Keith Ferrazzi, author of the book Never Eat Alone said:
“The currency of real networking is not greed but generosity.”
As a business and career coach that has served over 600 clients to create sustainable businesses and careers, there has been nothing more foundational to my success in business than organic relationship building. Authentic relationships and prioritizing people has been at the center of my work and how I scaled by coaching business since the beginning.
I’ve shared a bit before about how I learned the importance of organic relationship building through my previous work as a grassroots political organizer. During that time, I did 400 calls a day and 10 door knocks per hour to recruit thousands of volunteers around the country and encourage people to go vote. And during my time as a fundraiser, I met with donors in person and was able to raise over $1.1 million dollars in community college scholarships. It was these experiences of being on the ground, face to face with real people that I discovered the ultimate power of connection, not clout.
In business and careers, your reputation is far more important and powerful than your number of Instagram followers.
An organic relationship is a relationship that develops naturally and authentically over time, without any pressure or artificial constraints. It’s not based off of a sales pitch or transaction and can lead to a mutually beneficial, fulfilling relationship personally and professionally. These relationships are crucial for success because they establish trust, build loyalty, and create a network of support and resources that can be leveraged over the long term–for your clients, team members, and even in your own personal relationships.
I want to share with you 6 strategies for strengthening and building organic relationships in your career, business, and life.
Six Strategies for Building Organic Relationships
1. Show up authentically and value vulnerability
Authenticity and vulnerability are essential for building trust and fostering a sense of connection with others. Bringing vulnerability to working relationships allows the other person to feel comfortable and to know what to expect from you.
Connecting authentically with others can look like sharing your own story and challenges to create a sense of empathy and understanding, but it can also look like showing up just to listen and ground the other person.
Tip: Genuinely ask how someone is doing and maybe even ask, “how can I best support you right now?” Don’t assume that everyone wants a solution. You can even ask “Would it be helpful if I shared a similar challenge, or is holding space what you need right now?”
When it comes to vulnerability, be honest about your strengths and weaknesses with business contacts. What are you great at and how can you help by leaning into your strengths? Where do you feel less confident and where can you accept help or insight?
2. Find common ground
Finding common ground with people is a huge part of building authentic relationships. In thinking of your professional relationships, find out what values, goals, talents, or visions you share with each other.
In my own sales process, after a lead schedules a sales call with me, I have leads fill out a form that allows me to get to know them better. I also do my own research via their social media profiles so I can see if there is anything we have in common such as going to the same college, having similar backgrounds as a first-generation immigrant, or maybe living in the same state at one point (I’ve moved a lot).
Be sure to ask questions to better understand where they are in their current journey and what their current projects and priorities are. In the beginning of my sales calls, I even ask what their specific goals and challenges are in the current phase they’re in.
3. Be consistent and reliable
If your contacts can’t rely on you or trust your word, you have no way to build an organic relationship–no matter how well intentioned you are. It’s important to be transparent with people about your availability or limitations so that you can help manage expectations and avoid any damaging misunderstandings.
Unfortunately a few years ago when I was working with a client, I unintentionally set expectations in our sales call that differed from what it looked like when we actually worked together. I wasn’t showing up for commitments and we ended up terminating our contract. It was a great lesson for me to improve my customer service and create systems to ensure that I followed through on commitments to build trust.
If you’ve been in a similar situation and could use some insight on how to navigate difficult conversations, do yourself a favor and listen to this podcast episode called Why Difficult Conversations Improve our Life + Work Relationships on Apple or Spotify.
Now I build consistent trust with my own audience by sending out bi-weekly newsletters that you can join here. And even with my own clients, every Monday and Tuesday they received individualized action-items to ensure they are hitting their goals of creatina sustainable and conscious career and life.
Tip: When I meet with someone and offer to connect them with another contact, I always give them a deadline of when they can expect to hear from me for the introduction. Be upfront about your timeline on action-items so everyone knows what to expect.
4. Be a Connector
A connector is someone who actively connects people in their network with each other, based on their respective needs, interests, and goals. I’m constantly connecting clients and other people I meet with each other. Being a connector is important because you might often be asked to support people in ways you don’t have capacity for. When this happens, I always refer them to others in my network like financial planners, bookkeepers, tax accountants, and other services.
I currently like a 70% referral and renewal rate in my business, and a huge part of that is because I refer people to my clients and friends. If you want more referrals in your business, ask yourself: are you also referring your contacts to other people?
Tip: Look for opportunities to connect people. If you know someone who is looking for a job and someone else who works in their field, introduce them to each other. Then, keep track of conversations you’ve had and follow up to ask how it went (I do this via a ‘follow up Friday’ spreadsheet).
5. Connect and give without expectation
Organic relationships are not transactional relationships. By connecting and giving without expectation, you build goodwill and a sense of natural reciprocity which will create real and authentic relationships over time rather than relationships focused on instant gratification or greed.
Look for opportunities to give back and contribute to the relationship, whether that’s via your time, resources, or expertise. This usually ends up coming back to you tenfold while relieving the pressure on others to immediately do something for you.
Tip: Create a list of people you can refer to. For example, here’s a list of my referrals from my own podcast manager, bookkeeper, tax accountant, lawyer and more.
6. Let relationships unfold naturally
Be patient and don’t force a relationship. People can sense when you’re trying to force something or make a connection too quickly versus when you let a relationship naturally form. Focus instead on building authentic connections based on curiosity, mutual respect, and shared visions.
Don’t forget to nurture relationships you’ve already created. Set reminders on your calendar or dedicate a certain day of the week to look at people to connect with and ask how they’re doing. For example, I love that Facebook reminds me of people’s birthdays. I always reach out with a message to wish them well, which always feels more personal and meaningful than commenting on a post.
Tip: If you’re thinking about someone, let them know! Don’t underestimate the power of a nice email or handwritten card. When I started my business, I sent a lot of snail mail cards and guess what it led to. Clients! Handwriting cards is somewhat of a lost art and by providing this thoughtfulness to people, it stands out. Writing cards to donors is part of the way I was able to raise millions of dollars when I was a fundraiser.
Building organic relationships can translate into high quality referrals, high conversion rates, and tons of renewals within your business. It can also boost your career and put you in the right place at the right time, with the right people. And look out–building a cohesive and engaged community might result in unexpected connections and opportunities. As much as you can, if it feels aligned, say yes.
If you want to learn how to create a business that is high referral, build relationships so that you’re not dependent on social media, and create a sustainable business and life schedule a call with me to see if its a good fit to work together.