I learned a lot about political networking from former President Bill Clinton—tips I use to this day in the world of business. I was in my early twenties when I worked in the Clinton White House, and at the time I didn’t know much about developing relationships.
Fortunately, I could learn from a master.
If he wasn’t busy enough already, President Clinton could write a book on how to network effectively. (No matter what side of the aisle you’re on, you have to agree that anyone who makes it to the Oval Office is a master at political networking.)
Here are three powerful networking techniques Clinton used as president:
1. Send handwritten notes.
President Clinton mailed dozens of handwritten notes each month, but he believed in the power of sending personal notes long before he wrote them on White House notecards. He would send handwritten thank-you notes, birthday cards and “I was thinking of you” notes. He would send dozens of follow-up notes each month to people he had met in person.
It wasn’t just about political networking; it was about keeping up a genuine, friendly relationship with a variety of people.
As a writer in the Office of Presidential Letters and Messages, I had a number of cool experiences. One of the coolest was that I would receive photocopies of all of the president’s outgoing mail so we writers could make sure our tone was in line with his voice. He would even circle something in a crossword puzzle that made him think of a particular person, then clip it out and mail it to the person with a note scrawled in the margin. It was just to show the recipient the president was thinking about him.
How can you write more handwritten notes to people with whom you want to keep in touch? If there was a guide to political networking, it would have to include a chapter on handwritten notes. They are invaluable.
2. Solicit input from others.
In January 1993, shortly after the president was sworn into office, he showed up at his new home for the next four years-the White House. One of the first things he wanted to do was make a few phone calls. After all, if you’ve just been sworn in as president and have a cool new office and house, what are you going to do? Call your friends!
The problem was that he wasn’t able to make any calls—not at first, anyway. No one could dial out from the existing phone in the Oval Office. But the White House staff eventually fixed the phone, and Clinton was legendary for calling people to solicit their opinions on various matters.
People love to give their opinions and be listened to, even if you’re not the president of the United States. Are there people you want to keep in touch with whose opinions you can solicit from time to time? Just don’t abuse it.
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3. Give your time freely.
Clinton was known for spending more time on a rope line than most politicians. I was at events where, after the speeches wrapped up, he would spend another 45 minutes to an hour working his way up and down the rope line shaking hands, taking pictures and having brief conversations.
He was incredible at networking with people face-to-face. That’s where he really shined.
His attitude was if people came out to hear him, often waiting for hours just for a glimpse, he would try hard to make sure everyone had an opportunity to shake his hand, get a quick picture or just wave hello.
You don’t have to be president to implement this strategy. It’s about giving the gift of your time to others. How can you give people more of your time? How can you block out time to be together?
If you’ve ever lost a loved one, how much would you give to have a few more hours together? In our busy world, the gift of your time is a beautiful thing.
What’s your No. 1 networking tip?
A version of this article originally appeared on SmartBusinessRevolution.com. You can download John’s free, 52-page networking guide How to Increase Your Income in 14 Days by Building Relationships with VIPs, Even if you Hate Networking.