Being real is the key to building better relationships, it is an essential element in business and critical to building trust and sales. I will show you how an effective communication strategy will help you build strong working relationships with clients and customers, suppliers, buyers, team members, colleagues, managers, and other internal customers.
In this hyper connected world, many of our relationships have become a ‘mile wide and an inch deep’, nevertheless, trust even in the shallow, focused or fleeting relationship is critical.
To develop trusting relationships involves being honest with yourself about your true intent and then following through with intention. Your objective is simply to be curious about the other person, ask questions and apply active listening skills, to build a trusting relationship.
Robert Steven Kaplan, who prior to joining the Dallas Federal reserve bank, he was a Senior Associate Dean and Professor at Harvard Business School, said there are 3 elements of relationship building, which are ‘mutual understanding, respect and trust’. Kaplan talks about a process Self-discloser, Enquiry and Seek Advice, let me explain:
- Self-discloser: To have a relationship with someone else and have them understand you, you must tell them something about yourself first. Share something fundamental that will help them understand you better. If you are so buttoned-up and find this difficult your risk the relationship. There is no investment in the relationship on either side and each party can walk away at no cost. You know the saying ‘nothing ventured noting gained’ well all you have is no-thing! To nurture a valued relationship, you have put something valuable on the table.
- Enquiry: You must ask a question which will help you understand them better. How often do you share a space and then realise that you know nothing about the person you shared that moment with? Who knows that may have been yours or their last moment. Isn’t it sad to know that in the last moment you shared on earth you had no connection with anyone, it is like you did not exist in that moment. The only way you know you exist is in the memory of other people, through the exchanges and the connections you make. This is why it is called a mo-ment, a smart phone has enabled the sharing of moments. Asking questions opens the moment because you seek to understand, without judgement.
- Seek advice: When you seek advice, you are showing the other person respect. You must understand something of the other person to seek their advice. That person knows you would not ask their advice unless you valued their perspective and trusted their knowledge. This is honouring the personal and will connect them to you further.
This 3-step process help others to understand you, you to understand others and builds the trusted relationship.
It is critical that you are interested in others if you are asking others to be interested in you. If you want to stand-out, then be interesting, be vulnerable, be different and have an opinion – your own opinion. Think what can you do for them, whoever them is – your colleagues, your customers etc. Make an effort to see their perspective without expecting other people to see yours, just seek to understand.
After several interactions, when the relationship has moved forward, and the buyer, client, customer or supplier has experience of you and what you deliver, you might ask a simple but insightful question:
- Would you recommend me, my service, my company?
- Or would you come back, use us again?
This requires you to be vulnerable and apply active listening skill, however, there are only 3 answers to this question:
- Yes, of course
- and No
If the answer is maybe, then ask “what do you have to do to turn a maybe into a yes?” If the answer is No say, “I value you and our relationship, what do I have to do win your favour?”
Simple honest questions create connection, and helps you to understand the other personas perspective, this is critical to developing better, deeper trusting relationships.
Even if you are doing great you also want to know how you can do better. If you are not doing so great, you want to know how you can improve. The answers will be specific to that customers need and perspective and takes the guess-work out of relationship building.
You see you do not have to be similar or the same, all you need is mutual respect, trust and understanding.