You Scratch My Back…
Our Director Lee McQueen shares his expertise on building business relationships, and why it’s all about creating a win/win
Business is all about relationships. So how do you start one from scratch? And how do you build a good one?
Firstly, I try and find common ground with someone. If you’ve got something in common it can really help the process along. With me, I’ve launched my own business, so speaking to people who have done the same thing is a great way of opening them up. We can share and compare experiences with each other, and see if we’ve had similar issues.
Give and take
If you want to keep a relationship fresh, even if the person in question isn’t useful to your business right now, you have to remember that it’s about give and take. It’s just trying to understand what they would want, and then putting myself in their shoes. Nothing’s free in life unfortunately – they’ll be thinking, ‘What’s in it for me?’ Imagine what they would want and try to help them in return. So, for example, we recently had a function that I had a few of my clients to, and I also asked a few potential clients that can’t help me straight away, but who might be able to help me a few months down the line. I gave them something that was useful to them, so they’d be more inclined to give me advice or support when I need it. It’s not just about taking, but about giving back – that way, it’s a mutually beneficial relationship.
Long-term or opportunist?
I’m going to be honest. I genuinely think the choice of whether to develop a long-term relationship or not really depends on the opportunity. I do think it’s better to develop long-term business relationships in general, rather than going in and taking as much as you can. But it depends on what you’re offering – if it’s a one-off service, and a client will buy it and that’s that, then it’s OK.
It depends on whether or not it’s worth it, because it takes an awful lot of work to build and develop a relationship. It’s like a boyfriend and girlfriend; they might be together six months and then choose to move in with each other, only to discover someone leaves the toilet seat up! Basically, don’t waste your time on a business partnership that’s not going to be fruitful to you in the future. A true partnership is a win/win for both parties; if it’s clearly not going to be, then don’t waste the time and resources necessary to develop that relationship.
Knowledge is power
If you’ve just met someone at an event, don’t go straight into pitch mode. I always try and understand their situation first. Why would I want to pitch blind? I can save myself the embarrassment of pitching someone something they’re not going to be interested in, simply by listening. It’s all about knowledge, so I ask questions, I open people up and listen to them and then the conversation can take a different path.
Knowledge is power. You need the knowledge to understand what your clients or customers want before you can sell it to them.
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