The Lost Art of Relationship Building

Simple thing, really. Hi. How are you? I’m a marketing nerd that loves basketball, the gym and Twitter. Wanna exchange numbers? Let’s hang out! OK, that may be the dumbed down version but you get the point. We’re introduced to new people almost every day, in personal or more formal situations. We hope there’s an initial connection and then build off of that with two-way conversations.

Now, let’s take a look at the latter. You attend a networking event, meet tons of great people, share ideas, hand out business cards to stay in contact and then you’re all on your way. Well, looks like things went great, right? They did, up until you get an email; not a ‘Hey, great meeting you last night’ but more to the tune of ‘I added you to my email newsletter without even discussing my business or talking to you face to face. I just happened to nab one of your business cards. We are now connected.’ Scary, right? What’s scarier is that this is my real-life example.

Not only did this person not directly talk to me at this event, they decided that I should get TWO emails in the same day, thanking me for allowing them the opportunity to work with me and ‘purchased’ a subscription on my behalf. Oh, why thank you!

1: I’ve never worked with you, let alone spoke to you

2: If I wanted a subscription that bad, I would’ve asked you for it

Apparently the person assumed we had a relationship because I gave out my business card, which has my email address on it. Now, I could get into the e-mail etiquette side of things but Beth Harte covered that pretty well earlier this week.

What strikes a chord with me though, is the lost art of relationship building. People are stuck on numbers and looking for that quick fix or lead. WAKE UP CALL: things don’t work that way anymore. You can’t meet someone and immediately pitch them a product and expect them to buy it. That potential customer wants to build a rapport and get to know you; not just about your business, they want to get to know YOU.


I understand; times are rougher now than they were in years past, but that gives you even more the reason to step outside of the box & that ‘gorilla’ sales mentality and get back to the basics of relationships and building a positive community around your brand or product.

Is that too much to ask for? How do you think we can better ourselves and the relationships we look to build on a daily basis? What can WE do better to achieve this and make it more of the norm?

17 comments On The Lost Art of Relationship Building

  • Call me. 207-752-2960. It’s a simple step but an absolutely essential one. Sonny and I connected over a phone conversation (and hoping to grab him on a skype one of these days) and we definitely have benefited from getting to know each other on a deeper level. We both have an idea about who each of us is, what that person is looking for and how we can help each other out. It’s pretty cool when this happens, in social media it happens A TON. So call me. (That’s my real cell # btw)

  • @Stuart – I agree with your sentiment, man. How we connected is a perfect example in how to reach out to someone, connect and build a real relationship out of it.

    Seriously, you all – give him a call. You won’t regret it.

  • Hi Sonny,

    Great point. Ironically, I wrote a similar post yesterday, but with the “please don’t hit on my just because I’m here” approach. Either way, lot of people are missing a huge opportunity to reach out, learn who I am and what I might be able to do for you (and how you might be able to help me), and forge a real relationship.

    Too bad for them, annoying for us because we have to deal with them. But, in the end, another way for those of us who “get it” to distinguish ourselves.


  • @Daria – It definitely is a huge opportunity. Whether it be in social media, email marketing, or other mediums; there is so much potential if you actually take the time out to get to know your community and build real relationships. Appreciate your thoughts!

  • The funny thing is that a lot of the companies that are in a crappy economical situation are like that *because* they used old techniques. Customers are more savyy now – they don’t really care that you might save them a coupla hundred dollars on a car, or $20 on a pair of jeans.

    Instead, they’re looking to actually *feel* like customers; that you want what’s best for them; that you’ll actually offer good old customer service.

    Quicker companies (and people like the douchebag you encountered) realize this, the quicker they’ll enjoy more success.

  • Hey Sonny,

    Wow, so you got the direct sales spam? Sorry to hear that, it still amazes me how people love to still dot he pushy used car salesman approach on people still but the flip side is that “There is a sucker born every minute”. I know we talked about this before and I think Social Media is still a new age medium but the roots are still there and like you said we don’t want to be spammed or have something forced on us without permission. Good topic!

