by Leon J. Owens
Business: it’s all about nurturing relationships.
In the movie Annie Hall, Woody Allen’s most quotable line is about a romantic relationship: “It’s like a shark…it has to constantly move forward or it dies.”
The same is true of your business. If it’s not growing, if you’re not winning new customers or clients, the future of your business could be bleak. That’s why, while you’re busy making widgets or providing client services, you need to be in constant Marketing & Sales Mode.
There truly isn’t any “selling season” or “marketing month” in the business world today. To grow your business, you need to develop the habit of daily prospecting, searching out potential customers or clients. That doesn’t mean you need to spend half of each day working the phones or handing out business cards, but it does mean you need to be aware of how you appear during conversations and the in-person impressions you make in public, on the sales floor, or in board rooms.
This isn’t about “sales” or being a constant closer. This is about being ready to create and build relationships and establishing trust through an attitude of service toward potential customers or clients. Whether you’re behind a parts counter selling spark plugs or offering software service contracts to CEOs, you need to be aware of the impression you make on those on the other side of the conversation.
After many years in many roles—as land developer, investor, financier, negotiator, trusted advisor, business consultant—I’ve learned these five keys to building those relationships that turn into solid business:
- Listen well. Develop a knack for remembering names. Nobody’s flattered when they have to remind you of their name after having just been introduced to you. The key here is to pay attention to what the other person says, and take note of those things you may share in common. After your meeting or presentation, make a few notes of things you may want to recall when you speak with them again.
- Build relationships. Every potential customer or client is a person They all have their likes and dislikes…just like you do. Be genuinely interested in the other person, and in return they’ll take an interest in you. Maybe they’ve got a sports team jersey mounted on their office wall. Ask them about it, and you may find that your a fan of the same teams. Shared affinities build relationships…and business.
- Dress the part. The old saw “dress to impress” remains as true as ever. This doesn’t mean you need to wear French cuffs and tie pins, or even a necktie unless you’re in a formal business environment calling for it. Don’t overdress when meeting prospects, as it may imply you don’t understand their business or “fit in” with their culture. On the other hand, don’t show up in yesterday’s workout clothes or your credibility will have the same aroma as that old t-shirt.
- Speak the part. You don’t need to have the diction of an Oxford professor, but your words and the way you speak do have meaning. How you sound and how you articulate your ideas, the clarity and tone of your conversation…these are fundamental to conveying your message. If there is technical syntax or industry jargon involved, rehearse them aloud so they become a natural part of your daily vocabulary, along with your ability to routinely define them for others. And don’t forget: it’s never a “pitch”, but always a conversation.
- Don’t fake it. Always be who you are, the genuine Anything less will be transparently phony and will not be trusted. Only by being yourself can you be consistently sincere, convincing, and trusted. Most deals do not close in a single day, or through a single conversation. The majority of customers or clients will take repeated contacts to win to your side. When you make those contacts, do so with a purpose. Be a giver, have something to share with them, even if it’s just a piece of industry news or a blog post like this one.
The bottom line, of course, is to remember it’s all about being of service. Your clients and customers have needs to fulfill, enjoy meaningful relationships, and are working toward the same business success you’re after.
After all, we’re not that different from each another, are we?