Business relationships can often be improved. Especially in leadership and sales, the difference between good and great can be better business relationships. Nurturing these important connections doesn’t just happen. You have to be intentional and commit to the long haul.
Here are three time-tested ways that work. These are concrete steps that help you observe and absorb what makes a person tick. These strategies will help you relate authentically, which is the key to building stronger relationships.
1. Give. Great relationships are cultivated by consistent giving. Start by asking: How can you help your most important business contacts—those you already have and those you want to gain? Your answer to that question, and your follow-up actions, will create a place to start adding value.
- Introducing them to a person in your circle who can help them in some way.
- Forwarding valuable industry-specific news or leads; look for sources that your contact is not tapping.
- Pointing them to books and articles that could advance their goals.
- Providing knowledge, access or assistance that they cannot easily secure otherwise.
The mindset is always about the other person, not about you.
As an agent, I had to build relationships with key players so they would choose me to represent them. Giving authentically was crucial. My mindset and behavior was built around the idea of, “How can I act like I have the business before I have the business? How can I give and give and give so that this player thinks, they don’t represent me yet and look all they are doing for me?”
The more your empathy guides your thoughts and actions, the more you will project positivity to this important contact. Give without expectations of receiving something in return. An authentic value add is built by focusing not on your gain, but the other person’s.
2. 360-Degree Awareness. This is what I call a commitment to knowing and absorbing everything you can about a person who is significant to you. It starts by knowing the goals, needs, gaps, values and fears of the person.
As an agent, I practiced role playing daily, imagining that I was each player and asking myself: What am I worried about? Excited about? Anticipating? Fearing? Questioning? This practice helped me be aware of what they were facing and be prepared for what they might need, want and appreciate right then.
Everyone has inner baseline—they often hold values beyond money or status that give them purpose and meaning. In negotiations, being 360-Degrees Aware is critical to reaching a mutually beneficial agreement. It is a mindset that opens you to key details that reveal these values, and to understand the person’s role models and other influential relationships.
3. Anticipate Key Moments. This ability to think ahead is huge. It separates people who are transactional (What can I get from this person?) to those who are relational (What can we give each other?) Anticipation can be recognizing a key moment- an upcoming work anniversary, professional honor, or career change. Or it can be anticipating the next interaction and thoughtfully crafting your approach to honoring the other person’s time and values.
By investing your time and energy in advance, you send a powerful signal of how much you value a relationship. You are no longer reactive but proactive.
There’s always excitement when you land a meeting with a great prospect. But the key moment isn’t landing the meeting; it’s the moment when the meeting ends and the person returns to their world. At that point, your story is brand new: Will we show this important person that we meant what we said? That we will do what we said, that we truly want their business and that we are authentic and will always follow up?
Don’t miss these key moments. Anticipate them.
Your Game Changer Takeaway
These three methods (Giving, 360-Degrees Awareness, Anticipate Key Moments) involve taking some risks because you are going to work differently to gain a closer relationship and understanding of the other person. There is risk of rejection, and working through that will build your fearlessness. Better business relationships—the ones that are close, authentic and mutually beneficial—are worth the extra work.
The Molly Fletcher Company inspires leaders, teams and organizations to up their game. A keynote speaker and author, Molly draws on her decades of experiences working as a sports agent. She is the founder of Game Changer Performance Group, which offers training and coaching programs to help leaders unleash their potential, including: Negotiation: Maximize Your Influence, which teaches business people a framework for successful negotiating; Energy: Optimize Your Focus, which teaches people how to manage their energy to achieve focus and freedom; and High Impact: Elevate Your Power Skills, which is in development now and will supercharge your organization’s performance. Sign up to receive our newsletter, subscribe to the Game Changers with Molly Fletcher podcast, and watch her TED Talk on The Secrets to a Champion Mindset, which has been viewed more than 1 million times.