One of the most important lessons I have learned over the last 14 years in Cleveland is to build business relationships before I need them. You never know who will be your next boss or next business investor. In most cases, if you try to build business relationships right at the time you need them, it is already too late.
One good piece of advice I still follow today came from one of my mentors.
“It is crucial to build relationships before you need them,”she said. “When people make decisions to do business with you, 90 percent of the decision is connected to the trust level. Building trust can take time. Sometimes you are lucky and reaching the trust level is almost immediate, and sometimes it is a longer process that can last for years.”
Some of the key elements that are needed to build successful business relationships include these:
- Finding things in common with another person, can help to create fertile ground on which to build trust
- Always telling the truth about how you see things; offering your true perspective on matters at an opportune time.
- Demonstrating caring and positive regard to other person’s point of view, even if you disagree with their perspective
- Fully hearing and understanding the other person’s viewpoint; allowing yourself to be impacted by their needs and ideas
- Demonstrating your knowledge and know-how around matters of importance to the other person; also demonstrating your ability to get to what is most important to the other person and in being able to differentiate your point of view from theirs
One thing you must never do is to build a business relationship in a forceful manner. This tends to come off as self-serving and desperate.
I recently chatted with someone who did this and it resulted in destroying the business relationship. He asked one of business contacts to assist him in getting contacts in a local Cleveland corporation. His business contact went about the process of helping him, which was taking some time to make happen.
Instead of waiting and letting everything play out, he went back to his business contact and said this is taking too long and he should have asked someone else to help at a higher level. Little did he know that his business contact was close to helping him.
What do you think happen next? He not only lost the opportunity he was looking for, he lost a very important contact that will never help him again.
As I look back on some of the best business relationships I have had with clients that I help in my role at CAAO, with sponsors of CAAO and with other organizations wanting to work with CAAO, business relationships were rooted in the fundamentals of mutual respect, understanding of needs and a desire to further the relationship.