Although the focus of this article may be on business relationships, much of what follows applies to all relationships. The subject is an important one; after all, if we treasure our possessions, job, reputation, or power more than our relationships, all will suffer. In fact, the quality of our lives will be determined by the quality of our relationships. Moreover, we need relationships to be whole, for as Elliot Richardson (1920~1999) said, "To be a complete person is to be a part of others, and share a part of them."
better business relationships is about building better business. Businessmen
and women need to ask themselves whether their relationships are strong enough
to weather the storm of hard times. In today's competitive marketplace, solid
relationships are far more than beneficial; they are the key to staying afloat,
the key to survival.
Customer (Client, Prospect) Behavior 101
businesses will lose some of their customers, but to keep the loss at a
minimum, it is necessary to understand customer, client, and prospect behavior.
According to a famous market research study, businesses lose customers for the
3% move to another location.
5% switch their business to a friend.
9% are 'stolen' by a competitor.
14% switch because of product quality or price.
68% end their relationship because they are not appreciated and respected.
Clearly, the major reason why businesses lose
customers is because they (the customers) feel that the business no longer
cares about them. Two
out of three customers feel the company they dealt with was interested in their
money and nothing else. From the customer's vantage point, what good are the
products, services, and information offered if their questions go unanswered
and their requests for help fall on deaf ears. As John C. Maxwell put it,
"People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."
must be looked after. They are never to be treated indifferently, or taken
advantage of, or thought of as something which simply attends to itself. If
they are neglected, they will fail to remain as they were or are, and they will
worsen. People are not stupid. They want to do business with people or
organizations they know, trust, and respect.
run a business and customers are not complaining, that doesn't necessarily mean
they are satisfied, for research reveals that 96% of unhappy customers don't
complain; they simply do business elsewhere. Although they don't complain to
the business they're unhappy about, most do to nine or ten of their friends,
who in turn pass it on to their friends. And 13% of dissatisfied customers
complain to 20 or more friends and acquaintances.
When it comes to the 4% of unhappy customers
that do complain, 95% of them will remain as customers if their problem is
quickly resolved. What's more, if they are impressed by how well you solved
their problem, they will tell five of their friends. Compare this with
satisfied customers who normally say nothing, or at best speak to one or two of
their friends. This being so, you should never be afraid of problems, for they
are blessings in disguise, providing you with the opportunity to prove yourself
and win your client's praise by coming to their rescue.
If you are a business, customers will praise you;
say nothing about you, or complain about you. But how they react depends on how you treat them. Now let's look at some tips on how we
can build better business relationships.
Tips on Building Better Business
1. Accept people as they are,
idiosyncrasies and all. Yes, the things we share in common make our
relationships enjoyable, but it is our differences that make them interesting.
2. Here's some commonsense advice
from the witty Quentin Crisp (1908~1999): "The formula for achieving a successful
relationship is simple: you should treat all disasters as if they were
trivialities but never treat a triviality as if it were a disaster."
3. "Do good to your friends to keep
them, to your enemies to win them." (Benjamin Franklin, 1706~1790)
4. If you make people feel good
about them, they will want to do business with you, but if you make them feel
bad about them, they will look elsewhere.
5. Here are two valuable insights
from Stephen R. Covey (1932~2012, author of "The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective
People"): "The most important ingredient we put into any relationship is not
what we say or what we do, but what we are. And if our words and our actions
come from superficial human relations techniques (the Personality Ethic) rather
than from our own inner core (the Character Ethic), others will sense that
duplicity. We simply won't be able to create and sustain the foundation
necessary for effective interdependence."
'Inside-Out' approach to personal and interpersonal effectiveness means to
start first with self; even more fundamentally, to start with the most inside
part of self - with your paradigms, your character, and your motives. The
inside-out approach says that private victories precede public victories, that
making and keeping promises to ourselves precedes making and keeping promises
to others. It says it is futile to put personality ahead of character, to try
to improve relationships with others before improving ourselves."
6. For any relationship to succeed
over the long term it must be based on a win-win partnership. Always make sure
that both parties equally benefit, for when they do, why would anyone want to
7. The people you deal with form a
network. Get to know them, their needs and interests. Whenever you learn of
something that will help one of them, immediately pass it on. By providing this
service you will become a valuable resource that no one will want to part from.
8. This tip is the reverse of #7.
That is, although your aim is to become a valuable resource for members of your
network, don't forget that they, too, can prove to be a significant resource
for you. Tap into them from time to time to glean the latest information, tips,
referrals, and ideas that can help you. This practice will help strengthen your
relationships, but don't overdo it, lest you become a pest.
9. Follow up on all your promises
and commitments. Stay in touch via email, telephone calls, and face-to-face
visits when possible.
10. Always be prepared to form new
relationships. Carry business cards and memorize a spiel that quickly informs
others of the products, services, or knowledge that you offer. Japan Camera was
the company that introduced One-Hour Photofinishing to North America. This came
about because the General Manager of Japan Camera, John Asa, introduced himself
to a stranger at the airport while waiting for a flight. The stranger he spoke
to was the President of Noritsu, the Japanese manufacturer that invented One-Hour
Photo Minilabs. This industry was new and unrepresented in North America.
Because John Asa was prepared, in the brief amount of time he had before his
flight, he forged a relationship that resulted in his small business growing
into a chain of 140 stores across Canada.
