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6 ways to pace the relationship building process

Nancy Marshall of Marshall Communications writes about the importance of relationships, and offers six ways to build trusted, valuable business relationships.

4 min read

MarketingPublic Relations

6 ways to pace the relationship building process

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As a podcast host, I am often approached by people who would like to become guests on my podcast. It is not uncommon to be approached by bookers who earn a commission on the number of bookings they secure for their clients.

However, the best podcasts tend to feature guests with whom I already have a personal or professional relationship. You can just tell with the flow of the conversation. When I suggest as much to the booker, the booking agent generally tries to force a relationship-building process to secure the booking (and the commission). But true relationships can’t be forced.

The booker doesn’t necessarily leave me with a positive experience. I feel pressured, which casts the booker and the clients in a negative light.

Relationship building takes time. True relationships are based on shared experiences, with the two people involved genuinely helping each other over time — personally or professionally. It’s not just about knowing the other person; it’s about trusting them.

When you meet a new person, it is prudent to allow time for the relationship to grow and blossom. Social media is an easy way to start, but true relationships also require face-to-face interactions. Don’t become too reliant on social media, especially during a pandemic.

On top of that, here are six additional tips for pacing the relationship-building process:

  1. When you meet someone, ask them questions about their background and actually listen to their responses. It’s not all about you. People will recognize genuine interest and appreciate it. In my experience, getting to know someone before “signing the contract” always works out better, but that requires you to listen first.
  2. Send a hand-written note after meeting them, just to share how much you enjoyed the first meeting (assuming it’s true). Hand-written notes are much more meaningful than tails and text messages, since they take more time and effort. They show care and dedication, which are solid building blocks for any relationship.
  3. Find ways to help the other person without expecting anything in return. Just do it in good faith. The most authentic relationships aren’t transactional. You’re not just exchanging business cards. You’re not just trying to extract money from each other. That may come eventually, but it’s not the point.
  4. Look for opportunities to do something fun together, whether it’s eating a meal, going to a sporting event, or attending a business conference (pending COVID-19 restrictions). Have a coffee together, or a glass of wine, which is my personal favorite. Positive memories reinforce relationships, so have fun with your shared experiences.
  5. Stay in touch. Follow up. Don’t let a potential relationship slip through the cracks. If the other person is important to you, you will show that you care through text messages, emails, and hand-written notes! Of course, there is a fine line: Follow up patiently, so it doesn’t seem like you’re spamming them.
  6. Don’t rush it. I repeat: Don’t rush it. Be patient and allow the relationship to develop organically. Desperation is a turn-off, personally and professionally. For example, if you connect with someone on LinkedIn, don’t respond right away and try to sell something. No cold calls either — they are not welcome.

You never know where a new relationship may lead, but if you put forth the best version of yourself, it will be a positive pursuit. One of the best parts of life is the mystery of a new relationship — now knowing where it will go. Find joy in that mystery, as you discover new connections and experiences in your day-to-day life. My best clients resulted from a prior meeting that was not intended for business development but that eventually developed into long-term client-agency relationships.

Worst-case scenario, a relationship doesn’t develop, and you’ll have gained a valuable learning experience. Best-case scenario, however, a new connection becomes a relationship for life. The reward way outweighs the “risk.”


Nancy Marshall started her PR agency, Marshall Communications, in Maine 30 years ago, initially focusing on media relations in outdoor recreation, like skiing, whitewater rafting and sailing. Today, her agency also focuses on economic development and health care, and handles large state and corporate accounts. She hosts the PR Maven podcast and has written two books, the latest being “Grow Your Audience, Grow Your Brand.” Her advice is time-tested and based on real-life experiences.