Top Ten Rules for Building Valuable Business Relationships

Mutually beneficial relationships are the backbone of a healthy business. Are you building these relationships for your business? And what does it take to create and sustain this type of relationship?

To answer this question, I decided to identify the behaviors I see in the leaders in my own small business network.

I’m drawn to people who are friendly and treat me with respect, whether or not they want to do business with me. When I see people who don’t keep their appointments and don’t follow-up e-mails and calls from people they know, it tells me a lot about how they are to do business with.

I like dealing with people who keep their word and follow through. These people not only get my business, they get the business of others who appreciate what it takes to maintain a valuable relationship.

The business leaders I know carry out the following ten behaviors. I’m calling them “rules” to emphasize their structural nature. As you read through these, you can rate your own behavior on a percentage basis. Then do an analysis to see where you might want to improve – assuming you agree it is a behavior you find valuable.

1 – Follow through! Think before you commit to something that you don’t have time to carry out. It’s a real pain to deal with people you can’t count on. People who become known for following through are sought out. We all want to do business with people who keep their commitments.

2 – Stay in touch! Check and respond to calls and e-mail regularly (at least once per day). There are lots of people who do the major part of their business using e-mail. If you fall behind, you could lose out. Leaders are both pro-active and responsive

You can defer “catch-up” calls for up to three days. Even if you don’t really want to speak to the person calling, plan to return their call, but make it short. You are in charge of the call. An e-mail may be adequate in some cases. Think about how you’d feel in the same circumstances.

3 – Be in constant learning mode. Ask lots of questions. Most people are happy to share their knowledge and experiences. Pursue additional knowledge when you see a direct benefit or have an interest. It’s important to keep an open mind because things change all the time – even facts. Be interested in knowing the perspective of others. It is a clue to how you can effectively communicate going forward.

And, remember, the better informed you are about anything, the better decisions you can make.

4 – Reach out to prospects and customers. Show you care about others. Inquire about their business, their thoughts on a relevant subject and their families. Business that’s dependent on personal relationships needs personal attention. Everyone in your database needs to hear from you with an appropriate frequency. Some people will get more attention than others, but find a way to keep your name on the mind of those in your network. This also keeps your network warm.

5 – Be a resource for others. It’s great when you can be the intermediary (the matchmaker) between colleagues. When someone needs a service or product that you can help provide through your referral, all parties benefit. Referrals beget referrals, even if indirectly.

A cue for making a referral is when someone specific comes to mind during a conversation. The more you do this, the easier it gets.

6 – Give recognition to everyone who contributes to your good. Saying “thank you” is a very pro-active step. It acknowledges value received. When you are recognized for contributing something of value, you feel satisfied. People follow those who are generous with recognition.

7 – Give recognition to others for their good work. This can be as simple as “great job”, or as elaborate as an award dinner. Recognition of accomplishments is another way of acknowledging value. If you want to become a better leader, hang out with other leaders doing good work and encouraging others to do the same.

8 – Have a self-directed course and a written plan. People like to deal with those who know where they’re going and how they plan to get there. Base your plan on self-knowledge and a clear vision for your business. If writing down your plans is hard for you, put them on your computer, your PDA, your calendar or wherever you’ll be most likely to follow through.

9 – Be consistent! Inconsistency is confusing. The more consistent you can be in your messages, your behavior and your personal and business dress, the clearer and stronger your image becomes. You want to be linked to the mission of your business – and memorable. How you present yourself and your business should suit your taste, but maintain respect for your audience and the message you’re trying to communicate. Looking good adds to feeling good, which adds to confidence.

10 – Enjoy your role!
Accept responsibility for being a leader; wear the role with pride and honor. Others will listen, support and follow you and will want to continue to do business with you.

Follow the rules of good business relationships and notice the impact on your own relationships, your image and your business. The more valuable business relationships we have, the stronger all our businesses will become.

To your success!