It started with an email.

Buzzzz! My alarm zapped me awake on a fine summer morning. I rolled out of bed and into my home office, turned on my computer, and took a seat to check my email. It started, as it always does, with a quick deletion of spam, sending the intruders one by one to their death. I reached the final message, ready to delete, but stopped.

The subject line read I’m a friend of David and think I can help you. Mark GThe body was empty.

It was early and I was confused. David? I scanned my memory. David…David…

Got it! I had worked with a David a few weeks back, a new promotional partner. We weren’t close, but I trusted him, enough that I trusted Mark as well.

I replied.

The $20,000 Phone Call

Thirty minutes later I was on the phone with Mark, pacing excitedly around the living room in my pajamas. (I’m a big pacer.) I tried to play it cool, but was doing the happy dance in my mind.

“I can certainly do that….mmmhmm…definitely… by when?…tomorrow?…yup, I can do that…looking forward to it.” I hung up the phone, stood silent, and shook my head.

What just happened???

Turns out Mark had friends in high places. After hearing about my personal development course from David, Mark wanted to connect me with one of his business partners, taking a 10% cut of any resulting sales. At the time I was a guppy in the ocean, so the names and numbers he threw my way made my head spin. Something big was about to happen–if his partner agreed to a deal.

I didn’t have time to let it sink in. I had work to do.

Office Depot in Pajamas

I agreed to send Mark details about my program, an overview about content, bonuses, price, etc. Normally I would send it by email, but I badly wanted this deal to work, so I went above and beyond.

As promised, I created a Word document outlining the course content, accompanying bonuses, and retail and sale prices. I then included a spreadsheet of statistics from past promotions, detailing for Mark exactly how much affiliates made by promoting my course to their audiences as well as conversion percentages, refund rates, and testimonials from promotional partners.

An hour had passed since talking to Mark. The doc was done and ready to print but, as I did earlier that morning, I stopped. I need this thing to look good.

I threw on some clothes over my pajamas (did I mention I was a tad excited?), bounded down the stairs, and drove to Office Depot. I was on a mission to find the nicest paper possible, along with just the right folder. I must have made quite a scene, a madman darting from isle to isle mumbling about quality paper. Eventually I found just what I was looking for.

Back at home, I printed the document, assembled the pages, and shipped it overnight to Mark. Fingers crossed.

It’s a Deal

Days passed like years. When you’re the big fish, small deals don’t mean much; when you’re the guppy, they mean everything. Finally, Mark replied.

Got your package. Really impressed. We’re a go.

A go?! Seriously?! I was ecstatic. I normally vibrate with enthusiasm (though you couldn’t tell from my past videos–I’m working on it, promise!), but at that moment I was exploding. Mark’s partner agreed to promote my program, splitting sales 50/50 after Mark got his 10% “finder’s fee.”

Up to that point, a good promotion brought in a few thousand dollars from start to finish–not too shabby for a few hours’ work. What happened next was something entirely different.

$15,262 in 24 hours.

I couldn’t believe it. I simply could not believe it. Though it happened years ago, I still remember the day, still remember the orders piling in, still remember that feeling.

When the dust settled, the promotion (which consisted of a single email) brought in over $20,000 in little more than a week. To think I was seconds away from deleting that mystery email.

Little did I know this story was just beginning…

The Bearer of Bad News

Her name was Babe.

Part businesswoman, part pen pal, she worked for Mark’s partner and kept me in the loop as the deal came together. She would also be personally responsible for tens of thousands of dollars in future sales. But not yet.

Wanting to make the most of my opportunity, I checked in with Babe several months down the road: Did they want to do another promotion?

I told myself to keep cool, but it was hard not to get excited. With a flick of their wrist, they triggered an avalanche of sales. I couldn’t imagine their saying no to a second round. Apparently they had more developed imaginations.

They said no.

Babe was sorry to share the news, but $20,000 in sales wasn’t enough to justify a second promotion. (Can you imagine?) Just as quickly as the big fish gave opportunity, he took it away. I thanked her for the update and wished her the best.

I was crushed.

The $10 Gift Card

When bad things happen, I tend to get sentimental and look for ways to show my gratitude to the people I care about. Not because I’m a saint, mind you, but because things falling apart makes me cling to what’s still standing. It was this state of mind that nudged me toward to buy Babe a $10 gift card.

She had been a joy to work with and, besides, she wasn’t the one who nixed a second promotion. I entered her email address into the recipient field and clicked Submit. Gift card on its electronic way.

Then something unexpected happened.

Babe emailed. I assumed it was about the gift card. I was wrong. She wrote to share the great news: a second deal was on.

When my gift card appeared in her inbox, she was so grateful that she scheduled a meeting with her boss to push for a second run. She must be one persuasive woman because it worked. Twice.

Babe argued for me and got not one but two future promotions locked in place for a total of $31,122.55 in sales.

People Hold the Key

No matter what you want, people hold the key to getting it. I’ll be honest, I didn’t always get this. I used to roll my eyes when people talked about the importance of relationships. To me it was about numbers, not names.

Though it’s hard to believe, I wasn’t always right.

As the years spent online stack up, I realize how vital other people are to my success. Between everything I want–and everything you want–stands a person who can say yes or no. The better you are at building relationships, the happier you’ll be with their answers.

We’re all helpful in our own ways. Here is a simple system I follow to build relationships with my peers and partners.

  1. Make Contact: If possible make first contact through an introduction. Perhaps you have someone in mind you’d like to meet–poke around your network to see if any connections already exist. If not, a quick tweet, Facebook or LinkedIn message, or email will do the trick. Want to go above and beyond? Send them something by mail…a book, a letter, a darling headshot from your early days as a soap star.
  2. Offer Specific Help: Don’t offer open-ended help. How can I help you? That merely creates more work for an overworked professional. You’re giving them the burden of coming up with something. Instead, study the business, blog, or brand to discover where they need help–then do it. An expert I followed years back was preparing for his first product launch. To help him out I put together a cheat sheet with my best launch tips. A tailor-made solution to the very problem he faced fell into his lap. Mission accomplished.
  3. Expect Nothing in Return: People instinctively sense insincerity and will turn and run at the first hint of a self-seeking offer of help. Be better than that. Build real relationships by offering real help. Many won’t return the favor. That’s on them. If you continue to give freely, in time you’ll receive tenfold, not because of some mystical force but because those who give freely gain a reputation online. They’re respected. They’re sought after. They’re known for getting results. Not a bad reputation to have if you ask me.

What’s Your Story?

Do you have a story about someone making a difference in your life or business? A chance encounter that changed everything? A partnership built over the years that you couldn’t do without? We’d love to hear it. Take a second to share your story below and get the conversation rolling!

Written by Jason Gracia
Jason Gracia is the author of Shifting the Balance and founder of The Entrepreneurial Expert.