Running my fledgling operation from a basement storage facility in 1996 gave me great discomfort, but nearly 15 years later, I can appreciate the progress we have made that much more. Like most budding entrepreneurs, I spent most of my time multi-tasking to the maximum while playing a sales guy and customer service rep simultaneously. This left little time to devote to building relationships and I struggled to make consistent contact with people that mattered to me.
Even when I worked long into the evening, which I still do occasionally, I never had enough time to get to know people as well as I would have liked in the early stages of my organization. I was always chasing the next client, running to the next event, or putting out a fire. There were many fires, or more aptly stated, smoldering embers that I left untouched and unattended that could have been handled better.
Yes, the company was growing fairly well and I was making a nice reputation for myself, but I wondered at what long-term cost? Some say I would not have a successful business now if I didn’t hustle like a crazy person for those first few years. They may be right...but there had to have been a better way.
What I have gleaned from over a thousand sales presentations, dealing with clients and employees was a simple, yet elusive concept: People value relationships, but buy products and services. You can't buy a relationship, (legally speaking) but you can foster one that leads to lifelong loyalty to you and your brand.
All business people are looking for a way to create a straight line to the top of the productivity chart. I took a set of stairs that may have taken longer than it could have if I had followed different guidelines along the way. I spend much of my time now learning from others that have been successful so I can create a steeper curve and get where I want to go even faster and with less effort.
Here are three surefire ways to help build relationships by continuing the conversation with a prospect or client:
Politely badger them
After meeting someone for the first time, put your follow up mechanism into motion. Send a thank you note via email or snail mail, connect on social media and provide valuable information; not sales pitches. Automate this with simple reminder tools such as those built in with products like Outlook or other CRM tools.
Help a new relationship by referring them to a colleague that may find value in the relationship. Don’t think you can only help in your area of expertise but be a resource for your prospects and clients and they will never forget you.
Be an Expert
When you are the most knowledgeable person in your marketplace you will become a magnet for like-minded pros. After all, they are supposed to be hiring you because you know MORE than them on a particular topic. You are going to solve their challenges. Being the best and continuing to help them after the relationship begins will win you praise.
Providing value above and beyond what prospects and clients expect are the best ways to attract and maintain a loyal fan base. They will act as your informal sales force to help you generate new business. What are you waiting for....get out there and continue the conversation. You will reach your goals more expeditiously and with less effort when you follow the three tips above.
Small business expert Rob Basso is the founder of BassoOnBusiness.com, a web-based community dedicated to inspiring the entrepreneurial spirit and getting American businesses back on their feet. He is the president and owner of Advantage Payroll Services, the region’s largest independently owned payroll provider, and the author of The Everyday Entrepreneur. He can be reached at email@example.com and make sure to purchase your copy of The Everyday Entrepreneur today!