As an entrepreneur, relationships are everything. But how do you turn those relationships with your acquaintances into profitable partnerships for your business? Rolling out sat down with chief brand strategist of 360 Gateway Brands, Alechia Reese. She has an interesting perspective on partnership: networking doesn’t really work.
So, how can you establish profitable partnerships in business? Here’s how:
What’s the biggest mistake entrepreneurs make when it comes to networking?
The top two mistakes most entrepreneurs make when networking is: Trying to pass out their business card to everyone in the room. Trying to get the business card of everyone in the room.
I’ve literally had people interrupt me while conversing with other attendees to simply pass out their business card to everyone in that circle because “they didn’t want to miss anybody.” Not only is it super rude, but you’ve made no connection with me, I have no idea what you do, and now when I glance at your logo or business card I’m reminded of how rude you were. As entrepreneurs, you don’t eat what you don’t kill. Trust me, I understand that fact more than most. However, use wisdom. Always hungry, never thirsty. It rubs people wrong and you miss out on viable (and valuable) opportunities because you wanted them to have your business card.
Your goal should be to generally connect with at least two people at every “networking” event you attend. It takes the pressure off and allows them to actually remember you (and your business) because you took your time.
Pro tip: Before you attend any networking events, research the sponsors and usual attendees of the event so you can have a good idea of who you want to genuinely connect with while you’re there.
How can we build real relationships with potential partners instead of just passing off business cards and exchanging information?
Take. Your. Time. Trust isn’t built overnight, neither are relationships. Trust, like relationships are built through connection, consistency, and follow through. Anytime I connect with someone I’d like to make a potential partner I start with the info exchange. Not the super stale, “I’d love to stay connected, can I have your info” line either. I’m a strategist and understand people flock to what provides them value, so I make sure I add value so they’re excited to give me their contact info and respond when I outreach. Because I take my time initially getting to know my potential partner, usually an area of their expertise, hobby, issue, problem, or new idea is brought up in the conversation. I make it my business to provide insight, a solution, or to offer help with at least one of them. Then, I ask for their card. You don’t have all day either, so yes, take your time, but value theirs too.
Next, the marketer in me knows it can take seven interactions before someone makes a purchase from a new brand or service so I treat the budding relationship much in the same way ensuring I’m consistent in my connection, and follow through (to the best of my ability) on what I say I’ll do.
How have partners played a role in your success?
Life is about relationships. At every level of my success, a partner, sponsor, or mentor played a role. I call them my SPs (success partners). When I started my nonprofit working with foster youth, my first corporate sponsor was UPS. They sponsored us in our first year based solely off of the relationship [and trust] I had cultivated and developed with one of my sponsor-mentors. The same is true for one of my most well-known celebrity client’s line, Daya by Zendaya. I was brought onto the project as the strategic marketing director based on the relationship I have with one of my success partners. No one is an island and to go further, faster you’ll need to learn to cultivate your own success partnerships.
What’s your biggest piece of advice for entrepreneurs who want to make a lasting connection?
Number 1: Understand there are levels to relationship building. Don’t meet them Tuesday and you’re pitching them a million dollar project on Thursday. People do business with those they know, like, and trust. In that order and it’s not achieved over night.
Number 2: Know exactly what you bring to the table and the value of it. Intimately knowing who you are and how you add value to those you want to make lasting connections with is key. You’ll be able to later leverage your value as the relationship grows.
Number 3: In a world full of liabilities, be an asset! The higher their position, the more people, places, and things are vying for their time, attention, and energy. Instead of adding to that ever-growing list of “things to do” help them achieve or do something that benefits them. People protect and grow their assets.
Number 4: Membership has its benefits. Trust me, you want (need) every one. Some opportunities and individuals are easiest garnered and met when you’re playing on the same team. Thousands of people pay hundreds of thousands of dollars annually on golf club memberships. It’s not just to take a swing on the green. Multi-million dollar teams are closed there. Access is attained through membership. So whether it’s golf, sorority, or executive clubs membership has its benefits. Take a look at memberships held by some of the top professionals, influencers, or even entertainers that you’d like to be connected with, see which ones you qualify for and fit in line with your goals, and seek out active membership.