Whether you have a small business or a large one, having healthy and long standing business relationships is essential to the success of your business. Every single one of your customers should be thought of as a brand ambassador. Someone who will grow into a lifelong client and will also invite others they know to do business with you. Remember, there is no better source of business than referrals from satisfied customers.
If your business has been up and running for a while or you are just starting out, you want to know the best practices for building up your business relationships rolodex.
Here are five effective tips for building strong business relationships
Develop your social skills
Some people are naturals at meeting new people. They have an outgoing personality and it comes easy to them. Of course not everyone is an extrovert and you don’t necessarily need to be one either. It is possible to develop great people skills with practice.
One key social skill that everyone should develop is the ability to be a good listener. You have to be able to really focus on what the other person is saying so you can understand them. This will lead to the other person feeling supported and valued which leads to a successful interaction. You don’t want to be one of those people who dominate the conversation and the other person just sits listening waiting for their turn to speak.
A great communication skill to practice is active or reflective listening. It is considered the most important listening skill we can develop. With this type of listening, you show genuine interest in trying to understand what the other person is feeling, thinking and the thoughts they are trying to convey to you. You want to check in with yourself to ensure you understand what they are trying to say prior to responding. You then restate what you think their message was for verification. This process is the cornerstone of active listening and why people find it so effective.
Another crucial part of developing strong business relationships is following up. If you meet someone who can potentially be a great business contact and you never talk to them again, the relationship stops in its tracks. You need to get into the habit of always exchanging contact details with people you meet. What you do after this is key. You don’t just want to throw that business card on your desk for it to get lost.
Keeping your business relationships organized is essential to moving your relationships forward. You want to keep detailed information on all your contacts so you know important things like how you met, when your next communication is scheduled for, phone call notes, and any other important details. This will help not only keep you in control, but your relationship will continue to grow with the other person.
Look for shared goals and values
In life, we generally seek out relationships with people we like and that we have similar goals and values with. Are they positive, honest, helpful and nice? How are they with others? Do they treat them with respect? You want to really pay attention to how someone behaves. You may not share the same view point but having similar values is important for relationship building. So the next time you meet a business associate, have your eyes and ears open.
Offer your experience and expertise
Trust is the number one thing that builds strong, long lasting business relationships. When you look inwards to see how you can offer up your own experience and expertise to help others, you are laying the foundation for trust. Give thought to all the ways you can share knowledge. This can be a blog you write, creating content to share, speaking engagements, workshops etc. These are all ways you are serving others. If you are not currently doing any of these things, get started.
You are most likely on social media (I hope). Community platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn are all great places where you can engage with people and share your knowledge. This is just another way you are helping and serving others.
Come up with a shared ritual
In order to develop a business relationship that grows and is long lasting, you need to add human interaction into the mix. A great way to do this is to come up with a ritual that both people would enjoy and take delight in. Often this can be something simple like meeting for a cup of coffee. You can discuss business and chances are the conversation will naturally extend out to more personal talk. This helps deepen and build the relationship even more.
Handle issues when they come up
Things in business don’t always go as planned. Whether it’s a missed deadline or some other issue, it may seem easier to do what you can to avoid any awkward interactions. This is exactly what you don’t want to do. In business, avoiding an uncomfortable situation can mean the loss of business and that’s no small thing.
As uncomfortable as it may be, it is crucial that you pick up the phone the moment you know something is not going right. It is during these times that communication is everything. Get ahead of the situation and apologize and have an action plan to handle whatever it is that has gone wrong. When a client sees that you face hard situations head on, the business relationship you have will strengthen and will keep that client around for the long haul.
Building long lasting business relationships does not come easy for many but it essential to the growth and success of any business. People naturally have a desire to build a connection with other people—people they want to work with and trust for the long term.
The above tips will help you plant the seed for a long and fruitful relationship with any individuals you do business with. Remember, there’s no substitute for the quality of your relationship. It is what will keep your business thriving for years to come.