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Building Relationships for the Long Term

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Building Relationships for the Long Term

As a business owner there is no doubt you dedicate a reasonable amount of time to engaging new customers. But how much time to you dedicate to nurturing relationships?

I hear plenty of talk about ‘moving people through the sales funnel’ and maybe this works for your business. But I’ve got to tell you, with an increasing amount of business owners that have been funnelled themselves through the many and numerous business development programs currently on the market (all teaching very similar funnelling techniques) the risk of people cutting out of the funnel is bigger than ever before.

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of being treated like a sales prospect.

What is the antidote of that?  Building a relationship based around a person and what they want, as opposed to pushing that individual into a funnel that you want to sell.

In an automated world you may think the old fashioned relationship is a thing of the past.  Let me assure you, it is not. In fact, there is a good chance it’s more important now than ever before.

Why am I such a fan? It’s simple really, a solid, long term relationship is the foundation of not only repeat business but also referral business. And not only that, my long-term business relationships have led to collaborative opportunities, simplified project management with stronger outcomes and most importantly friendships.

So how do you go about creating effective relationships? Here are a few thoughts:

  1. Don’t expect to reap the benefits of a long-term relationship on the first date:  Keep your sales pitch in your pocket until later. Creating a solid relationship takes time, a series of interactions and conversations and the building of mutual respect.  Know that no matter how intense or amicable your dealings are, it still takes time.
  2. Get to know the person as a human: Relationships may develop because of a body of work, but they are successful because two humans generally like and trust one another. As you form a relationship with someone be prepared for their ups and downs. Be interested in them as a human. Get to know what they do, who they are and be interested.
  3. Respect their time: Everyone is busy these days. Want to show you respect someone? Don’t just pick up the phone or drop by the office, make an appointment, send a non-urgent email and when that time comes or the email is returned make sure you acknowledge it by turning up or at least send a short reply with thanks.
  4. Make some face to face time: Even though I live 500kms from my nearest capital city and strongly advocate remote working, I still understand the value of face to face meetings, particularly in early days and when navigating contentious issues.
  5. Don’t be rude: I don’t do business with rude people, no exceptions. Get to know the social and cultural expectations of the person you are building a relationship with and move within those realms. If you are unclear about how something will be received, ask.
  6. Share information: There is information sharing and then there is spam. What’s the difference? The first is useful, customised content that actually interests the end user. The second is bulk, generic rubbish that relates more to the needs of the seller. Think about what information people in your network could be interested in and make it available across all of your platforms and even in real life. Content truly is king.
  7. Build trust: At the end of the day it’s all about trust. What’s the easiest way to build trust? Keep turning up when you say you will and doing what you say you’ll do. Don’t tell stories out of school and show you respect the other individual.

So go on, get to it.  What relationships will you start nurturing today?

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