We are consistently and relentlessly told that to succeed we MUST build relationships with the people we want to do business with. How many times have you heard, “people do business with people they know, like and trust”? I’ve heard it so often I’ve lost count. But the issue that never seems to be addressed is “How?” Knowing what to do is only a small piece of the puzzle. Knowing how is what opens the door to success.
A few weeks ago I moderated a panel of five business experts discussing that very question. Today I’d like to share a few of the ideas that were offered to the standing-room only crowd that morning.
Building a business relationship isn’t that different from building a personal one. It’s all about finding things in common and staying in touch. You might be concerned that it will seem inauthentic or forced because the point of the relationship is business not friendship. However, if you are genuine in your interactions – don’t pretend to be a cigar smoker if you’re actually anti-tobacco – it is fine.
The hardest part is that first coffee meeting. You just met someone; spoke to them for maybe five minutes and now you’re staring at their business card sitting on your desk. You know you “need” to do something to follow up but you suddenly realize it has been two weeks since you met. Now you feel super awkward and you sheepishly file the card in your shoebox of business cards. If that sounds like you, you’re not alone. Step up and send the email asking to have coffee. Then prep yourself for the meeting. It doesn’t have to be awkward.
Talk personally first. The cultural norm for a business coffee meeting in the US is to make small talk before diving into talking about work. The weather, a recent movie you saw, traffic, whatever feels comfortable and natural is great.
Make the transition to talking about business. I like to ask, “How did you end up doing what you do?” It’s a personal question and a business question in one and makes the transition from small talk to business talk easy. And people love to answer it.
Improve your listening skills to notice topics and ideas you can follow up on. I created a very long lasting and successful business relationship with someone by following up on an offhanded comment he made about not being able to find a CD of a duet that Christina Aguilera did. The next day I spent some time on Google, found the information and sent him a handwritten note saying thanks for coffee and the name of the CD. I decided that actually sending the CD was a bit over the top for me. But that might be just right for you.
Stay in touch without being a stalker. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone. We all get a lot of email. Sometimes a phone call or a handwritten note can add a great personal touch. If you are sending an email, make it knowledge or information they can use. Not just a sales pitch for your service or product.
Don’t forget about the people who have already done business with you. Don’t get so busy chasing new customers that you forget to stay in touch with those who already know, like and trust you. There is no doubt they will be happy to do business with you again if you did a great job the first time.
If you’re stuck, ask WHY questions. When you ask someone why they do what they do or why they live in the state where they live or why anything you are giving them the opportunity to share as much or as little as they would like. We all love sharing about ourselves.
Building relationships is key to our success. How do you make and keep important business connections?
As always, I wish you the MOST from your potential!
PS - If you are in the Wilmington, Delaware area join me for Invest in You Friday! This month how to write amazing copy that drives your clients to action and increases your sales. Go here to learn about the panelists and to register.
A shout-out and thank you to the panelist: Caren McCabe, John Fleming, Donna Duffy and Gaylord Neal
Dr. Robyn Odegaard (aka “Doc Robyn”) is internationally known motivational speaker, executive coach and corporate trainer. As CEO of Champion Performance Development, she works with executives, professionals, athletes, and coaches to help them achieve excellence by sharing active leadership, powerful teamwork, conscious communication, Productive Conflict™ and professional disagreement skills. She is the founder of the Stop The Drama! Campaign and author of the books Stop The Drama! The Ultimate Guide to Female Teams and The Ultimate Guide to Handling Every Disagreement Every Time. To work with her, have her present to your team, request a custom workshop or invite her to speak at your event, please call 302-307-3091 or email her at DocRobyn@ChampPerformance.com to discuss her availability.