First rule of business, or specifically – business relationships is; “treat everyone as if they’re your most important client”. I believe it was my old COO who gave me that advice and he had taken it from one of the classic business books, Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People“. If you are in business and have not read that; you should.
If you are managing people, relationships, sales and marketing managers, anything that may cause you human interaction at some point; if you follow the principles laid out in this book, you can’t go wrong.
Some people may read this and roll their eyes and say, “BUT I’m the client. They should be kissing my ….”. So let’s look at a couple of simple scenarios.
1. You’re a marketing manager and you’re purchasing ad space on a website. You are on the phone with this site’s biz dev. executive and you love the price as well as the site. The one ‘glitch’ is that because the site is “newer”, there are no real time stats; hence, you are unable to tweak creative or even pull the ad if need be. There are several potential longer term solutions to this, but in the ‘short term’, what do you do? Do you A) Not work with the company B) Tell the Biz Dev exec you “cannot work with them unless you have real time stats” or C) Explain to the biz dev exec. that “you are in a ‘partnership’ together and in order for this to be a “win/win” for both of you; you are accustomed to being able to see your stats and make changes real time.” You then ask, “How are other companies dealing with this” and / or “Do you have any suggestions as to how we can work together to combat this?”.
Most of us will read the line above and say, ‘option C’. However, in the ‘real world’, ads are pulled all the time for lack of reporting. Those selling ad space get yelled at all the time for not giving stats. Is this a business relationship that will continue in a positive manner in the future if we go with option A or B? Definitely not.
2. You are a manager. One of your team members comes to you because they have an issue with another member of the team. What they are ‘complaining’ about, you’ve heard 100 times before. In your head, you’re immediate reaction is: “I don’t have time for this crap”. However, this is one of your top employees. Best way to handle this? Ask questions and find out the root issue. Is this individual complaining because he / she is insecure? Are they in need of some attentions / positive reinforcement? Have they just had a bad day? Take the extra 5 minutes to listen (as you would your most important client). Sometimes all people need to do is ‘vent’. That extra 5 minutes could be a ‘make it / break it’ for that employee.
So, how do you treat everyone as if their your most important client? Well, first you have to ensure you treat your clients well; or that your outlook on how to treat clients is correct. We can boil it down to a two key tactics: 1) Respect 2) Empathy.
In management, the best managers ‘treat people as they would like to be treated’. Cliche? Yes; but also true.
More importantly; be empathetic. Whether it be a vendor, an employee, a colleague, or even your boss coming to you with an issue, don’t snap back a response. Take a step back and put yourself in their shoes for a moment. Try and see the situation as they do before you respond.
If we all just took 10 seconds before responding and we put ourself in another’s shoes; we are empathetic, more likely to be respectful – and this will probably treat the individual as if they’re you’re most important client.
A transaction can be defined as an ‘exchange’. In business, many times it’s thought of as a “one time deal”…There are more one time deals than relatioships, unfortunately – but think of the TIME and energy that would be saved if you had 4 or 5 stong business relationships that could produce the same amount of business or revenue as 70 transactional deals. Let’s take an example from the ‘real business world’…AND what industry is better or easier for me to use than higher education? So…let’s take one of the MAJOR universities like University of Pheonix or Kaplan, etc. They have numerous marketing and business strategies in place, BUT most are transactional. So, each month, these schools pay millions of dollars for leads that have been purchased from one of any 100 lead aggregators. These lead aggregators have purchased their leads from one of any other lead aggregators, publishers, affiliates, etc. Now – how can any of these leads convert? AND how can any of them even be thought of as exclusive? They CANT and they arent. Hence, the conversion rate on these leads is about 1-2%, which has become industry standard. Now let’s take a different approach. Let’s approach our business (or school in this case) and say “we are only allowed to use relationships to drive our business”. How would I go about that? First, I would take my products (degree programs, in this case) and see what types of businesses I can partner with. So, if we are looking at distributing business degrees, I would want to partner with major companies OR small organizations that can endorse my product. You always want to test different types of relationships because while there may be a larger ausince with a bigger company…there may also be a more personal feel and more attention given to you from a smaller organization or business. Both partnerships can be profitable, drive revenue, and increase your brand awareness. Once I have my ‘list’ of potential partners to prospect, I would review the long term business relationships I have had in the past. Am I still connected with these businessmen? What are they doing now? Are there any synergies between our two businesses? How can we help one another? Does this businessman have any possible connections or other relationships that can help me? It always helps to start with a previously nurtured relationship for a few reasons: 1) the trust factor is there 2) A recommendation from a company will always be responded to more quickly than a ‘cold call’. 3) Implied credibility. So to go back to our example at hand; you are selling BS in Business degrees and want to partner with 2 businesses for testing purposes. You find that from prior connections, you have potential recommendations to American Airlines and the Miami Business Association. American Airlines has over 100K employees / potential revenue generators and the Miami Business Association has 5K members. You then GOOGLE these companies to find out what types of propoerties (websites) they own, what the mission of their company is, HOW YOU can help achieve this company’s objectives, and equally important; how can they meet yours? So, with American Airlines you find that they have thousands of websites, including an intranet for employees. You find that they have an employee assistance program and a page for employee benefits. TBC….
Many times I read a blog and I think to myself, “who does this guy think he is?” or “what makes him an expert?”. When it comes to business relationships, am I an expert? Well, probably not. Seeing that I am “gen y” (29 though – on the cusp), older generations may be roling their eyes…that being said, every piece of data shows that HAVING gen y’s in the workplace and learning to work with them WILL help your business grow more quickly… Anyways, off on a tangent…so – why do I think I know what I’m talking about? Well, to start; I’ve made millions of business mistakes and mistakes in relationships in general. Having managed sales and marketing for 2 successful start up ventures, I quickly learned the best way to MOVE UP is to 1) Take accountability if you make a mistake 2) LEARN from it. So, having made millions of dollars worth of business mistakes AND writing down learnings (yes, I am a nerd) from most of them, I have grown into quite the ‘relationship’ guru. Most important asset to have when wanting to work on business relationships, marketing, sales, biz dev, etc. YOU NEED TO GENUINELY ENJOY PEOPLE! And when I say, “enjoy people”, I don’t mean – you like to look at them, you like to hear them speak, etc. What I mean is; you need to appreciate that every person you come in contact with will teach you something new. You need to become a master at the art of human interaction. In my experience, this is tpyically a trait that is innate; Simlar to being an ‘extrovert’ or ‘introvert’ on the Meyers Brigs. Now, how do you know if you GENUINLEY enjoy people? Start by asking yourself, “Do I like conversing with others?”, “Do I employ the 80/20 rule (listen 80%, speak 20%)”, “When I so speak with someone, am I only interested in them for business purposes or am I interested in knowing more about THEM, their surroundings, their family, etc”. If you ONLY want to talk to people FOR money or people who can make you money, you may be a very good salesman or businessman, but you will not be a relationship builder. Millions of people make hundreds of thousands of dollars every year being a “good” business man, there is nothing wrong with that. But a relationship infers a “give” and “take”. It is something that you hope is longer term. My goal is always to leave a lasting, positive impression on someone, so if at any time in the future my partner needs something, they feel comfortable reaching out to me. The mistake that most businessmen make is to treat deals as ‘transactional’ versus taking the time to outline an entire strategy. To be explained in the next post…