Forming Professional Relationships
Strong business relationships are essential to success. When each person brings mutual value, the benefits can be huge — better communication, deeper trust, stronger teams, and greater customer satisfaction — just to name a few. Cultivating powerful relationships is important for internal and external business growth. Let’s take a look at where to start.
Understand the Purpose Shared relevance is a good place to start. All business relationships have a basic connection, a specific reason for existing. The best relationships involve give and take, where each member offers true value to the other. It’s important that everyone understands their role to provide a strong basis for the relationship.
Understand the Type of Relationship Needed Relationships take many forms. Some are simple and transactional. Think customer and cashier. Others have higher standards and more interaction. These are interdependent relationships. At Buttonwood we have designers and account staff. They share information, have overlapping responsibilities, and common goals. They depend on each other for individual and team success. Transformational relationships rely on trust, vulnerability, and influence. This type of relationship requires both sides to be highly open and receptive. That means you can initiate and receive what could be arduous dialogue. Both sides are accountable, and the stakes are high. These relationships are usually responsible for organizational and departmental change. No specific form of relationship is better than another. But it’s important to know the nature of the relationship so you can get the most out of it, and inversely, put the most into it.
Be Committed For business relationships to work in the long term, both sides need to be committed to working together. That means holding up your end of the deal. It also means being open to working through difficulties when you don’t see eye-to-eye. You should be prepared to handle hurdles before they get out of hand. Have a mutual plan and stick to it. Long term business relationships can be beneficial to everyone if they are properly nurtured and understood.
Cultivating Professional Relationships
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s take at look how to make professional relationships stronger and more impactful. It’s important to put in the effort. The bigger your network, the greater your influence. Strengthening a business relationship today could lead to an even bigger opportunity tomorrow.
Stay Connected Be sure to touch base frequently. Don’t reach out only when you need something. Make use of common day courtesies, say hello, be friendly, and above all be genuine. Here’s more on quality communication.
Know Thy Self Understand your strengths and weaknesses. Know what you have to offer. Know your goals. Acknowledge your mistakes. Be up front and honest. Take responsibility for your role and your work. Be accountable.
Be Present Listen. Ask questions. Be open, curious, focused, and respectful. No judgement. Don’t just wait for your turn to speak. Truly listen. Respect people’s time. People will notice and the results will be amazing.
Show Empathy Appreciate what other people have to offer. Understand their role. Ask more questions. Do more listening. Learn everything you can. You never know what hidden talents people have. You could uncover a connection that could be mutually beneficial and maybe make a friend in the process. Learn more about empathy here.
Schedule Time to Develop Relationships It takes time to nurture a relationship. It’s important to block out time from daily tasks to get to know people. Go out to lunch. Take 10 minutes before a meeting. Meet up after work. If you are a leader you can schedule team events. Taking time to build relationships will help you interact and ultimately make work seem less like work.
Help: Give and Take Always be ready to offer assistance when you can. Share your expertise. Help someone who’s overloaded. People will remember you helped them. This is a great way to build trust. Get into the habit of helping yourself. Try to solve small problems before reaching out, don’t waste people’s valuable time. Knowing when to ask for assistance is important. When you ask for help, remember this is a good way to build relationships. Be grateful and be attentive.
Feedback: Give and Take Good feedback is useful in so many ways. It improves outcomes, processes, individuals, and relationships. Try to see feedback as an essential tool to making your individual contributors, your teams, your projects and your company better. Be thoughtful. Keep communication transparent. Have clear intentions and goals. Be ready to offer constructive feedback and be open to receive it. Learn more about feedback here.
Walk Your Talk This is simple. Do what you say you are gonna do. Keep your promises. Lead by example. Have character. This goes a long way toward building trust.
Follow-Up Follow-up shows you care. It could be an email, a note, or a conversation. Let people know you value the interaction. Whether you received guidance, offered help, or closed a deal, follow-up shows effort and dedication on your part.
Show Gratitude Gratitude creates a very human connection. It gives people a sense of purpose and accomplishment. This positive recognition increases loyalty, boosts performance, and solidifies relationships. The simple act of saying thank you is very powerful. More on gratitude here.
Professional Relationships in Times of Crisis
A crisis is no time to neglect relationships. In fact it’s the perfect time to reach out, stay connected and work together. Through collaboration and mutual input professional relationships can come out stranger on the other side. Let’s look at some ways to build relationships during a crisis.
Be Ready to Pivot Market conditions, customer priorities, and employee needs can change rapidly in a crisis. Be ready to make the adjustments needed in order to secure future potential. Be responsive and creative. Aim for collaboration and working towards mutually beneficial relationships.
Show Empathy Do your best to understand multiple points of view. This is extremely important during a crisis. Understanding pain points can help you give your customers, employees, and vendors what they need in a crisis. It can help you find solutions and pivot. It can help you build lasting relationships. Learn more about empathy here.
Work on Customer Experience (CX) Adapting customer service to improve customer experience needs to be well-thought-out and built with intention. Great CX comes from really understanding your customers and acting on that insight. Make changes that are good for your customers, your business, and your employees. Learn more about CX here.
Take it Online There are many ways to digitize your business. Start with information. Make sure your customers know you are still operating and how you are handling the crisis. Allow employees the flexibility to work remotely. Be as transparent as possible. Find ways to enhance customer experience. Try to offer digital alternatives to your existing products or make it easier to order online. Create an online catalogue of products and services. In short, use technology to enhance your business. Make it as easy as possible for your customers, vendors and employees to connect.
Be Budget-Conscious Be clear and open with customers and employees to meet price targets. Offer options and be as flexible as possible. Again, be transparent and build trust.
Professional relationships are a key element to success. Having a strong network can help you in good times and in bad. Good relationships can help you build bridges, strengthen teams, gain influence, and make positive change. It’s also clear that a crisis can really strengthen a relationship. So be present, work at it, and build trust and rapport. There is a lot to be gained from well-cultivated professional relationships, including some lifelong friends. Thanks for reading.
Links and References
5 Keys to Building Business Relationships, Elizabeth Harr
Connecting with customers in times of crisis, Fabricio Dore, Oliver Ehrlich, David Malfara, and Kelly Ungerman
3 Traits of a Strong Professional Relationship, Darin, Rowell
We are the company behind the world's most beautiful awards, deal toys, mementos, and corporate gifts. For over 10 years, Buttonwood has designed iconic awards for the most storied names on Wall Street. Our custom deal toys and mementos are designed in our studio in New York and can be shipped anywhere in the world. We are a women owned business and we have been at this for a while.