Cultivating business relationships

By: Nicki Kavanagh, 29 September 2022 Categories: Culture & engagement

How do I cultivate great business relationships?

Our September quote is: “Don’t celebrate closing a sale, celebrate opening a client relationship” by Patricia Fripp. We are proud to have worked with many of our clients over the long term. Developing these relationships over time has resulted in some great friendships too.

It can be daunting to start a new business relationship. What are the key elements?

  • Set up a solid framework and structure so that everyone knows what is expected of them and how to behave. For example, create a project timeline so that the business process is transparent and there is a clear goal. It’s motivating for all to have a target in mind and to be able to celebrate achievements along the way.
  • Be communicative with your clients and network – get to know them individually. You can be yourself, authentic, and vulnerable when appropriate. No one is superhuman and you will build trust and credibility if you treat your clients as if they are a friend. When you approach every conversation with an open mind, you can help each other and create exciting possibilities that work both ways. This can be harder in a virtual world with the limits around digital communication. However, the good news is, that many of us have had a lot of experience in this area over the last two years or so. For expert tips on how to build strong business relationships remotely, look at this Harvard Business Review article.
  • Planning is key - be organised and timely with meetings. Do what you say you’ll do when you agreed to do it; be professional! Being dependable and consistent is key to building trust and respect for what you do.
  • Proactively ask for feedback and raise any concerns. It’s impossible to second guess what clients are thinking, so don’t be afraid to ask for feedback on how things are going, both the good and what could be improved. If you have any worries or queries, don’t delay in airing them and ensuring everything is on track. Set time outside your usual meeting rhythm to discuss how everyone thinks the process is going and whether expectations are being met, or hopefully exceeded!
  • Be prepared for conflict and approach it with an open mind. If you come across conflict at work or with a client, it is not necessarily a negative occurrence and handled with curiosity, all parties can come out the other side with greater understanding and knowledge. You may recall we explored ‘Workplace Conflict’ in our 2017 networking event. Here are the insights from our expert panel which still hold true.
  • Ensure you are providing value and educating your clients. Keep up with the latest trends and knowledge in your sector and share this with your network. LinkedIn is an excellent platform for this, as well as noticing when key contacts achieve a promotion, reach a personal goal, or share some of their own useful articles that you can comment on and make a connection with.

Good relationships and trust are what make us tick both professionally and personally. If you are mindful of a few key factors, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy engaging and productive business relationships with your clients, less well-known colleagues, and service providers, some of whom will likely become lifelong friends.