A business may have innovative products, excellent customer service, and a massive advertising budget, but it’s always people that are at the core of a business’s success. More than any of these other assets, your network of employees, suppliers, clients, business partners, and customers is what determines your success. For this reason, every business needs to be proactive in building and maintaining relationships, and have systems in place for leveraging this precious resource.
Strong relationships allow you to:
- Share information
- Share leads
- Find opportunities
- Leverage the skills of others
- Find partners, employees, clients, etc.
- Make new friends who can then help in various ways
How to Build Relationships
Business relationships are built largely through unexpected reciprocity. What this means is that you do something nice for the other person first, without expecting anything in return. If you can truly help the other person, they’ll feel indebted to you and this is the beginning of the relationship.
How can you help other people? It’s good to sit down and brainstorm some ideas which you can then work into your business operations. Consider:
- Things you can give to others as freebies, like a book, digital product, or a free trial membership
- Skills and knowledge you have that the other person could use. Maybe there’s some service you can provide for them.
- Information you know that could help the other person.
- An introduction to another connection in your network that could help the person.
Of course, what you can offer depends on the individual and their situation, but you could prepare some optional items or services to offer new contacts as part of a system for building relationships.
It’s very important that you expect nothing in return. Naturally, we build relationships for mutual benefit, which includes our own benefit. But you should act purely out of kindness for two reasons. First, you don’t want it to look like you’re forming this relationship for your own gain. Secondly, they may not reciprocate.
Even though you should open with giving instead of getting, when the time comes that you need the help of a contact, don’t be afraid to ask. Don’t mention the free stuff you gave them or things you did for them, but don’t be timid when you need something. They’re likely to feel good helping you back, and this reciprocal helping is what builds the relationship.
Networking as a Regular Part of Your Business
Networking and acquiring new connections should be a regular part of your business. You should actively be out there trying to meet people and add them to your network. The internet offers many opportunities for networking, but the best opportunities exist offline, in “the real world”. Relationships forged offline are usually stronger than those formed online.
In addition to reciprocal favors, look for opportunities where you and your new contact can work together. Try to find a project you can collaborate on. It doesn’t have to be anything big or profitable; the purpose can just be to deepen your relationship and get to know each other better.
Since relationship building should be a regular part of your business, you should have a system in place for networking, following up, and nurturing relationships. A relationship-building system might look something like this:
- Attend X number of offline networking or community events per month
- Gather X new contacts per event or per month
- Follow up with new contacts with an elevator speech to learn more about them and stay on their radar
- Find some way to help them and reach out to offer this help
Along the way, you should keep some kind of record of your relationship, noting important things like where you met them, what they do, what problems they’re facing, etc.
When networking, it’s good to step outside of your industry. It’s great to know many people in your industry for information and lead sharing, but people in different industries can help you in other ways. Be open-minded and consider every contact you make a potentially valuable one.
The Power of Over-Delivering
If you really want to put your relationships on the fast track, one way to do this is by over-delivering. Figure out what the other person is expecting from you, and go the extra mile to really impress them. This can result in them feeling even more gracious and indebted to you, and it can create the foundation for a really strong relationship.
For example, if you agree to write a review of someone’s product for them, you might not only write the review they asked for, but also give them a ready-to-use testimonial, tell your social media followers, and/or do a blog post about their product. They expected a review, but you gave them three extra pieces of social proof content.
Tips and Best Practices for Building Relationships
- Be authentic. If you’re forming relationships solely to serve yourself, people will be able to tell. Be yourself and make real connections with people.
- A rising tide lifts all boats. Try to create win-win situations and keep in mind that if you help other people, this in turn helps you.
- Listen well. Listening is the key to good communication, which is the basis for all strong relationships, whether in personal life or business.
- Don’t let people down. Trust is also an essential part of any relationship, so follow through and do what you promised.
- Understand your value. What specific value do you offer others in your network? Knowing this will help you discover how you can uniquely help others solve their problems.
- Remember the little things like birthdays and Christmas cards. Although these gestures are small, they help a great deal in forming bonds and maintaining relationships.
It all comes down to viewing your business contacts like friends. Treat them with the same care and respect, and you’ll find it easy to create and maintain strong bonds.
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Thank you for visiting our website, we hope to see you again!Mike Conkey