25 Ways to Nurture Real Relationships with Business Contacts

I once attended a presentation by a LinkedIn expert on how to use the platform to make sales. He shared a lot of tips and tricks for looking up businesses, finding who your contact at the business might be, researching the information you needed to know to make your list, etc.

But the one tip that stuck out for me the most had nothing to do with LinkedIn itself.

He suggested if the company was local to you, driving by the office one day and asking for your contact. When she comes out, say, “Hey! I was just in the area and I wanted to bring you a coffee. Talk to you soon!” Hand them a Starbucks latte, and leave.

No hard sell.  No push for an appointment. No dropping off sales materials. Just show up and give them a coffee. (Or whatever.) It builds rapport, helps them remember you, and gives them a good feeling.

The idea he was getting at is that it’s vital to build real relationships with the people you want to do business with. Not just as a business contact, but as a person. And the way we do that is the same way we’d interact with a new friend or colleague. In other words, act like a person!

And that’s really at the heart of what the Dream 100 is all about.

When we’re talking about the Dream 100 technique, we’re talking about creating a curated list of businesses or potential customers you want to interact with, and then building a relationship with those people.

But how do you actually do that?

First, grab our 4 week Dream 100 Challenge to get a framework for starting your own Dream 100 list. Click here to download it now!

How to start a relationship

It can be awkward to reach out to someone out of the blue and ask them for something. In fact, asking for whatever you want them to do as your first point of contact is a pretty good way not to get what you want — no matter how good a salesperson you are.

So you need to start the relationship off on the right foot.  Start building a relationship over a few days or weeks:

  • Follow them on social media. Find out all the different channels they post to and follow them there.
  • Connect with them on LinkedIn. Send a personal note both when you request the connection and when they accept.
  • Like their posts. Don’t be a creeper and like every single post on their timeline, but pick a few recent posts you actually like, and like them.
  • Share their posts. As a business owner, you know that likes are great, but shares, regrams, and retweets are much more powerful. Find a post that you can happily share with your audience and do so.
  • Comment and/or ask a question. Another good way to get someone’s attention is to write a thoughtful comment or ask a compelling question. Remember, this is all about them at this stage, so don’t make your comment self-serving.

Do this over the course of a few weeks. Continue to check in and like, share, and comment on their posts. I like to think of these sorts of interactions as introducing myself before I introduce myself.

If they’re active on social, chances are they’ll notice you liking and replying to posts, and recognize your name when you reach out.

Take it to the next level

Eventually, you have to reach out and make your pitch — whatever it is you want them to do for you, whether it’s become a customer, become a partner, sell your product, or whatever.

But before you make that pitch, you might want to warm up the relationship even a little bit more. Consider:

  • Requesting an interview for your podcast or your blog. Interviewing people is a great way to get to know them. You make them feel important and special, and you build up rapport.
  • Send them an article or a book. Since you’ve been following them on social for a while now, you have a sense of what they’re interested in. Sending someone an interesting article is a great way to start an email conversation. Buying and mailing them a book makes an even bigger impression
  • Forward them a query from HARO. When you subscribe to the Help A Reporter Out email list, you’ll get a list of questions every day (or multiple times a day) from reporters and media outlets looking for sources. As business owners we’re always looking for ways to get publicity, so forwarding relevant queries is a thoughtful and useful thing to do.
  • Make an introduction or referral. If you can, reach out and make a useful introduction or refer business their way.
  • Connect them to resources. If you come across a cool tool, website, app, or other useful resource that would interest them, send it on.
  • Donate to a charity they support. If you know they have a favorite cause or charity, make a donation in their name and be sure they know about it.

After the pitch

Once you’ve sent your pitch email (which I describe in detail in our Dream 100 Destination Guide for Business Class Members), you may not get a response right away. The key is to be determined and don’t give up. Continue to follow up by:

  • Sending a message through their contact form on their website.
  • Send a Facebook message.
  • Message them on LinkedIn.
  • Send them a text message.
  • Send them a message on Skype.
  • Send an Instagram direct message.
  • Send a letter through the mail.
  • Call them on the phone.

Of course, you wouldn’t want to do ALL of these things in one day! But over the course of a few weeks, keep reaching out. Don’t send the same message every time, but rather reference your original email, and ask them for a follow up call.

How can you keep these many points of contact fresh? Think about what the online equivalent of taking them a coffee might be:

  • Reference things you have in common. If you like the same sport or team, are both parents, like dogs, ride bikes, love to cook, etc. make mention of that shared interest in your message. Send them an interesting article or video on the topic.
  • Make a video. Video stands out!  If you can, make a short video message and send the link through one or more of those channels. Free services like Loom make it easy to make, host, and share quick videos.
  • Acknowledge them. It’s a great idea to pop in and say hello on their birthday, work anniversaries, when they have something to celebrate, or when they share content.
  • Ask for specific feedback. Another great way to make your contact feel like an expert is to ask for their feedback. Make your request small and specific so that it doesn’t take up much of their time. If you’re connecting with an Instagram expert, for example, ask for feedback on one of your posts, not your entire Instagram strategy. Ask a specific question like, “What’s one thing I could do to get more comments on this post?”
  • Send a gift. Everyone I know loves to get real mail. You can send swag from your company, a personal gift, or something quirky and fun. For example, if you notice they love a specific kind of tea, you could send a sampler from that brand. Or you could put your logo or tagline on something — a beautiful notebook, a bottle of wine, a toy — so that they’ll think of you when they see it. Get creative and stay away from boring swag like pens and notepads. If they have a team, consider sending a gift the whole office can enjoy.
  • Share their success. If their business has some kind of success, share about it to your audience and congratulate them. Everyone loves being acknowledged.

The main idea here is to think of ways to connect with the person behind the business in an authentic way. Yes, you’re going to do this systematically and with a goal in mind, but that doesn’t mean the connection should be inauthentic.

When you treat people well, take a real interest, and build trust, they’re going to be much more likely to want to do business with you.  The Dream 100 is a long game, of course, so you may be nurturing these relationships over many weeks or months. Start by downloading our 4 week Dream 100 Challenge to help you get started with your Dream 100 project. Click here to get it now!


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