By Patrick Skarr

In previous Checkmate entries, my colleagues Tracey Mendrek and Jeanne Atkinson write about having an outcome focus in approaching client relations and being involved in the community, respectively. I want to extend on their remarks to emphasize the importance having a service-before-self approach to building relationships and discuss how this can help build trust in the community.

 There is a right way to build relationships and a wrong way, and the course you select impacts personal attitudes about your brand and, most importantly, whether or not people trust you.

The wrong way:

We’ve all met the serial networkers who treat meet-and-greet events as speed dating and approach each person they meet as a potential transaction. Their only interest in “helping you out” professionally relates to you purchasing a product, service or project from them—regardless of whether it’s something you need or not. These are the folks you can’t wait to end your conversation with, whose business cards end up in the trash, and whose LinkedIn invitations show up in your inbox a week later and leave you asking, Who is this, again? 

Subscribe to this approach, and you’ll end up with a shallow reputation, little established trust and no ability to ask a professional favor.

The right way:

Then, there are the folks who express a real and sincere desire to have meaningful relationships with the people they meet. Relationships take time to develop—you need to get to know each other and express genuine interest. Relationships garner respect and understanding for people as individuals rather than just for the company, constituency or vote they represent.

To be a good relationship builder means you’re listening more and talking less. You’re asking, How can I help you? Rather than, How can you help me? 

It’s not to say that in a pinch or on a short time frame you can’t find ways to leverage relationships, networks or the public to support your cause The point is that it is important to always be in relationship-building mode and to take the steps necessary to be the person, company or organization interested in having a two-way, mutually beneficial relationship with clients, customers, constituents and community.

At Culloton Strategies, in addition to working with our clients to develop and implement short- and long-term community-engagement and -relationship strategies, we embrace the approach of building long-term relationships that help our clients, our employees and the communities where we live and work. That’s why Tracey wrote about the importance of having a client-centered approach and why Jeanne spoke of the importance of staying engaged in community issues. We remain engaged and involved in the communities where our clients are so that we can help contribute to solutions and learn more about how we can help others.

Over the course of a business cycle, products are purchased or aren’t, services are rendered or not, campaigns reach a conclusion, and career paths change. But the everlasting result is your reputation, your brand and the relationships you’ve built along the way.