“Relationships are the foundations to all business success” my father would constantly drum into me. He would give me constant examples of how services (products) were sold, wherein the difference between the winning vendor and the losing one was not product specific, but relationship related.
If relationships are so important, why do so many firms downplay the development of tools and methodologies that develop this skill?
In the business world, we often refer to building relationships as ‘networking’. The traditional method for networking revolves around meetings and events with the sole purpose of business card collecting. This system of collection falls short of the true method of networking. It is a similar to what occurs on many social networking sites, collecting friends without really developing those friendships. Far to many business relationships have the shallow basis that exists in most of these social sites. We attempt to collect friends and business cards, believing that having lots of them confirms our popularity and value. The sad reality is that most of those business cards will not even get your phone call, or email, returned. The reason for this is that you have not offered any value to these people.
Networking and relationship-building requires work. Based on my experience, there are five steps to making your networking more effective:
1. Stay engaged with those you seek to have a relationship. Listen to what they have to say, especially if it is not business related. Networking with others increases solution opportunities.
2. Develop yourself as a source as a knowledgeable resource. As the old says goes, “”Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” you must give to the relationship prior to withdrawing from it.
3. Create a positive experience. When we go on our first date with someone, we always put our best face/foot forward. In business, we call that best-practices. What are you doing to both develop and nurture your business relationships by employing best-practices?
4. Creating sustainability in these relationships. Effective networking only succeeds if there is an element of sustainability in them. It is not what you can offer me today that is of value, but what can you offer to me over time this has a high correlation to sustainability. Do your efforts increase confidence? Do you promote others for the benefit of of those you want to build these relationship with? Have you done anything to assist them in expediting solutions for them?
5. Resolve to making the relationship value to them. It is already understood that they represent something of value to you. But, what is your value to them? When approaching your networking efforts, be specific about what you want and expect. Share with them your self as well as your products.
Be original, no one likes a copy, but everyone loves the original. Allow for yourself to be engaged, articulate, selfless and original. These are the things that will make your networking and relationship building more effective.
This all may sound like a lot of work and it is. Like most things in life, the value of what we work on is only reveled in the time and energy we deliver to it. At that point, the real value unfolds in front of us, and those relationships become long term and valuable.