Mueller - Building business relationships

Sunday, June 15, 2003

At Dale Carnegie Training we truly believe people are our best assets in business. Sooner or later someone may one-up you regarding technology, someone may be able to beat your prices, but are they people-sensitive, can they be counted on in regards to personal service? Hopefully not.

How do we build business relationships? The answer to this question is simple, but not always easy. We get to know our business contacts, understand how they think, what they think. And, most importantly, we must understand how to help them grow personally and professionally. When we know our co-workers and clients, we can provide solutions to their problems that can allow them to prosper.

The good ole boy network is dead, right? Wrong! The good ole boy network is really just a bad name for a good thing -- friends who have the inner circle access to people in high places. By establishing good, honest, caring relationships with our clients, we in essence, create that network. The key words here are honest and caring.

Most upset customers just want to be heard -- oftentimes they just want to let someone know they have been wronged. Most upset employees just want recognition for a job well done. Are these not components of a good, caring relationship?

How do we establish relationships with the people with whom we do business? First we communicate. We need to be "sincerely nosey" about the people, their products, their business, the way they do business. Find out what makes a client tick.

Are they interested in anything in particular? Is there a new business philosophy that they are passionate about? If so, when we run across something in a magazine or on the Internet that is relative, make sure that person gets it -- mail it, email it, or better yet, drop it by their office in person. Let them know you listen to what they talk about. Let them know you are an ally in helping them perform at their job.

I worked for a boss who I am sure never knew the names of my children -- I only have two! I had clients who to this day, perhaps 10 years later, still ask about my kids. We are all human, and we like this kind of relationship-building questions. We appreciate people who listen.

Let's look at some Carnegie principles for building better relationships. The first principle that Mr. Carnegie teaches is "Don't criticize, condemn, or complain." Try to go the whole week eliminating these from your thoughts and conversations. This is probably the most difficult principle to practice, yet it is powerful.

When we are criticizing other people in front of our coworkers, and clients, it soon becomes obvious that perhaps we do the same when they are not around. Think in the positive; coach each other from the positive -- it does work.

Another principle is "Become genuinely interested in other people." This should be thought of on a much deeper level than just asking about the photos on someone's desk. Good salespeople know how to probe effectively with the right questions to get the sale.

As people establish sound relationships with other, we can develop "probing" questions that give us insights into what makes the other person tick. They could be questions like, "How did you get into this field?" "What were you doing at the time of . ..." And "What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment ever?" Or "What would you be doing if someone made you take a year off and just have fun?"

Mr. Carnegie teaches us to "Talk in terms of the other person's interests." We cannot do this unless we really know what the other person is interested in, can we? Get the point? Even if others we do business with do not share our interests, it may just benefit us to learn a little something about their interest. Once again, be sincerely nosey.

People buy from people they know and trust. The name of the game is always relationship building. We may not get everyone's business every time, but it is nice to know we have trust and friendships out there. Those will come back to us in the form of business, somehow, some way, just about every time.

Sharon Mueller is the regional manager for Dale Carnegie Training-St. Louis. Dale Carnegie Training is the world's oldest and largest training company. Dale Carnegie Training can provide a keynote speaker, public courses, or comprehensive organizational training programs for your organization. Mueller can be reached at 332-0900.

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