It feels to me that the concept of a business relationship is fast becoming the latest in sales terms to have lost any significant depth and genuine meaning. I believe that before anyone throws that term on the table, they should have given some serious thought as to what it really means to them and how they will execute on it.
Relationships are complicated and consist of many components that have different levels of importance and meaning to each of us. This is certainly not meant to be an all-inclusive list, but a few that resonated with me.
Integrity: Do your actions and words balance?
Transparency: Are your fees and prices easily understandable and are they consistent with what was proposed?
Courage: Can you deliver tough messages, professionally challenge when and where appropriate and do you understand when you need to have those conversations in person or at least via phone versus a text or an email?
Communication: Do you go the extra mile to close all open loops and insure that your messages have been received and are understood? Are you using the appropriate communication methods for each individual client and are you communicating with the right person?
Responsiveness: Are you returning messages, emails and texts as quickly as possible? That generally means faster than what you deem to be acceptable.
Compassion: Stuff happens. Do you have the ability to demonstrate that you truly care when discussing a difficult situation that may be facing your client?
Celebration: Do you enjoy sharing in your clients good news, success or goal achievements as much as your own? Humility: Are you comfortable admitting your mistakes and working through them? We all make mistakes. How you resolve them is what matters.
Profitability: It’s tough to truly have a healthy business relationship if it isn’t profitable. If you’re looking to make an unprofitable relationship profitable by cutting relationship corners, then you run the risk of diminishing your personal and brand value.
Value: Do your actions and words convey the value of the relationship to the client? This shouldn’t be confused with price, value is intangible, but critical to demonstrate and understand. Competitive pricing is important, but value will set you apart and create loyalty.
People: Never forget that there are real people involved within the shells of organizations.
Listening: Have you demonstrated that you listen to understand rather than listening to respond? There is no faster way to lose respect than to demonstrate you are a poor listener.
Caring: Have you taken the time to get to know your clients, their families and their employees at a more personal level? Nothing shows you care more than following up on a previous conversation where something personal was shared. Things like important moments in their lives, recovering from an illness or an anniversary. This sharing can go both ways. How much do they know about you?
Fun: Do you enjoy what you do and does it come across to them loud and clear. Equally if not more important, do you take pride in the company you represent?
Informative: Are you a resource for information and connections that are not necessarily part of the service or products you sell? Does your client ask you for help in connecting with other partners when they have a need? Have you demonstrated the ability and willingness to make business connections for them that might lead to their next sale?
Whenever I have a great experience as a client, I like to think about what made it a great experience. With each of these reflections my list of characteristics of a good business relationship expands and prompts me to evaluate my own execution.
I truly believe that anyone in a relationship management or business development role should take some time to seriously think about how they define a business relationship and then begin the process of continuous improvement. On occasion, we all will likely miss on a few of these and others not on this list, but if you spend some quality time reflecting on what a business relationship truly means to you, I think we’ll all have gained something.