Do I have peanuts in my teeth?
No really, tell me the truth.
It’s a strange request. But how many times have you asked a question hoping for a straight answer only to be the recipient of a passive response?
Everyday there’s a new article about using social media to form business relationships and how important relationship building is to conducting business. It’s true to some extent, but I believe the relationship isn’t formed– truly formed– until you’ve had the opportunity to tell someone the truth. The real truth. Or in some cases, your unfiltered opinion. Most everything before that is shallow and typically self-serving.
There are always exceptions but I’m here to make a point, so on I go. Here are the steps to building a solid business relationship (in my unfiltered opinion).
1) Find Common Ground. Find the thing you have in common with whomever it is you want to talk to first. In the biz, we call it insight. Today there are a myriad of ways to learn about someone you want to do business with. Maybe you’re both from the same home town, or you’ve worked in a similar business. It could be you know someone in common, you read an article, or you experienced something related, etc. Whatever it is, without it, you’re just a stranger creating white noise.
2) Ok, Now You Need to Connect. You’ve found the thing. Determining how you reach out is dependent on what you’ve found. Should you connect on LinkedIn? Send a cold email? Call directly? Send a box of Cheryl’s cookies? Get creative, but keep it real. If the message you send is cheesy, it’ll likely be ineffective. This is the actual first impression, so you can’t mess up here because this is the basis for building the relationship. Side note: if you don’t get a response, don’t assume there’s no interest. Sometimes it’s all about timing.
3) Work on Building the Trust Now. (assuming you’ve received a positive response of some sort). Go into the meeting or call with a nugget of information (or solid opinion) relative to their business that your contact likely doesn’t know. It could be about their industry, a competitor or even their own company. Start off by telling them in general terms why you wanted to meet them. Again, keep it real. It can be as simple as “I love your brand, I’m an advocate and I want to be a contributor to helping you grow. It may not be today, but I’d like to work with you.”
If your sincerity and honesty doesn’t help open the conversation, move on for now. Because at the end of the day, open, honest communication is what you really need for a stellar client relationship. Trust. And if your gut-check meter detects you’re not appreciated, your time is likely better spent elsewhere.
If on the other hand your contact is gracious enough to hear you out and you have your act together, you’re well your way to doing business with them. You’ve started this relationship off by building trust rather than “selling”. And that leads to a much better business partnership in the future.