Five ways to develop meaningful relationships with industry leaders

When entrepreneurs delve into business, they often envision themselves as lone wolves venturing out to single-handedly change the world. On some level, all of us can relate to this. What entrepreneur hasn’t said, “I don’t need help, I can handle this” at least once? As endearing as this may be, the reality is that success is contingent upon fostering successful relationships with your industry’s leaders. Not only does it bolster your credibility within the entrepreneurial community, but it also exposes you to opportunities to secure collaborative partnerships, benefit through knowledge management, and/or leverage third-party solutions to improve your product or service.

While it may seem daunting to build rapport with heavy hitters, here are 5 tips to help you form and foster those relationships.

1. Be authentic
Too much has been made of the cliché that in order to succeed in business, you need to be overly aggressive, even if that’s not in your nature. The reality is that the best organizations are made by getting people who want to join your team and working together efficiently. You want people to be rooting for your success and not secretly wishing for your downfall. Granted, that doesn’t mean that you should be a pushover – hold firm to your beliefs. Always be genuine and convey that you are passionate about your company because each interaction can help you gain positive exposure. Remember that successful entrepreneurs are thought leaders at heart, so seek out those who hold similar beliefs and values. Be yourself and you’re bound to find partners who share your vision and passion.

2. Execute quality & maintain high standards
Your job is to provide a product or service that people want—and to exceed their initial expectations. When it comes to building brand awareness and loyalty, the first impression is the only impression that matters. In today’s competitive landscape, industry leaders will only partner with companies that execute impeccable customer service with a flawless reputation in the market.

3. Stay ahead of the trends
Don’t just set the trend, but be self-aware and discern what’s coming next. Industry leaders are looking to partner with companies that are setting trends, rather than following them. We all know ‘innovation’ is a red-hot term in almost every industry, and in order to develop relationships with industry leaders, you have to be cutting edge.

4. Be an expert in your field
One of the core reasons people seek outside partnerships is to work with people who have strengths that complement their own. When meeting with a potential partner, don’t fake it. Speak confidently about what you know and ask thoughtful questions about things you are not confident about. Nobody expects you to be an expert in everything. It is much more compelling to truly know the ins and outs of your own field and acknowledge where you have room to learn more.

5. Give back
The only way to strengthen your network and maintain a good reputation is through a willingness to give back and help others. It’s about maintaining a balance in the relationship and ensuring mutually beneficial outcomes for all parties…when possible.

The stronger the relationship, the more likely you’ll do more business with them and their affiliates. Think of helping others with their businesses as an investment in your own, as you will see the ROI eventually. You’ll want to be known as someone who can help facilitate relationships, because it’ll speak volumes about your integrity and your commitment to the entrepreneurial community at large.

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