Today’s post owes a lot to two smart women, Elizabeth Marshall, a marketing and relationship strategist, and Jill Konrath, a sales guru.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I walk into a business event with a heightened level of anxiety. Not just because I’m a classic introvert, but also because I’m uncertain about how to go about the process of building business relationships. These days, of course, that anxiety—which I suspect others feel as well—extends to the social media.

How to build and sustain relationships, particularly when you don’t see someone every day? How to ask for help at the right time and in the right way? How not to be annoyingly and inappropriately pushy?

If I understood what these wonderful women are saying, you do best at building relationships, whether you’re a stay-at-home mom, a salesperson, or a solopreneur if you keep three things in mind.

The Magic Three

First, make thoughtful choices. Whether you choose to interact online or up close and personal, do some homework. Figure out which organizations and individuals are worthy of your attention and support. Are they serving your target market? Do you like what they’re doing and how they’re doing it?

Second, don’t wait for others to come to you. Comment on thought leaders’ blog posts. Join an organization and volunteer. (Board positions are a great way to do that.) As a corollary, and both women emphasize this, add real value in the form of good ideas, insights, and whole-hearted participation.

Third, don’t ask for something until you’ve built a real relationship. Seems simple enough, but in their desire to keep things moving forward, many people forget this. It helps to be organized. Make a list of the people you’d like to engage and work on connecting with them. Write a note of congratulations if they have a new job or have successfully pulled off a challenging project, for example. Send them the link to an article that might interest them. Again, focus on adding value.

These are all good ideas, but the first one really resonates with me. And that’s about making choices. None of us has all the time we’d like, so it makes sense to put your effort and energy where it makes the most sense and resist the temptation to try to do everything.

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