In business, relationships underpin every transaction, from prospect to customer, staff member to shareholder, supplier to alliance.
The profitability of your business and how fast you grow is often directly determined by how well you can establish beneficial relationships and how well you can choose those you establish them with.
It doesn’t matter what industry we are in – we are all in the people business. So here are five tips to help you form more profitable business relationships:
1. Identify who you want to build a relationship with
To build a profitable relationship you first need to make sure it is with the right person. Work out your ideal client, research the best suppliers, identify the best alliances, do your due diligence on every potential team member and outsourced expert.
Make sure you like and get along with them. For relationships other than clients (though this may apply to clients too in some cases) you need to be matched on personality and ethics in addition to synergy, especially if you’ll be sharing business with them.
2. Build rapport
Regardless of who you are looking to form a working relationship with, one of the first steps to help break the ice is to find common ground, and you do this by making conversation.
Be friendly, ask about them and their business (without them feeling interrogated of course!). Find areas that you share, expand on them and use it as a means to relate to them.
It really is the same process we’d go through to establish a personal relationship with someone – just with less disclosure and more professionalism.
3. Find out what they want – and help them get it
As you start to converse you will no doubt pick up on certain frustrations they have, people they may want to connect with, services they need in their business or milestones and goals they want to reach. Listen carefully and if you or someone you know can help, let them know and follow through.
Not only will you build more rapport and strengthen the relationship by helping them solve their problem or reach their goal, people will also be more inclined to reciprocate and help you, cementing the relationship further.
4. Tell them what you want
In order to help you, people need to know what you want. Tell them your goals, ideal client, contacts you need, new markets you want to reach and so on.
I often see businesses reserve this information for alliances or referral partners only, not realising current customers could give better referrals or be encouraged to give referrals with this information, suppliers could provide more relevant and targeted products or services and better pricing, and of course outsourced experts could help them achieve it faster if they had a clear vision to work to.
5. Stay in touch
Like any relationship, a business relationship needs ongoing communication for it to progress. Keep in regular contact with your customers, alliances, suppliers and other contacts.
By staying in regular contact with each other you will be able to identify more opportunities to work together. You will also ensure that you stay in the forefront of their mind so when they come across someone to refer they will think of you.
What are your tips for building a profitable relationship?