Technology has served us well in many ways. We can communicate in seconds across the world. We have a plethora of information at our fingertips, and organizations are able to speed up the development of products and services.
What technology hasn't been able to speed up is the development of solid business relationships. Unfortunately, I see too many salespeople thinking that because everything else in the world is moving at the speed of light, so should their ability to build relationships.
There are many factors that go into building relationships, including the investment of commitment, time and a true spirit of giving.
If you're a sales veteran, you know relationships with clients and referral partners are keys to growing business. Knowing this fact is one thing; doing what it takes to develop meaningful relationships is another. Just as there are many factors that go into building good relationships, there are just as many reasons relationships don't develop, grow and improve.
Lack of Commitment
I believe good referral partners are as committed to growing their referral partners' businesses as they are to growing their own. When I attend association meetings or networking events, I am always on the lookout for people or information that will be of interest or value to my referral partners and/or customers.
My goal is to be an extension of my referral partners' and clients' businesses because I am committed to the relationships and what it takes to grow them. We often think we are good referral partners. But how many of us can answer the following questions about our referral partner(s)?
- Can you give your referral partners' 30-second commercials? (If you can't describe your referral partners' businesses, how can you provide an introduction?)
- Can you name the top three prospects your referral partners have targeted for 2004? (If you don't know their targets, how can you look for opportunities and resources that will help them gain entry into the account?)
- Do you know your referral partners' personal and professional goals? (If you don't know their goals, how can you help your partner achieve them?)
If you don't know the answer to the above questions, or if any of the answers are "no," you may need to commit more time to learning about your partners.
Not Working vs. Networking
I see too many salespeople in the referral business when they should be in the introduction business.
An example is a leads group that is poorly operated. Now don't get me wrong - I think leads groups can be successful when they do what it takes to nurture relationships: invest time and work.
One reason many leads groups produce less-than-positive results is participants haven't committed to the time and work it takes to help their referral partners. Many leads groups confuse passing a pink slip of paper that say "use my name" with relationship-building. It's not. It's transferring data from your Smart Phone to a slip of paper.
The person interested in building relationships will take the time to make a call of introduction, deliver their referral partner's 30-second commercial and set up a personal introduction if there is interest by the recipient of the call.
Study good friendships, marriages and business relationships. What makes them good is the investment of time and the willingness to work at the relationship.
Lack of a Plan
Good sales professionals proactively plan their month. They know the prospecting activity it takes to make a territory or business run: cold calls, networking, association meetings and appointments.
But how many of you are proactively setting aside time to pursue your most important prospecting activity? Helping your referral partners grow their businesses will result in growing your relationship with them.
Take a calendar review. How much time did you invest last month in activities related to building relationships with your referral partners and/or clients? For example:
- How many lunches did you set up to introduce your referral partner(s) to other partners, clients or prospects?
- How many calls of introduction did you make on behalf of your partners or clients?
- How many telephone calls/e-mails did you make/send informing referral partners and clients of an event that may be of interest for them to attend?
- How often are you keeping your referral partners posted on progress made on introductions provided by them?
- How much time did you spend sending thank-you notes for the introductions? (Mom was right on this one, and it hasn't changed.)
Sales and business professionals good at relationship building embrace a spirit of giving.