9 Ways to Build Business Relationships that Last
This post was originally published in 2016. It has been updated to include new advice for 2019.
Business relationships are fundamental to the success of any professional. No one succeeds on her or his own — and these connections can provide new insights and much-needed support.
But they don’t happen instantly. To build business relationships and nurture them over time requires intention and effort. The good news is with the right strategy, you can be well on your way to locating and connecting with great people who will help you grow and thrive.
Here are nine things you can start doing today to improve your professional relationships.
1. Be Authentic
First and foremost, you can’t expect to attract the right kind of people to your business network if you’re putting on an act. Relationships – whether personal or professional – should be based on trust and honesty. Remember: always be yourself. This will allow you to connect with other qualified individuals and businesses who share your beliefs, values and goals.
2. Know Where to Look
Where you network is almost as important as how you network, so be sure you’re spending time in the right places, with the right people. Take the extra steps to research and locate the kinds of groups, communities and organizations that would be most beneficial to your particular business niche. Then get to work shaking some hands, rubbing some elbows, collecting some business cards and making the right connections for your career trajectory.
3. Build Business Relationships by Finding Common Ground
What is it that makes a particular relationship worth pursuing? In business, just as in our personal lives, we look for connections that are mutually beneficial. Take the time to get to know your contacts on a more personal level.
You’ve likely heard of customer relationship management (or CRM) tools like Salesforce, which provide a system of record of all of a company’s business contacts. CRM systems like Outreach go a step further and help a team engage more deeply with its network. What you need is a personal CRM that provides the same level of detail for you as an individual.
A personal CRM can help you to identify and track things you have in common with your contacts — and help you see how you might be able to help one another in the future.
4. Be a Giver, Not Just a Taker
Sure, you want to grow your professional network but doing so shouldn’t only involve taking from others. Strong relationships are a two-way street, so always make a point to extend an offer of help or advice. For instance, share referrals within your network to help increase the business performance of others. This is similar to how a company grows with a referral marketing strategy. Chances are they’ll return the favor, which means you’ll both benefit in the long run.
5. Be Consistent in Your Business Relationships
You can’t expect a relationship to survive if it’s not regularly tended to, so make an effort to keep in touch. If your busy schedule makes this challenging, consider using technology to your advantage. For example, using a relationship management application can help you keep the conversation going without having to put a ton of time and effort into it.
6. Always Follow Through
Reiterating the importance of trust, your contacts should feel confident that when you say you’ll do something, you will. It’s that simple. Be a person of your word. When you tell someone you’ll call, pick up the phone. If you promise to attend an event, make sure you keep it on your schedule. The more reliable you are, the more likely your connections will be to send business your way.
7. Have Some Fun
It doesn’t have to be all work and no play. To the contrary, strong relationships are built on personal connections, so don’t be afraid to let down your hair and have a little fun with your contacts from time to time. Grab a cocktail after work, hit the golf course, attend a local art gallery opening – whatever it is you both enjoy, make some time to fit it in. The payoff will be well worth the extra effort.
8. To Create Trust, Be an Active Listener
Eye contact and body language can have an enormous impact on the value of a conversation or connection. According to a 2017 brief by Harvard, those who are more respectful and intentional when they deliver and receive feedback – instead of dominating a conversation – ultimately get more out of it.
9. Serve as a Mentor
According to Junot Diaz “Colleagues are a wonderful thing – but mentors, that’s where the real work gets done.”
Offering to serve as a mentor to a younger, aspiring professional can give you credibility among your business relationships. You might also learn much more about yourself and your leadership style than you anticipated.
Build Business Relationships for the Long-Term
Developing and fostering strong, mutually beneficial business relationships is not just a great way to gain more clients. It’s also a valuable way to learn from others, expand your knowledge and share the many things you have to offer. By implementing the above tips and strategies, you’ll be well on your way to creating a solid network of professionals with whom you can connect, collaborate and work together toward ongoing success.