Business relationships are critical to our success, but we don’t always put the work in to cultivate the most important ones.
Thus, we miss out on leveraging those relationships for mutual benefit.
There are a lot of people I know, but there are few with whom I have close business relationships.
That doesn’t mean I won’t help them if they need it, nor does it mean I won’t spend time with them if they want to spend time with me.
But to move from an acquaintance to a friend takes time and effort.
The Relationship Pyramid
Let me introduce you to The Relationship Pyramid which is made up of six different levels of relationships you can have with others.
The base of the pyramid (also the largest level) represents most of the people you know, who are likely acquaintances; while the top level (the smallest) represents your relationships, those who are more personally connected to you.
From bottom to top, you can determine the depth of your relationship with people who fall into that level:
- People who don’t know me by name
- People who know me by name
- People who like me
- People who are friendly with me
- People who respect me
- People who value a relationship with me
Once you identify which level your contacts are on, you can determine who you want to have deeper business relationships with and then take steps to move them up the pyramid.
Keep in mind that every relationship is different, and not all relationships develop the same way.
That said, the progression up the pyramid may not always follow a linear course.
Level 1: People who don’t know me by name
The easiest level to develop on The Relationship Pyramid is Level 1.
People who fall into this level may not recognise you outside of a work environment.
If they do recognise you, they may not remember your name.
The first step towards getting someone to remember your name is to first remember their name.
Lots of people say, “I’m so bad with names,” but you don’t have to be!
You can start remembering other people’s names by practicing a few simple tactics. In turn, they will start to remember your name, too.
Tips on how to remember people’s names
- Repeat their name when you’re introduced to them.
- Try to associate their name with something memorable, like someone else you know with that name.
- Adopt the mindset that remembering their name is important.
- Write notes about the person and your conversation with them as soon as you are able. Make notes about any distinguishing features, characteristics, mannerisms, etc. to jog your memory of them the next time you meet.
Tips on getting others to remember your name
- Learn something personal about the other person, and then share something about yourself. Common topics are family, pets, and hobbies.
- Look around their office to see if they have posters or decor that give insight into their interests and see if you have similar interests.
- Listen for shared experiences or tastes for which you can relate to them.
Level 2: People who know me by name
The second level is more comfortable because it makes you feel appreciated when people know your name.
It shows that they can distinguish you from other people, but it is just the first step.
Next, you need to learn more about them by asking questions.
The Link 20 Questions is a good starting point to guide you in the right direction to making a real connection with someone.
Make sure you are genuinely interested in the questions you choose, or you could come across as insincere.
Be prepared for the next meeting you have with that person by continuing the conversation and asking about subjects you discussed previously.
Level 3: People who like me
People tend to like those who show interest in them. Keep showing interest by asking more questions.
Yes, questions lead to answers, and you want to know as much about them as you can.
That way, you can uncover things no one else knows, which helps build a unique bond.
Don’t interrogate them; just express a genuine desire to get to know them.
One way to do this is to discover what their biggest challenge is right now.
Think of ways you can help them, even if it’s outside your area of expertise.
Research – use your network.
Relate to their experience and how you or someone you know solved a similar problem or overcame a comparable obstacle.
Continue developing your knowledge of that person and finding commonalities.
Think of ways you can add value to them, either personally or professionally.
Levels 4, 5, and 6
The last three levels establish you as more than just a business contact.
Once you reach Level 4 – People Who Are Friendly With Me – that person sees you as someone outside of your professional role and more of a friend.
Level 5, People Who Respect Me, means you have earned personal respect from someone, which sets you apart from most other people.
And Level 6, People Who Value A Relationship With Me, is the highest level at which the other person recognises your relationship as a valuable asset and will exhibit reciprocity when you help them.
Jerry Acuff is the founder of Delta Point Inc., a corporate consulting firm that focuses on building relationships with customers and employees and improving the effectiveness of sales professionals. He is the author of multiple books and has consulted the White House on health care reform. Care to share your thoughts on managing your most important relationships? Write in to firstname.lastname@example.org.