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What do you think of when you hear the word ‘relationship’? No, we’re not talking about romantic walks by the sea or swiping through dating apps. Everyone you encounter in your working life has some sort of relationship with you. Nurturing these connections could pay off big time in the future, so every professional will benefit greatly from learning how to build lasting business relationships like an expert.
In life, people want to be surrounded by people they know, like and trust. We’re getting busier and busier these days, so we don’t want to invest our precious time in others unless some sort of mutual payout is guaranteed. The same goes for the world of work. Therefore, successfully creating and maintaining working relationships is crucial.
Perhaps you want to build rapport with your new supplier, or you may think that the Regional Director you met at a conference could be a valuable contact. Maybe you want to keep the sales rolling in from your clients for years to come or you might just want your team to like you. Whatever your goals, one thing is certain: it pays to create a solid professional network. Building strong and long-term business relationships can be the fast track to professional success.
With all of this in mind, how do you do it? You’ve started the relationship, that part was easy, but how do you make it last? We’ve put together 5 tips for you so that you’ll be able to build lasting business relationships like a pro.
This is particularly important during the early days. Flourishing business relationships can be strengthened by commonality. Ask some questions or do a little digging to find out what you have in common with your contact.
Sharing acquaintances, ways of working, values or even interests can help you to create a real rapport. Getting someone to feel comfortable around you and start to like you can be sped up by showing a genuine interest and finding common ground. Plus, you’ll always have something to talk about! This makes it more likely that a person will want to stay in touch or continue doing business with you.
There’s no point being overly-serious if somebody is being particularly friendly toward you. Nor is it advisable to take a super cheerful tone when someone clearly isn’t happy. Taking the wrong approach can be catastrophic to business relationships.
What is their body language saying? Take note. Are they displeased with you for whatever reason? Maybe it’s time to butter them up a little. Do they sound stressed out? Maybe you should call back another time. To avoid pushing business contacts away, read the situation carefully and adapt your approach accordingly.
No, we’re not quoting Snoop Dogg (or is he still Snoop Lion?), we’re talking about your interactions with your work contacts. People want to interact and work with other people, not just the name at the bottom of an email or a corporate clone. Here’s how to ‘keep it real’ with your contacts:
There’s a difference between hearing and listening. Sometimes we can get so wrapped up in ourselves or what we’re trying to achieve that we forget to really listen to what someone else is saying.
People aren’t always straight to the point – reading between the lines could give you an advantage. Or maybe you can pick up on something you can bring up in conversation in the future; people like it when you remember the little things. It’s likely that listening more carefully can help you learn about someone or their business, and this knowledge will help you to foster your business relationship with them.
People like a little ego boost. That being said, if you shower someone with compliments all the time, it’s a bit disingenuous. A great way to flatter someone, without telling them that you like their suit or that they ‘look well’, is to show them that you value their opinion and expertise.
To maintain a great working relationship with an individual, consult them when you’re making a big business decision or ask their opinion on something within their remit. This helps the other person to feel like you respect them and of course they’ll want to stay in contact with someone who makes them feel good!
Remember that this is a professional relationship. You may get on like a house on fire and you may play golf with them every other month, but retaining your business connections isn’t all about being best pals. If, when it comes down to business, you can’t be relied upon, the working relationship will not stand the test of time.
Whenever you work with someone, make sure that you deliver: do what you say you will, arrive on time, meet your deadlines and go the extra mile. Who are people going to come to? Someone whose track record shows they will let them down or someone who gets the job done?
This is an obvious one. If you want to keep your business relationship with someone alive, you need to maintain contact.
If you’re working with someone, make sure that you keep them in the loop of what’s happening – even if there isn’t much to report. It’s best to let them know if things are moving slowly, rather than giving them the chance to chase you. Even if it’s been a while since you spoke, try your best to let people know you haven’t forgotten them. A birthday message, a Christmas card or an impromptu email can do wonders.
Encourage your business contacts to give honest feedback about their experience working with you. This helps them to get any concerns they have off their chest, and more importantly allows you to address any issues you need to. This way, next time you work with them, you can tailor your approach.
Your willingness to improve and meet their demands will show your contacts you’re willing to go above and beyond. It’s hard to ignore that kind of commitment.
Individually, these things aren’t too difficult. However, if you artfully pull them all together, your professional network will flourish. Before you know it, you’ll be able to build lasting business relationships like an expert!