  • You’re following some 1,900 people and organizations on Twitter. How does that “numbers game” work with your argument for relationship building?

  • @Danny – Right on, Danny. There’s a bigger time commitment for companies now than that existed a few years back. Customers take the time out to learn about a company or product, so it just goes to show that we’ve gotten smarter and expect the same in return.

    @Justin – Yup! I would’ve much rather actually connected with that person and get to know them vs. losing any possibility of that with two quick emails. Good experience, nonetheless that hopefully we all can learn from.

    @Ari – Well, there’s a difference between having a large amount of people in a community that you’ve, at the least, attempted to connect with (which I admit, is hard to do with each and every one of) and attempting to directly push/sell a product to someone you’ve barely connected with.

  • I see. As a followup, Sonny, if those 1,900 folks who you opted to follow on Twitter decided to send you a single tweet in a single day, you’d be OK with that?

  • If they sent a tweet directly to me to connect and converse, I’m absolutely OK with it. If they sent me that initial message wanting me to read their content or check out their product, like those two emails did, then no.

  • A lot of great points to make how NOT to use someone’s contact information after a networking event. I recently had someone add me on Facebook, write on my wall about something related to their business and automatically add me to an e-newsletter mailing list. As a result I deleted them from my friends list and unsubscribed to newsletter with an explanation that I thought adding my email information from my Facebook page was an abuse of that type of connection. I hope they learn — most people (usually me, too) will simply delete/add to junk and ignore.

    I think what’s more bothersome about this type of encounter isn’t about numbers — but license. These individuals may or may not be concerned with numbers, but they definitely take a great deal of license upon first meeting. Possession of a business card/Facebook friend does not entitle them to enter me as a “prospect” into their marketing machine. I don’t hate them for this, but I’ve started trying to let people know how I feel about this in hopes that they learn to treat others with more respect.

  • @Shannon – Another great but sad example at peoples misuse of really, our transparency. There comes a responsibility to these people within our communities when they have our information right at their fingertips. Sure its in their possession but to use it with no regard, is just bad networking and business practices.

    I messaged this person also, politely telling them what I thought of their practices. No reply though, which doesn’t surprise but would much rather have had a bit of dialogue to see what they thought of their use (misuse) of people’s information.

    Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and story!

  • This is when people REALLY miss the point. I’m a bit disheartened by this story given the level of connectedness that we can all find on so many mediums. I could see if the two of you had a conversation or if she remembered something about you that legitimately made her think you’d have an interest in her product. She could have mentioned that and you may have been a bit more receptive. Maybe not, but the chances would have certainly been better had there been *some* connection.

  • Hey Sonny – good advice. The art is not lost on me, I hope. I love social media just for getting to know people like yourself. Sure sometimes I’ll promote my site(s) or whatever – but for the most part it’s still about meeting people and building relationships.

  • Great direct points on etiquette of networking. I enjoy your blog for its witty sarcasm yet open hearted honesty. Good stuff, look forward to the next one!

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  • Wow, I hope you don’t take this the wrong way (or, I should say, I hope you take it as I intend it), but it’s soooo great to hear someone else use the “righteous indignation” tone of voice (er, writing) in a post. I feel you, Mr. Gill, and I am so right there with you.

    Yes, it’s hard. Yes, there are more slimy ways (which are perhaps easier) to make a connection than there are non-slimy ways. But that doesn’t make it right. And I sure would question if it ever transitioned into a relationship of any real value or substance.

    A few months ago, I changed positions and snagged a spiffy new title. Yeah, I’m secretly pleased but I’m not stupid–the minute the local business journal ran their 5-word notice, I instantly received a “Congratulations! I’d love to come talk with you and your office about financial planning.” email from some person I’d never met, never spoken with or exchanged deets with. Seriously? Don’t people choose a financial planner with the same careful consideration women choose OBGYN’s? Gak.

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