3 Easy Ideas to Build Business Relationships Remotely

Like so many other things in the coronavirus pandemic, the networking you once counted on at local events, client dinners and industry conferences now feels like a luxury of long ago. But the importance of creating and building business relationships remains. Perhaps more so than ever.

Growing a successful business means a continued focus on building relationships, says Ivan Misner, founder and Chief Visionary Officer of BNI, a global business networking organization with more than 9,700 chapters.

“Your business thrives by networking,” writes Misner in a post. “Staying in touch is an important part of the networking process.”

Don’t let the pandemic conditions and its limited in-person opportunities keep you from connecting with people, he says.

“We cannot change what is going on around us, but we can change how we respond to it,” writes Misner. “Now is not the time to stop networking – it’s just the time to do it differently, at least for a while.”

So, how do you make networking like this happen? Here are 3 quick and easy ideas to help create and build relationships for your business in this socially isolated environment:

Reach Out To Help

This is a good time to expand and deepen your network, to connect with your contacts in a different way, Misner says.

“Deepen the relationship and be there to help them where you can,” the author and Entrepreneur.com contributor says.

One way to do that, he says, is to reach out to people in your network to see how they’re doing. Make it a point to schedule one-on-ones with them via a virtual platform.

“Don’t reach out to them to just try to sell something,” Misner adds. “Instead, find out if there is anything you can do for them?  Recently, I heard John Maxwell say, ‘you can’t help everybody, but you can help somebody.’  Use this time to help somebody.”

Meet New People

Making new connections – whether it’s to get new clients for your business, find investors or learn from other entrepreneurs – can be particularly hard right now.

Author and consultant Robbie Abed, who helps tech companies grow through digital marketing, says he used to meet new people at a conference, networking meetup or fundraiser but since that’s no longer a viable option, he turns to LinkedIn.

“I'll post that I'm looking to meet new people in Chicago to have coffee with them,” writes the author of “Fire Me I Beg You,” in a blog post for Inc. magazine. But of course, instead of a face-to-face, he’ll ask for a virtual coffee meeting.

Abed suggests this wording, “I figured I would try something to meet new people given our current situation. I would love to meet a few new people that work in the technology sector. I have no agenda or anything to sell but would love to say hello and learn from new people.”

It tends to be better perceived, he says, if you post it on your LinkedIn page vs. sending inMail directly to someone “because, again, people assume you are trying to sell them something.”

‘Activate’ Your Connections

BNI’s Misner, who’s been called the “Father of Modern Networking,” said the pandemic conditions prompted him to change his definition of networking.

“During the past nine months, business people have survived the most challenging economic time since the Great Depression. I realize that my definition of networking needs to evolve to reflect our changing times and business climate.”

He now calls networking “the process of developing and activating your relationships to increase your business, enhance your knowledge, expand your sphere of influence, or serve the community.” 

Misner, author of 25 books, including “Networking Like a Pro,” says he replaced the word "using" with "activating" as the former implied a one-way street.

“However, when one “activates” others, the engagement becomes interactive and inspiring to take action together.

“In these changing times, we need to be more inspiring and engaging when networking. Entrepreneurs who ‘activate’ their network have higher networking results than those who are ‘using’ someone.”