3 strategies for building relationships with board members

By Haylin Belay
The Brief
This is the second in a series of articles to help you gain confidence in your relationship selling and build relationship capital in the conference room. 

Strategies for Building Relationships

Quarterly board meetings may happen regularly, but that doesn’t mean they should happen on autopilot. Each meeting with your board members is a chance to strengthen your relationship with your firm’s key stakeholders while also building your industry reputation.By using these three strategies to boost relationship capital during board meetings, you’ll be better able to leverage your board’s network and sphere of influence in the future to benefit your entire firm.

1. Build trust.

You’ll never succeed in asking your board to invest their energy—and connections—in fulfilling your business goals unless you build up a solid foundation of trust. And while presumably, you’ve started this process with a transparent operations plan and regular communication, there are small steps you can take in your meetings to further cement your reputation.

For instance, many behaviorists advise maintaining eye contact when speaking, but did you know that showing a little skin can also make you seem more trustworthy? And no, we’re not talking about short shorts and deep v-necks at the office. But rolling up your sleeves and baring your forearms and palms offers subtle clues that you’re an open, approachable person.  Just keep it professional, please.

“Your board is a well of relationship capital into which you should be tapping regularly.”

2. Don’t be afraid to ask for favors.

First and foremost, it’s time to put to rest the notion that people feel annoyed or imposed upon when being asked for favors. In fact, as long as you’re not hitting them up constantly, most people enjoy being asked and being able to help.

Of course, there’s a right way and a wrong way to make that ask. Maintain goodwill in the boardroom by taking these three steps:

  • First, let them know that you’re asking for a favor.
  • Then, let them know what the favor is, and why you need it—after all, “people react positively to the word ‘because’.”
  • Finally, and most importantly, give them a chance to opt-out. No one like feeling obligated, and offering someone the chance to say “no” makes it far more likely that you’ll hear “yes.”

3. Secure the warm introduction.

If you’ve done your research, you know exactly which of your board members have connections to key prospects and influential people. But knowing about these relationships isn’t enough. To secure a warm introduction, you need to demonstrate to your board members that you’re looking for specific contacts for a particular task.

Questions like “Do you know anyone who might be interested in helping with this project?” create work for your board members, and they may grow fatigued or irritated with such non-specific requests. But when you ask for an introduction to a specific person, for a specific purpose, you create a no-cost scenario for them, which in turn makes them more likely to help you

The Takeaway

Your board is a well of relationship capital into which you should be tapping regularly. Start by building trust in ways large and small. Then, every quarter, arrive at your meeting with a list of specific requests, and don’t be afraid to make them. Your board members will be more engaged and your entire firm will see the benefits in the long and short terms.


Haylin Belay is a freelance writer and blogger based in New York City. She is a frequent contributor to the RelSci blog.RelSci is a technology solutions company that helps create competitive advantage for organizations through a crucial yet vastly underutilized asset: relationship capital with influential decision makers. Learn more about our leading relationship mapping software at relsci.com.


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