Let’s face it, a business is nothing without relationships. But where do you start when you’re the new kid? You need to get noticed without appearing overly-keen, desperate, or, even annoying.
Business connections have evolved to become much more sophisticated, and so it will take more than a polite handshake, some generic chit-chat, and an exchange of cash to secure a long and lasting relationship. Money can buy a lot of things in business, but it can’t buy a genuine relationship built on trust.
Social media platforms have made us more inquisitive about the people behind the brands we interact with; we can put faces to names and names to brands without attending networking events. We expect more of others and they in turn expect more of us.
So, while building strong B2B relationships has never been harder, it’s also never been more fulfilling either – when done correctly, of course.
Earn their time
Before you press ‘send’ on that email or walk up to the top dog you’ve been stalking anonymously on LinkedIn for six months, take a step back and consider what you have to offer them, as well as what you’d like to ask.
If you are offering a product or a service that might be of interest to them, perhaps a free sample or trial may be on the cards? Perhaps they would appreciate your industry insight into a niche market you’ve been working on. Avoid winding up in their spam folder by keeping your pitch snappy, compelling and most of all relevant.
Ask for feedback (and don’t be offended if it’s bad news)
There’s nothing more crushing than listening to negative feedback about something you’ve worked so hard to produce. The truth may hurt, but if delivered constructively by someone you respect it can be absolute gold dust for the next phase of your business strategy. Just don’t let them see your gritted teeth.
Keep it professional but genuine
Being professional is important, but at the same time you don’t want to overkill it and appear wet or robotic. Nobody likes a bore, so keep it real; don’t be afraid to show your vulnerable side and strike a balance between friendly and professional – you’ll be all the more endearing for it.
Look out for your clients and contacts
Always be on the lookout for useful information and articles you think would be relevant to your clients and contacts, even if your relationship has been dormant for a while. Being proactive and doing something for no immediate gain on your part will be greatly appreciated and you never know what it could lead to later.
Treat everyone with the same respect
We’ve all had those clients who never seem happy, no matter what you do. Despite delivering the most impressive of results, you never receive any credit and they only ever pick up on the negatives. This kind of interaction is both exhausting and counterintuitive to a long and prosperous relationship.
If people like working for you and feel rewarded in doing so, you’re bound to see better results – and they are far less likely to call you names behind your back too. Being nice costs nothing.
Contact the right people
Although a company’s CEO is undeniably influential, they’re not always necessarily the best person to chase for a sale. If they’re worth their salt as a company, their trust will most likely lie in their department heads or even perhaps those below them. A spot of digging can save you barking up the wrong tree and you’ll be better placed to be noticed by the right person.
Get smart on LinkedIn
Try to make a point of connecting with and following the people you look up to on LinkedIn. Not only can you see what they are up to, but you’ll also benefit from their insight by reading their posts and shares. You can also get yourself noticed by engaging in debate on the comments section, but only if you’ve got something worth saying – just remember, it’s not Facebook!
Before you do any of this, don’t forget to make sure your profile itself is up to scratch. A professional profile photo headshot is always preferable to a selfie you took in Ibiza, and make your headline impactful and concise.
Choose your skills wisely and where possible, try and get people you’ve worked for in the past to write you a recommendation. If you’re a writer, publishing regular articles is a great way to get noticed – just make sure they are on point.
Don’t be lazy and hide behind emails
Whilst emails and phone calls are a necessity and often the best and most practical way of touching base, don’t be afraid to get off your backside and pay a visit in person from time to time. Face-to-face contact can really break down barriers and help build long-lasting relationships, helping you to better understand the struggles they face in business and vice-versa.
That one person who seems quite cold on email could turn out to be quite the opposite in the flesh, or they could be worse – but at least you gave them a chance.
Follow things up
It’s all well and good letting your hair down and taking advantage of a few free drinks whilst out networking, but if you say you’ll call someone or pass their details onto someone else, then remember to do it. Making too many empty promises can come back to haunt you when you’re least expecting it, so stick to your word and earn the respect of your peers – it only takes a quick follow up call or email.
Leave it too long and the lead will go cold. It’s very rare that anyone in business will want or need what you have to offer there and then on the spot, but if you make enough of an impression and keep them warm, they might just pick up the phone a few months down the line.
There’s an old saying in business that reputation is everything, and clichéd as it sounds, this is absolutely spot on. If you’re reliable, people like you, and you show a strong work ethic, then everything else should take care of itself.