A long-lasting business relationship is imperative for any business to succeed. Repeat business must outpace customer turnover to sustain business growth. Clues to establishing successful long-lasting business relationships can be seen in everyday relationships (think friendships, a spouse etc), but is unique and should be treated differently.
A great business relationship often begins with a combination of attraction and communication. This form of attraction is the compelling reason someone should work with you. In sales 101, it is called your “Benefits Statement.” If benefits are equal, be the better relationship option, people buy from those they like, or like the most. The life cycle to a mature, long-lasting business relationship follows these broad steps:
Step1: Formation of the relationship - think tryout or first date, earn the right to continue.
Step 2: Performing within the relationship - people should like working with you, hopefully rave about you or be willing to refer you.
Step 3: Maintaining the relationship - the biggest difference between a business relationship fling and long-lasting relationship is being the predictable consistent and dependable performance from your service or product. Think Step 2, over and over again.
The following tips will help enhance the steps to a long-lasting business relationship, help to build trust and rapport, and ensure your customer will not have a reason to look elsewhere, but instead continue returning to you.
- Manage their expectations
- Be honest with what you are amazing at- confidence is contagious.
- Provide a realistic timeline.
- Exceed their expectations.
- If you can’t do something, recommend someone who can.
- Be a real person
- Have a personality, a good hand shake and eye contact in person, or be great on the phone. Humor is like fire, a tremendous tool if used correctly.
- Be discoverable with positive results – Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, Googleable.
- When appropriate, share a bit about your life. Maybe your kids are your passion, maybe you’re both avid golfers - people enjoy working with people who are real.
- Be engaging
- Ask great questions.
- Be a consultant, not just a “yes or no” person & help prevent hurdles they haven’t considered yet.
- Help them to feel comfortable, provide references who also think the world of you
- Applaud them when they’re doing something great, guide them when they are not.
- Be reachable
- Reply in a timely manner with emails/phone calls, especially before they email/call again with the same questions.
- Let them know when you’ll not be reachable for a while – it’s ok and good to be “too” busy occasionally. Always being available might mean no one else works with you.
- Know your competition
- Stay competitive in features, pricing, service, etc.
- Know your competitive advantages.
- Carve out and focus on your niche- knowing your niche means your customers will feel you tailor to them specifically.
Follow these three steps and five guidelines to improve your relationship-building skills. You’ll be well on your way to improving your business, your network of contacts, and even the relationships you partake in every day.