I have always known that building relationships and maintaining these relationships is very crucial. I call it the life blood of a business. Products and services count for nothing if you do not have the right quality of win-win relationships.
Kaleel Jamison said, “Relationships of all kinds are like sand held in your hand. Held loosely, with an open hand, the sand remains where it is. The minute you close your hand and squeeze tightly to hold on, the sand trickles through your fingers. You may hold on to some of it, but most of it will be spilled.” A relationship is like sand, it must be nurtured and respected for it to survive.
Last Friday, during a business coaching session with one of my clients, we got into the relationship building conversation. I asked, “how is it going?” He said, “I really have to thank you. You cannot believe how my business is turning around now that I am spending more time building relationships with my clients. I make sure that I touch base with both clients and targets every week. There is a particular job, I am about to sign off on, and this job was given to me on a sole source basis and it did not go to tender. There are additional jobs we are talking about and he is picking my brain on how to frame the tender, I have a feeling that I may also get these jobs.”
This is where relationship building gets you to! You become the trusted advisor. Your client will not make important business decisions without consulting you first. I tell my clients that by the time a tender is announced, 80 percent of the time, the organization knows who they want to give the job to. Going to tender is sometimes just fulfilling all righteousness.
As an entrepreneur, and even while working in business development when in paid employment, my networks and relationships built over many years helped me make a difference and succeed. Just like the saying that “it is harder to get a new customer”, so it is with building new relationships to the depth you need them to be to make a difference for your success.
As business owners, employees and entrepreneurs, we need to be good at establishing great relationships with our employees, business associates, suppliers, customers, and everyone else that contributes directly or indirectly to the continued survival of our business.
One key attribute that we must cultivate and one that makes a ton of difference is TRUST. Every relationship is built on trust. Your clients and business contacts must be comfortable and assured of your confidence. Otherwise, you will not be consulted on sensitive business issues. You also need to give your clients the assurance that your relationship is mutually beneficial, i.e. win- win. Also, very critical is the ability to exude genuineness and authenticity.
We all want to relate to people who have our best interest at heart and who really want to help us move our business to the next level, not because of an ulterior motive, but because they care and want to see us succeed. People gravitate to those with these attributes, which cannot easily be faked. Fakeness cannot be sustained and held up for a long time, it always unravels.
Under listed are pointers we can practice to transit our relationships into trusted client relationships:
- Take your time in building new relationships – building relationships takes time. Take the time to build a connection. Share information about yourself and get to know your client. One test question I always ask and currently asking myself as an entrepreneur is “do you know their birthdays?” Do you have personal information about them – children, hobbies, etc”? For as long as we remain on the formal lane, we will not have the kind of relationship that will have strong benefits for our businesses. However, know that no matter how well you know them, it will never substitute for good work because shoddy work will destroy the relationship. In everything push for excellence.
- Keep up with innovation in their industry and organization – I just finished an account building session with one of my clients. In the process, we had to understand the value chains within their target industries and conducted historical analyses of the organizations they were considering. My key message, was that you do not have to be an expert in their industry or organization, but you need to know enough to build credibility and must understand what keeps them awake in the night and position your offerings and interactions accordingly.
- Give discretionary service – Your clients will remember the times you went the extra mile for them. Most will remember your selfless services in ensuring they succeed.
- Make your clients feel like kings and queens – a pleased client is more likely to make referrals. Treat all customers equally, treatment should not be differentiated. Try not to make any customer feel less important. You never know who your clients know and who they can refer you to. Remember too, that contacts can switch jobs and move to bigger organizations and more prestigious positions.
- Be relevant and reliable – respond as quickly as you can to your clients. Respond even if you do not immediately have the answer. Your interest in their success will give them comfort and will give them the assurance that their problems are being solved. Resolving the issue, will further deepen trust, reliability and solidify the relationship.
Most importantly transiting your relationship to a trusted one brings joy and fulfilment to both parties, building trusted relationships helps build more relationships and ensures the sustainability of our business.