I spoke at an event last week where their theme was Your Customer in Context, which made me think about my relationships in context.

I began to clean out 8,000+ emails in my Inbox, deleted some LinkedIn connections from years past, and began to look through my Address Book. Guess what – there were all kinds of contacts that I didn’t remember, many I didn’t really care for, and an equal number were simply no longer relevant (think of contacts from several jobs ago or suppliers for a specific project). So I deleted the entire address book of 6,000+ contacts!

Why hold on to them? For some unknown purpose at some unknown time or event in the future? A) they’re all in our main CRM database, and B) I exported the entire list to an Excel spreadsheet if and when I ever need to look someone up. But since their contact info is more updated in LinkedIn or I can learn more about what they’ve been up to recently from Facebook, Twitter, and other social sites, why hold on to old, outdated, irrelevant contact info?

Well, the exercise also highlighted a handful of other best practices:

1. Realistic Bandwidth – an average individual can proactively manage 100-150 relationships. I’ve found the ones I want to prioritize are the ones most relevant to my strategic goals and objectives. They also help me grow personally and professionally and / or it’s a highly and mutually value-based relationship. I like these people, know and trust them. They’re real relationships vs. a simple contact info!

2. Relationships Fade – There is a natural “freshness date” with most relationships. It’s at its peak when you’re both very relevant to one another, when the rapport is at its highest, and there is a great deal of value-exchange. When any of those change, your priorities change and the relationship naturally fades. You don’t interact as often, your contact info changes, or they move on to a different role. That’s the logical lifecycle to many relationships. Don’t try to force the ones that were great at some point in time. Remember the great interactions, carry with you the lessons learned, move on and make room for new ones.

3. Neglected Relationships Can Be Resurrected – I came across a dozen or so relationships that I really enjoyed but have neglected. So I found them on LinkedIn, pinged them there and asked if we could revisit over a cup of coffee next time I’m in their city. No agenda or strings attached. Just a chance to get caught up on both sides. It also reminded me that when I hear someone say they’re “busy,” the relationship simply isn’t a priority!

4. Your Strongest Professional Relationships Become Personal Friends – Handful of contacts I kept are past clients, where we’ve become more of personal friends. We may not have done business together in several years but I genuinely enjoy their company and have stayed in touch with them through periodic meals or events. They’ve been kind enough to refer me to others for speaking or consulting engagements. I’ve likewise introduced them to others I thought would be of interest or value to them.

5. Life is Too Short to Put Up with People Who Suck the Energy Out of You – I’ve found that bad prospects become horrible customers! Looking through the list I found people that I had put up in years past with for whatever reason, that I recall not much other than a complete pain to deal with. Don’t take me wrong; some of my best clients are tough, smart and demanding. I’m talking about the negative ones who are never happy, always want the cheapest price and the highest level of service, and don’t realize you actually offer your products or services to make a living! They tend to suck the life out of the rest of us, and it may be easier said than done, but find a way to disengage from your negative contacts!

What I’m looking forward to is nurturing the great relationships I’ve developed and meeting new ones to continue the journey! I wish the same for you as we embark on the second half of 2013!

Make it a great week.


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