Grow your Business: Four Steps to Building Relationships

Your clients are fellow human beings; not a means to earn a paycheck.  One of the best ways to have a thriving, successful business is by cultivating meaningful relationships.  You want to learn to communicate with your clients in a way that makes them feel heard and special.  In addition, the mindset with which you approach your interactions will really affect the way they feel about you and how much they will trust you and want to work with you.

There are four stages of relationship that you will develop with an individual and in each of those you need to focus on building trust.

1. Initial meeting and awareness.  You must first meet people in order to develop a relationship with them.  Think of this in terms of a networking event that you are attending to make new contacts.  You could approach this sort of situation in a frantic, frenzied attempt to exchange cards with as many people as you can.  When your goal is to collect business cards, rather than make connections, you will have a hard time finding prospects and referral sources who want to work with you

Instead, approach a networking event with a true desire to get to know the people in the room.  Choose a handful of people that you want to meet and take the time to look them in the eye, ask pertinent questions, learn about their business, and finally tell them a bit about yourself.  If you come across as genuinely interested in them and as though you care, they will want to move to the next phase of relationship building with you.

2. Get acquainted and grow knowledge.  This is the phase where you take your initial meeting and build on it by getting to know one another better.  This is when you set up a phone call or go out for a coffee together.  Be sure to listen to the other person’s challenges and struggles.  What do they most need help with?  What are they hoping to get out of your relationship?  Capture this information and reiterate it to them in a follow-up email so that they know that you know what they need help with.  This feels really good.

In turn, educate them about your situation.  If this is a prospective client, tell them the solutions that you offer to fix those struggles that they were talking about.  If this is a referral source, let them know who your ideal client is and contacts that you would like to make.  This is your chance to educate them about you and everything that you have to offer.  However, your focus needs to be on how you can serve them, not what’s in it for you.  Just like any good relationship, you can’t be completely self-absorbed.

3. Choose to trust and take action.  This is when one or both of you decides that you have enough information to build the trust that allows you to take action.  This is an important step.  You have to cultivate the trust and knowledge up until this point with regular communication and valuable information.  At some point, your prospect becomes a client or your referral source refers your ideal client to you.  Or, perhaps you are the one who sent a referral.

This is not a time to celebrate the fact that you one them over and get to collect good, hard cash in return for all of the work that you have done converting your contact in someone who will do what you want.  This is actually the time to tell your new client why their decision was a good one.  Reassure them that they will receive the benefits that they are hoping for.  This is the time to practice gratitude for your referral and return the favor with sincerity.  The relationship building does not end at the conversion process.

4. Cultivate long-term, loyal relationships.  Now you want to build a long-term relationship with this individual.  You want to get to know them.  You want to know what is happening in their lives.  It feels so good if someone remembers that your child was working on a project and asks how it went.  Or they remember that you were getting ready to start a new class and ask how it is coming along.

Your clients and referrals are not ATMs, they are important relationships in your life.  Get to know them.  Treat them the way you would any important relationship in your life.  Let them know what you are up to.  Send them a holiday card.  The more connected you become to your business relationships, the more loyal and beneficial the relationship will become.  Treat your clients and referrals as trusted friends and they will do the same toward you.     

Look at each of the above phases and identify 3 prospects, clients, or referral sources that fall into each category. Decided on one step to take to deepen your relationship with each person and take action.  The health of your relationships is indicative of the health of your business.

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