You can have an impressive portfolio, show unmatched skills, and possess a keen intellect, but if you don’t work at building and managing business relationships, none of it will matter. The truth of the business world is that people only do business with those whom they know and like. Such is the principle lesson Keith Ferrazzi teaches in Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time.
Even at a time when video conferencing is the norm, all business happens person-to-person. There are faces behind each company, so mastering business relationships is critical to doing business with everyone.
In this article, learn essential tips for cultivating amazing business relationships that will last well into the future.
How to Build Business Relationships
1. Align Your Missions
Every person has a mission for their business, whether it be in digital marketing, sales, media creation, or something else. The mission represents the dreams and goals a business leader has for their company. As author Napoleon Hill once put it, “A goal is a dream with a deadline.”
When looking at how to build lasting relationships, find those with similar missions to yours. Only once your missions align can you go about elevating each other. If you’re having trouble defining your mission, try the following strategies.
- List out your business’s dreams and goals.
- Ask close friends, family, and colleagues about your greatest strengths.
- Identify people who can help you reach your goals.
- Read books connected with your goals.
- Pray and meditate.
2. Don’t Keep Score
Imagine turning to someone for help in setting up a meeting with a third party, but the person refuses to reach out to their contact. Their reasoning? They didn’t want to ask someone else for a favor out of fear that they would have to return it one day.
This person kept score with all of their corporate relationships. The issue with keeping score is viewing a business relationship as something finite. That’s the wrong view to take.
Healthy relationships grow over time. You don’t “run out” of it as long as you’re working on it. Follow the old saying, “it’s better to give than receive.” Don’t keep score as you build relationships. If you follow a generous path, the rewards in your relationships will grow with it.
3. Be Willing to Ask
You’ll find that when you don’t keep score, you’re able to ask others for help more easily. Asking for favors doesn’t create an imposition on people. It gives them a chance to help and serve, building trust in the process.
When you make requests, you accelerate friendships. This is an essential part of relationship building. It also encourages others to ask for your help in the future too.
4. Share Your Passion
Relationships allow you to share your passion with others. Think of the last time you were talking with someone who spoke passionately about a project of theirs. Odds are, you began to feel excited about it as well.
Passion is contagious. As you share what you have a passion for, you draw other people to who you are and what you care about.
The quantity of meetings doesn’t matter when developing a business relationship. What’s important is the quality of time spent together.
Some of the best ways to create a genuine connection between yourself and others are:
- Grabbing a cup of coffee
- Exercising together
- Inviting people to a concert or speaking event
- Sharing hobbies (hiking, golf, board games, etc.)
- Having meals (breakfast, lunch, or dinner)
- Hosting or attending dinner parties
5. Master Small Talk
Small talk gets a bad rap these days, but mastering it is essential in solving poor communication and building good corporate relationships. In his book, Ferrazzi highlights a study from Stanford University which showed that “verbal fluency” was the one trait that mattered the most when determining success for business school alumni. Even GPA had little bearing on success. People who could make conversation in any situation with anyone were most likely to succeed.
You must learn how to master small talk as part of managing business relationships. That means starting conversations, keeping them going, creating bonds with others, encouraging open communication, and getting people interested in you and what you stand for.
Here are a few tips for making good conversation:
- Smile when you meet people.
- Find a good balance for eye contact. Don’t look at them the whole time, but don’t constantly look away. Maintain eye contact between 70 to 90 percent of the time.
- Relax and don’t fold your arms.
- Nod at what people say.
- Lean in without invading someone’s personal bubble. This shows you’re interested in what they say.
6. Stay Connected
Like any good relationship, a new business relationship grows as you give it time to strengthen. Whether it’s corporate or customer relationships, the more you interact and trust each other, the closer you become. That’s the importance of staying connected.
You should look at each relationship and think about how everyone can benefit from it. You can approach it like a game. If someone says they have a problem, think of solutions. It doesn’t even have to be business-related. For example, if someone is looking for a house, you can look up someone else who might help them with the right resources in the middle of the conversation.
View relationships as a way to serve others. And as with any relationship, it’s not so much what you say. As Maya Angelou explained, “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”
It might seem simple, but it has a lasting impact. Just follow the 80/20 Rule, where 80 percent of the outcomes are determined by 20 percent of the input. A little bit of effort through making connections and staying connected can go a long way in reaching incredible results.
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