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7 Tips to Build Better Business Relationships

Business Relationships Start with CommunicationThere are countless methods, tricks of the trade, and advice given by “self-described” gurus about the best ways to be in business relationships, but many fall short of executing actual tasks. I  find that many of my clients struggle with understanding their business value, messaging about their company, and truly taking interest in other business. They look at the world around them suspiciously rather than with an open mind and tend to miss opportunity to work interactively for mutual success.

The following list will help business owners and managers alike develop daily habits that will fuel better relationships and long-term growth and success. Some of them might be a no-brainer but some might surprise or be difficult to maintain. You be the judge.

1. Be punctual and prepared

As a business owner/operator punctuality remains the biggest obstacle to overcome and right after preparation. Many business meetings last too long or tend to become embroiled in side bar chatter effectively undermining the desired outcome. The critical step is knowing and setting expectations for each interaction and sticking to them. Which leads us to the next tip.

2. Craft interactive agendas

Body language in meetings says it all. Participants who are slummed over, doodling, texting, or whispering among themselves demonstrate lack of interaction with the subject matter. Interaction is a key component to any meeting and leveraging “group speak” is better than reading slides or presenting huge amounts of material in a classroom setting. People aren’t built to absorb data without creating clues, cues, and hints during the memory building process. Retention of 10% of any information is considered great. Ask yourself, “how much information do you retain from a long meeting?”

3. Listen actively and interpret  

Many business people claim to listen to their colleagues, alliance partners, or customers but don’t actually retain or regurgitate the same information. Nothing will kill a relationship faster than being perceived as someone who doesn’t “get it” or talks over the other person. Physical touch, leaning forward, and looking directly at the other person when they speak indicate interest and attention to what is being said. To show full understanding  interpret what was said and build a response using their data. Some people call this rapport. I call it a necessity.

4. Develop mutual interest outside of the subject matter

Too much direct communication about a particular subject can lead listeners away from the intended outcome. Retention of data and conversion to new ideas takes time and energy. Attempting to flood the conversation ends up in confusion. The best way to build mutual understanding is through interesting anecdotes and stories about material that is not directly related. This method gives participants a chance to link other experience to difficult concepts creating knowledge.

5. Follow up using as many methods as possible

Everyone has trouble with following up after interaction or meetings. The goal is to actively build on the meeting in creation of something better but often the results are neglect and lack of movement. I suggest a follow up e-mail, call, or note to insure the other party(s) have an understanding of what was said and expectations for the next meeting. This process can actually create an agenda for the next meeting that will be more productive.

6. Quality not quantity

Many presenters, partners, lunch dates, and colleagues suffer from word overload. Speaking too much or in circles turns off the audience and kills any relationship building. Nothing hurts worse than hearing someone drone on about a meaningless story, problem, or event. Linking concise messaging to expectation can build your reputation.

7. Be interesting and interested

Finally, each of us has expectations for our interactions with others. Communicating them to the other participant(s) has to build off of knowledge about their expectations. It is easier to speak about building cars to a car enthusiast than speaking than talking with someone who really doesn’t care about building, just how much they cost. A critical step in the relationship process is identifying what motivates others and leveraging that knowledge in communication with them.

This, by no means, is a comprehensive list and many of you will tell me what I missed. This list is designed to provide the basics and make you think about how you interact with others. If this post didn’t accomplished that, I will be happy to talk to you about it.

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