You can only take your business so far by yourself. Past that, you need successful relationships with clients, vendors and other professionals to take your business to the next level.
Go Above and Beyond
One of the best ways to build a relationship with clients is to go above and beyond what you’re called to do. If the contract stipulates 10 customer service sessions, and they are on their 11th, let them know it is on the house.
Other extras you could provide include:
- Follow-up phone calls
- Inviting a new client to lunch and not trying to sell him anything, but just getting to know him better
- Sending a short note or email thanking the client for his business
Nix the Meetings
Harvard Business School estimates that CEOs spend about 60 percent of their work lives in meetings. Instead of planning yet another meeting with those you want to build a relationship with, think outside the norm.
The last thing an executive wants is yet another meeting. Instead, try to find something she truly enjoys. Consider the following ideas:
- Lunch at their favorite café
- A painting class
- A walking meeting if they’re the active type
- A round of golf
Remember that building a relationship doesn’t have to be only about getting a sale or contract secured. Sometimes, it is simply about getting to know the other person better.
Create a Positive Environment
It’s important that you provide a safe and comfortable environment for customers and employees. Try adding a colorful painting to spruce up drab, white walls or a comfy couch instead of the typical waiting room chairs.
It should go without saying, but be sure you’re providing a safe and clean environment as well. One way to do this is to make sure the workplace is OSHA compliant, but also try to add in additional features that aren’t required. If you’re a pediatrician, for example, you could child-proof all areas and provide fun activities for children to do while they wait.
Don’t Smother the Client
Company executives and salespeople are typically very dynamic individuals. However, this also means they can come on too strong.
Business News Daily recommends not only contacting people when you need something, but also checking in to say thanks or hello every once in a while. This is one mistake a lot of businesspeople make that keeps them from developing true relationships.
Stay in Touch
If you hear that your contact at a vendor’s company received a promotion, send a fruit basket or a congratulatory note.
Attend networking meetings to keep in touch with contacts and make new ones. When possible, send some new clients their way and they’ll likely return the favor.
Your personal life and reputation matter. Would you want to do business with someone labeled as having lied or cheated? Consider the following advice:
- Be careful what you post on social media.
- If you make a mistake professionally, admit it – and do whatever it takes to make it right.
- Never lie, stretch the truth or manipulate situations.
Don’t Treat People like Facial Tissues
Even if one of your connections leaves her current position, is fired or retires, don’t haphazardly toss that relationship aside. You never know where someone might land and how that relationship can benefit you both in the future.
Plus, it’s not very kind to toss people aside simply because they are no longer of use to your professional life. See the point above about having integrity.
Keep Your Promises
If you give the client a deadline, do everything you can to meet the deadline. Forbes points out that meeting deadlines can help relieve clients of the worry over whether a project will be completed on time. If they can trust you to deliver, you’ll gain repeat business.
Keep Meticulous Notes
Mike Scanlin, Born to Sell software company CEO, told Inc how important it is to spend time adding notes to your contact system. This is a good idea because the next time an opportunity arises, you can quickly search your database to find out which clients would be most interested. Did you score two courtside seats to the NBA playoffs? Search for the client that loves basketball and offer to take him along.
Keep notes on everything, such as:
- Business needs
- Other interests
If you do this, you’ll be one step ahead of your competition.
At some point in every business relationship, you’ll make a mistake. A vendor may deliver a product late to you. Perhaps one of your assistants forgot to book the venue where an event was supposed to take place.
Whatever happens, these mistakes can become opportunities to show your client that you prevail under pressure. Here’s what to do to admit fault and continue building trust:
- Don’t make excuses. Yes, the vendor is late, but you chose that vendor.
- Figure out a solution. You may need to get creative. Book a different venue. Fly in the product. Whatever it takes to keep your client happy.
- Follow-up. Apologize again and say you’re glad that solution was worked out and you hope they’ll give you another chance in the future.
Some relationships will last for years and others will be for a specific moment in time. Building truly strong business relationships only happens when you listen carefully, care more about the other person than your own needs, and approach things with integrity.