It can be easy to lose sight of what truly is the cornerstone of business success in today’s fast-paced society—building a reciprocal and mutually beneficial business relationship. Unfortunately, for those just starting out in business, it often is not high on their list of priorities. So, just how do you create and maintain secure relationships with your business contacts?
Business relationships are not all that different from personal relationships: they both take time and effort to maintain. Read on for a few techniques you can use to improve your business relationships.
Implement a system
All relationships require work, and so when you get busy with the mountain of other things required of you on a daily basis having a system in place can help. Begin by brainstorming and mapping out all areas of contact between your business and the people you want to build a relationship with, whether they be clients, customers, prospects, or simply business connections. Try to ensure that those interactions are as personalised as possible. For those making enquiries or orders, follow up with them to add that personal touch and show them that they are valued.
Communication is key. Listening to your business contacts and customers is the best way to show that you care, and it will also help you when trying to come up with your system. For example, is there an issue or problem that a lot of people are encountering? Is there a way that you can fix that?
Make your contacts feel special and important
Go the extra mile to make your contacts—whoever they may be—feel special. Woo them if you will. For other business contacts and those who could further your goals or agenda, be thoughtful but not too full on or pushy. For example, on their birthday’s why not send them all personalised cards to show that you care; it’s those types of personal touches that set you apart. Don’t worry about the hassle either, for there are websites you can visit online which make adding a personal touch to your gifts so much easier than it used to be.
You could do something similar for customers and send them a discount code for their birthday or offer them other personalised rewards to show that you value their business. Some business owners can fall into the trap of thinking of their customers as a faceless mob, but they are individuals and treating them as such will ensure repeat business.
Build a foundation of trust
For the longevity of any business relationship, either internally or externally, developing trust is essential. When managers and employees trust each other, the business runs more smoothly. When consumers trust a business, they are more likely to offer them their loyalty. To build your business as a paragon of trust, you must operate with integrity, accountability, and honesty.
Honour your agreements and contracts. These collaborative efforts need to be set out clearly and concisely to avoid any unwanted surprises. Define roles and expectations and be transparent. This helps to showcase the authenticity of your business and also cultivate trust as a business that honours agreements.
Establish the relationship before making demands
You cannot draw money out of a bank account that you haven’t put any money into, and it is the same with business relationships. You can expect favours or help from those that you haven’t made any effort with previously. You cannot wait until you need something. You need to establish the relationship first by building a rapport.
When trying to establish a solid business relationship, it can be difficult to know where to begin. Again, as mentioned above, integrity is key here. Most people in business see others as objects that they can use to further their own agenda. Try to treat others, whether they be customers, business contacts or prospects, as an end in themselves rather than as a means to an end. Your relationships will soon blossom.
Know your value
When building any relationship, it is important to understand and articulate the value that you offer to that relationship. Your value is not necessarily limited to your physical offerings. You need to understand the needs of the other person and how your solutions can impact their lives or business or customers and so forth. You need to understand your place in the chain, the impact you have and the support you offer.
In most of the more meaningful relationships in a person’s life, emotions tend to be the deciding factor. People do not often choose to associate with people that they don’t like. However, in business, this isn’t the case; it is simply about demonstrating your value and creating win-win situations from the bottom-line perspective. If you can’t help each other to make more money, then the business relationship is unlikely to last.
Add a personal touch
This has been repeatedly touched on throughout, but it is so important that it deserves its own section. Personalising your treatment of the individual people that your business encounters is one of the best things that you can do to ensure success. Think about how your brand reaches others; for most people, this will be through the internet by social media posts, comments, or emails. When these aren’t personalised, it can feel cold and impersonal so take the time to personalise email templates and reply to enquiries as personally as possible.
For other business contacts, try to learn about their lives outside of work a little so that you can show that you have taken an interest in them. You can then use what you have learnt from them to build a rapport. And in doing so, they are much more likely to listen to your ideas or propositions because you have shown that you care, and they owe you that same courtesy.
Much like other relationships in your life, cultivating long-lasting, meaningful business relationships takes time and effort. That being said, you cannot approach business relationships in the same way as you would personal relationships. Understanding the nuances is important as otherwise, your efforts can come across as inappropriate. Keep in mind that these relationships are largely transactional; eventually, someone will want something from the other person.