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Monthly Business e-Tips Vol 6
Issue 2

Business is about Relationships

Business is not just doing deals..........business is a cobweb of human relationships.” H Ross Perot

Whether you sell products or services, direct or online, you understand that people buy from those they know and trust. Major online vendors such as Amazon and eBay, despite their size, make us feel like they know us personally. They communicate with us individually, remembering what we bought and considered, and offer us similar types of items. How many of us with smaller, off-line operations make our customers feel so important after they buy from us?

I have seen the best in action. My significant other, Allan, is a manufacturer’s representative for various lines of men’s clothing. Retailers typically come to his office to view samples of his products, so he doesn’t see their stores very often. Yet in the summer, when we travel around New England, we stop at customer’s shops in the area. Allan feels that he can serve his accounts better if sees their set up. He has a friendly conversation with the owner, looks around, and we are on the road again. I can see how much they appreciate his stopping by.

Some accounts are family businesses where he originally dealt with the parents. Allan has developed special relationships with the second generation. He mentors several of the younger owners, and one even e-mails Allan newspaper ads to critique before they are published. Store owners have called him about employee issues. When they decide to open another store, they consult with him about location options. One client of twenty plus years tells him, “You know what sells. Pick out what I should buy; just keep it within my budget.” When Allan occasionally changes a line he carries, most of these accounts simply move over to buy whatever he decides to sell. Is he in a relationship business? You bet he is.

I enjoy similar experiences with colleagues who keep in touch. One is Craig Strauss, a financial planner with Edward Jones. He calls me every few months just to say hello. Besides having a nice conversation, he gives me financial tips and often has a colleague or client to introduce me to. Another person is Arlene Simon, director of business development for Ganek Architects, who thoughtfully e-mails virtual introductions, articles and events she thinks would be interest me. If I have an opportunity to refer either of these professionals, I wouldn’t hesitate for a second. Their frequent connections aren’t at all an annoyance, but rather make me feel valued.

You can strengthen relationships and increase business if you:

  • Keep focused on your customers. Stay in touch and make an effort to let them know they are important. Just make sure the communication is personalized. Hand written notes are a rarity and appreciated by the recipient.
  • Stay in touch with colleagues and competitors. They are great referral sources. If someone provides you a connection who then becomes a client, thank them with a small gift.
  • Make connections personal and sincere. Show an interest in your contacts as people, not just business opportunities. If you have an ulterior motive, your intentions will become clear in a nano-second.
  • Give without expecting anything in return. Offer your time, advice or a referral to others. Something good will come your way at a time and from a source that is unexpected.
  • Keep connections regular. Don’t wait until it’s slow or you’re desperate, make it an integral part of how you operate your business. During these difficult times especially, people long for personal connections.
When I go for my annual checkups, my doctor frequently refers to a discussion we had about my children many years ago, so I know I’m not just a case of acid reflex and repetitive sinusitis to her. Make sure your customers and colleagues don’t represent just projects or widgets or dollar signs to you. Your business will improve with the quality of your relationships and the frequency of your connections.

Thank you for your readership, I appreciate it.

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