Posted on: February 8, 2019
When I was growing up, I went to summer camp in New Hampshire’s White Mountains for a month every July. I loved the seemingly never-ending summer days and nights, busy from dawn to bedtime with swimming, hiking, camping, craft projects, playing kickball and paddling canoes. Most of all, I loved making new friends.
Summer camp taught me a lot about life. I learned that being a team player was better than being a loner. I also learned that the more you help others, the more you get back. When I helped a friend paddle a canoe across the lake, or swim the last length in the swimming test, I received love and appreciation for days and weeks to come.
Giving more than getting is what it’s all about in business, too. After having operated my own PR agency for nearly 30 years, I have learned that making introductions, giving information and sharing useful marketing and PR techniques is the way to get more business and build my personal and professional network.
As I have become more well known for my expertise, I have gotten more referrals, and it has been a faster process from the first contact to closing on a new contract. It’s sometimes hard for me to believe that this has happened because of the number of people who know, like and trust me, but when I think about it, it makes total sense.
When I am starting a business relationship with someone I know, like and trust, such as an attorney, accountant or financial planner, I am eager to enter the relationship and get started working together. If someone who I trust has referred me to another professional, then I transfer that feeling of trust to the new person.
The more people you know and the more people who know, like and trust you, the more business you will have. People will be more willing to part with their money because your brand promise has value and because of a high trust factor and credibility. Clients and customers believe that you will deliver on what you say you will do — on time and on budget.
Making new friends and professional contacts have always come naturally to me, but I know there are people who find it difficult. I always tell people that in a networking situation, it’s not about you. It’s about the other person. When meeting a new person, ask questions and listen to the answers. Remember the other person’s name, first and foremost, because, as Dale Carnegie said, a person’s own name is the sweetest sound in the whole universe.
Ask others about what they do in their free time, and try to find a point of connection. Are you both into hiking? What’s their favorite mountain to climb? Have they ever thought about through-hiking the Appalachian Trail? If they are into skiing or boating, what mountain or lake have they most recently visited? What do they like about it?
Asking questions and listening intently to the answers is the best way to make new friends and generate positive feelings of authenticity and trust. By showing true interest in the other person, they will likely feel better about you. As a matter of fact, oftentimes the less you say about yourself, the more they will like you. People love talking about themselves and having a captive audience. Growing bigger ears and a smaller mouth is a good goal in networking situations.
Make an effort to remember the new person’s name and exchange business cards so you can follow up by connecting on LinkedIn or following them on other social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
My secret weapon is old-fashioned. I write personal handwritten note cards and send them in the postal mail with a stamp. That’s a habit I learned from my own mother, and it has stood the test of time because so few people in this day and age use handwritten note cards to follow up.
Writing notes reminds me of the way I used to stay in touch with my summer camp friends during the school year as I was waiting to see them again at camp. Each summer, I would make some new friends, but always try to keep the old ones. And now, 30 years into owning my own agency, I’m still doing the same thing.
It has paid off in so many ways. I am more secure in myself, happier with my life, and I have friends all over the world who will stand by me in good times and bad. That’s the key to a large network and a richer life.
This article originally appeared on the Forbes Agency Council CommunityVoice as Your Network is Your Net Worth.