As someone who is known for speaking and writing about starting and maintaining authentic business relationships, I get asked a lot of questions about them. I am always intrigued to hear about the challenges people face when it comes to business relationships.
During the coronavirus pandemic, I invited people who follow me on LinkedIn to ask any questions about their business relationships as the lockdown began to ease. One person wondered: “How do I ‘check in’ without sounding like I’m ticking a box?”
This is a situation many find themselves in when maintaining relationships. Do you risk sounding like you are simply ticking a box when you contact someone? Has their name just popped up on your CRM system or spreadsheet, so you’re going through the motions?
Keeping a record of your relationships – along with details such as birthdays and anniversaries – is useful as time passes rapidly and it is easy to lose touch. But when you make contact, you must be authentic or the other person will feel they are nothing more than next on your list.
I’m sure there are times when you have received contact from someone and at the end of the conversation pondered the real purpose behind it. Have you felt like you were little more than another sales call?
I firmly believe that 80% of a relationship is simply about being in contact from time to time with another person, sometimes as little as once a year. If, however, if you want to generate referrals, Sales Force says that it can take ‘6 to 8 touches’ to achieve ‘top-of-mind’ awareness. Whatever your reason for keeping in touch, regular contact with people within our relational ecosystem is essential. Don't leave it for years and years.
Had I been asked the question before the coronavirus pandemic, my answer would have been to intentionally find meaningful reasons to be get contact, something I call ‘pinging’. One of the side effects of covid-19 is that it has given you the perfect reason to be in contact to see how they are doing.
If you were to make contact with someone to ask how they coped during the worst of the pandemic, it will not feel like you are ticking a box. The situation has given you a genuine and meaningful reason to get in touch. So make sure you strike while the iron is hot!
In my book, Relationology: 101 Secrets to Grow Your Business, I share that 95% of people are imitators. These people follow the crowd and resist the temptation to strike out and be bold.
The other 5% are initiators and will proactive and make that extra phone call while the initiators avoid it. Don’t wait to make the call to ask how people are, be one of the 5%!
Show you care
I often see something with the name of one of those within my relational ecosystem and send a text or WhatsApp message that simply says, “I was just thinking about you. I hope you are well.” Or something along those lines.
It’s a very straightforward and unambiguous comment, but it shows that the person is on my mind and communicates that I care.
According to marketing consultant Dorie Clark the best way to ‘be in the orbit’ of the people you are trying to cultivate is to show you care.
Clark, the author of Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future, recommends taking “steps to demonstrate you care about the other person and that you’re interested in his or her life”.
When you decide to ‘check in’ to find out about how someone has faced the challenge of the pandemic, it shows you care. During the resulting conversation, the other person will no longer feel that they are ‘next on the list’ if you are genuinely interested in them.
People don’t care what you know until they know how much you care.
Putting the thoughts and feelings of others before yours is a clear indication that the relationship is more than just doing business.
Genuinely showing you care can only be achieved if you are willing to listen. An article about a study of listening by the University of Missouri highlights its importance. The authors write, “Even though listening is the communication skill we use most frequently, it is also the skill in which we've had the least training… One reason for having poor listening skills is that we can think faster than someone else can speak.”
This means we risk hearing only snippets of a conversation and can easily miss a very poignant statement if we’re not carefully tuned in. We can appear to have little empathy with the person speaking.
I’m sure that you will be familiar with Greek philosopher Epictetus’s quote that is often used: “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”
It’s a sobering thought but one that we must strive to adhere to! By opening our ears to the other person, they will not conclude that our contact was merely ticking a box.
With this in mind, it is essential that when you check in with someone that your end goal isn’t to make a transaction, such as selling your services. If you make contact with someone and fail to show you care or listen then your intention will appear to be ticking a box or hunting for a sale.
This is especially the case if you use the opportunity to talk about yourself. As a result, the other person can feel used and abused because you had only a selfish objective in mind. Our interaction with others must be non-transactional or you will erode trust and with it any chance of an effective relationship.
So now you have a reason to make contact, be one of the 5% of people who are initiators and check in with those within your relational ecosystem.
If you would like to know more about how I can transform how you think about your relationships, contact me today.