She left me.
No warning. Not even a goodbye. Poof! Gone.
She had always bragged about how great I was to everyone she knew. Lots of referrals too.
She was a client of mine, and one day, she decided to take her business elsewhere.
No matter how great our work is, relationships fuel the very foundation of business.
I recognized the importance of developing good business relationships early on in my entrepreneurial career.
So I worked hard on developing them with key people: associates, customers, suppliers, and anyone I thought to be important to my business and my life.
However, as my contacts grew, I often neglected existing relationships. For example, I would land a big client after months of wooing them just to hand off to one of my client services manager whom the client had met maybe once.
I didn’t realize just how much time had passed between my interactions with people I had just met. That’s an easy mistake for anyone to make. I still make them today, just a little less.
We often get so wrapped up with our businesses, prospecting new clients, or our personal lives, that we fail to build upon the relationships we already have.
I realized I needed to make two immediate changes. They enabled me to manage and nurture my relationships more effectively. Here’s what I did:
- I created a database of all my relationships. Contactually is what I use. It is a web-based contact management system that helps me stay in touch with everyone important. It tracks my phone calls, texts, and emails. It also helps me follow up with people at the right time.
- I changed my daily routine. I now dedicate part of my day to reaching out to key people. Staying in touch with these people regularly helps me nurture these relationships.
Aside from my immediate changes, I developed five additional long-term habits to help me build stronger relationships:
Take advantage of social media
Staying in touch has gotten easier with social media. Thanks to digital tools like LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, and Twitter, it’s easier than ever to maintain and nurture relationships. Make it a point to use these tools regularly. Even if it’s just to say Happy Birthday.
Do keyword mining
Take mental notes on everyone you meet. Then enter those notes as soon as you can into your contact management system. Record keywords for these contacts, such as “golfer” or “accountant.” Note how many children he/she has, their marital status, and what their hobbies are. This step will help you remember key details about this person when you re-connect in the future, and it will allow you create a better bond.
Using your knowledge of your contacts’ interests: forward articles, e-mails, links, and other information that these contacts would find relevant. Take some time every week or every other week to do this. It shows you’re interested in them, their families, and what’s important to them. Contactually makes this task extremely simple for me.
Give more than you get
This is very important. We often contact people only when we want something. Be sure to contact people even when you don’t want something. Take time to learn about their businesses. Take time to learn about their aspirations. If it’s important to them, it should be important to you. I try to make referrals to these people when I can. Become their brand ambassador and you’ll learn quickly that giving more than you get increases the quality of your relationships.
Listen more and talk less
We sometimes have complex businesses. I remember when I used to spend 5 minutes explaining what I do with a bad elevator pitch. Try listening more, asking more questions, and being genuinely interested in the person’s life outside of their position in the company. Listen well and you can become a sounding board for them. That can lead to referrals and long-term business success.
It doesn’t matter if you are B2C or B2B, you are still creating a relationship with a person.
Develop some of the habits I’ve mentioned above to help you better improve the key relationships in your life and business especially as your contacts grow.
Photography Credit: Taken by Pierre Guinoiseau.