It is very easy to feel the temptation of trying to get personal benefits in the short-term sometimes by doing something that would not benefit our Customers and Peers. But these little quick benefits can never compare with real long-term benefits that you can regularly get by doing what is really best for your Customer or Peer.
It’s an very important Trust Principle: if you contribute to the benefit of your Customer/Peer, you will also contribute to your own long-term benefit. But sometimes we need to choose between them on particular issues. The best choice is always taken thinking in the long term relationship.
As professionals, we need to think about building relationships and not only making transactions. And in order to base our business in relationships, we need to establish a framework of mutual trust with our Customers or Peers.
There are many ways of building and empowering this mutual trust:
- Demonstrate that you care about your Customers/Colleagues: usually we leave once completed the tasks of our project and sometimes we don’t do a real follow up of achieving our Customers the business results they were expecting. Customers/Peers want solutions, projects are only the means to get to those solutions. Customers/Peers will buy us again if they get real results.
- Continue associating with Customers and Peers who are no longer your Customers or Peers: if we want to try to build relationships based on trust and not only transactions, we need to demonstrate it to our ex-Customers. Continue meeting, having lunch, or going to an event with them. Get in touch with them and show them that they still can count on you if they need it. For example, if they break a contract with you and give that contract to a competitor, and if your competitor is doing something that is compromising your ex-Customer’s business, offer to help him instead of telling him “I told you so.”
- Be generous with little details that can be important to your Customers/Colleagues: Do you know if your Customer/Peer will need something from you but currently can’t afford it? Is there any product you can provide to your Customers/Peers without incurring more cost? Is there any product of your Customers/Peers which you require and could purchase from them as compensation for some of your services? Always keep in mind “What can I do for you?” and ask them “Is there something I can do for you?” If you solve an important issue for your Customers/Peers, you will build a long-term relationship of trust with them. You will be someone who demonstrated that you trusted and helped them when they needed it, and they will feel indebted to you.
- Help them extend their own relationships: sometimes you can also help by introducing them to someone or something (another company, an event, etc.). Offer yourself to help them get into places or environments they would love to be or with people they would love to meet. Demonstrate to them that you would really like to help them achieve their goals.
- Humanize your relationships: relationships are always about people, not companies. So, why not talk also about people concerns? Why not ask them about their family or children? It is also good to know the other people with whom we are doing business. Find out about their interests and hobbies. Send them greeting cards on Xmas and holidays. Demonstrate that you really care about them and that your interest is bigger than just some business transactions.
- Keep in touch with ex-Customers and ex-Colleagues: nowadays, it is very easy through social media to get in touch. It’s good to keep meeting with them, and of course there are no excuses for not exchanging some words through Linkedin or something similar.
What are your best tips for building long-term relationships?