11. Become a master communicator.
And the most important part of communication is listening. Of what value are
all those good questions you're asking if you're not listening to the answers?
Important as it is to listen to what is being said, far more important is to be alert to what is being revealed by body language and tone of
voice, for the words we use merely represent about 10% of the message, while
the tone of voice represents about 40%, and body language, about 50%.
Here's an example. Apprehensive husband asks wife,
"Is anything wrong?"
"No!" she shouts. (Verbal content, worth no more than 10% of the
message.) But the tone of her voice reveals 40% of the message, which is, "Yes,
I am upset."
While shouting her answer, her arms were crossed against her chest; she
rolled her eyes upward in mockery, and sighed in exasperation. Her body
language (50% of the message) revealed something was upsetting her, despite her
In summary, 90% of her message (tonality +
body language) said, "Yes, something is wrong." And 10% (the verbal content)
said, "No, nothing is wrong." This simple example points out the importance of
understanding all aspects of communication.
12. Don't allow your relationships
to grow lukewarm. Although it may not be necessary to contact some
relationships more than once or twice a year, contact them more often than
necessary just to say hello and keep the partnership warm.
13. Because of the Internet, we can
now form relationships and conduct business without meeting in person. But,
whenever possible, meet face-to-face, or the next best thing, communicate via
Skype. We can never grow as intimate in email as we can in face-to-face
meetings. Why? Because 90% of the message (tonality and body language) is missing.
14. Before trying to sell your
ideas, do some research. Nothing is more frustrating to a prospect than being
cornered and forced to listen to a sales pitch that they have no interest in.
That's why asking questions and listening is so important. We build
relationships by serving others, not by boring them.
15. Major factors for effective
relationships are trustworthiness, consistency, and sincerity. Regularly
display genuine interest in others and take the time to follow up and get
16. Share links that you think
clients may find useful, but make it personal, not part of a bulk mailing.
Briefly describe how you believe it may be helpful. But don't overdo it. There
is a fine line between a friendly tip and a pest that is clogging a businessman
or woman's inbox with useless links.
17. When building a relationship,
ask plenty of questions. What are their needs and aspirations? What problems
are they dealing with? What are their strengths? What are they interested in?
And when sharing your ideas, immediately get them involved by asking a question
everyone loves, "What do you think?"
18. When working with clients, get
to know as many people in the organization as possible, not only the boss, but
his or her assistant, secretary, staff, receptionist. One day they may become a
valuable ally or useful resource.
19. Keep your network informed of
changes in procedure, changes in your position and responsibilities, and ask
about any changes taking place at their end.
20. In today's digital age,
everything is electronic. If you want to say something special such as Happy Birthday! or Congratulations on your promotion! email messages are apt to get
lost in the inbox clutter, or not stand out very well. Here's where "snail
mail" can be helpful. During a lunch break, buy an attractive or humorous card
and mail it.
21. When speaking face-to-face or on
the phone, your enthusiasm and passion can be contagious, but it must be
contained because you have to respect the tight schedules your clients are
working with. In a word, don't take up more of their time than necessary. On
the other hand, if a client wishes to speak and you cut them short, your
behavior will be considered curt and abrasive. However, if you don't have the
time, explain why very politely.
22. Keep yourself in circulation
because countless new opportunities are outside of your current network. Join
clubs and associations, volunteer to give presentations, attend trade shows,
and, yes, talk to strangers while you're waiting for your next flight.
23. Have patience because it takes
time for business relationships to blossom. Before getting the results you
seek, a great deal of negotiation and preparation may be necessary.
24. Don't take your relationships
for granted. Express your appreciation for their business and ask if there are
any ways you can improve. Treat them as a valued team member and welcome their
input. Their suggestions may nip in the bud any potential problems and prevent
a future rift.
25. Don't forget to give back. If
you have been helped along the way, received advice and favors, do the same for
others. Relationships are for mutual growth and gain, so do your part. Share
your knowledge, experience and advice while encouraging those who have yet to
reach your level of success.
26. Take advantage of the latest
technology. Desktop computers, tablets, and smart phones make it possible to
stay in touch and relay information at a moment's notice. Computer contact
managers, calendars, and reminder software will help you control your time,
remain on top of all appointments and upcoming events, and remind you of the
birthdays, anniversaries, and other important dates for members of your
27. Be willing to reach out and go the
extra distance. If you are actively building relationships, don't expect
everyone to come to you; be willing to meet them on their home ground. But
don't waste their time. First do research and make sure the both of you will
benefit by forming a relationship. If you can clearly present a win-win
situation, the likelihood of success will be that much greater.
28. Whenever you attend a social
event, be sure to mingle. You will never know in advance which of the attendees
presents the greatest opportunities. It may be the first person you meet or it
could be the last, so be sure to meet as many as possible. And don't forget to
get their contact information and follow up.
Now that we have some tips to work
with, use them to make your relationships a growing part of your life; not a
life of growing apart.
HOW TO SAY ANYTHING TO
ANYONE: A Guide to Building Business Relationships That Really Work by Shari Harley
POWER QUESTIONS: Build
Relationships, Win New Business, and Influence Others by Andrew Sobel and Jerold Panas
© Chuck Gallozzi
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