Creating relationships is a vital part of business, and something that has allowed me to excel in all of the positions I have held. It’s good that I have this skill set as I was hit in the head many times in my 11 years playing football so don’t have too much else to offer (kidding of course)! I’m a big believer in creating what I call “trusted business advisor” relationships. There are many ways to do this but they all involve genuine care and sensitivity to others. This is typically more challenging for men than women as women tend to be more sensitized to other’s feelings and men sometimes have to go out of their comfort zones to accomplish.
Below are some of the specific activities I have employed (or have been employed for me) to help create these types of enhanced relationships:
- Put my sales process through the prism of “what are the true challenges this customer is facing in their business and how can I help?” as opposed to “how to I gain the information I need in order to complete my proposal template, get it delivered to the customer and make a sale?”
- Listening closely to my clients about their personal lives and their passions (sort of like how I try to do for my wife around Christmas time to be able to buy thoughtful gifts). For instance, one of my customers was talking about wanting to take his son’s skeet shooting. So, for his birthday, I got him a gift certificate for a local skeet shooting “ranch” that he could enjoy with his boys. As you can imagine, this was GREATLY appreciated.
- After I had a very successful quarter, out of the blue, I received a box of Omaha steaks from my boss. He didn’t tell me in advance he was going to do that but I knew he was thinking about me and he made an accurate assessment that the big man enjoys grilling out some red meat!
- I have found Linked In to be an invaluable tool for maintaining relationships with people you rarely get a chance to see in person through messaging (as well as texting). It is always a great practice to record birthdays and reach out to someone on that date or during holidays. This way, if you have a need for something, you don’t seem like you are just using them when you reach out for help (a sure fire way to negatively impact relationships).
- If you say to someone something like “oh, you would love that book; I’ll let you borrow my copy” or “I have a great recipe for that and I will provide for you”, make sure you fulfill those commitments. I hear those types of things offered all the time but rarely see follow up. I like to send myself an e-mail to remind me (I do this for a lot of things to remember because, as my wife likes to tell me I have the memory of a “dead elephant”- get it? Because a live elephant never forgets!). You will definitely stand out if you do this because 90% of the time those offerings not fulfilled.
- Make a commitment to call your closer relationships at least every couple months if you have only been texting, e-mailing, or social media’ing (not a word I know) one another. We get so caught up in communicating through these electronic mediums that it can become very impersonal at times. Some people I know will even send a handwritten letter (yes they still exist) to stand out from the herd. I will often call friends and tell them “I was just thinking about you” or “you’ve been in that new job for a couple months and just wanted to see how it was going”. To me, that’s like putting deposit’s in their “emotional bank account” so if you ever need a favor, you have enough credit to make a withdrawal.
These type of relationships have evolved into some very interesting things like job offers, use of vacation cabins for free and invites to significant sporting events. One of my customers taught at a local college and had me come in and teach a couple sessions for him each school quarter. When I was managing channel partners, I was asked several times to help put structure, on an “at risk” employee and determine if they were worth salvaging or not. I would walk into their businesses and new employees just assumed I worked there because of the open access and relationships I had within the company. Imagine how much easier this makes it when your competitor walks in the door or when it comes time to conduct some negotiations? I can tell you from experience that becoming a trusted business advisor can help “grease the skids” and make everything you are trying to accomplish much easier.
So, I would encourage you to be cognizant of these types of approaches during interactions going forward. When you boil it all down, it comes down to the golden rule and what activities could someone employ to make a significant impact for you? It involves actively looking for ways to pleasantly surprise others and fulfilling any commitments that are made. Do what you say and say what you’ll do is always a good mantra to live by. If a big oaf like myself can be successful utilizing these principles, I guarantee anyone can!