Article written by Jannie Rossouw, Head: Sanlam Business Market
It is my observation that the golden thread, which distinguishes lasting business associations from the rest, is the authenticity of the relationship; in other words, how genuine the business association is.
In a world where time is of the essence and results the only benchmark of success, it is difficult to develop enduring business relationships.
Here are seven elements to consider when you want to build business relationships which will stand the test of time:
1. Move beyond technology
Email, WhatsApp, sms, Facebook and Twitter are all communication elements which we use to engage with other people. It is a “faceless” environment, which can work well when a business relationship is well vested, but there is no substitute for spending “face time” with people to develop a deep understanding of the person we want to vest as a client, business partner, or supplier. This means that we need to invest the time to develop and vest a new business relationship and maintain existing ones.
2. Build rapport
The word any person loves the most is their name. Get this one right and people will pay attention to you. It is also productive to get an understanding of their immediate family ties (spouse, children, parents). Ask their names and dates of birth and log this into your database and calendar for future reference. Also determine what the person’s interests and hobbies are. This will provide you with a much-needed conversation opener going forward.
3. Add value
Once you have made a first sale, it is a productive practice to provide useful tips for using your product or service. If you have access to, or if you pick up, useful information about the industry the client, business partner, or supplier, works in, then consider forwarding this information for their knowledge and application. Information that can be applied by them for personal and business development can also be beneficial. Sometimes people merely need a word of support, or an alternative perspective. In this way you also become a trusted resource for your client, business associate, or supplier. A sure way to receive goodwill from people is to send them business – i.e. to refer people needing their product or service to them.
4. Continuous contact
The old saying goes “out of sight, out of mind”. Keep this in mind when dealing with people. Make a concerted effort to meet with your bigger clients, business partners, or suppliers, on a pre-determined frequency; for example, monthly, quarterly, or bi-annually. Diarise these meetings and develop a standardised agenda so that both parties know what they can expect from the meeting and also what they need to prepare.
5. Go the extra mile
To do something beyond the normal call of duty goes a far way to show people that you care. If we give before we expect to receive it creates the platform where people will tend to repay the favour. Going the extra mile should, however, not be confused with being at the beck and call of your clients, business partners, or suppliers. Know where to draw the line and set boundaries.
6. Exemplify integrity
Integrity is seen as a quality in a person which speaks to good moral standards. It takes a lifetime to build and a second to destroy. Always endeavour to speak the truth, honour your word, be respectful to all you meet and seek mutual beneficial outcomes in all business transactions and engagements.
7. Be responsive
Few things are less irritating than when a person on whom you depend on to get something done is not responsive to your voicemail, sms or email. Try to be that person who is responsive. Even if you have to let the other person know that you cannot respond immediately, rather commit to a timeline and then keep to this commitment. Leave them the option to indicate the urgency of the matter to address. Open communication lines go far in managing expectations.
People are bound to relationships. The same applies to business associations. If we put in the effort to see and understand the person behind a transaction or sale, we will be rewarded with their goodwill and continuous flow of business.
To support business owners with the important task of business planning, Sanlam gives you free access to the book Your Annual Business Game Plan for Success, which provides an easy and straight forward framework needed to draft a well-crafted game plan that will create the positive change and growth necessary for business success
Go to www.sanlamgameplan.co.za to download your free copy.