3-old-school-methods-for-creating-better-business-relationshipsBusiness relationships, networking, making friends and influencing people – all of these are names for the kinds of interpersonal relationships we strive to create when we want to do better at business or a similar goal. People have all kinds of ideas on the subject, and with the advent of modern social media, these sorts of tips have become increasingly digital in their focus. It’s true: virtual communications can greatly simplify the networking process, giving people access to individuals they’d never meet socially.

But for some people, digital networking has been oversold. The web is no replacement for social prowess, the kind that business people have used to command hearts and minds for countless generations. People who think that they can get ahead, from behind a keyboard, usually don’t have what it takes to be successful on a large scale, unless their digital giftings are specialized and valuable, to the extent that their social skills don’t matter. Basically, if you’re a genius, you don’t have to be good with people. But if you’re not (and you probably aren’t), you’ve got to have some game when it comes to relating to the people you hope to network with. Here are some old-school methods that work just as well today as they did in the days of yore.

  • Gifts. The psychological effects of gift-giving in business relationships have been well documented. Whether you’re a politician giving to the Clinton foundation, or a soccer mom donating to the preschool you want little Caden to get into, gifts are meant to elicit desired benefits from the other party. In a one-on-one business relationship, it is common to buy dinner, give the gift of Phillies cigars, make phone calls, and variously make the exchange of gift for power. This method still works today. Call it a bribe. Call it greasing the wheels. It’s the way we’re wired to reciprocate certain actions, and it’s the way business people do their thing.
  • Remembering. If you want people to remember who you are, remember who they are. If you have a conversation with someone that matters in your business world, remember their names. Remember their kids’ names. Remember their pet causes. Remember where they went to school. Remember which charities they give to and where people speculate their career trajectory is headed. Don’t roll out these factoids like a quiz bowl champion each time they’re in your presence. That’s creepy. But in remembering someone’s name and preferences, you’re demonstrating appreciation for that person. And people like that.
  • Vulnerability. People in business have well-oiled BS detectors. The best way to get around them is not to put out BS into the atmosphere. Be honest. Give good information. Keep promises and appointments. In doing so, you’ll likely demonstrate more courtesy, value, and candor than most other people. These are rare traits. Regardless of your actual abilities, these could ingratiate you to the people with whom you want to network, and could serve to make you a valuable commodity.

There are plenty of ways to network in the real world. Don’t let the ease of digital business keep you from doing the real thing.