It is April 1988 and I am in the midst of a job interview. The job role I am applying for is selling high-end solutions to customers. I am in conversation with a sales manager who steers the discussion towards selling. It is a different kind of selling than I envision. He asks me to imagine that there is a package of butter on the table and to sell it to him.

I am confused! There is nothing wrong with my imagination, and I can act as if that package is there for the sake of the interview. But selling butter in a job interview for a job that is supposed to sell high-end solutions? It feels like the second-hand car salesperson kind of approach, while my approach puts relationship first.

I did not get that job. The sales manager and I clearly had entirely different views on selling.

Now, almost three decades later, I am still convinced that with everything we do, relationship comes first. Be it selling, building partnerships, acquiring a company, building a team; whatever we do, relationships are essential. Consciously building and maintaining relationships is an essential activity to the success of your work.

To some, maintaining relationships can feel like a time-consuming activity. But it does not have to be!

Back in ‘88, we maintained relationships mainly through face to face and phone conversations. To confirm a conversation or to write a proposal, we used to send a letter on paper. The widespread use of email had yet to come.

Nowadays we have a wide range of tools available that can support us in building and maintaining relationships. Communication has become easier with the support of email and social media tools. This article and my newsletter, for instance, are ways to stay in touch, and to provide you with a short piece of inspiration at the beginning of your week. It supports in building and maintaining our relationship. Perhaps our relationship stays at the newsletter level; perhaps it is already beyond that, or perhaps you will one day click the link and contact me for a call.

From that moment on our relationship will enter a new dimension. Whatever the subject is we discuss in our conversation, the moment we have spoken to each other changes everything. You are no longer one of many readers, and I am no longer just the guy that sends that Monday morning email. 

Maintaining relationships is essential and does not have to be time-consuming. You can use one of the many communication tools at your disposal and start simple by reaching out to just one person you haven’t contacted in a while.

Would you have time to reach out to one contact each working day?

That will be approximately 260 conscious, time efficient, relationship building activities each year!