Building Relationships in Business

I was recently invited to attend a Business Networking function. I wasn’t completely in love with the idea of trekking to North London, but thought – you know, I’m starting my own business, I can meet people, rhubarb, rhubarb….

I was just managing to successfully talk myself out of being cross about the long trek, when I learned that the “interesting” workshop I had signed up for, wasn’t going to be a workshop at all, it was now the Keynote speech, starting at 7.40pm. Watch check: 3.30pm, this could be a long evening!

They did give me two drinks vouchers and as I am only human, I stayed.

I signed up for the first workshop (or rather man standing at front of room sprouting death by PowerPoint). It didn’t start all that well; firstly the presenter was late, then the audio didn’t work. The PowerPoint slides had been set up for another version so they jumped all over the screen. Very professional so far. I couldn’t actually see the screen, because the sunshine was coming in through the windows……. apart from that, I was impressed that I was about to learn all about “Winning Business in a Recession, Sales and Networking” from a presenter who looked roughly 12 years old.  At this point I am feeling quite self-righteous and congratulating myself for staying!

The wine was helping.

Once ‘Youthful Presenter’ (YP) managed to get the audio working, I was kind of looking forward to something promising. The workshop was going to teach me how to build my business, how to create a USP (unique selling proposition) and ultimately make me a mega-successful business woman.  I was all ears!

Then I felt the strangest urge, almost physical. I was thrust back into 1984! I know I put that wine down somewhere…

Then YP started sharing information that not only had I heard a few hundred times before, but it annoyed me all those years ago, when I heard it first and was actually working in sales. I should have spotted it straight away when he asked the question “Who here is in sales?”  Of course the answer should have been everyone….so lost points to those who thought they were in business!

I won’t bore you with the details, because it got more and more corny; people buy benefits not products or services, turn to the next person and in 5 words or less tell them what it is you do……

Oh, where did I put that glass???

I’m still working really hard not to be negative or get annoyed. I got out of sales because of this. You see, I don’t really fit in flogging stuff to people who don’t need it. I have these pesky things called values and oddly, I believe in sustainable business relationships.

I just don’t get the hard sell. I never have, and I hope I never will. Most people are smarter than that. I have no desire to participate in “Speed Networking” or “Time for Action” sessions where I have to tell the next person all about my business in two minutes.

Oh…was that me snoring, sorry!

I thought I would pass.  I answered all the questions the right way; yes I have a business, yes I want it to be successful, yes I would like to roam the world with no financial worries and buy small children like Madonna (OK, maybe not the last one).

I just believe there are other ways to do it.

In sales for some very large multi-national organisations, people bought stuff from me. Me. Yes, the big company names helped and some would argue made it very easy, but it was me. I left organisations and people moved with me.

As a Manager and HR Manager, I was always thrilled when I got the opportunity to make a difference to people’s lives. I was responsible for having a positive affect on another human being – WOW!! That is still one of the best natural highs I can get! I used to get that feeling when I sold something to a customer I knew needed it.

So, I guess I failed this course.

My USP was me. Yes, it was the fact that I provide a “whole of business social media strategy for my clients”. But anyone can do that. It’s all over the internet. Google it and see what you find. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to plagiarise anything and pretend you know what you are talking about, then pretend you mean it.

Social Media is no different to real communication with real people. Say what you think, what you mean. Do it politely, do it with grace and share information that makes people trust that you know what you are talking about. It can be hard to build relationships with people in business, so make sure you learn how to be good at it. Yes, some of that is innate. Personality is innate, as a grumpy beautician told me the other day when she was tearing the hairs and skin right off me, grumbling all the time that the new young girls just don’t seem to have the ability to engage with their clients. Clearly not as much as she did, wax, hairs and bad attitude in hand.

Everything we do is about relationships. Even the daily transaction in your local shop. Be the person that smiles, says hello, makes their day. You never know what your sharing can bring. Get to know your customers and their business. What makes them work? What are their objectives for the business? How can Social Media help? Remember it is just another tool in your arsenal for communication. Open communication builds relationships. Relationships build strong customer bases and more sales.

Nothing else could possibly matter when you are in a business based on your reputation. Isn’t that all of us??

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15 thoughts on “Building Relationships in Business

  1. Sharon,

    Well written and very entertaining at the same time! You’ve touched on a core principle of social engagement (despite the media) which is to treat the other “guy” as a real person and good things will happen. If only our Congress-persons would get that!!

