In business, as in life, building relationships is key. No matter how talented you are or what service you provide, if your customers don’t like you or, worse, don’t trust you, you’re not going to get very far. Networking is a critical part of advancing your career, but making contacts will only serve you if you can foster them into fruitful business relationships.
- Be Prepared
Whenever you’re meeting with a client or a connection, especially a new one, make time in advance to learn a bit about them. Whether this means speaking to mutual acquaintances or researching online, doing your homework on a prospective customer or contact will allow you to identify common ground and better equip you to answer their questions or provide what they’re looking for. If you want them to give you their business, it’s crucial to come prepared. Coming to meetings well versed on the other party’s needs also assures them you will go the extra mile on their behalf.
- Demonstrate Your Value
Business relationships are investments. We invest time and energy into them with the expectation that they will provide value. Just as you’re hoping to leverage your business relationships to achieve certain goals, so are your colleagues, business partners, and customers. So, consider what value you’re providing back to them. In some cases, it may be helpful to illustrate what you have brought to the relationship by presenting hard numbers and proof of results. By making a strong case for the overwhelming benefits of the relationship, you stack your deck for success, and ensure the business relationship with grow and flourish in the future.
- Be Honest
There’s a reason why your parents always said, “Honesty is the best policy.” It is. If you promise your client the sun, moon and stars when networking, then that’s exactly what they’re going to expect. It’s important to set ambitious goals, but it’s just as important to deliver. If you can’t come through, be proactive about letting your client know. Otherwise, any frustration they feel will be compounded by your having mislead them and your business relationship may suffer as a result. To avoid this scenario, set reasonable goals and manage expectations with customers, bosses, and colleagues. Promise only what you are absolutely certain you can deliver. It’s always better to surprise someone by providing more than expected rather than over-promising and under-delivering.
- Practice Active Listening
Ultimately, you’re here to serve your customers. If they feel your own agenda is taking priority over theirs, your business relationship will not last very long. You can only meet someone else’s needs if you listen to what those needs are, so always be as ready to hear as you are to speak. Listen to Cydcor President, Vera Quinn on the subject of really hearing your client:
- Be Too Eager
You likely learned about playing “hard to get” in high school. In many ways, the same rules apply when building business relationships. If you appear too interested – contacting them incessantly, coming across as desperate for their business – they may start to suspect that you’re not that hot a commodity. You should seem interested in securing their business and maintaining a fruitful partnership, but make it clear that you have other irons in the fire and will be fine should things not work out. As we said earlier, if you’re clearly demonstrating the value you’ll bring to the relationship, they’ll be interested.
- Project Arrogance
It can be a fine line between projecting confidence and arrogance, but it’s one you’ll have to navigate if you hope to form long-lasting and fruitful business relationships. A client or contact will be impressed by your knowledge and expertise but annoyed if it crosses over into condescension. You demonstrate your value to this business relationship best by doing your job well, not by being your own hype-man. An easy way to avoid sounding arrogant is to continuously show the other party that their thoughts and opinions matter. Remember that all business relationships are partnerships of some kind, meaning that both parties rightly feel that they matter and their ideas have value.
- Fall Out of Touch
Often we make ourselves most available when we want something, and less so when we don’t. After you complete whatever business you’ve conducted with a client or contact, it can be easy to fall out of touch. Don’t fall into this trap. Make an effort to stay engaged and to continue networking, even when there’s nothing clearly “in it for you.” Business relationships, like fires, require constant kindling, or they can fizzle out. By checking in with clients and contacts on a regular basis, you demonstrate your long-term investment in the relationship and dedication to your customers.
Ultimately, maintaining a real, lasting business relationship is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time, it takes work, and it takes commitment. By constantly providing value to your client or contact, consistently delivering what you promise, and by taking the time to nurture the relationship, you can build relationships that will continue to pay off for years to come.
We are Cydcor, the recognized leader in outsourced sales services located in Agoura Hills, CA. From our humble beginnings as an independent sales company to garnering a reputation as the global leader in outsourced sales, Cydcor takes pride in having exceptional sales professionals and providing our clients with proven sales and marketing strategies that get results.