When I worked in sales, one of the many tasks we were asked to do was complete “relationship maps” for each of our law firm clients. This map was designed to help us identify our internal product advocates and decision makers, as well as our skeptics and blockers. Although a bit tedious at times, this exercise was extremely valuable in helping us strategize and figure how who we needed to engage in order to boost our sales.
Although I no longer work in a sales role, the relationship map is a tool I continue to use to help me in building a strategic professional network. Networking can often feel useless and unproductive when we do it without any thought. Being intentional about the network you’re building is one way to start seeing results, and the relationship map can be instrumental in helping you to achieve your goals.
To build your map, make a list of what you hope to achieve in the short term and the long term. Then, identify what you will need in order to reach those goals and who can help you along the way.
Start with a list of the people you already know. How do you know them? What experience do they bring to your network? Here is where you can look for patterns and spot deficiencies. For example, is your network made up entirely of women? Are you mostly interacting with peers, but very few senior folks? Do all of your contacts come from a single place or similar backgrounds?
Next, identify how you met those people, i.e., who were the relationship brokers? Maybe you found that you’ve met many of these people on your own. While there’s nothing wrong with that, consider that most of us tend to reach out to those with whom we share similarities, so you could be missing out on opportunities to diversify your network. Reach out to the relationship brokers in your life and leverage those relationships to meet people outside your circle. Keep in mind that it’s not only who you know – it’s also who THEY know. Is someone in your network connected to someone you’d like to meet? If so, ask for an introduction.
Remember that relationships are two-way streets. Are you adding any value to the people in your circle? One easy way to do that is to look for introductions you can make within your network. Being a connector is an essential part of relationship-building, and once you get good at this, growing your network will become easier as people start to recognize you as a relationship broker in your own right. Keep an eye out for opportunities to add value to your contacts. Send them relevant articles or invite them to events of interest.
This exercise can take some time and plenty of thought. But, if you want to develop rich relationship capital, it’s worth the effort.