Reciprocity is nothing new. It’s one of the most powerful techniques copywriting legends like Claude Hopkins and Charles Schwab used for years in order to boost sales. It’s just so effective.

More recently, it was talked about in Robert Cialdini’s best-selling book, Influence. In a nutshell, it says that people tend to give back to those who gave to them, and what’s interesting is they often give much more back.

It’s pretty much become the mantra of today’s business world – give first. My friend, Jan Winum, calls it GITNS, giving is the new selling. This concept can be seen in all different forms – free apps, free calls, free books, free trial period, free report, free pretty much anything. Companies know how powerful reciprocity is.

One man who understands this possibly better than anyone is Bob Burg, author of the best-selling The Go-Giver book series. Each book is a quick, easy read and packs a powerful punch around this concept and is a must-read for any salesperson, executive, or CEO.

Last month, Bob released the newest book in the series, The Go-Giver Influencer, with co-author John David Mann, and was kind enough to let me interview him about it.

Here are four important steps to developing relationships with mentors I was reminded of during our conversation.

#1 Be a student.

My mentor, Jim Rohn, used to say that there were three questions you could ask yourself to solve any problem.

  1. What can I do?
  2. What could I read?
  3. Who could I ask?

If you’ve done the first two and still haven’t found an answer, you’re going to need help. That’s where mentors come in. Mentors are those people who have been there and done that, so they can often make the heavy lifting easy.

There is a famous quote that says, “The teacher will appear when the student is ready.” Too often, early on in our career, people think they have all the answers. We aren’t ready to be taught. It’s important to remember before approaching any mentor that you must be open to being taught. That means listening carefully and being willing to follow their advice. The last thing any mentor wants is to have their advice fall on deaf ears.

#2 Slow and steady wins the race.

“A common mistake many make is coming right out and asking someone whom you admire (but with whom you don’t currently have any kind of personal relationship), ‘Will you be my mentor?’ It’s sort of like asking someone, ‘Would you share with me your 30 years of experience even though you don’t even know me?’”

One of the best ways to approach someone you are interested in having mentor you is by saying something along the lines of “I realize that you’re very busy. If you wouldn’t mind, I’d love to ask you one or two very specific questions. Of course, if the timing isn’t right for you at this time, I’d totally understand.”

Then really think about what questions you would want to ask them if you never had a chance to talk to them again. Really put thought into them. The better the questions, the better the chance you have of taking the relationship further.

#3 Respect their time.

Once you have a mentor, always respect their time. They are looking to share their ideas with you, but they have things they need to do. Work around their schedule. Bob warns, “Make sure you don’t ask any questions that you could’ve found the answer to through a simple internet search.”

#4 Find a way to say, “Thank you.”

Everyone appreciates being appreciated. Bob recommends that people “Write a personalized, handwritten note to them, very quickly thanking them once again for their time and suggestions, and how helpful you found their advice to be.” Please don’t email this, and please do not text it.

Another great way to show how much you appreciate their help is to “find out what their favorite charity is, and make a small – it doesn’t have to be anything big – a small donation to that charity, in their name.”

Or “if you know they collect old books on, let’s say, ancient Roman History, seek out one and send as a gift.”Opinions expressed here by Contributors are their own.

Adrian Shepherd

Adrian Shepherd started his career as an ESL teacher in Japan, but today focuses on consulting with individuals and companies on productivity. His background in education helped him develop The One-Bite Time Management System (TMS), a revolutionary new system based entirely around simplicity: small bites that people can digest easily. He is also a contributor for the Huffington Post, Thrive Global and The Good Men Project. He is based in Osaka, Japan.