7 Rules For Keeping and Maintaining Business Relationships

Cultivating strong business relationships is one of the most important factors for the success of any business, especially in light of the economic headwinds of the past five years. Now, more than ever, businesses need to pay particular attention to maximizing their return on investment. One of the best ways to do that is to make sure your current clients choose to stay with you. By some estimates, the cost of keeping an existing customer is as low as one-tenth of the cost of acquiring a new one. So cultivating strong business relationships offers a cost effective way to do business. Here are seven tips that can help you do that.

1) Everyone Is Important – The #1 lesson in relationship building is that “all relationships are important.” You want to build as many positive relationships as possible, because opportunities can come from anywhere. You never know who might be a key decision maker down the road or who might be highly influential behind closed doors. Showing genuine interest in and respect for other people pays big dividends in the long run.

2) Lay The Foundation Early – Identify potential clients or partners early. Express your interest, meet with them, and learn about their goals and objectives. Listen. Then, if and when that firm moves into your market, you’re at the top of their list. Why? Because you’ve already established contact and initiated a relationship. People like to work with people they know.

3) Meet Face-To-Face – My preferred method of contact is a face-to-face meeting. Why? Because any successful relationship means many months – maybe many years – of future collaboration. In a face-to-face meeting, you can read body language and pick up on non-verbal cues you just can’t see over the telephone. Can I trust this person I’m looking to do business with? You’ll likely know the answer after that first meeting. Also, a face-to-face meeting lets you get a feel for an organization and its culture. We want to work with partners who are collaborative and willing to listen so we can both benefit from each other’s experience. This creates a win/win for everyone.

4) Stay Active – Work to maintain worthwhile relationships, even if they don’t yield business in the short-term. In some cases, contacts move on to different firms, and it’s important to keep those relationships going. For example, I’ve had business contacts I really like move to other firms outside of our market. If I feel the relationship is valuable from a personal standpoint, I’ll make sure to keep in touch. Often, these friends turn out to be excellent sources for information, advice, and industry intelligence.

5) Have Patience – If you really want to work with someone, keep at it. If there’s potential for real synergy between ourselves, our potential partner, and the owner, we’ll be persistent in our efforts. Some working relationships have taken more than three years to cultivate, but it’s well worth the time in order to get the right partner.

6) Provide Unique Value – This is extremely important. Make sure you always bring something to the table. Ask yourself why someone would want to do business with you. The answer should be that you provide unique value for them – value it’s difficult to find anywhere else. In our business, good market intelligence provides a leg up. So share it. Your existing partners will love you for it, and that same expert knowledge opens the door to new relationships.

7) Everyone Builds Relationships – Remember, anyone engaged in contact with people outside of the firm (which is everyone) has the potential to develop and maintain beneficial relationships for your business. Friends, neighbors, and former co-workers are all fertile ground for potential business opportunities. So encourage everyone in your organization to build relationships.

While this is by no means an exhaustive list of rules for keeping and maintaining business relationships, your organization will be much better off if you apply them. The common theme running through each of these rules is communication. Communication is the key to business development. It plays a role in everything we do as a firm. If you don’t have a business development person who is a good communicator, you don’t have a business development person at all. Business is about more than just transactions. It’s about personal bonds and intimate connections. If you commit to strengthening those bonds and connections, both you and your firm will benefit immeasurably.

Ben Lilly is Senior Vice President and Director of Embassy Programs for H&A Architects & Engineers. Having traveled to over 25 different countries, he is committed to the mission of the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Overseas Building Operations – to build safe and secure platforms of diplomacy around the globe.

SOURCE: http://www.ha-inc.com/blog/entry/7-rules-keeping-and-maintaining-business-relationships/

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BEDeC Business & Ideas Clinic

The Business & Ideas Clinic is an initiative of BEDeC to assist Entrepreneurs and Business Owners to refine and develop their ideas, properly structure their businesses, think up innovative and cost effective marketing campaigns, be adequately equipped to overcome the challenges of entrepreneurship and to be supported to achieve success in their business endeavors.

In Association with The African Network of Entrepreneurs(TANOE), The BEDeC Business & Ideas Clinic is free for all members of TANOE but going for a heavily discounted fee of ¢20.00 per session for Non-Members. Due to limited entry, prior booking is advised. To book a session, call +233-307-034585, +233-506-514523 or send an email to info@bedecghana.com or inbox Business & Entrepreneur Development Centre – BEDeC

10 Effective Business Networking Tips

Networking is probably the most effective and least expensive marketing method you can use to build your business or practice, especially if you do business in your local area.

A lot of business owners and practitioners I talk to say that they don’t like to network or they haven’t found it to be effective. That’s probably because they don’t know how to do it or they may have unrealistic expectations about the timing of results.

I do a lot of networking both online and off. As a natural people person who likes to talk, networking is relatively easy for me. But even if you’re a bit on the shy side or have reservations about the potential for success with networking, you can gain value from this activity if you follow certain guidelines.

Here are some tips that can ensure your networking success.

