4 Ways to Build Better Business RelationshipsMay 16, 2023
There is an old adage in the business world; people will do business with individuals that they know, like, and trust. Sure, this sounds like how business was done in the old days, the “handshake deal”. But I can tell you this after over 10 years in the sales industry; I have never heard a truer statement. I have seen deals both won and lost based solely on a relationship, with product and pricing put aside.
There have been times I have been on the winning end of the deal. On one of my trips to the Midwest, we were with one of the top 5 customers in our company at the time that I managed. We met with all the executives for a nice thank you dinner to celebrate the recent Multi-Million dollar year. Long story short, I end up at a whiskey bar at 3am with one of their VPs, and found out that they were getting ready for a large order, but trying to go direct with the manufacturer. I talked him into letting us quote them, knowing the landscape of our buying power as opposed to theirs meant we could get better pricing. He told me that I need to get within 10% of the number that they were given. We came in 16% higher, almost 50% higher than where he said we needed to be to earn this business. Next thing you know, we get the order. This was one of the first times I realized the importance of relationships, even when dealing with $100k and above commitments.
It is not always sunshine and rainbows, though. I have also been apart of deals that we were blindsided on. The ones where you sit down and think “what the hell just happened, how did we lose that”. In fact, one in particular was with the same exact client that I mentioned above. We thought we had solidified the relationship needed to be their main supplier. All the conversations went wonderfully. Well, next thing you know, we only get a 20% cut of their latest RFQ, as opposed to the 70% cut we were expecting. You may think, what could have happened in a few short months that would lead us from swooping in and winning business based on a relationship, to getting absolutely side swiped for 50% less than expected? Well, no matter what the real issue ended up being, it was our complacency of thinking the account was ours that led to the surprise factor.
If you want to build a relationship with someone, you cannot be just a man on the phone. Sure, there is a certain amount of business that you will be able to get based on the company you work for. But, to truly be successful, you need to be there. The term “be there” can absolutely differ from industry to industry. What does not differ is the one thing that will always separate you from the competition:
Consistency. You want to be the one guy they can count on to show up even when they have nothing to offer. When they do have something to offer, you are going to be the one guy they remember and call on.
- The old “milk route” system. Make sure that you have a plan for each and every part of your territory/customer base.
- Use calendars and spreadsheets to ensure you are not letting anyone go for too long, no matter how strong you believe the relationship is.
- Be active on customers social media pages (like, comment, share) and schedule quick catch up calls/meetings at least quarterly.
Ah, persistence. This can have a negative connotation, depending on the experience you had with someone very persistent. There is a very fine line when it comes to being persistent, and it is one that you must learn to walk. This will also differ from relationship to relationship. You do not want to be the “pushy car salesman” who calls, texts, emails non-stop like you are the only person that they need to respond to. Be respectful of the time you get, even if that is to just read an email. Show up to events and make your presence known. Getting name brand exposure with your clients does not have to be an annoyance.
- Be consistent, but not overbearing. This is tricky, but in time, you will find the perfect balance.
- Don’t always push product or solutions on your clients. Some times, a simple check in call is all that is needed. Consistently pushing product instead of conversing will push you over that fine line.
When you are first starting your career, no matter what career, there is a transition period on work relationships. If you have never had a true professional relationship, you can find yourself questioning certain things. “Does this guy really want to know how my kid is doing? I just met him.” “Why would I care when his anniversary is, I never even met his wife.” Let me tell you something, get personal. Talk about the wife, the kids, recent events, literally as personal as you feel comfortable getting. Then use that information. You may have never met his wife, but when is the last time someone external to their relationship got them flowers? A simple happy birthday text (or as I prefer, handwritten card) will go a very long way in setting yourself apart from the competition.
- Listen with a purpose. In conversations, it is easy for someone to just think of the next thing want to say, and wait for an opening to say it. Instead, go in prepared, and listen intentionally. Its like going on a drive, you do not always have to take the highway. Sometimes the scenic route are the drives you remember.
- Remember the little details. You never know when there will be an opportunity to use those details to build your relationship even further.
- Be comfortable. Just go with the flow of your conversations. If business is at the forefront, let it stay there. You must be able to interpret the urgency and needs of the conversation, and act accordingly.
- Be there, even if not for business. Grab dinner, invite families, get involved outside of the 9-5 scope. I have seen some unbelievable relationships built, to the tune of invites to graduation parties and weddings. These types of relationships go deeper than any needs of a client, and take business to the next level.
In my opinion, this is the most important thing you can have in the business world, pride. It can be pride in the product that you are selling, service you are providing, or about the team you are leading. Having a sense of pride breeds confidence, and confidence is a must have. Put yourself in your clients shoes: are you going to trust your business in the hands of someone who “is never quite sure”, or are you going to trust your business with someone who absolutely believes in what they are offering?
- In the business world, you very well can find yourself at a place where you do not believe in the culture or practices of the company. But, remember this, the company is in business, and most likely has been in business for a lengthy time. There must be something sustaining the company, and it will undoubtedly be the product. Learn it, know it, be confident about it.
- Study the offerings of your company. Yes, it is a job/career, but you must be a student of the basis of that career in order to succeed. Sure, you may be able to fake it for a certain amount of time, but that is not sustainable.
To be the best, no matter the workplace or industry, you have to excel at relationship building. It could be with team members you manage, clients you engage with, or partnerships you are trying to grow. No matter the circumstance, if you concentrate on these four areas, you will see improvements. Always remember, Leaders are #BuiltNotBorn.