Planting seeds of trust can be a game of quantity – at least in the initial stages of a relationship – a simple matter of accumulating touch points without drawing any negative attention to yourself. Car dealerships are masters of this technique. As a potential customer travels through multiple settings with a salesperson, progressing from peeking into car windows out in the lot to taking a vehicle for a test drive, then having another chat in the showroom, familiarity takes hold, and familiarity leads to trust (and trust leads to sales).
The same dynamic is at work on a great first date; it starts with a visit to the museum, then on to cocktails, off to dinner and maybe even a separate stop for a decadent dessert. Gosh, it’s like you’ve known one another for years!
In the past, these trust-building journeys were limited to contact over email, the phone or the physical realm. Now, of course, you can easily rack up experiences through a multitude of digital platforms. So why then are so many people squandering the opportunities to do so? In my experience, people are actually taking a more passive approach to relationship building these days and having fewer meaningful exchanges, even though the mediums for engaging with others continue to proliferate. Each dropped touch point is an opportunity shut down, and the chain of connections is broken.
The following are a couple of examples that I experience on a regular basis with platforms that I've leveraged with great success. I know that if I’m experiencing them, then others are as well.
99.9 percent of the LinkedIn invitations that I receive default to LinkedIn’s generic invitation. There’s no customization whatsoever, no introduction, no reference to what sparked the invitation in the first place.
Given the power that LinkedIn has to build relationships (and businesses), this lack of personalization is astounding. I regularly encounter people who quibble about LinkedIn's leverage (but I’m betting these are the same people who send out empty invitations!). By contrast, the vast majority of the LinkedIn invitations that I send out include a short introduction or reference to how I met a contact, and the invitations that I accept include a follow-up introduction of some kind. About 3% of those follow-ups generate any kind of response. Like it never happened. On the other hand, I’ve referred a number of the bold engagers to business opportunities and have done business with others. How much better could it be for everyone?
Twitter, another much-maligned platform, has greatly expanded the number of characters it allows users to spend in direct messages (otherwise known as “DMs”). For the uninitiated, Twitter users can send private, direct messages to any other user they follow and who follows them on Twitter.
Even before the character limit was expanded, I could count on one hand the number of my Twitter followers who bothered to send a direct message, introducing who they are (and I currently have over 5,000 followers). Once a week, I set aside time to review my new followers and selectively send a DM introduction to those who align with my areas of focus and interest. Over the past couple of years alone, three major client engagements (six-figure contracts) have resulted from my Twitter outreach. Waste of time? You decide.
I have to give props to the gals on this one, because in my experience, women are far more apt to offer introductions and to engage with those that I provide. Still, those numbers are far too small.
GIRL TO GREAT MANDATES
- Think of every point of contact as a deposit that you are making, one that may accrue “interest” within days or years down the road, but only if you take the initiative to personalize every outreach and to thoughtfully respond to those from others.
- Taking the time to link multiple touch points with a single contact will increase the opportunities to engage with them and warm up the relationship. These days, many CRM platforms can help you uncover a particular contact’s social media accounts, so why limit yourself to one?
- It's all too easy to rationalize opting out of various networking platforms when business is good or you're gainfully employed. Applying a steady effort now will pay off down the road.
Crafting and sending relevant and personalized short-form introductions on a regular basis won’t just set you apart from the cowering crowd and grow your network, it will also help you hone your story and build confidence.
Isn’t that great?
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I launched the GirlToGreat series at the urging of the many women I've mentored and informally encouraged over the years. In this series, I share tools and tactics born from my experience, not theory, that will help you get out of your own way, make better use of where you are right now, and ditch the insecurity that is at the root of cringe-worthy compromises and playing small. Learn more about GirlToGreat
I am the founder of retail strategy and training agency, Spieckerman Retail. I blog on retail at spieckermanretail.com, and am a professional speaker, author and retail positioning trainer. I conduct retail positioning workshops around the world that arm companies with powerful tools for pursuing high-volume programs and strategic partnerships.
To learn more about my women's leadership support and retail-focused presentations, training and advisement, ping me at carol@spieckermanretail.