Want to kick start your business relationship building? Here’s a very good tip!
Many partner members find other group members who they would like to develop business today but cannot find the opening. You can’t magically drum up business. Sure, sometimes an account falls into your lap but much business development is months and even years in the making. You would like to secure this company as a partner because they exactly fit your profile, you get on with its principals and personnel and they generally fit your long term strategy. How can you win them without business in hand? How do you make sure that they almost have to come to you when they do have business?
The answer is one word: Reciprocity.
You need to find a way to do some favors for this company. Help them to move along their own path. Make them feel the need to be loyal to you. I’ll explain…
The basis of all business relationships is in social relationships. One of the strongest motivators in social relationships is reciprocity. Without reciprocity trust, collaboration and cooperation are not possible. And reciprocity goes a long way with feelings of obligation and in situations requiring persuasion. The strength of all relationships, whether formal or informal, is based upon the level of mutual respect and reciprocity. So to strengthen your relationships you need to be proactive and start the process of reciprocity. This is the golden rule on steroids. You need to find a need that your target partner needs then help them to fulfill it, even if this is pro bono. Possibly especially if it is pro bono because then it will feel much more like the favor that it is.
For instance, perhaps you are based in Cairo and you know of a company in Brazil that is very strong in their own market. You don’t have any in hand business for that company and they don’t have any current business with Egypt. However, part of your goals as a company is to work with the strongest company in every market. So how do you accomplish this? First, you know that your potential Brazilian partner is not satisfied with their partner in Korea but you know a very good operator there. Hook them up! Or maybe it is a personal favor. For instance, the daughter of their general director will be coming to Egypt for a trip. Invite her to a nice dinner, help her know the best places to go shopping and make sure she knows if there is anything she needs in country she needs only to give you a call. (Yes, favors for close relations carry a similar weight to direct favors when it comes to reciprocity in relationships.)
When you do something to help someone along in a positive way this creates a beneficial response of obligation. This this isn’t a silver bullet in getting the business it definitely will help your relationship along. It it is extremely likely then that when the Brazilian company does have quotes it needs from Egypt it will go to your company first.
Remember one important thing about this strategy. You need to do such favors two or three times. Once is a one off. The second or third time will strongly reinforce feelings of trust and obligation. However, if you do more than two or three such favors in a short period of time and you seem too eager you might run the risk of being taken for granted or you might find that the other party begin to think of your service as a commodity rather than a bona fide service they are in need of. So what I am saying here is that reciprocity is extremely important to jump starting relationships and maintaining them, but don’t let it become a one sided affair or you risk damaging your image with the very people you wish to build your relationship with.
Nonetheless, if you want to have business with some people who you are not having business with right now – do them a favor and get the ball rolling yourself. You will find the biggest recipient of these favors in the long run will be yourself.