Business is based on relationships, specifically B2B relationships. Not sales; Relationships. Don’t believe me? Gallup recently found in a study that 71 percent of B2B customers are indifferent or actively disengaged. That means 71 of your 100 customers don’t care about you, your business, or your product.
That poses a problem for potential sales, right? Sure. But it also points to a break in the B2B relationship with the customer. If there was value in the relationship to begin with, then wouldn’t interaction and involvement naturally follow? So here’s my question: How would a business build a bridge to all 100 clients?
As I thought of this, five key aspects to relationship building came to mind. Forget the high-energy sales pitches. Save yourself any emotionally-hyped advertising. Business comes down to relationships. Here are five foundations to building business relationships:
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The Test of Time
B2B relationships are cultivated over time. Think of your closest personal relationship. How long did it take for that relationship to be strengthened into what it is today? Many factors built the relationship – trust, transparency, honesty, and authenticity, right? But all those factors were tried and tested over time.
“Time will tell.”
That cliche phrase holds a lot of truth in it. The passing of time will prove whether a business relationship will work. The B2B relationships that last, that become the solid partnerships, will only form over years of working beside one another. When forming a business relationship, go into it with a commitment and long-term vision. There may not be an instant return on investment. If you go into the relationship with the desire for instant gratification, the other party will soon see through any insincerity. And then, it will only be a matter of time…the relationship won’t last.
Trust is Foundational
Without trust a relationship is not functional. A client will trust you when it is clear that the relationship is not a money-making scheme or a box to be checked.
Trust will be earned through what the client sees in you. It can either be built up through transparency, integrity, and authenticity, or be torn down through ambiguity, dishonesty, and a false front. One follows the other. Trust is the foundation of the bridge that connects people.
Transparency is Crucial
What does transparency look like in B2B relationships? There are no masks in a partnership. Let people see who you really are. Show the other business you don’t have anything to hide. Be open about your goals and the costs of the projects. “Unknot the bowtie,” advises Jeff Durr, a Senior Managing Consultant with Gallup.
Be open when there is a struggle with the client or project. Straightforward communication means everything. Rather than pretend like everything is fine, a healthy relationship will share when there is a frustration or a misunderstanding.
Taking notes on a shared document will show them that you want your communication clearly spelled out. It eliminates any risk of forgetting key points during your discussions and gives the client room to accept or change those points. A customer will stick around when they know communication is free-flowing and there is no fear of surprises.
Integrity is Key
Integrity means being honest, even when it hurts you. I once went to a client to tell them about a mistake made on a project. The mistake had cost the client money. Although there was no indication that the client knew about the problem, I had to let them know. After informing the customer on our own initiative we sent a check to the customer to reimburse the cost.
With integrity, you do the right thing even when people are not watching or may not even notice it. Bring it to light. Acknowledge it. Make things right. They will trust you even more.
Authenticity is Essential
No one can manufacture a deep care for people, but people will very quickly pick up if you are just there to make a profit or if you are truly interested in their welfare.
A client will know they can rely on you when you show them that their success is your success. When they hurt, you hurt. There’s no pretending. Authenticity will be validated over time, as you work with each other. If you don’t follow through on commitments, they will see through the facade.
Here’s the bottom line: The success of any business is deeply rooted in its relationships. Strong B2B relationships with clients create lasting partnerships. Here at IT Hands we understand how foundational these five key aspects are to any working relationship – in our own office and business to business. If you want to partner with a company that is truly committed to relationships, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
IT Hands has been providing quality, custom web development services for over a decade to web companies and ad agencies. We are an agile web development company taking advantage of a globally dispersed team to deliver excellent results. Over 350 clients have been thrilled by the consultation, competency, increased capacity and cost effectiveness that IT Hands brings to every project.