The #1 Relationship Building Habit You Should Do Daily

8 years, 10 months ago - October 07, 2013
Introductions from your network to the right clients, employees, partners, and investors can change everything. However, most people leave this up to chance. One individual has found a way to remove the randomness.

Imagine hiring an employee, not providing value back (i.e., a salary), and only randomly touching base once per year. That’s unfathomable, right? Not even the world’s worst manager would do that.

Yet, that’s exactly how most people treat their network. Our network can have just as much value as our team, but we don’t act like it.

For example, today, one of your connections may have talked with someone who could have been a game-changing client for your company. However, he didn’t introduce you. Not because he doesn’t like you. Not because you didn’t need it. He didn’t introduce you because he didn’t think of you.

If you are like most people, you were forgotten because you didn’t keep in touch.

The average American has 634 connections in their overall network. The idea of keeping in touch can feel overwhelming, if not impossible. Overwhelm turns into guilt, which turns into inaction.

The Link Between Focusing On Your Network and Success

Patrick Ewers, one of Silicon Valley’s top relationship management experts and coaches, believes that keeping in touch with your network daily is a central habit that all entrepreneurs should have.

His belief started to form when he took on a senior role at LinkedIn LNKD -0.03% as one of its earliest employees. However, it was cemented when he started his coaching practice, Mindmavin.

He noticed an interesting pattern with his clients, many of whom are powerhouses in the Valley. “The best opportunities to grow their businesses came from their existing network and were often completely coincidental – someone ran into someone else and then referred that person to my client.”

Patrick saw a fundamental mismatch between the tools that marketing offers and what his clients needed. Put plainly, a venture capitalist doesn’t find deals on Google GOOG -0.38% Adwords. He finds them through introductions from people he knows and trusts.

Most people think of introductions as random. Therefore, they don’t systematically manage them. Patrick intuitively knew there must be an underlying process. He searched for a lever that could be controlled.

The lever he found was mindshare (i.e., being top of mind).

In his words, “The only way we can increase the serendipity is by increasing the number of interactions with our network that people perceive as valuable, meaningful, and relevant. Mindshare is something you have control over. It is a choice. It is a skill set that comes with best practices that you can choose to learn and then systematically deploy. Staying top of mind has a direct correlation to the number of opportunities you get from your network.”

How To Overcome The #1 Challenge To Building Mindshare

 As Patrick studied mindshare more deeply, he came across a huge challenge; being top of mind vanishes quickly.

“When my clients would meet someone for the first time, they’d often exchange multiple introductions, but those would stop as time passed. The willingness was still there, but something was stopping them from happening.”

That’s when Patrick turned his attention to the academic discipline of memory science.

He found help from 19th century psychologist,Hermann Ebbinghaus, who pioneered the study of memory and contributed two major ideas:

The Forgetting Curve

As amazing as our brains are, we lose knowledge incredibly quickly if it is not reinforced. Most of us were exposed to the forgetting curve (see right) when our teachers reminded us about the importance of studying.

The Spacing Effect

The basic idea behind the spacing effect is that the mind initially forgets information at a fast rate. However, with increased exposure over intermittent intervals, it remembers the information longer.

Patrick’s insight is that certain opportunities are only likely to happen if you have a certain level of mindshare:

The other limit that arises as a result of our brain is Dunbar’s Number (150), the number of people with whom we can maintain stable social relationships. Dunbar refers to Robin Dunbar, the British anthropologist who found the number by correlating the size of primate brains and average social group size. If we don’t continually build a relationship, there is a very good chance that we won’t stay in the top 150.

Dunbar’s number, the spacing effect, and the forgetting curve collectively show the importance of keeping in touch with our network. At a brain level, by keeping in touch we remind people that we exist.

The Very First Step To Getting Dramatic Results From Mindshare

The beauty of moving from an adhoc process of staying in touch to a systematized approach is that there is extremely low-hanging fruit that you can immediately apply to have a dramatic impact on your life.

The first step that Patrick takes with new clients is to have them identify the top 20-30 legends in their life. Legends are individuals who have consistently demonstrated that they’re the most willing and able to support you.

He then asks his clients to consider, “How many have you touched in the last 30 days?” They often discover that the answer is less than 50%. “Given who these people are, they’re leaving a huge amount of value on the table for themselves and for their network.”

Next , Patrick simply recommends reaching out to one legend per business day that you would not have been in touch with otherwise with something that is valuable, relevant, and meaningful (i.e., introduction, advice, or feedback).

“At the end of one month, you will have touched every single person and developed a new habit. Once you have that habit, it is much easier to increase the frequency of your connections and the sophistication of your system.”

If you follow this basic process, after one year, you will have added value 260 times to the most important people in your network that you wouldn’t have otherwise.

Staying in touch is the critical lever to taking the chance out of relationship building. What is the likelihood that the five minutes per day you spend staying in touch is not going to yield amazing opportunities for you?


Text by Forbes

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