The importance of building relationships

03 Apr 2013 | Naomi Marshall

Stop and consider a person you know of who is really well connected, someone who just knows lots and lots of people. Someone who has plenty of friends, seems to be invited to all the great events and ‘luck’ seems to be always on their side. What personality traits do they display?

Chances are they are a born networker, great communicator and have outstanding relationship building skills. Sure they may have been graced with some of these skills at birth however, there is a good chance that they’ve also worked hard at developing and fine tuning these skills over the years. Don’t be deceived that this comes easy to them and don’t for one second think that you can’t develop these skills as well.

No matter what job you are in and what level of responsibility you hold in the company it’s my firm belief that the better your relationship building skills the more successful you will be.

Business relationships are just like any other relationship. They require some effort to maintain and must be mutually beneficial for both parties. As in any relationship, you must be willing to give, share and support, not just take and receive.

Here are a couple of great tips for anyone, no matter whether you are the business owner or director, the assistant to that person, the receptionist or even the office cleaner. The principles remain the same. Relationships need to be nurtured and fostered.

Collate and save information

Irrespective of whether or not you are in a sales role you need to create a personal database. With smartphones and the vast amount of electronic devices it’s never been easier. Start saving information about people such as their partners and childrens names, birthdays, places they have been on holidays or places they say they are visiting, hobbies or sporting interests, a wedding date or due date for a baby, where they live or any other quirky or unique things about that person. You may think you’ll remember all these things but until you really get to know them a lot of the small details can be forgotten.

Record it so that next time you are speaking to them you can mention their partners name, or talk about how their sporting team did on the weekend or ask about their childs first day at school. People love nothing more than when others show an interest in them so take the time to remember the little details.

Do this regularly and don’t wait. As soon as you’ve had the conversation, take a minute to enter a few notes. This will pay off as the years go on.

Listen more than you talk

In order to be able to collate all this valuable information you need to LISTEN. If you are the one doing all the talking how are you going to find out about the other person? Ask lots of questions not because you have to but because you want to. People can tell when you’re not being genuine.

Encourage Honest Feedback

An open, honest relationship demands clear communications of how each party is performing so don’t be afraid to encourage constructive criticism and be brave enough to suggest ways that the other person may be able to communicate with you more effectively.

Give More than You Receive

Be sure to contact people when you are NOT in need of something. Take the time to learn about them as individuals and show an interest in them as a person, not just a client or someone you can use to get something from.

A small gift, a card for their birthday or just a simple phone call or email when you know they are going through a tough time speaks volumes.

Be Proactive

Yes a relationship is a two way street, you must give and receive. However, sometimes you do need to be the one on the front foot. Don’t always wait for someone to contact you. How hard is it to send a simple text asking how they are? Or wishing them luck for a big presentation, or sending them a link to an article you thought they might find interesting? Keeping in touch with small ‘touch points’ such as these keep a relationship flowing and the lines of communication open.

Open up

Give up a bit of information about yourself as well. Allow people into your world and give them an insight into who you are, what goes on in your life, what you like, what makes you laugh, how you spend your weekends etc.

Be a real person. Being too professional all the time is a bore and no-one builds a relationship with a bore!

Make it Personal

Sometimes it’s great to send an actual physical letter or card of appreciation as opposed to just an e-mail. How often do you receive an actual card, in the mail, to say ‘Thank you?’

Many years ago an amazing entrepreneur from the recruitment industry (who will not go unnamed, Graham Whelan!) taught me the importance of sending hand written thank you cards. He felt that the world was becoming too impersonal with emails and a lack of contact so he instilled into me the importance of sending, what some may say, an old fashioned, handwritten card. Still to this day the number of people who comment on this amazes me. It’s a thoughtful touch and not done enough.

Meet Face-to-Face

Whenever possible get out and see people! Nothing beats the value of a personal catch up face to face. It’s the quickest way to build a relationship and the perfect way to listen and speak at the same time. Give and take. The basis of building a relationship.

Again, it doesn’t need to be a huge event nor does it need to involve alcohol. The days of boozy lunches and expensive dinners are rapidly being curbed as everyone pulls in their purse strings. A coffee or even a breakfast catch up can be just as valuable.

Or invite a contact to a fun event like a cooking class because you know they love cooking or see if they’d like to share tickets to a sporting event that you know they enjoy. It will help to naturally deepen the relationship and get to know each other better in a social setting.

Whatever you do, don’t do nothing! Nothing changes if nothing changes. That is my all-time favourite saying. If you want to build a wider network, if you want to strengthen relationships and if you want to build more satisfying partnerships both personally and professionally then YOU are the only one who can do so.

Naomi Marshall – Director
P: (02) 9271 0011
M: 0422 139 910

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