1. Choose the right venues. Not every group of people will be right for you. Choose groups where people congregate who share your interests and/or are potential clients. Chambers of Commerce, men’s and women’s organizations, networking groups, special interest groups, and associations are all potential choices. Or perhaps a MeetUp.com group in your area will appeal to you.

2. Develop relationships. Networking is not about selling, but rather developing relationships that can lead to sales or referrals. The idea is to get to know people and allow them to get to know you.

Often, people approach networking with the hope of making a sale or getting a client after one visit to an appropriate group. That’s not how it works. People do business with those they know and trust and it can take time to build up that knowledge and trust. So approach a networking event without any expectation of getting new business. Instead go with the idea of meeting new people or schmoozing with those you’ve already gotten to know.

3. Dress appropriately and professionally. Establish yourself as a successful person, which you can do by dressing the part. This does not mean that you need to wear expensive clothes, but do wear something a bit on the dressy side and leave the comfortable baggy pants at home. If necessary, get advice from an image consultant.

4. Be prepared. Bring plenty of business cards, but only give them to people who show a real interest in what you do. Brochures or printed postcards can also be effective. Also, craft a short description of what you do — no more than 10 or 15 seconds.

5. Ask questions and listen. You don’t have to talk a lot about what you do in order to find potential customers. Rather, ask people you meet questions about them and their business, then listen carefully to their answers. Find points of commonality that you can bring into the conversation.

6. Sit with people you don’t know. Many events have walk-around networking followed by a sit-down meeting of some sort. During the walk-around, do talk to people you have met before to enhance your relationship, but sit with people you don’t know in order to widen your network and meet potential customers. Here too, ask questions and listen.

7. Talk to people who are standing alone. People attend networking events to meet others. If someone is standing alone, that’s the perfect opportunity to make a new contact. You might want to start the conversation by saying, “May I join you?”

8. Move on – politely. Don’t spend all of your time talking to one person. Gather the information you need, exchange business cards, if appropriate, and move on. I often say, “I’d like to do some mixing now. It’s been a pleasure speaking to you.”

9. Give to get. Focus on what you can do for others, not what they can do for you. Perhaps you know someone who could use your prospects services. If you do, make the referral.

10. Follow up. If you make a good connection with someone, after the event, send a note saying how much you enjoyed meeting them. If appropriate, send an article or some kind of information that they might find helpful. Do not add them to your mailing list without their permission.

Networking is a process, not a one-off event. Take the time to develop relationships with people who interest you. Be proactive and invite someone to a one-to-one meeting so you can get to know them.

Remember that most business owners and practitioners are looking for connections. Be bold and step forward into their world.

By Joan Sotkin

Stress-Relieving Tips for the Mind

1. Cultivate gratitude. Things will go wrong throughout our workday, or at least not according to plan. This is inevitable. We can take the sting out of these negative events by focusing on what’s great in our life. Each evening, write down three things you are grateful for. They can be as simple as seeing a gorgeous sunrise or being complimented on your new pair of shoes.

2. Meditate regularly. A consistent meditation practice — even if it’s only five minutes a day — may help lower blood pressure, and can help us control the thoughts that can trigger stress. The next time you get stressed because your boss just added another task to your already overflowing to-do list, stop and take a breath. Shake out your body, sit back down and meditate for five minutes.

3. Learn to say “no”. Being overbooked, overworked, and over committed will lead to stress. We often feel obligated to say “yes” to everything for fear we won’t be liked. But the greatest act of stress relief is exercising your right to say no. You can be polite but firm: Explain to others that you are over committed and that you must say no. And yes, you can even tell your boss “no”; just explain that one more project will mean the quality of your work will drop. Negotiate priorities.

Contributed by: Sarata Adams

5 Critical Business Growth Tips

1. Business Growth is a mindset

Yes, your growth may be influenced by factors like the economy or the market sector you have chosen to play in. But your growth is not fixed by fate. It’s driven by a growth mindset.

Right now, there are growth sectors that have failing businesses in them. And there are sectors that have reached maturity which have growth stars rising in them.

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10 Tips to Help You Build and Grow a Stand-Out Small Business Brand

Small businesses are in a unique position to create valuable customer experiences. Their products and services are often niche; the target customer is very defined; and business operations are agile and unconstrained by corporate rules and processes. Small businesses are also trusted for their integrity, community engagement and customer service. When was the last time you called a small business and got put through to an automated call center? These seemingly small things come together to create a hugely competitive value proposition – and are the lynchpin of your brand.

But what can you do to leverage these experiences and grow the appeal of your brand – without breaking the bank? Here are 10 tips that can help:

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Why You Should Learn Mobile App Programming

The most striking feature of the modern era is the almost alarming rate at which change goes on all around us. Entire landscapes are modified in a matter of a couple of years, relationships form and reform over days and hours, and it seems like only a matter of a month or so before what was once the most cutting-edge and technologically advanced gadget you could find becomes passé and is replaced by a better, newer and improved version.

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