Staying connected with colleagues, clients, prospects and peers is a staple in the business community. Staying connected over the last 13 months has looked a little different. With a shift in the way we conduct business, recognizing the importance of maintaining and growing interpersonal relationships proves to be more valuable than ever as we navigate this business/life altering experience.

Fruitful business relationships take time and effort – even when there isn’t an entire health pandemic outside our front doors! Here are five tips for maintaining virtual business relationships.

1. Don’t skip the lunch.

There’s something about those 30 minutes of rapport we build over side salads and Diet Coke. Getting to know someone and building a professional relationship seemed a lot easier when the free bread baskets were flowing. Even though we may not all be ready for lunch at Rays on the River, this doesn’t mean the time we are used to spending building rapport should be skipped. Book the full hour. Take a real lunch break and connect with a client, peer, or prospect. Keep the first 30 minutes or so light and just talk. Pass some virtual peas and ask about the kids.

2. Do LinkedIn check ins.

Remember all those people you saw in the office everyday? How about those contacts you made at conferences and or even virtual events (like SOAHR!) just last year?  There’s a chance you’ll check some LinkedIn profiles of familiar names to see them at new companies, having taken promotions, recently retired and, sadly, sometimes you’ll find they are out of work. Congratulate where you can and be willing to lend a virtual helping hand by leveraging your network when appropriate.

3. Pick up the phone.

Nothing is wrong with a classic 2019 style phone call. It’s OKAY to turn the camera off, put your iPhone (or Android, no judgement) on speaker phone and just make some calls. Call to check in with prospects, clients, or peers.

Now, my “unproven science” shows there’s a strong chance the call may go unanswered especially if this impromptu call was not scheduled on the calendar. Therefore, be prepared to leave a voicemail. Leave the message. How nice would it be to receive a good news voicemail from a business contact just sending well wishes?

 4. Keep being, YOU!

Sure, you should probably tidy up a bit when you turn your camera on for a Zoom. But if the décor in your living room consists of moon phases or if there’s a picture of your four dogs in a big purple LSU frame hanging on the wall, embrace who you are at home! Because remember those non-existent lunches mentioned in Tip #1? Remember those built in moments we had to build rapport? You’ll be amazed at the conversations you can strike up based on your background. Keep being yourself. You’re doing great.

5. Respect the grind. Respect the time.

Now this one is twofold.

Part 1: We’d love to all have the time to connect (and reciprocate the connections!) but this is simply not always the case. Remember, as noted in Tip #3, the phone call may not always be answered; the email may go without response for a while. It’s truly, the thought that counts here.

Part 2: Your time is valuable, and we all know there isn’t enough of it in a day. Make a plan. Schedule time on your calendar to get in touch with people. Put an hour on your calendar each week to spend some intentional time on LinkedIn or make some check-in phone calls. Use your time wisely.

Here’s to staying connected with the people we can’t wait to see over lunch again soon!