Networking vs. building relationships

by Jack Warren, editor

It’s the caricature of the young realtor or insurance agent, handing out their business cards at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon or other get-together. At almost any kind of gathering — formal or informal — you have the opportunity to meet new people and greet old friends. It’s the old networking game.

Networking is indeed an important part of your personal and professional development — and the growth of your “brand.” However, if you want to build a loyal group of friends that will take you to the next level, then you need to focus much of your effort on building relationships.  In your universe, these are the men and women who will help you land that new job, help secure a big donation to the program, give you access to their lake cottage, recommend your school to a potential recruit, or help provide a soft landing should you find yourself out of a job.

It is just as important – if not more so – to have a handful of really strong, deep relationships than hundreds of superficial relationships. It comes down to the old adage about being a mile wide, but only an inch deep. In order to cultivate these relationships, you need to dig deeper.

This is not meant to be all encompassing, but here are a few tips to help you as you work to build these strong relationships.

  • Work to remember names. There’s not much more off-putting than someone who you’ve met three times over the course of the same summer and they’ve yet to make the name-face connection. It’s not the unpardonable sin, but it certainly is important when trying to make a connection.
  • Remember at least one thing about people with whom you come into frequent contact. Hobbies, family, job, home town, alma mater, pets – all good candidates for topics to bring up each time you run across someone you’ve met before. “How’s your dad doing after surgery?” “How was your daughter’s wedding?” “Glad to see you had a successful conference tournament.” Any of these statements (or something similar) makes a tremendous impact and makes you memorable.
  • When speaking to anyone, make them feel as if they’re the only person in the room. There’s not much worse in a conversation than feeling as if the person with whom you’re speaking is looking right through or past you. Don’t be that person. Engage a person in conversation. Look into their eyes. Clear your brain from things that you’re thinking about doing in the future and focus on what you’re doing right now. Don’t think about your response as the other person is speaking. This takes practice. Work at it.
  • Handwritten notes. If you’ve ever been to one of my presentations or seminars, I typically find a way to work this in – that’s how important I consider this one act. Handwritten notes still make perhaps the biggest impact of anything you do. In fact, because of electronic communications, handwritten notes may have a bigger impact now than they did 20 years ago. Whenever you get news of some significant event in the life of a friend, send a note. Here’s a simple method to handle this task. Get a stack of postcards with your pre-printed logo and return address. Put stamps on 20-30 of the cards. Put a handful into your backpack and leave the rest at your desk. When you read a news story, see a Tweet, or hear from someone else some significant news about a friend or acquaintance, pull out a card and dash off a quick note. Small effort. Big results.

Again, this list is not meant to be comprehensive, but it will get you thinking and moving in the right direction.

Don’t rely on the fact that you shook someone’s hand or replied to an email as a significant way of cultivating relationships. You’re going to have to work at it. And it’s definitely worth the effort.

This column was taken, in part, from a column Jack originally penned at 

Jack is available to speak to your team or organization or at your next function. He also provides individual and organizational coaching and consulting. You can get more information on these services at Jack’s professional services site,

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