After writing my first book, “Top of Mind,” I learned more than ever that developing deep, meaningful business relationships is the cornerstone to success. With these connections, quality matters more than quantity — it’s all about creating a lasting relationship that fuels idea sharing, other connections and genuine support for each other’s initiatives.
Below are 11 books that haven’t just helped me build exceptional business relationships; they’ve also helped me create long-term strategies for maintaining those relationships over time.
We all have plans for improving our fitness and other habits, but when it comes to relationships, we tend to wing it. Band takes a more strategic approach to business relationships, building a step-by-step method for deepening connections. His CAPITAL strategy of relationship-building homes in on developing good relationship habits, understanding your network, prioritizing important contacts and keeping those connections over the long haul.
Band uses a combination of technology and psychological tools to help readers cut through the networking hype. Technology can lead us to focus on boosting numbers rather than creating value. Band’s research reverses this, using a value-first approach to building your most helpful community. As a student of productivity methods, Band has created a system that can be easily implemented and developed into a lifelong practice.
We’ve all heard the adage “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know.” While we’re raised to believe opportunities are earned on merit, this adage is 100 percent true. Robinett explains it perfectly: “Skill is fine, and genius is splendid, but the right contacts are more valuable than either.” So how can you start building a powerful network that can advance your career?
Robinett has developed a 5+50+100 rule for identifying and interacting with your network. The “5” is your inner circle, like your spouse, best friend and business partner. These are the people you communicate with daily. The “50” includes friends and acquaintances you talk to weekly. Because they provide value, you should return the favor. Finally, the “100” captures acquaintances you’re not that close with. However, they still can be valuable, so you want to help them and touch base once a month or so.
Robinett also shares the 10 most common traits of power connectors, the four stages of power connecting and networking tips Robinett has developed through her own experiences.
Everyone has a personal brand today, whether you’re a student, a professional working a 9-to-5 or the CEO of a multimillion-dollar business. Having a personal brand is what makes you stand apart and encourages you to have higher standards — like saying “no” to time requests that don’t serve a purpose or help you reach your goals. Most importantly, it establishes you as an industry authority. When you’re in this position, more people will want to join your sphere.
If you need help building your personal brand, Ramon Ray is a great resource. In “Celebrity CEO,” Ray details the strategies behind how he built a dedicated fan base. As a result, Ray became a “celebrity” within his market, which led him to become one of the most sought-after influencers in the business world.
As an entrepreneur and speaker, this book really hit home. It’s an excellent read if you are starting a business or have aspirations to take the stage; it guides you in becoming a thought leader. How exactly can you become one? You need a solid content foundation that gets you in front of the right audience.
While this doesn’t happen overnight, Robin Farmanfarmaian offers practical and easy-to-follow advice on how to build your own platform and differentiate yourself from other thought leaders. I know Robin, and the organic methods she used are outlined here for others to replicate.
Any longtime networker knows there’s something magical about breaking bread together. Jayson Gaignard has turned it into an art form. He credits his mastermind dinners with taking his career to the next phase.
Gaignard calls himself community-made, rather than self-made, and part of his strategy involved bringing together like-minded groups of people for dinners. In this book, he breaks down exactly how he structures these events, including how he selects the right crowd, gets people to attend and builds a true tribe.
Believe it or not, introverts can be successful networkers. While introverts are often told to network until it gets easier, Wickre’s book offers a different approach. Wickre, a self-described introvert who’s worked in Silicon Valley for 30 years, has a technique that involves making the most of the introvert’s gift for forming deep connections. Her approach involves steering clear of professional mixers, instead setting up one-on-one meetings.
Though it’s aimed at introverts, the book is really for all of us who want to get deep and intentional with our networking. Wickre focuses not just on making connections, but also on developing them into deeper relationships over time. She recommends a technique known as the “loose touch,” a quick check-in without any obligation to meet or do a favor.
You may already have a strong network; you just don’t know it. David Burkus believes the key to successful networking isn’t about acquiring a new collection of people who don’t know you. Instead, it’s about using your existing contacts to discover new opportunities.
The best way to make new connections is through the relationships you already have. Most of the people you want to meet are only a connection or two away. The book is full of examples, such as the story of Michelle McKenna, SVP and CIO of the NFL, who used her network to help snag the role. Burkus also goes deep into scientific research that shows how much influence our extended networks have on our general health and well-being.
The bestselling authors of “The Go-Giver” tell the story of two businesspeople: Gillian Waters, the chief buyer for Smith & Banks, a chain of pet accessory stores, and Jackson Hill, the founder of Angels Clothed in Fur, a manufacturer of all-natural pet foods. Together, the two work through a long negotiation, each with the help of a mentor.
Throughout the story, the book covers the five secrets of genuine influence and shows how to bring two people with different viewpoints together. It offers insights on not just how to resolve conflict, but also how to become a more trustworthy and reliable person others rely on for guidance. True influence isn’t about the power you wield, but the ways you serve others.
If you want to connect with more people, you need to get out there. The problem is that most of us have a “taker” mentality. You attend networking events, shake some hands and exchange business cards. You may even follow up. Over time, however, the relationship goes nowhere.
In theory, you did everything you’d been taught. The problem is that times have changed. Now, when you network, it’s important to focus on a pay-it-forward approach. You’ll develop deeper relationships and increase the chances of your business succeeding. From his own personal experiences, Derek Coburn lays out the unique strategies he’s used to successfully become a connector.
Again, networking simply to increase the number of contacts you have isn’t effective. Instead, you need to focus on having more meaningful and authentic relationships — even if that means connecting with fewer people. In this book, Gerber and Paugh provide practical advice on how you can become a “superconnector” by being generous while also being protective of your time.
Also, if you’re an introvert or someone who gets anxious when meeting new people, the book does an excellent job of making you feel more confident through its inspiring anecdotes and tactics.
We’ve all walked out of events with a bag full of swag. Some of us receive thank-you gifts. Although there are good intentions behind these items, most end up donated, in junk drawers or buried in the trash. How many keychains, T-shirts or mugs do you really need?
This doesn’t mean you should stop being generous. Instead, Ruhlin makes the case for being sincere when showing your appreciation. A handwritten note can be much more effective than a cheap keychain. Even better, think about gifts a specific person could actually use and enjoy; I recently sent a team member an Amazon Echo Spot to make his work life easier.
Together, these books demonstrate that it’s not about how many people you know; it’s about how well you know them. Through these books, I’ve picked up tips for turning contacts in name only into real relationships. Those relationships don’t just bring business benefits — they also provide the joy that comes from truly connecting with another human being.