Whether you are a large business or small business entrepreneur, maintaining business relationships are vital in becoming successful. It’s no longer good enough to win the bid; clients want to feel like you care about them as much as you want their business. According to Michael Denisoff, founder and CEO of Denisoff Consulting Group, “You need to have long-term customers and good vendor relationships that will carry you through challenging times or tight deadlines, as well as relationships with other business owners to share struggles, resources and best practices that can really give you an edge. As in any relationship, you must be willing to give, share and support, not just take or receive.” Many entrepreneurs refer to this as “the dance.” It encompasses all the things you do to get the meeting with the right person that will ultimately make the decision to utilize your products or services. You must remember to dress for the dance, lead your client on the dance floor and to call them the next day and tell them how fabulous it was to share this dance. Moreover, to compliment Michael Denisoff, if you don’t show up to the dance, you can’t expect to wake up with party favors. So, how does one build a better business relationship with clients?
Your first impression, should be your best impression
When you meet someone you’ve never had the pleasure of meeting, they are not only listening to your elevator pitch, they are also evaluating your body language to determine if they like you. “If you are honest and sincere, your body will naturally respond to your emotions,” says Denisoff. I always suggest listening to a client or prospect to reveal a problem or frustration in which you can provide a solution. Alisa Cohn, an executive coach, says, “It’s counter-intuitive, but being a good listener highlights your virtues much better than being a big talker.” By listening you’ll find out what frustrates your prospect and the prospect’s body language will often reveal what constitutes success. Lastly, dress for the role of success. When people can see who you really are it allows them to let down their walls and usher in trust and respect.
When I was working as a senior tax consultant, I was taught to answer questions I didn’t know the answer to with the response, “It depends upon the state. Let me get back to you.” Why? Because this line created open and continued communication. It allowed me to take a step back, understand the needs of that client and come back with an informed answer. Feedback sometimes provides you an opportunity to find solutions even before the clients realize there’s a problem. Feedback gives you an opportunity to gauge if you understand the problem and engage the client in a solution-focused dialogue. Additionally, by taking good notes, you showcase your understanding of the prospect’s problems through stating the client’s problem or frustrations in your own words. But you shouldn’t stop there. A savvy business entrepreneur is proactive. Ask, “Did you hit the mark?” “What worked well and what could be improved?” Patrick Scullin, of Ames Scullin O’Haire, a marketing firm, says, “If you know where you stand, you can stand stronger.” In comparison, would you not want your significant other to tell you why she didn’t enjoy the chocolate you picked up for him or her after work, especially if he or she was trying to eat healthier? Feedback helps you perform better and screams to your clients, “I care.”
This is probably the most important and most often forgotten step in a business romance. Follow up provides the perfect opportunity to remind the prospect of how important their business means to you. How would you feel if a person you met at a party exchanged numbers with you but never called? Furthermore, it’s also a perfect opportunity to showcase how well you listened to the prospect. In fact, I don’t even mention my product or service. I usually comment on something we discussed during the initial meeting, conveying, “I listened and I care about you.”
There are many shades to perfect the business relationship dance, but the three steps above will assure you will stand out against the grey competitors.