by Nicoline Ambe
When the phone rang at the other end, I felt my heart pounding and my stomach churning. I was calling an old friend whom I had not spoken to in years. Why? No good reason. I just never bothered to call her, and vice versa. “Is this Sandy?” I asked on the other end. “Yes, this is she,” she responded. “Hi Sandy this is Nicoline your old buddy, remember me?” I said, nervously putting up a brave front. “Of course I do. How are you, girlfriend?” she asked with excitement in her voice. “I’m great. I just wanted to call you and say hi and see how you’re doing and what you’ve been up to.” I continued … We carried on a long phone conversation, after which I invited her out to lunch with me.
At lunch, she ordered French fries and I ordered a milkshake. The conversation was in depth, swinging from one topic to the next, punctuated by laughter. We talked about our lives, our past, our interests, our plans, our future and our goals. Sandy has since become one of my closest business associates!
This anecdote serves as a reminder that one of the most important things a business owner can have is good, valuable relationships. The relationship does not have to be as close, or as personal as my relationship with Sandy but it must be built on trust. Relationships with customers and potential customers can make the difference between a successful and an unsuccessful business. It is sometimes hard to pay attention to someone that isn't really contributing anything to your business at the moment, but when you value people and build relationships with them, they may become your best business associate somewhere down the road.
Clients want to hire someone experienced and professional who can get the job done, but they also want someone they feel like they know and can trust. We’re all people first, and giving a little bit of yourself creates a foundation for a thriving relationship. It increases the likelihood that the client will want to work with you again. Social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter can also create amazing opportunities for business owners. These social networking sites provide an outlet for personal interaction, and for people to know you as a person not just a straight jacket business owner.
Building relationships in this way does not mean that you need to tell your clients personal things about yourself or ask them personal questions. But if you give them a little more – mentioning your weekend plans, asking how their sick child is doing, remembering birthdays – you can create a multi-dimensional relationship by which you can create loyalty and trust that overlaps into business situations. There are three main reasons why building relationships in this way is a good idea. First, it gives clients more reason to refer you to others because they feel they really know who you are, second, you become more approachable and third, you show that you’re human, just like they are.
As in any relationship, the driving factor behind this is communication, whether it’s online or off. This notwithstanding, there are some clients who you wouldn’t want to have this type of relationship with, either because of their personal preferences or personality issues. It’s important to stay within the comfort levels of both parties, and adjust your relationship to fit each individual client.
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