I’m scheduled to meet with one of my coaching clients this afternoon. She’s a delightful human being, an entrepreneur with a big heart, and working with her is one of my favorite things I do.
That got me thinking about the nature of business relationships. How the best ones seem to last in a mutually beneficial way. I always tell my colleagues, if it’s not mutually beneficial, it’s not a real relationship, at least not a healthy one. So how do you build a healthy business relationship? Here’s what I think:
* Give Freely – Freely give of yourself to people and they will remember you. Always be thinking, “how can I serve this person?” Zig Ziglar said “you can have everything you want in life if you will just help enough people get what they want.” I think that’s true. And, if you’ve done a good job letting them know what you offer, they’ll come to you when they’re ready. And how do you let them know what you have to offer? My favorite way is what Michael Port calls a “Simple Sales Conversation.” I’ll write more about that soon, but if you have questions, feel free to email me email@example.com.
* Stay Professional – When you’re building relationships, it’s important that you communicate professionally. Whether in person or on social media, you need to keep the things you share business-like, avoiding personal oversharing or inappropriate sharing. And by “professional,” I don’t mean pinging people with sales messages. I mean being careful that you project the image you want your audience to have of you.
One time, I was joking with a friend about something on Facebook, and a mutual friend contacted me and thought that the joking was potentially giving people the wrong impression of me. I hadn’t even thought about it, but when I looked back I could see what she was saying, so I deleted the comments. It’s important that when you’re posting on social media, you’re thinking, “What would the people who are reading this think of me?” If the answer is questionable or less-than-flattering, you should not hit the “publish” button.
* Kill Your Elevator Speech – I don’t like the elevator speech for a whole host of reasons. The best way to share what you do is by having a conversation. That being said, you need to be prepared with a short way of introducing yourself, your business, and what you do for people. Be sure to frame it with the benefits for the client instead of making it all about you.
* Be Honest and Ethical – It can be a dog-eat-dog world out there, and you’ll have to compete with a lot of unethical people. But, keep your own morals and don’t cross those legal and ethical boundaries just to get business. In my area, everyone knows the people that are dishonest or unethical, and we avoid them like the plague. If you gain that reputation for yourself, you will suffer for it in the long run.
* Do What You Say You Will Do – Don’t volunteer to do things you don’t have time to do. If someone asks you to do something and you simply can’t do it due to a time crunch or something, say so. But, when you say you will do it, do it, and do it to the best of your ability.
I learned this the hard way. A couple years ago I volunteered to help someone with a fundraising project I really believed in, but the project turned out to be much bigger and take much more time than I had. Instead of going back to the person and telling them I couldn’t handle it, I just didn’t do the work, at least to the degree it needed to be done. Needless to say, I felt terrible, but I know the person who asked for my help resented that way I didn’t come through for her. That was a painful lesson and I don’t want you to make the same mistake I did.
* Don’t Monopolize Anyone’s Time – We’ve all met the person who talks too much, or the person who doesn’t talk at all, or the person who sticks by one person at an event. Don’t be that person. Instead, learn to converse intelligently and appropriately with a variety of people. Even if it means getting out of your comfort zone, you will build better relationships if you step up and out.
* Be Welcoming – When someone new wants to join a group you belong to, be welcoming and open to them. Sometimes groups can become cliquish, and it can cause serious problems with the group. Not allowing new people in and making them feel like they belong can make a group stagnant.
When I visited one service group for the first time, they looked at me like I was an alien. I didn’t feel welcome at all and it was incredibly awkward. If you want to build good relationships, take the initiative if you’re in a group situation and someone new joins you.
* Listen a Lot – You’ve heard the saying, “You have two ears and one mouth for a reason?” Well, it’s true. Use this as your guide to listen twice as much as you talk. Sometimes talking too much is a sign of nervousness; if you can focus more on what people are saying than what you want to say, you can also calm your nervousness.
Building long-lasting relationships takes time in business and in your personal life. Both have many of the same characteristics for success. Be yourself, be honest, listen, and be helpful. But, don’t overshare or act in an unprofessional manner. If you want business relationships to be fruitful, they have to trust you, so be trustworthy. Tim Sanders says people do business with people they know, like and trust. You can be that person, and the relationships will follow.
If I can be of service to you, please don’t hesitate to email me firstname.lastname@example.org.