Building Working Relationships
Business thrives on relationships. They’re the grease that oils the wheels of commerce. What begins as a one-off sale of something small can build into a relationship that lasts for decades and benefits both parties in several ways.
What it means, essentially, is that you should never think of a sale as a one-off event. If you’ve never sold to that client before, then it’s the beginning of a relationship. If you have, then the relationship is growing. But, if carried out properly, the relationship never ends.
Nor is it just about you selling things to a client, although that obviously helps your bottom line. You’re providing a service, but in return, perhaps you can recommend the client to someone else? After all, that’s networking in a nutshell, everyone helping everyone else.
What Makes For a Good Working RelationshipIn an ideal world, every business relationship would be a good, long-lasting one. But the world isn’t perfect, so many business relationships end up as fleeting, for a number of reasons. That could be because the client isn’t satisfied, or has no desire to pursue an ongoing business relationship, or perhaps because you failed to follow up properly and so a potential opportunity was lost. But every relationship that doesn’t work is a missed opportunity.A real working relationship involves communication (which is true of any kind of relationship). It’s built up over time, with give and take, providing good service and help. The client might refer you to others who can use your goods and services, and you will recommend them to others with whom you do business – taking care, of course, to ensure that the client receives wonderful service.
What you’ll find is that your relationship is more likely to be with an individual, or a few individuals, rather than with a company. They’re your contacts and embody the company to you (just as you represent your company to them). On that personal level they can call and ask you for favours, information and so on, and in return you can do much the same with them, and along the way you boost each other’s business.
The Important FactorsWhat’s the most important thing you can give a client? Service, of course. A good relationship with a client is built on ongoing excellent service that’s appreciated. Naturally, all clients should receive excellent service, but it’s just a fact of life that with some people you build a relationship and with others you simply don’t.
As the relationships builds and lasts, cut the client some deals to let them know you appreciate their lasting business. Everyone appreciates a discount, especially if you combine it with continued excellent service.
Use word of mouth to recommend your client in an appropriate situation. It might not be often, but also let the client know what you’ve done. That’s not only to avoid surprises later, but to give you brownie points with them – in return they may well recommend you to others, especially if your service has been everything you promised.
Little things like Christmas gifts and promotional materials might not seem like a lot, but can help cement a business relationship. Indeed, often it can be little things that count the most – just as in any relationship.