Why do we forget people whom we meet? Why doesn’t every past client refer us business?
Why do we fail to stay in touch and keep up with people?
If we’re being honest with ourselves, we can relate to one or more of these questions. Relationships matter and drive results. Yet, while we are wired to be social beings, we are not wired to manage the massive amounts of connections we have now.
“ If we aren’t intentional about staying engaged, we risk people slipping from our minds. ”
This is shared by Zvi Band who comes face-to-face with these questions and challenges daily as CEO and co-founder of the relationship CRM tool Contactually.
In his new book Success is in your Sphere: Leverage the Power of Relationships to Achieve Your Business Goals, he tackles them.
“It’s well understood that people do business with people they know. Prior generations could claim that the knowledge they had acquired, or skills they had mastered, were their competitive advantage. With information at our fingertips, and the ability to work with anyone around the world, the only thing remaining that separates us from any other professional globally is the relationships we have,” emphasized Band.
Add to that this knowledge: “CIGNA surveyed 20,000 American adults, and found that younger generations were increasingly likely to claim ‘People are around me but not with me” and ‘No one really knows me well’ compared with older generations. With social media present in almost every aspect of our digital lives, where is the gap?”
What do you do to begin to tackle these pivotal questions? First you understand the problem.
The downside to letting relationships go cold
“Relationships going cold can diminish, or eliminate, the likelihood that others will recall us, given the need or opportunity. According to the National Association of Realtors, 88 percent of buyers say they’d work with their agent again. But in reality, only 12 percent of buyers work with the same agent again. The solution is simple in concept, but begets a number of challenges for the modern professional: stay top of mind with the desired relationships.”
The power of social proof in decision-making
“If you were presented with the opportunity to work with one of two professionals, each demonstrating the same skills, knowledge, and experience, whom would you choose? The one who emailed you out of the blue? Or, the one who was connected to you by your neighbor, a raving fan? Time and time again, research has shown that social proof is critical to our choices.”
Find common ground quickly
“Research has shown that the more we align ourselves with groups that mirror our specific interests and values, the less we feel compelled to trust people who don’t share them. Without common ground, a relationship cannot be fostered (as evidenced by this study). To find common ground, we can do our research in advance online to look for common connections or aspects of our backgrounds or interests. In conversation, leveraging small talk is a great tool to learn more and identify ‘social objects’ in common.”
Prioritize your network
“Robin Dunbar is a British anthropologist who found, via research, the cognitive limit of the number of stable social relationships for any one person to be roughly 150. While we could try to think about cycling people in and out of that 150 number, this is where we are best relying on systems and processes to help us capture information and identify relationship-building actions to ensure we stay top of mind. One of the most important components is prioritization, based on the goals we are trying to achieve. Which relationships are the ones that have a higher likelihood of making an impact?”
‘Time decay theory’
“Time decay theory suggests memories dull as time passes. The longer a memory is neglected, the harder it will be to retrieve. In fact, as soon as attention is “switched away” from a newly processed memory, it becomes harder to access. Can you remember what you had for breakfast this morning? How about a week ago? A month ago? A year ago? If we can’t remember something that simple, what else are we forgetting, or are people forgetting about us?”
Non-annoyingly stay top of mind
“This is where the mirror mindset matters . What would we want? Do we want to be ‘followed up’ with? Or do we seek personal, authentic, and relevant engagement? When it comes to both when and how to reconnect and reinvigorate a relationship, reflecting on what we would want is critical.”
Balance short-and long-term gain
“We are in an increasingly interruption-driven world, where we’re guided by what’s in the top of our inbox or the push notification on our phone. The best remedy, therefore, is to set aside those ‘urgent’ items, and block off time and mental space to be proactive with the relationships that we desire to stay engaged with months or years in the future. And not just once or twice a year, but acting consistently, betting on the long-term outcome, rather than immediate business wins.”
