Taking Care Of Your Business Relationships
In a very real sense, relationships are the fundamental building block of human society. It should come as no surprise, then, that when it comes to your business, the way you create and maintain your network of relationships is paramount to success. After all, a business is a vehicle for delivering goods or services between people – a transaction that is itself just another form of relationship. When you’re in business, it’s easy to get caught up in the day to day work of building your personal, independent earnings, and your relationships – both personal and professional – can suffer as a result. You can’t afford to let that happen.
Just like your personal relationships, your business relationships require a certain amount of care and feeding, lest they lapse and eventually fade away. As always, you’ll find that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to maintaining relationships, but there are some tried and true techniques you can keep in mind as you go about your business:
Listen – Just like a romantic relationship, you won’t be able to identify what your partner wants or needs if you don’t listen to what they tell you. And just like in a romantic relationship, a partner who feels like you aren’t listening will soon move on. Listen actively – don’t just wait your turn to make a sales pitch.
Be authentic – Be authentic by letting them know who you are and what you’re about, so they feel comfortable responding in kind. If they are somebody with whom you will have trouble collaborating, better to know that before you engage in business than to find out after the fact. At the same time, respect their authenticity – most people will be different from you in some, even many regards, and that should not preclude you from doing business, nor should you disrespect somebody over those differences. You’ll hurt them – and your business.
Show the benefit – The relationships you build need to be reciprocated if they’re going to last. Catch and hold the interest of the person on the other end by showing them how the relationship can benefit them. This will make it easy for them to put in the same level of work and commitment that you’ll be doing.
Stay fresh – Have you ever had a friend who took you for granted? It’s not a lot of fun to feel like you’re only called upon when somebody needs your help. Be sure you don’t let your business relationship partners feel that way about you. Keep up to date on their business, even when it’s not directly impacting your own. You’ll find this pays great dividends in the long run.
Invest the time – maintaining relationships isn’t just part of your business, it is your business. With no relationships, you’ve got no vendors, no clients, no audience, no customers. When you put it in those terms, it’s obvious how important maintaining relationships can be. Treat it that way – set aside a portion of every work day specifically for maintaining your connections by checking in and keeping abreast of the basic day to day affairs of your network. Sure, that sounds like a lot of work – but without your network of relationships, you’ll soon have the opposite problem. Build yourself a system – a database, a journal, a CRM system, whatever works for you – to keep track of your ongoing engagement efforts so you don’t spend to little or too much time on any one relationship.
It would be easy to go on, but the truth is you already know how to engage your business relationships – you already do it every day, in your relationships with your family, your friends, your coworkers, even your grocer or barista. Extending those same techniques to your business relationships should come naturally; the key is not to lose sight of how important it is to treat each relationship as the important building block of your business that it really is. Treat the time spent like an investment in your business – because it is.