    Laura

  2. I recently resigned from a company that supported that same mundane level of selling. How nice to focus on your clients and be the one person in their day who offers service with a smile instead of asking for their credit card.
    I love how your blog is relevant to any industry and creates the visual it intends.
    Looking forward to the next one Sharon!

    1. Lovey –
      Thanks for your comment. I know that was a big change for you – but I also know that those clients of yours who took the time to thank you, come to your house and give you gifts, were positively affected by who you are and what you did for them, investing in them! I know you get it, we had a great teacher!!

      Thanks for the comment!
      S

  3. Hi Sharon

    I can so see you sitting with that glass of wine going “what the?” It is really frustrating when you go along to seminars/workshops and they end up disappointing – at least it gave you the hook for this great post.

    I had a very interesting conversation with a colleague yesterday about this very subject. Relationships are so important in business and life. When working for a big brand opportunities come to you more easily. When you move on from those brands those opportunities dry up for those who have not taken the time to build relationships and act with integrity. On the other hand doors open due to the relationships we have built and nutured.

    When I started out on my own and was tossing around all sorts of cool business names it finally came down to what do I have to offer clients – the answer – me and my commitment to each and every existing and new relationship. To date it is working for me.

    Thanks for the reinforcement of this belief.

    Susan

    1. Hi Susan,
      Yes wine might be my downfall (however it has kept me sane of the past few weeks especially!!) You are right about the you part of the business – I totally agree. People buy from you because of your experience, credibility and down to earth nature. It counts for so much more than these snake oil sales-men give credit for!!

      Thanks for the comment!
      Sharon

  4. Wow Sharon.

    Great blog post.

    I used to work for a company that had much sales going in the front door as customers heading for the exit. If they had half the customer knowledge you have they wouldn’t need an exit anymore.

    I totally agree that business is and always should be quality and not quantity.

    Building relationships and opening the communication avenues helps you to understand your target audience and constantly adapt to their needs. What business wouldn’t want a 24/7 focus group on hand??

    Keep the posts coming Sharon!

    1. Hi Mick,
      Thanks for the comment! I love that, a focus group on hand 24/7, I bet most companies don’t realise that, let alone think of it that way! How powerful, thank you!
      Regards
      Sharon

  5. Hi Sharon I enjoyed your post and the story. As an older entrepreneur I enjoyed the YP description. Isn’t the key just listening properly ? Customers today want to be heard and their voice is becoming louder each day via social media. The businesses that start with the customer (outside-in thinking if you are into process design !) and continues to listen and respond to the customer will be the winner in our new world

    1. Hello Ray,
      Thank you for the comment, I appreciate your time to respond! Yes, I think it is listening properly- or in most cases, listening at all! We are now seeing the companies that welcome this, with how they respond, which of course is half the issue with then building stronger relationships.

      Regards
      Sharon

  6. Having never been in sales or had sales in my work title (well not the soap powder type) I recognise that I have always been selling. I think some people sell themselves, other sell other “stuff”;either way you have to believe in what you sell to be really good at it.

    I am currently playing a long game trying to get a mentoring practice (?) underway to try and augment what seems to be a withering future pension.

    I am seeing that if you believe in what you sell it shows, that if you try to hard it does not work in this country. By and large people want to buy rather than be sold to, so give them space, give them time, but also give them reason.

    Good luck and keep it up.

    I would say thought that you need a degree of sensitivity and patience. I managed (well tried to) a large change programme for a large Aus Bank in this country. The team included a large team of your countrymen and women who had been parachuted in full of self belief and that the UK must be wanting what they brought. Your comment about thongs on your site resonated more than you can know.

    It was actually one of the most stressful times of my life trying to meld the two cultures and I developed a strapline – “seduced by the similarities, b*ggered by the differences”

    Ultimately the home team prevailed, but it took a long time and much pain for your compatriots to accept and adapt.

    Ok just one instance, but a very real one.

    M

    1. Hi Ian,

      Thank you for such a well thought out response! I loved your comments and particularly love that you are trying to get a mentor practice up and running, congratulations! The cultural change is a stressful thing, no matter that we all seem to speak the same language, because we are made up of so much more than just verbals! I talk, a lot! I also ask lots of questions which I have found can be considered quite rude here. So I empathise with you on working with a bunch of cocky Aussies (we have the ability to do that so well!!)

      Really appreciate the thoughts, and happy to connect with you if you are on LinkedIn? I have a few connections in Professional and Personal Coaching etc if you are interested.
      Regards
      Sharon

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