’s most useful to those you want to connect with.
- You’re constantly revising your efforts to make sure they continue to be in line with what your audience/targets needs and wants.
All of your efforts should be designed to help and support the other person. And it may sound counter-intuitive, but the results will then be beneficial to you, and all because you’ve focused outside of yourself.
"So how is this about me?" I can hear you asking.
While the content is all about "them," the leading role here has to be played by you.
You’ll notice in the above list that each of those points has YOU doing the listening, the sharing, the asking, the planning.
Not your assistant, a ghostwriter, an associate at your firm.
When you’re building relationships, you have to make sure YOU’RE the one doing the building – as we say here a lot, people do business with those they know, like and trust. They want to…
- KNOW the person they’re doing business with – that’s you. How can they get to know you if you’re putting an intermediary between you and them?
- LIKE the person they’re doing business with – again, that’s you. You’re best equipped to share yourself with them, to give them reasons to connect with you.
- TRUST the person they’re doing business with – and yet again, that’s you. How can someone trust you if they find out later that, for example, you have someone impersonating you online?
"Authenticity" is a huge buzzword in recent years, and many people roll their eyes when they hear it. But the reason it’s used so much is because there is a pointed lack of it in many relationships or in how people portray themselves. The best way to be authentic is to first, make sure you’re the one doing the connecting, and secondly, be yourself – share the things you believe in (within certain parameters of what’s appropriate, of course), what you like and don’t like, and who you are.
Obviously, it’s easier to be more authentic in person – you’re not likely to send an associate to a networking event and have them pretend to be you. But it’s those in-between moments where a lack of the personal touch can really impact a relationship:
- Someone sends you an email, and your assistant replies to it, either as themselves (and on your behalf) or as you, but with such a formality in the email that it’s clear it didn’t originate with you. It automatically makes them a bit more uncomfortable in their relationship with you – now they know there’s a third party involved, reading all of your conversations, which may make them less inclined to be honest with you, or even write at all. Plus, it makes you seem as though you’re too important to write back yourself, which tells them that you don’t value the relationship as much as they do, and that you’re unlikely to give it your personal attention in the future. That could mean the difference between getting a piece of business or not.
We’re all strapped for time these days, and some of the busiest, most senior attorneys I know (coincidentally also the most successful attorneys) always take the time to email me back personally. It seems like a small thing, but it’s an important one – don’t delegate your relationships.
- Someone connects with you using social media, perhaps LinkedIn. They read the articles that you’re sharing, comment on your status updates, send emails to you. It turns out that you have someone else monitoring and handling your social media, acting as you.
That means you’re not the one having the relationship with that person – your ghostwriter is. How can someone get to know, like and trust you – and want to do business with you – if you’re not the one on the other end of the keyboard?
- You debut a brand new blog on your area of the law, where posts focus on thoughtful aspects of that industry of interest to your clients, potential clients, and media sources. You actually have an associate authoring them, but you glance at them prior to publication.
What happens when potential clients or clients are commenting on the posts and opening up the lines of communication in that relationship? How about when a reporter calls you, wanting a comment on your most recent post? With your expertise, you’ll still be able to respond, but it’s not really YOU that they’re looking for.
If you’re not the one blogging, there’s no sense in having a blog – do ghostwritten blogs work? Yes, absolutely, when written under the auspices of a company or firm, and not assigned to any one voice or person. But when you’re putting your name to something, and as a result, tying your reputation and experience to it, YOU need to be the one behind it.
So yes, building relationships has to focus on the other person when you’re looking at the "what" of your interactions – what do they want? What benefits them most? What will help them?
But when you’re talking about the "who" of relationship-building, it has to start with you. Whether online or off, when someone is building a relationship with you, it should go without saying that they want it to be with YOU, and not someone else. Make sure that you’re the one doing the building, or you’re giving someone else the power to do the tearing down.