A 3-Part Framework for Building Strategic Relationships

Insights from Perri Gorman, Founder @ Archively

In the Tradecraft spirit of learning from the best, we recently brought in the inimitable Perri Gorman, Founder @ Archive.ly and a self-described “collector of people,” to discuss her approach to relationship building.

Below is Perri’s 3-part framework for building strategic relationships. This framework was developed during her 10+ year career in Executive Search on Wall Street and can be applied to everything from sales and recruiting to networking and finding investors.

Do Research

Research is the foundation for deeply understanding people. We live in a time where there is a ton of information available on just about everyone and everything. By diving deeply into this information, you can come to understand the context and motivations that drive people.

Specifically, researching proactively empowers you to execute a strategy, whereas researching reactively allows serendipity to drive things. You can go to a meetup and only meet the people whom you happen to bump into. Or you can go to a meetup knowing who else may be there and planning to seek out a few key people. In other words: reduce the chance that luck dictates your odds of success.

Reactivity : Serendipity :: Proactivity : Strategy — Tweet This

There are three types of valuable proactive research that you can do:

Personal — There are a ton of interesting individuals in the tech community. Just as a professional athlete deeply studies the footage of the athletes that came before her, you should deeply study and understand individual people in the tech industry that you aspire to imitate. Do you want to transition from a product role to an investment role? Then maybe Hunter Walk is a good person for you to build a relationship with. And you can do that: you just need to put in the time to deeply understand his past, present, and future. What does he need? How can you help him achieve his goals? If you put in the effort and energy to understand him deeply, you may be able to convert Hunter to be one of your Mentors. But this will only happen if you put in the time.

Personas — As you are figuring out a career path, you should research the types of people who work in the types of roles that you want to work in. Build a sense of your idealized career persona. If you want to be a UX designer at a high-growth company, figure out who the UX designers at a bunch of high-growth startups are and follow them to understand what their backgrounds are / what they read / whom they follow.
Note: See how Perri buckets her contacts into lists on Twitter

Companies — If there is a company where you really want to work, study it deeply. Who are the Founders? Who is in the Executive Team? Who are the Investors and why did they invest? How has the company’s story changed over time?

Ultimately these three types of research all track back to people as the core unit of interest.

Be Patient

All good things take time.

The cardinal sin of building a new relationship is to pull on it too early. What does “pulling” mean? Pulling is when you introduce a need of yours ahead of deeply understanding your new contact’s need. Your communication needs to feel right. Not enough of an ask or too much of an ask can leave you in a place where you don’t have another in.

If you are early in your career, it is also critical to remember that if you have nothing else to offer, offer your attention. All human beings want to be seen, heard, appreciated, liked, and loved. You can give this to somebody even if you feel like a “nobody.”

If you’re early in your career and have nothing else to offer, offer your attention. — Tweet This

Some ways that you can offer your attention to someone:

  • follow her on Twitter
  • engage in the comment section of her blog post
  • read her work and Tweet about it

People will notice and remember these gestures. When the time comes and you do have the chance to engage, you will be familiar to them. And as you make your way in your career, you will eventually be able to offer other types of value beyond attention.

Seize the Opportunity

You have put in a bunch of work to prepare for this moment. You have been patient in not rushing toward a relationship but rather building general awareness and contributing in the ways that you can to the conversation.

When this moment opens up, you should seize the opportunity.

Perri relayed a story of how she built a relationship with the famous tech blogger Robert Scoble following the research, patience, and opportunism model.

Years after first researching Robert Scoble, Perri interviews him at Startup Grind

Research: Perri had been following Scoble’s work for a several years before she ever interacted with him in person.

Patience: She had her first opportunity to meet him in person when he came to speak at an event in NYC. At the time she was the co-founder of UnRoll.me, but she didn’t pitch the startup to him. Instead she said a quick hello and told him that she loved his work.

Seizing opportunity: Almost a year later she and Scoble were at another event. A mutual friend (re)introduced them, giving Perri more social-proof credibility. During a panel later that afternoon, Scoble mentioned a VC event at the Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay and invited anyone interested to come and join him. Perri was the only person who actually did, and they spent 4 hours bonding at the event — a conversation fueled by Perri’s research over the preceding years.

One final thing:

Build Your Intuition

To build strategic relationships, you have to be able to create value for people. And to create value for people, you have to deeply understand what they need, what they are really good at, who they would enjoy meeting, etc.

This means being able to deeply listen to others and to feel their needs. You have to build this skill of empathy over time by consistently interacting with others in face-to-face settings and concentrating not on what you want but on what they need and want.

Misha Chellam runs Tradecraft, a people accelerator for traction professionals. He builds strategic relationships with investors, entrepreneurs, and traction practitioners. Tweet me @mishachellam