How to Build Great Business Relationships
Without care and effort, relationships fade away. If you want to have strong relationships, you are going to have to pursue them and maintain them. It may help by following these tips:
Keep Up With People. It sounds basic, but we are starting to forget how to do it. You are going to have to maintain your relationships. If you don’t talk to someone for months, you’ll fall off their radar, or they may not immediately jump at the chance to help you when you finally reach out to them and ask. Keep some records of who you have networked with and check in with them every so often. If they are online contacts on a digital network, keep your conversations going. If they are colleagues or people with whom you have swapped business cards, send an email or make a call every month or so.
Check In and Say Hello. If you tend to forget to make – or worse, return – calls or emails, use a task management system or calendar to remind you to call or write.
Build Trust. Never take advantage of people. Don’t even let them think that you’d do so. It’s the quickest way to ruin a relationship and build a bad reputation that can harm other relationships too. The key to building trust is being honest. When you are willing to forego your own interests to help someone else, they know they can rely on you. Do the right thing and be dependable, and you’ll see your relationships grow stronger.
Network. Networking is the key to building successful relationships, and you have many options available to you. I am a member of my Chamber of Commerce, a rotary group, a non-profit board of directors, and a business incubator. I also attend as many mixers as I can to meet new contacts. However, networking doesn’t have to be this formal. You can strike up a friendly conversation with someone at the gym. I once received a consulting lead from someone I met at a friend’s birthday party. As long as you are engaging with other people, you are actively networking. Even if you are not much of a people person, you can put yourself out there a little bit so that you can make some great contacts. You don’t have to be the life of the party. People would rather you just be yourself. Even if you are not comfortable putting yourself out there on Facebook, take a look at your LinkedIn profile. Make sure it’s up to date, and test the waters to see if you can make any new contacts online.
Show an Interest in Others. Pretentious people who talk about themselves all the time don’t get very far. Smart people know that an early step to gaining respect and building a relationship is to show interest in other people. Listen to what people have to say and show a sincere interest in them. Ask questions about their job and kids. Keep track of what they have brought up in the past and follow up with them. Everyone is impressed when someone shows they have taken the time to remember their stories.
Work Hard. People want to invest in someone who is going to provide results. You might need to show them that you can deliver before you can expect them to have your back or put in a good word for you. When someone asks for something, give a little more. Deliver early and take initiative to help in ways you weren’t asked. It takes effort to build relationships with bosses, colleagues, friends, and family, and you might have to be the first one to do a favor.
Focus on Giving. Similarly, many people want to build relationships so that they can have someone to help them out when they need it. Try to have a less Machiavellian attitude. Always think about how you can help people in your network. They are far more likely to return a favor than they are to go out of their way for you, especially early in your relationship.
Focus on Quality, not Quantity. People want to make an impression, but not every contact has the potential to turn into a relationship. You are going to be busy with your life and work, so you can’t invest in maintaining a relationship with every person you ever meet.
Be Realistic, and don’t create unnecessary work for yourself. A mentor once advised me that the best goal at a networking event is to get just one good conversation to remember. However, that doesn’t mean you turn away everyone else you meet, because you don’t know which contacts are going to be the most promising. By all means, follow up with anyone who you may have a quality relationship with later. Just don’t overwhelm yourself trying to keep up with too many new people.