When I was 10-years-old, I left Miami. Even at that young age - before the internet even existed - I didn't want to lose the relationships I worked so hard to build while in Florida. So I'd pick up the phone and call all my friends to stay in touch.

Over 25 years later, I'm still keeping in touch.

Some people collect things. I collect people. That's how I run business.

My desire to build strong connections as a kid translated into my networking skills as an adult. When I network, I don't befriend someone at an event just so I can collect their business card and add them without permission to my mailing list ... and then send them my company newsletter every month.

That's not authentic. And for me, just a waste of time. When I network, I think of people I meet in three buckets: 

building-connections-hustling-jeanette-cajide-sidekick-content building-connections-hustling-jeanette-cajide-sidekick-content-peers building-connections-hustling-jeanette-cajide-sidekick-content-acquaintences

Understanding each of these relationship buckets ultimately handed me the people I needed to launch and grow my own startup.

From 2010 to 2013, I launched and ran Blurtt, an iPhone app that helped people better communicate. And my success and growth during those three years were greatly attributed to the people who helped me along the way. Let's jump into each of three buckets further.

 Aspirational Contacts

building-connections-hustling-jeanette-cajide-sidekick-content-squareThese are people who:

✔ I admire because they've achieved some level of success in their life.
✔ Are typically older than me by 10-40 years and serve as a sounding board.
✔ I can sometimes ask for help with an introduction or general advice. 

Our Relationship: It's difficult to have a symbiotic relationship with aspirational contacts because in many ways I feel like there's not much I can offer them as they have it all – career, money, success. But I can offer them loyalty and the occasional holiday card or check-in email to keep them updated on my progress. These contacts give me the advice and introductions I need to grow my business and career in various ways.

 Peers

building-connections-hustling-jeanette-cajide-sidekick-content-peers-squareThese are people who:

✔ Are at the same level of success as me or are working hard to be successful.
✔ I can partner with on projects or brainstorm new ideas with.
✔ I get as much in return as I give them.

Our Relationship: These relationships I try to make as symbiotic as possible. With these relationships, I'm actively listening to understand what they're working on and how I can use my network to help them. Sometimes this includes introductions to aspirational contacts or other peers. In return, these peers can work directly with me on new business ideas. I don't give for the sake of getting, but if I give to someone and all they do is take, I need to cut the relationship off and spend my energy elsewhere.

 Acquaintances

building-connections-hustling-jeanette-cajide-sidekick-content-peers-squareThese are people who:

✔ I have to be cordial with.
✔ I haven't had the opportunity to get to know well.
✔ Interactions I've had with them have not always left a good impression.

Our Relationship: Sometimes you need a little diplomacy 101 to get through a conversation with these folks. I really try to limit the amount of time and energy I invest with them. But I keep them in good standing because they may one day rise to my peers or aspirational contacts bucket. They may be able to provide me with value that I have yet to understand. For now, we'll stay in touch.

I'll admit, each of these buckets require an investment of energy ...

... but I've learned that people want to do business with people / companies they trust. And I build trust by investing energy into building authentic connections. 

This networking categorizing has helped me along my career - from working at Goldman Sachs to running my own tech startup to leading business development at Dialexa in Boston. The connections I've made along the way have always propelled me forward.

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Originally published Aug 12, 2014 8:30:00 AM, updated February 01 2017

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Referral Sales