The cliché that people want to do business with people is as true today as when it was first uttered. Strengthening relationships and developing trust separates you from your competition. Yet for some business owners, building relationships is easier said than done. Not everyone has a natural flair for networking or talking confidently about their business or skills.
Many business owners who talk to efficiency expert Omania Terry instinctively know that they need to build solid relationships, but they’re sometimes unsettled on how to go about doing so, without coming across as arrogant, annoying and pushy. Here’s what Omania often suggests they consider.
The steps to take
Apply these six preliminary steps to start building effective business relationships.
- Keep an open mind and stay attuned to possibilities. Remember, there are opportunities everywhere to meet new people who can help you in business, become a client or customer, a business partner or even part of your team. This can include social and business occasions.
- Think about how you’re going to give back to the relationship. Relationships aren’t just about taking. Find ways to be generous from your end, and always deliver on what you say you’ll do. You could, for example, provide advice in your area of expertise, volunteer or even mentor.
- Think about the types of relationships you want. Concentrate on these relationships. This will enable you to invest more energy into meaningful opportunities and avoid wasting effort on the fizzlers. Don’t forget to build existing relationships that are worth their weight in gold.
- Be an excellent listener and ask engaging questions. This will help you naturally build rapport. It will also teach you a great deal about the person you’re talking to, which may spark business opportunities and ideas.
- Try to find a common interest and then maximise that. If the person you’re building a relationship with loves golf and you do too, organise a time to play (heaps of business is done on the golf course).
- Be courteous, polite and respectful. Yes, this is obvious, but it’s surprising how many business people get carried away when ‘building’ relationships. They do nothing but talk, talk, talk, sucking the air out of the room.
Effective relationships are great for business and present a long list of benefits. They can, for example:
- help you win contracts
- open doors to new business opportunities
- build customer confidence
- introduce you to new relationships
- increase word-of-mouth marketing for your business
- help with productivity
- introduce you to new ideas
- help with the going gets tough (you can call in relationships)
- ensure your business is sustainable.
- Don’t see every relationship as an opportunity to win-win-win. You have to give to get. Effective, long-standing relationships must be reciprocal and both parties must benefit.
- Never come across as blatantly opportunistic and respect the situation you’re in. It’s a no-no, for example, to be pushy in handing out your business cards in some business and certain social situations.
- Stay connected and well connected. Pick a manageable number of ways to stay in touch—e-newsletters, social media or free information on your website—but don’t sell, sell, sell. Instead offer interesting and useful information of benefit to others.
- Push yourself. Step out of your comfort zone and meet new people in a range of industries and spaces.
- Don’t be afraid to call in a relationship when you need help but don’t overstep the boundaries or you’ll be tagged as a user and abuser.