Whether you realize it or not, you and everyone in your business are building and maintaining relationships. You’re engaging with customers, suppliers and other enterprises at one point or another, so it’s important to build a meaningful connection with them.
The problem is, however, that with all the things you must do, we tend to put establishing and nurturing relationships on the back burner. There’s always some urgent or important matter that needs attention.
But relationship building shouldn’t be neglected because it is the fuel that feeds the success of your business. Without a strong business relationship with customers, suppliers and other companies, your business will struggle to gain long-term customers, vendors (like printers, property managers or copywriters) and other business referral partners.
Fortunately, the ability to develop and engage in a meaningful relationship with others can be learned just like any other skill. But like creating a garden, you’ll need to put in effort and allow some time for your relationships to mature so you can reap the benefits.
If you don’t know what to do—I’m looking at you introverts!—here’s where you can start.
How do you build and maintain professional relationships?
- Make a plan
- Take responsibility
- Don’t gossip
- Put in the time
- Stay positive
- Say “thank you”
- Be a good listener
- Be exceptional
How do you build business relationships?
Value Your Relationships
There’s a saying in business that customers buy from people they like or trust. And they typically like and trust someone whom they’ve had several positive interactions with, throughout the past.
If that’s the case, everyone in your network and beyond has the potential to bring value to your business, whether those are sales, supplies and/or partnership. So, it’s essential to treat them well.
However, your time is limited so prioritize your most important customers, vital suppliers and most valuable business collaborators. And because relationships are dynamic, regularly review your networks and re-prioritize your engagement with contacts.
Build Upon Common Interests
People have different motives, interests and needs. Look for where your business interests and theirs meet, and engage with them from this common ground because no one wants to work with people who are in it for themselves. Long-lasting, effective relationships need both parties to give and take.
For instance, customers come to your business looking for a solution to their problem. So, interact with them in a helpful manner. Provide the information they need, answer their questions, and so on.
Or, if you’re an advocate of a good cause, there’s an opportunity to collaborate with other advocates who might happen to be your customer, vendor or business partner. Being allies outside of business can make your relationship with them stronger.
Create or Add Value
In other words, play to your strengths. What are you good at? Are you a good listener, a great problem-solver, attentive to detail or a strategic planner? Are you an expert at something or do you have a vast connection in the industry? Whatever it is, that’s where you can add value to your relationships. Paired with regular check-ins, you’ll easily establish yourself as a valuable business contact.
What are relationship management skills?
Listen More, Talk Less
Don’t you just hate it when a person dominates the conversation? So do your customers, suppliers and business partners. Instead, be open-minded and ready to listen to their opinions or perspectives.
When you take the time to listen, you also have the opportunity to really understand someone. People always appreciate a good listening ear.
In business relationships, honesty is the best policy. When you’re honest and true to your values, people will be less guarded around you because you’re not spinning a web of lies. They can trust what you say and know that you’re reliable in what you do. Plus, people trust and respect those who are real, and they can sniff out a faker or poser. In short, when you’re real with them, they’re going to be real with you too.
Provide Excellent Customer Service
Making raving fans out of your customers is a great marketing strategy. It’s like you have a free network of affiliates that refer new customers your way for free.
But how do you turn customers into fans? One of the best ways is through excellent customer service. Here are some tips:
- Own up to your mistake, apologize, and make your product or service even better. Customers don’t appreciate it when businesses pass the buck. Instead, you should take responsibility for any issues and be accountable.
- Encourage honest feedback. Allow and thank people for providing honest feedback. Then use it to improve or perform better.
Meet Them Where They Are
Thanks to technology, there are so many more ways we can engage and interact with each other. However, when it comes to relationship building, you must remember to meet your customers, vendors and other stakeholders where they are.
For instance, most of your customers might be on Facebook, but your suppliers and business partners are on LinkedIn. Or perhaps most of your clients are referrals from family, friends and old colleagues. Take a closer look at your business and find out where the various stakeholders gather online and offline. Then meet them there.
Work on Your Relationships Long-Term
Relationships take time to bloom, so you should focus on your connection’s lifetime value instead of their one-off use.
For instance, from first contact, it takes a new prospect an average of eight interactions with your business before they buy anything. And because they’ll only buy from someone they like or trust, you need to build your relationships with them upon a series of positive engagements.
Here are some tips:
- Create a contact database – With all the new people you meet, it’s understandable if you can’t remember or keep track of all of them. You can use a contact database to store information on clients, suppliers, colleagues and (possible) business partners, including both personal and professional information. You can even use tags like “cat lover,” “gardener,” etc., so you can search for specific contacts using keywords.
- Schedule it – They say nothing gets done unless it gets scheduled. So, set aside time (such as 30 minutes in a day) to engage with your customers, network and business contacts. It’s important to interact with them regularly to build rapport and trust. You could send them interesting stories you think they might like or at the very least, make sure to greet them during the holidays.
Start Working on Your Relationship Building
Now that you have these tips, start applying them to your own business relationships. Be patient and in time, you’ll be able to reap the benefits.