Put Building Strategic Relationships at the Heart of Your Business Plan for 2015
As 2014 comes to a close, professionals and business owners are investing time planning their 2015 commitments and goals. Common business and professional planning topics revolve around sales growth, financial management, marketing approaches and ongoing education but, since connections and relationship building is a common denominator of success in most businesses, you should be just as intentional with your “new relationships plan”.
Most successful people will agree that the trajectory of your career, and life, will be dictated by the relationships you build and the experiences you have. Use the following format to formulate your relationship building plan whether you are a solo-entrepreneur, team leader or even a student looking to maximize your college experience.
After reviewing what you want to accomplish in 2015, think about the critical individuals or type of people you need to be around to achieve success. You may already have these people in your contact list but who are the new relationships that could accelerate you to your goal?
Relationship “goals” should be planned just as carefully as revenue goals. They could be the reason why you hit your revenue goals. Bullet point your future relationships just as you would bullet point your year-end goals. Constantly reflect and share them with others. Your revenue goals will cause a temporary feeling of accomplishment or disappointment next December and then a re-evaluated set will appear for 2016. Your relationship goals have potential to help you grow for the rest of your life.
Identify the 10 most critical relationships you need to establish throughout 2015.
Now you know who you want to meet in the upcoming year. You should have a good idea how you can help these people in a “two-way fashion” before you can confidently reach out. You already know how your company, service or product could possibly help them, but you need to think about how your connections may be of use to their goals. Think about how your networks can help out and you will always ask, “Who are you looking to connect with and how can I help?”
Think big and work backwards
Just as if you were planning for a sales goal or financial goal, start big and work back. Most business planning will start with a revenue goal aimed for year end, and then you work backwards to understand the monthly and weekly numbers necessary. You should have a similar approach with your contacts.
For example, if at the end of 2015 you want to have established a relationship with five CEOs at Fortune 1000 companies, then work backwards on who those CEO’s likely associate with and how you can leverage your existing contacts on a monthly, weekly and daily basis to bridge the gap.
Obviously, if you can be referred to these contacts by a common friend or associate, the trust level starts higher and it will be easier to get through the door. No one will argue the value of personal introduction.
However, it can take a while to keep working contact to contact to get to the people you want to meet. For some projects, you may not have the luxury of the time that takes. A shortcut that takes a little bit of courage and tempered expectations is to "cold call'' people by phone or LinkedIn message. Remember, shortcuts are faster but harder. If the shortcut was easy, it would simply be called “The Way.”
Language to build on
When reaching out to a new contact, whether through LinkedIn or on the phone, use language that resembles:
"John, I know my name may be unfamiliar to you. (If you have a common friend or contact share that here). I was reaching out to set up a time when I can introduce myself to you, learn about what is on your radar for 2015, and tell you a little bit about what I am focused on over the next 12 months. From there we could see if we could be a resource for each other in connecting appropriate contacts. At the very least, it would be two professionals in the Boston area (or medical tech or whatever your mutual geographical area or industry) getting together. Would you have any objections to a phone call or meeting for coffee early in the New Year?"
Business plans often turn into a joke by April Fools Day, as they are seldom reviewed and reflected on throughout the year. Follow through on your relationship building plan and you will see benefits every year for the rest of your career.