How do you build strong relationships that help you to keep customers and how do you choose your business associates and partners?
After several decades of working both in the UK and in overseas markets, BizSmart Core Adviser and Select Member Steve Parker has developed a system for choosing customers and business partners.
Strategic relationship building
We all know the importance of building relationships and then maintaining them. But in this modern era of Skype calls and emails, sometimes we forget the basics.
The 4Ts method has been developed after many years of overseas work but it applies just as much to relationships in the UK.
When you work in a small business or micro-business, it’s important to remember that you don’t have contracts to fall back on, as you might have done in a previous corporate job.
The truth is that even if you put a contract in place, it could be challenging to enforce it through the courts, so it makes sense to rely on building strong relationships first and foremost.
Choosing your business associates
The way in which you choose clients, suppliers and business associates relates to your core values. You need to know what you want your business to stand for. Then your values become a unique part of your business personality.
If you don’t stick to your values then this shows weakness and can make people question whether to do business with you. It’s important that you really believe in these values. Would you want your organisation to stand for them in a number of years time?
The next question is, would you want to work with people who aren’t in line with your values?
When people are looking to do business with you, they are often more interested in the people than the company. It’s the people who are going out to see potential customers who control the company and need to uphold the values, much more so than the Chairman does, although. of course, everyone should be on board.
Core values are important. On a recent trip to the Middle East, my client met with a potential business partner in the automotive industry. But during the trip it became clear that they made military equipment.
If one of your core values is that you don’t want to be feeding wars, then you would need to walk away at this point.
What are the 4Ts?
Building relationships using the 4Ts is how a lot of people work anyway, but they do it without thinking. However, it makes life easier if you have a system.
The 4Ts stands for:
Often these days people try to build relationships on the phone or through video calls. But people want to meet you and the best relationships are formed when you’ve actually met in person. You can read their body language and use your intuition to decide if they’re a good fit.
With overseas relationships, we recommend visiting people at least once or twice a year.
You’ll find that new customers may test you to see whether you’ll do what you say you’re going to do. They might send you an enquiry on a Sunday marked “very urgent” to see what you do.
Or if you promise to deliver something, e.g. a response the next day after a meeting, then they will be watching to see whether you deliver.
Once you pass these “tests” then you may be invited to tender for a bigger order. It’s important that you over-perform on these tests to ensure you get the bigger order.
If you offer them something they don’t need, or do something that’s not consistent with your values, this will be noticed and won’t help the relationship, so it’s important to stick to your values.
Once you’ve built a relationship, the sign that you have a good relationship is when all people and parties are comfortable in the silences.
Keeping trust in the relationship is important. If a business associate embarrasses you, cancels appointments at the last minute or takes calls during your meetings then this will affect the relationship and ultimately could impact on your reputation.
An example of this is a meeting I set up between a client and another contact. The contact cancelled his attendance at the meeting at the last minute because he needed to collect a parcel, and this meant we couldn’t cover everything we needed to. My client wanted nothing more to do with him and I was no longer able to recommend him.
When it comes to trust, you need to decide for yourself what you consider to be acceptable excuses and what will kill the relationship.
BizSmart aims to help SME and micro-business owners scale their businesses and create value through sound practical business support. We aim to give you insight and clarity and fire up your determination to succeed. You can access blogs like this and more besides through our free SmartRoom service here.