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What makes successful people so, well, successful?

It’s tempting to think that those at the top of the ladder know something the rest of us mere mortals don’t—and at a time when we’re all desperate to hold onto jobs, clients, and market shares, the quest for that missing ingredient takes on new gravity. But that “special something” you’ve been searching for isn’t an uncanny ability to predict the market’s future, a membership with MENSA, or a secret business formula.

Quite simply, what sets you apart from the competition is your ability to connect.

Relationships are the real secret to success. If you can build strong relationships and connect with your customers and colleagues, you will get your piece of the proverbial pie. If you can’t, you’ll be scrambling for crumbs.

Whether you’re a salesperson, an entrepreneur, or an executive, your ultimate job is to bring in clients and keep them. Those are the basics. Problem is, the competition is increasingly brutal. No matter what you sell, someone somewhere is selling it cheaper and faster than you can. So how do you differentiate yourself?

The answer is less about what you do (think business school best practices) than how you do it—and with whom. After all, the world is full of very intelligent people who have never achieved great levels of success.

Fundamentally, humans are social animals. Our brains are wired to connect with the brains of others, and every interaction influences the future behavior of both parties. How good you are or aren’t at building quality relationships has a measurable impact on your ultimate success. If you are able to truly connect with feeling, purpose, and honesty, you will experience faster closes, smoother client and customer interactions, and lots of long-term business. On top of that, you’ll become known as a great leader.

That sounds great, you might be thinking. But I’m not exactly dripping with charisma. I’m not sure I have the social skills I’d need to do all of that!

Not to worry! With the right tools, strategies, and tactics, you can change the way you develop relationships and forge a network of colleagues and contacts who will stick with you through thick and thin—and best of all, voluntarily recommend your services to others.

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Maribeth Kuzmeski is the founder of Red Zone Marketing, LLC, which consults to Fortune 500 firms on strategic marketing planning and business growth. Maribeth has personally consulted with some of the world’s most successful CEO’s, entrepreneurs and professionals. An internationally recognized speaker, she shares the tactics that businesspeople use today to create more sustainable business relationships and sales and marketing successes.

Maribeth is the author of 4 books including, The Connectors: How The World’s Most Successful Businesspeople Build Relationships and Win Clients for Life. She has frequently appeared on TV and radio, and has written articles on marketing strategies for hundreds of publications including Business Week and Entrepreneur. She regularly speaks to audiences on topics relating to business development, marketing, and sales strategies.

Maribeth graduated with a degree in journalism from Syracuse University and has an MBA from The George Washington University. She lives in the Chicago, IL area with her husband Rich and 2 teenagers.

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