Maintenance is key if you want to preserve your assets. You take your car in for a tune-up every few months. You pay someone to secure and update your website. You even do yoga to maintain a healthy body. But are you maintaining strong business relationships?
In corporate communications, maintaining strong business relationships is a crucial asset. The right relationship can be the difference between getting constantly stonewalled by receptionists and getting the CEO’s direct line. The right relationship can open the door to your next large shareholder or help you gain insight into a potential client leading to a new contract.
Building Better Business Relationships.
Before we talk about maintaining strong business relationships, though, it’s important to consider how to build better relationships in the first place. Regardless of industry, the most successful people in business are relationship builders.
This can sound initially daunting, especially to introverts. But keep in mind that building relationships in business is not rocket science; so don’t overthink it. If you remember what your Kindergarten teacher taught you, you already know how to create strong relationships:
- Be proactive, not pushy.
- Listen more than you speak.
- Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable.
- Meet face-to-face whenever practical.
- Be honest and encourage honesty in others.
Establishing business relationships can take time, however, so once you have the ear of influencers in your industry, be sure to continue cultivating these connections.
Don’t simply call people when you need something. You want them to be happy to pick up the phone when you call. Once you have built those core business relationships, it’s time to develop good habits for maintaining and nurturing them.
Is it Time for a Relationship Tune Up?
Don’t worry, I’m not about to suggest that you take a Buzzfeed quiz (as fun as that might be). But I am suggesting that you create systems to guarantee that you take time to check-in with your most important business relationships regularly. I even schedule time in my calendar for what I call relationship tune ups.
Starting the conversation is as easy as stepping away from our desks, inviting one of your connections to have coffee, and asking her what industry trends she’s seeing or what she did last year that worked really well. We often get so busy in our own projects that we lose track of other important initiatives in our organization—and the people that are working hard to make them happen. This can make us forget how nice it feels to be heard. So just ask.
Who Should I Connect With?
I intentionally cultivate relationships with anyone who knows my industry, including (gasp) my competitors; anyone who understands business; and anyone who makes me feel like the best version of myself.
It’s important to build relationships across all segments. If you focus only on building and maintaining strong business relationships with customers, you are ignoring potentially game-changing resources. So, avoid the temptation to write off suppliers and manufacturers just because you’re going after the “big fish” in your industry.
You might be surprised who can help you get to the next level and meet some amazing people along the way!
In 2017, to meet your goals and accelerate growth, keep the following partners on your radar:
1. Business Enablers – Set meetings with departments such as finance, human resources, and legal to help anticipate any big changes that could affect your investors’ bottom line in 2017.
2. Operations – The better you understand the business, the more effective you’ll be at communicating with investors and advising leadership. So talk to the heads of operations to find out what new products or services will be released or what new clients and contracts they are most excited about. Offer to host a town hall meeting sharing your expertise (give us a call if you need ideas here—we have lots of suggestions!) in exchange for getting the chance to see a product demo.
3. Media – Communicate with your media contacts of course, but rather than telling them what you think they should know, ask them what changes they would like to see and what information their audiences would appreciate most.
4. C-Suite Executives – This relationship can be bound by formality. Still, it doesn’t hurt to ask about your working relationship and processes. Is meeting on a quarterly basis working for you? What else could we be doing to help you feel prepared before an investor meeting/town hall/CNBC interview? Is 80 pages of earnings Q&A sufficient? Would you prefer more or less?
5. Peers and Colleagues – Have coffee and ask them what they’re working on or ask for advice. Many people have innovative ideas they keep to themselves until someone asks the right question.
6. Professional Groups – What are the most important resources you need to move your company forward? Rather than trying to reverse engineer everything yourself, pick the brains of those who have already plowed the way ahead of you.
7. Personal and Life – It’s those who are closest to us who can give us the most crucial information about ourselves. Our spouses, friends, children, family often know us better than we even know ourselves. So, ask, “how am I communicating?” “How am I handling stress?” Consider that whatever you are doing at home is probably spilling over somewhere else.
At Audacia Strategies, we specialize in maintaining strong business relationships. We love to help clients solve communications issues. Call us today to schedule a free consultation and we can meet for coffee!
What business relationships will you be working to maintain this year? Let’s continue the conversation in the comments below.
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