Good salesmen don’t just walk in to a prospect’s office, give their business spiel, and walk out with a million dollar contract. Good salesmen cultivate their contacts over time to be the person called first when a business opportunity arises. In doing research on what the “pros” suggest for creating great business relationships, it seemed that FOUR was the magic number of tips or steps to follow to cultivate those valued relationships.
The Number One Premise:
Do what we do when we make new friends: ask and share personal experiences. Let the first touch be about them, not you. Research or read up on your potential client’s outside interests, volunteer experience, college or school – it gives you a topic outside of the business world to talk about and the prospect will relax and be more interested in what you have to say. Share some personal information relating to his interests such as events you’ve attended or articles you’ve read. If you have an opportunity to put in a good word about your prospect or his/her business with others, do it – chances are it will come back to you in a good way. But always remember this is a BUSINESS relationship – don’t lapse into an overly familiar tone. Consider there is a big difference between the casual relationships you have with your co-workers or a school buddy and with someone you are looking to establish a long term business relationship with.
Not only does touching base periodically with your contact let them know you are still thinking about them, you are keeping yourself on top of their radar. Facebook and LinkedIn posts are not great ways to stay in touch. Face-to-face is optimum: it says you’ve taken the time to make sure the needs of your contact are being met, and that you care about the relationship. If face-to-face isn’t possible, a short personalized email that, again, refers to the personal touch point you made in your first meeting, and asks about meeting up or if they have any other questions will go a long way to keep building the partnership. People like to know you are keeping their needs in mind and that they are important to you.
Be Honest and Fair:
As the saying goes, “what goes around comes around”. If you aren’t a stand-up person in your business relationships, you can be assured your reputation will precede you when it comes time to set up appointments and meetings with prospective business partners. In today’s electronic world, if you misrepresent yourself or your product, word spreads quickly and anonymously. A careless or insincere attitude is easily perceived by astute potential clients. When you are out there trying to make the connections that will be beneficial to you and your company, remember to treat them with the respect and courtesy you would want yourself. Set your standards high; you will reap the benefits earned by your conduct.
Temper your expectations:
If you honor your business partners with respect and responsiveness, and are flexible as you negotiate terms of the deal, you will be well on your way to building those long-term business relationships so important to you and your company. Success isn’t realized overnight. Sometime it is months or even years before those friendly connections turn into financial gain. Maybe your initial contact won’t be the one who calls you for a sale; it might be his successor or another co-worker in his organization who needs what you have to offer and your name came up in conversation as a reliable source. Your position as an expert in your field will be remembered. As they say, it isn’t always what you know but who you know that can mean the difference between a sale and not being a part of the conversation.
There is no magic bullet to building a business relationship that works; realize the relationships you want will take time and effort. As you work to cultivate meaningful business connections, keep it real and remember work through the process strategically to gain the financial result you desire.