Mind your business.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

How to Build Business Relationships

I learned just about everything I know about business from selling millions of dollars worth of cars, trucks, and SUVs at a high volume regional automotive dealership in just under three years.

And that’s saying a lot because my college degree is a Bachelor of Business and I majored in Entrepreneurship.

I learned a lot during those four years, but not even close to as much as I did selling cars during those other three years.

It’s a tough business to make it in because people are spending a lot of money when they buy a vehicle, they’ve never met you before, and you will probably never see each other again.

And the car business created its own bad image and sowed the seeds of consumer distrust for decades before most dealerships cleaned up their act in the era of the informed customer.

So I learned very quickly how to build relationships and trust in a very short amount of time.

Sometimes in as little as three hours from the time I met a potential customer to the time they were signing the papers.

Sometimes over three days of visits to the dealership, test drives, phone calls, and emails.

And sometimes over a year of keeping in touch with someone.

I will never forget what a veteran car sales rep told me my first month in the car business.

He said:

“Building trust with your customer is very easy. All you have to do is tell them you’re going to do something, and then do it.”

He was right.

In our busy world most people are so wrapped up in what they’re doing and swirled around in the inertia of the daily demands on their attention, that it is easy to flake on new business relationships when you decide you need to triage.

But if you want to stand head and shoulders above everyone else and be remembered warmly by all your business contacts, whether it’s prospects, past customers, co-workers, bosses, or vendors, just tell them you’re going to do something...

And then do it.

Follow up and follow through are so rare, the world will stand on its head for the person who takes initiative, establishes rapport, and offers even the smallest commitment (“I’ll send you an email with some information,” “I’ll call you later this week to set up a good time,” “I’ve got some samples at my office- what’s your mailing address?”), and then follows through on it.

Doing this in even the smallest way establishes that you are someone that others will want to work with, a known quantity, somebody who can be counted on.

Ideally the other business person will reciprocate with a small commitment and follow through (with a friendly, gentle reminder from you, Mr. or Mrs. Initiative, if they don’t follow through).

This reciprocal arrangement of making and keeping commitments should escalate toward the kind of business partnership each party is seeking, with each show of commitment, trust, and follow through building on the last one.

When someone has spent money with you they are absolute VIPs for your business forever. They are customers now. Treasure them and treat them like VIPs.

Tell them you’re going to mail them something, and then follow through with a nice hand written thank you note. People rarely get those these days, and such a small gesture means a lot.

And that’s ultimately how to build business relationships: doing what you say you’re going to do every time, and showing your care, and trustworthiness through the little things, the tokens of good will and attention that matter a lot to people.