Strategically build a sphere of influence
“What are the goals I’m trying to achieve? Who are the people in my sphere that could potentially contribute to those goals? How do I ensure I remain valuable and top of mind to those people? Finally, how do I ensure that I’m acting on that plan?”
Don’t be a user
“The best way not to feel as if we’re using people, being sleazy or a taker, etc, is to not to be one. Going back to the early days of humanity, great things have been accomplished because people cooperated with each other for collective benefit. Are you ‘taking’ something from them, or do you think they will value helping you? Are you being a mercenary asking for their business, or do you truly believe that the service you are offering will truly benefit them? As long as we root ourselves in personal care and interest in them and their business, we should feel comfortable engaging with them, letting our authenticity shine.”
Relationships are not the same as contacts
“A ‘contact’ is just an object: a name, a face, their phone number, etc. We can obtain contacts anywhere. What matters is the relationship, the true connecting points between two or more contacts. If you just have someone’s number, that’s a contact. But the email conversations, the notes, the coffee meetings, the trust in each other, that is what defines the relationship.”
Ask great questions
“Before coming up with brand new questions, take an interest in what has already come up in conversation, especially the details in small talk (for example: if it’s a Friday afternoon, pay attention to their weekend plans, inquire further, and remember it later). Beyond that, seek out questions to better understand them and their desires. Marketing expert Clay Hebert suggests asking ‘if we were to meet one year from today with a bottle of champagne, what would we be celebrating?’”
“Keep in mind that there are event-driven triggers (noticing they just changed jobs), and cadence-driven triggers (it’s been 90 days since you last spoke), both of which are equally important. Keeping in mind that every engagement should be valuable, relevant, and personal, seek out ways to deliver that feeling. It could be a 1:1 engagement (a personal text or an invitation for coffee) or a connection between others, as long as you are selflessly focused on what would be valuable for them. And, it doesn’t have to just be an email every time!”
“Someone could replicate your knowledge and skills, but they could not replicate you. One thing to experiment with is how you can let your true self shine and attract others. I’m sorry, but someone can be invited to only so many coffee meetings or steak dinners. But if you love hot sauce, why not share that with the world by inviting a group for a hot sauce tasting (been there, done that, very painful). Are you the fifteenth person to send them a holiday card or the thirty-eighth person to click ‘like’ on their post? Or, do you see that they changed jobs and text them a month later, asking how their first month was?”
The ‘Ikea Effect’
“Jon Levy, a human behavioral scientist, shared this fascinating concept with me: scientific research has overwhelmingly shown that when you do someone else a favor, you tend to like that person more. In one study, a team of researchers led by Michael Norton, Daniel Mochon, and Dan Ariely found that people value their IKEA furniture more than its actual worth because they had put time and effort into building it. Putting this to relationships, the more that you invest in someone, the more that you care about them. To help with a relationship’s strength, why not ask them for a small favor?”
When and why to keep investing in a relationship
“We have to base our continued investment upon the returns we’ve received in the past, and, to some extent, trust that the power of relationships that so many attest to will apply to you. That being said, there is no harm, and tremendous benefit, in continuing to tune how you invest your time. If someone continues to ignore your outreach, it might be clear that they are not interested. Keeping tabs on your sphere and paying more attention to those who are rising rapidly gives you better leverage. Finally, at root, being sure that your sphere of influence reflects the types of people whom you believe will be key for your goals (and vice-versa) is worth constantly checking in on.”
When and how to ask for help
“When I asked many of the contributors in the book this question, it was one of the more divisive topics. Some argue that it’s best not to ask directly, but rather, stay top of mind so that, when they do have a need, they think of you. Others argue that it’s best that you ensure others know what you do, and what you would benefit from (for example, adding your skills and desires to your email signature). But what came through more often than not is, again, be personal and authentic. As a first-time author, I’m in a very uncomfortable position of asking a lot from my network. What I’ve found is, in every action, just being clear about what your ask is, and why it’s so meaningful to you, can make a huge difference.”
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This article was originally published on Forbes.