Fostering Relationships: Tips From an Expert Networker

Business networking tips from Luke Martin, former Personal Assistant to the Governor of Oklahoma and current new business development officer for an architecture firm in Oklahoma City...

1) Never forget a person's name. This includes remembering the correct pronunciation.

2) Never go straight to business no matter how pressed they are for time. If they like you, you get as long as you need or as long as you keep them engaged. I always try to have at least two if not three things to discuss other than my true reason for the appointment. Things I try to work in the opening conversation are family (wife, kids etc., depending on the person this is the most important thing in their life - you need to know their names and ask about them every time you see them) and hobbies (fishing, cattle, golf, football etc., you need to know what you are talking about to truly be sincere - if you don't know, ask them about it to learn more, people love to talk about their passions.)

3) Some say never get into politics or religion. I completely disagree, but I came from there so I guess it depends on the person. I have always felt if you are sincere it doesn't matter what the topic because you can find more things in common than not.

4) If meeting with someone I have never met and intend to build a relationship with I try to meet on their turf, take a quick survey of the office and always find at least two things that are important to them to discuss (awards, college attended, hobbies, etc.) In my office is a picture of my wife, signed Eddie Sutton photo and a golf ball. These are more than enough for you to ask me about. And if you do ask me, I will like you for noticing and taking an interest in my passions.

5) Call me old fashion, but I am a strong believer in handwritten thank you notes. I think there is a time and place for emails, but not until you get to know someone very well. They should be sent the same or the following day. I send approximately 5-10 notes out a day. Nobody does it anymore so it sets you apart.

6) I read local newspapers and magazines. Anytime I see someone in the paper, I cut out the article or picture and send it to them with a note. This is one more opportunity to get your name in front of someone and you are not asking for a thing. As stated above, people love hearing their name, but love seeing it in the news even more. The more times a prospective client or future client can hear and see your name and that you care about them, the better off you are.

In my job now, I pursue business about 25% of the time and the other 75% of the time is spent networking. So, when people think they want to design or build a building they think, "Luke Martin, let's call him and see if he is interested." So, network, network, network and the business will come to you. A good networker today is so far ahead of everyone else it is almost not fair, but being good at networking takes practice and many failed attempts and rejections.

To sum everything up...

  • Become their friend, it is true people like to do business with their friends, so if you become someone's friend you can always get what you want.

  • You need to be sincere or they (client, contact etc.) will see right through you. Genuine people that like you are your biggest asset, they will introduce you to everyone they know if you ask and a lot of times without asking.

  • I try to do things when I can to help my key contacts, but I never keep score. I just help when I can. I have a list of my top 10 contacts that have helped get me where I am today. I look at the list weekly (or try to) and spend 10 minutes thinking is there anything I have heard of or read that I can tell them to help their business.

Processing Questions for PLI Curriculum Teachers/Trainers:

1. Who is on your list of top ten contacts that have helped you? What opportunities can you look for to help repay them?

2. What are some things you can start today in order to increase your network?

1 comment:

Tom Magness said...

Luke's comments are "spot on." Even in government, and as the leader of a pretty large organization, I believe the 25/75 ratio is about right...although it is usually hard to draw a distinction between business development and networking. At some point they both become about building and sustaining relationships.

I share Luke's belief in the handwritten note. What a great way to establish a personal connection. I send tons of them - inside and outside my organization.

Good stuff, Rhett.