My long time friend Tommy Spaulding is one of the best networked people I know. He’s written a new book that today hit #2 on the Wall Street Journal and #1 on USA Today money and business bestseller lists. In It’s Not Just Who You Know he explains the power of relationship building and offers his insights from his many business undertakings and experiences. Here is an excerpt I think you’ll enjoy:
I know thousands of people, and many of them wield tremendous influence. If life and business were all about “who you know,” then I’d be set. But none of those relationships took on extraordinary value unless I approached them with the idea that they mattered for something above and beyond the transaction.
I think of relationships in terms of a five-floor building. The deeper and more meaningful a relationship, the higher the floor it resides on. Let me be clear—relationships seldom fit neatly into a box (or a building). They’re far too dynamic. Some overlap on different floors, and others seem to move up and down floors like an elevator. But the Five Floor plan helps give me a reference point and allows me to think about the boundaries that define my relationships, so that I can continually work to make them stronger and more rewarding.
Most relationships start on the First Floor. We meet and we greet. We exchange business cards. It typically involves a transactional exchange. We need something specific from the other person—an airline ticket, or lunch, or help with a question. After we get what we want, we move on.
In Third Floor relationships, people develop an emotional comfort level that goes beyond facts and information. Instead of resting on NSW—news, sports, and weather—conversations, we begin sharing opinions and feelings. In business, positional authority is the primary guiding force in Third Floor relationships. Our position at work requires us to say what we think, rather than just present data, because our opinions can help shape decisions.
Fifth Floor relationships—the Penthouse of relationships—go well beyond anything discussed in Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends & Influence People. In Fifth Floor relationships, vulnerability, authenticity, trust, and loyalty are off the charts. They are relationships based on a shared empathy—an intuitive understanding of each other’s needs, even those that aren’t necessarily expressed. It’s a relationship based more on giving than on getting. In Fifth Floor relationships, we become confidants, advisers, and partners in helping the other person achieve their greatest potential.
But how do you do it, you might ask. How do you grow a relationship from the First Floor to the Second Floor? Or the Third Floor? Or the Fifth Floor? For many people, of course, therein lies the big, brick wall with no obvious doors or windows. The answer? Relentless communication.
But what can you do to distinguish yourself from the crowd? How can you practice relentless communication? What can you do when starting new relationships? What can you do to keep your existing relationships healthy? What are you doing for your co-workers? Your clients? Your customers?
Relentless communication is an intentional practice. It’s playing offense, not just sitting back and playing defense. It’s not something that just happens—you have to make it happen.
If you want to relentlessly communicate, there’s nothing wrong with cell phones and e-mails. I send and receive more than a hundred text messages and e-mails every day. I’m the poster boy for “Crackberry” addiction. But sometimes it’s the personal touches that set you apart from others and create the greatest opportunities for lasting relationships.
Handwritten notes, of course, are just one form of relentless communication. I have a friend in Minnesota who puts American flags in the yards of his clients every year on the Fourth of July. Another friend gives pumpkins to each of his clients on Halloween. They call and stop by as well, but these things in particular set them apart. They give people in the community a reason to think of them and smile.
I think of communication in terms of its impact. There is a hierarchy. A text is nice, but an e-mail is better. And a phone call is better still. Sometimes, however, a handwritten note is even better. A gift with a handwritten note is special. But hand-delivering a note along with a gift is the best. All of these things—all of this relentless communication—shows that you care, that you want to continue to build and grow the relationship. In most cases it leads to the thing you want next—face-to-face time with the person you want or need to know.
If you want to create and nurture relationships in your life, make an investment in relentless communication. You don’t have to send twenty handwritten notes a week, but why not send five? Or find other ways to uniquely express your thanks to the people you know—a flag on the Fourth of July. Make this a part of your life, something that you can make part of your relational DNA. When you do it, people will think of you and smile. And they’ll want to know you better. And that’s the heart of any relationship.
Adapted from It’s Not Just Who You Know by Tommy Spaulding © 2010 Thomas J. Spaulding Jr. Reprinted by permission of Broadway Books, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group.