A common question among professionals is How to develop relationships that will help you develop your practice, without spending much time on it?“. Cyberspace and “social media” is often given as an answer.  I was reading part of an article by Kevin Wheeler, published on Accountancy Age, where he states:

Initiating and building relationships with decision-makers who might use your services, or refer you to others, happens through face-to-face personal contact. …. Such relationship initiation and subsequent building does not happen in cyberspace.

cREATIVE COMMONS: https://www.flickr.com/photos/58782395@N03/

It is a very interesting view, and one which is held by a lot of people. Can you actually build meaningful relationships using cyber space?

My answer is a very definite ‘yes’.

5 levels of a relationship

There are 5 levels of a relationship – starting at ‘identify’, ‘engage’, ‘strengthen’, ‘collaborate’ and ‘inner circle’. For more details of this model please see my blog post on ‘when does a contact become a connection?

It’s only when you get to the “strengthen” level that any meaningful business building opportunities will come via the relationship. To get to this level of a relationship always takes face-to-face contact via the phone, Skype or in person. In an ideal world, you would actually be able to meet them in person, but often distance makes this impractical. [As an aside, on the strength of only 2 Skype phone calls and many e-mails and tweets, one of my network is literally flying halfway around the world to meet me. So don’t discount the power of ‘just’ a phone call.]

‘Cyberspace’ (aka social media) is great for helping you to identify, initiate and warm up a relationship. Let me give you a real and concrete example to demonstrate my point. Two days ago I received an invitation on LinkedIn from someone I had never met or talked to. You could say it was the cyber equivalent of a cold call (something that Kevin advises you don’t do). There was such a compelling reason to talk that I phoned the person up immediately, and then spent half a day with them 24 hours later. I came away from the meeting knowing that I had started a very powerful and mutually beneficial business relationship. This all started from a relationship initiated in cyberspace. This is likely to be one of the most important people I will meet this whole year…

Whenever I meet my Twitter contacts in real life, the conversation always flows because we already know so much about each other.

If you need even further proof of the benefit of using cyberspace to help you to meet the right people, I recently looked through my client and pipeline list. As I looked down the list, 90% of all my new business has come from a relationship which started via Twitter or was maintained via Twitter and LinkedIn. In fact the most important people around our business have nearly ALL come from a relationship which initially started on Twitter.

Have I convinced you yet of the benefits of using both online and offline networking?

Written by Heather Townsend helps professionals and firms become the Go-To-Expert. If you want to grow your firm, and get more from your team, download Leading your team to new heights: Five essentials that every professional should be doing , click for your copy.

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