How to Build Your Business and Relationships

An associate of mine tells a story of a client he once worked for whose head of sales bombarded people he’d never met with generic emails weekly.

He had no desire to engage in a relationship with those people because he saw them as nothing more than a potential source of income.

Once he found the email address of someone he considered could become a potential customer, he would start sending regular messages until they replied.

On some occasions being bold can result in sales success, but the problem with this sales manager is that his aim was simply business.

If he managed to arrange a meeting, he would start a conversation with smiles and joy, but he’d soon switch! Jekyll and Hyde-like, his light banter quickly became a hard-nosed sales pitch. If he failed to sell, the sales manager would walk away and never contact the person again.

As a result, the head of sales (who held the job because he was one of the directors with cash interests in the business) sold very little. He lacked the basic understanding that your relational ecosystem needs to be organic.

Forcing its growth will only end in disappointment for both people!

This story came to mind when one of my LinkedIn followers asked me: “Can you build your relationships at the same time as your business?” The short answer is, ‘yes’, but you must be authentic and intentional.

The problem with the sales manager was that he lacked authenticity and his intentions were too full-on for most people. Business is all about relationships, but they need to carefully built. How you build them determines how well they build your business.

If you try to build your business on weak relational foundations, it will tumble when life gets shaky. Business growth can only be successful through effective relationships.

Be authentic

There have been extensive studies in social psychology and business relationships, such as analysis by professors David Ford, Lars-Erik Gadde, Hakan Hakansson and Ivan Snehota.

These have shown that being real, honest and even vulnerable are keys to success in business relationships, both for individual and group business relationships.
If you are authentic while creating your relational ecosystem, people will understand the real person that you are. People are great at recognising those who are not genuine. If you try to manipulate people and forthrightly sell to them their shutters will come down.

To be authentic, you have to demonstrate that you are interested in them. As I said in a recent blog, which looked at how much time you should spend on business relationships, you must show you care.

You also have to show your true self, so don’t be afraid of vulnerability, as that illustrates authenticity.

Brene Brown, professor at the University of Houston, who studies courage and vulnerability, explained in one TED talk that, “It’s our ability to embrace vulnerability that allows us to experience true authenticity, and thus true freedom and power in life.”

So embrace it and be authentic!

Be intentional

According to the International Congress & Convention Association, 76% of people attend conferences because of the ‘quality of networking’.

While learning about the central topic is clearly beneficial, the majority appear to attend for the chance to build quality business relationships.

There are two key aspects of relationships: transactional and non-transactional. The former is focused on getting down to businesses while the latter is about building trust and taking needs of each other into consideration.

In between are give-to-grow relationships, where people share goals, knowledge and mutual respect. In these relationships, the growth of business is mutual, a study by Jody Hoffer Gittell found. The intention is to deepen the relationship through sharing intellectual property.

Whatever relationship you are building, if others understand your intentions, they will understand you. As a result, a healthy relationship can grow that will also be effective.

It is certainly intentional if you openly attend a meeting with the sole reason to sell your services. But your intentions may make others feel too uncomfortable to continue the relationship.

Follow up or fail

Once you have planted the seed of an investment in the early days of a relationship, you need to nurture it. Not getting in touch with someone gives them the impression that your intention was purely for your gain.

Following up after meeting someone is a golden rule. I’ve lost count of the amount of people who have failed to follow up with me. When I later meet and chat to them, they discover that I could have worked with them on a project. They didn’t come to mind because I’d forgotten about them.

If you truly want to grow your business, you need healthy relationships and tending to them is important. Like a plant, if you don’t give it attention, it withers.

To build your relationships, don’t attend an event without the intention to follow up simply because you didn’t instantly achieve a sale. As I say in my book 101 Secrets to Grow Your Business, there is no point investing time, money and energy meeting people if we don’t reconnect with them later.

It is the only way you can start to effectively build trust, which is essential!

Build trust

The true currency of business is trust! Think about the last time you commissioned someone to do business for you. I would strongly suspect that you chose the person because you trusted that they would deliver their services or goods.

According to a global study of CEOs by PwC, 55% of business leaders believe that a lack of trust is a threat to their organisation’s growth. Therefore, it is imperative to allow time to build trust within your relationships if you want to see your business succeed.

The early foundations of building a relationship focuses on liking the other person, which is why you need to show your authenticity. But the roots really take hold when someone doesn’t just like you, they trust you.

In my book, Grow Your Business, I outline my acronym for trust: Talent, Reliability, Upstanding, Synergy and Thoughtfulness. As you build this trust in relationships, you will allow more opportunities to build your business.

If you don't know how to build trust, then you will struggle to get on with people and your business success will be weakened. As President Theodore Roosevelt once said, “The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get on with people!”

If you would like help understanding how relationships can build your business, please feel free to contact me.

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