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Essential Steps to Building Relationships in B2B (Part 1)

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Executive Summary.

  1. Build Your Network Before You Need It
  2.  Be Generous with Your Time and Wisdom
  3. Start a Relationship by having a Great Conversation
  4. Follow the Person Not the Position
  5. Cultivate Your Own Interests so You are Interesting to Others

pic_andrewWhat beliefs or values guide you as you build your B2B relationships during your career? The right principles can powerfully inform your day-to-day behaviour.
These ten "Relationship Principles" are suggestions that will help you engage with others and build a strong network of trusted relationships. In this newsletter I'm going to share the first five of these. I'll describe the remaining five in March.

1. Build your network before you need it. Isn't it kind of pathetic when someone you haven't seen or heard from in 20 years calls you up and asks you to help them? Recently one of my clients was promoted to partner in a major company. When his appointment was announced in the media, he was flooded with calls from service providers? He told me, "My question for most of them was: 'Where were you over the years?'" Help others with a need, issue, challenge, or problem they have and build a relationship today. Don't wait for tomorrow. (It never comes).

2. Be generous with your time and wisdom, and help others without any expectation of receiving something in return. When you are always concerned with reciprocity, you essentially do things for yourself. You're a mercenary: "If I help this person then he or she will give me something I need." The old proverb, "What goes around, comes around" holds true.

3. Start a relationship by having a great conversation, not by trying to show the other person how smart you are. It's really irritating when someone you've just met keeps trying to show you how "intelligent" and insightful they are. You connect with people by finding things in common, understanding what issues they are grappling with, sharing ideas, and so on. Not by relentlessly showing you're the smartest person in the room. As mentioned previously, it really does pay to "listen".

4. Follow the person, not the position. Don't think in terms of "I want to build relationships with CEOs." Focus on developing relationships with smart, interesting, motivated, ambitious people; and following them throughout their careers. Do this, and eventually, I guarantee you, you will know some CEOS!

5. Cultivate your own interests so you are interesting to others. When you have lunch or dinner with a client, you only spend twenty minutes talking about business - the rest of the time you discuss family, vacations, books you've read, politics, hobbies, wine, and so on. This establishes common ground from which relationships will develop. If you want to be a person of interest, you have to develop interests. Read widely, engage in hobbies or avocations, travel, and make sure there are some "outliers" in your network of friends-people who are very different from you in terms of experiences, interests, and background.

This piece draws on input from Andrew Sobel

Andrew Clare is Managing Partner of reLiance a business to business relationship marketing practice. I focus on improving client profitability through developing, implementing and measuring sustainable, collaborative business to business relationships.

Cell: +27 83 326 2451, E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , Web: www.rassa.co.za, LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/andrewclare


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