By Susan McPherson | The Muse
The goal in any meaningful relationship is to give it depth. That’s what my book, The Lost Art of Connecting: The Gather, Ask, Do Method for Building Meaningful Business Relationships, is all about. Of course, not every networking contact has to become a deep relationship: We have a finite amount of time, energy, and resources. But when there’s potential to help each other in business and in life, it’s worthwhile to take the relationship deeper. And what people so often ask me is: How? How do you transform a relationship from the superficial to the meaningful without feeling awkward or stiff?
Here are a few practical tips:
1. Take Action Right After You Meet
This is one of the biggest mistakes I see people make: They fail to follow up quickly and effectively. Don’t stop the train midtrack! Taking follow-up action is not only essential for deepening that initial connection, but also for turning a job or idea into reality. Take immediate steps post-meeting. Connect with and follow up on their preferred social platforms or set a reminder on your phone to take action in another way. Don’t wait for the other person to take the lead.
2. Reach Out, Even If the Gain Isn’t Immediately Obvious
Let’s say, for example, that you meet someone at a dinner event who works in criminal justice reform. And let’s also say that you are a public relations consultant. It would be easy to think, “Well, that was an interesting person, but I don’t see how our lines of work can intersect.”
If you feel a connection or sense a shared passion or goal—even if it’s not clear how it relates to your current jobs—you want to act right away once the door to the relationship has been opened. What did you talk about? Is there a passion you share? Does this person have knowledge about a topic you would like to learn more about? Make that first follow-up a way to solidify the connection.
Here are a few examples of follow-up emails I like to send:
“It was wonderful to meet you. I’m fascinated by the work you’re doing in [field]. Please keep me posted on your work. I’d love to find ways to support you and your endeavors.”
“It was great to meet you last evening at the [event]! Let’s keep in touch.”
“So great to meet you! I’d love to get to know you better and see how I might be able to support your good work. Want to grab coffee in the next several weeks?”
“I saw this article on [topic] and thought of you—it was great to connect! Let’s keep in touch.”
3. Remember Everyone Wants to Feel Seen
During each meeting you have, jot down notes about what is important to this particular person. Do they mention a hobby or interest you share? Are they traveling to London this fall? Write these things down so that when you follow up, you can do so on a particular item that will prove how closely you were listening and paying attention. You can email them to say, “How was that trip to London? Did you happen to grab a lunch at Borough Market?” When you do this, the person will feel remembered and heard.
Celebrate them and their wins, too. Is someone celebrating a birthday? Reach out. Did they just change jobs and announce it on LinkedIn? Congratulate them. Did they or their company receive a media mention? Send them a note to let them know you saw it.