How To Create Long Lasting Business Relationships

cultivate your buyers

We’re reflecting on what it takes to create a business that lasts and is of lasting value, during this, our 20th year. Among the top 5 practices is a company’s commitment to creating long lasting relationships. Too many current business practices do the exact opposite. Are your one-on-ones really one-and-dones? How many times have you suggested meeting someone “to get to know each other better and look for synergies”? just to add them to your mailing list, wave ‘hi’ in passing and …nothing.

Or, you offer a complimentary coaching session or consultation, “no sales, no marketing, no kidding.” A person takes advantage of it, and then…nothing.

Or, you offer a free analysis of a website, branding or marketing collateral, or other intellectual property, and the person says ‘thanks’ and then…nothing.

I Know Why this Happens

I have been on the receiving or taking end of these situations many times and recall only a rare few that turned into something. In fact, I’ve been offering something similar, a Listening Call, for a few years and rarely do they go beyond that initial conversation.

I felt it was time to figure out why.

Speaking with my own advisor, Mark LeBlanc, we asked each other “What does that business owner, banker, CPA, attorney, designer, IT expert, trainer, or specialty consultant think when they read or hear an offer: “complementary session, no sales, no marketing, no kidding.” Or “complimentary coaching, no obligation.” Or “let’s see what synergies we have.” They hear and they feel deep in their bones that this is absolutely about buying. It’s dressed up to suggest there will be no pressure, but that veneer can’t hide the real goal.

What to Do Instead?

Get to know people. Really know them.

Mark calls his conversations “Coffee talks.” You can meet with me for “Coffee with Susan.” We want to hear your story. However, you care to tell it, with whatever highlights or low lights you care to share. We want you to feel you have a new business best friend; to feel that we are deeply caring and sympathetic. Being in business is hard, the challenges are never ending, and demands are heavy. Having sincere friends can help.

What’s the Difference?

No matter my skill or Mark’s—or yours—we do our best work with people we know and know about. Knowing doesn’t develop in line with an agenda or process. It doesn’t fit neatly into a methodology. It doesn’t flow smoothly through your sales pipeline. Knowing develops over time, and that is the other person’s time line. Maybe sooner, maybe later, but we don’t control that. We are here and we care.

Cultivating and Nurturing

I’ve been practicing, writing, and talking about, cultivating and nurturing for many years. My understanding and techniques have improved over time. “Coffee with Susan” is the latest, and the very best, model of cultivating and nurturing.

If you consider these words—cultivating and nurturing—you know they require deep knowledge and patience. To cultivate a plant, you must provide the right environment including soil, light, and water. To nurture that plant you have to add nutrients and make adjustments as the environment changes and as the plant grows. It may need more or less water or light depending on the seasons or the room temperature.

People need the same. They need the right environment, the right nutrients and an attentive person recognizing when changes are needed to maintain luxuriant growth.

What’s Your New and Next Step?

I know there’s relentless pressure to meet strangers, hope they turn into clients or referral partners, and so on. Lead share groups are only about this. Networking is primarily about exchanging business cards and meeting afterwards. Groups are launched daily in an effort to bring strangers together that will like magic, turn into a stream of business. I also know that there are a few fields where these tactics work well.

However, for most companies, owners, executives and business development practitioners, the rush to a follow up meeting, free consultation or complimentary review, is counterproductive. You spend lots of time doing these, which prevents you from devoting the time and energy required to cultivate and nurture your current customers, clients and advocates.

Try hearing people’s stories instead. Be attentive, sympathetic and caring. Bring plenty of light, sun and water to them. Watch them grow. Be ready for them to turn to you one day and say, “I know I can count on you. I’d love for you to help me.”

How do YOU cultivate and nurture people you care about? Share your story via email or by phone. 703-801-0345.