Or in Other Words, What is All this “Relationship Management” Stuff About?
During a conversation with an independent business professional, I was asked how to “go about this relationship management stuff.”
As I listened to why she was struggling, I heard the spinning of wheels and time spent with nothing to show for it. The person was meeting with people who fit her ideal client criteria and trying to sell what she could do for them. However, she wasn’t taking the time to display credibility or show reliability. She wasn’t getting to know them and they weren’t getting to know her. She hadn’t invested in deliberate relationship building.
Much of a service professional’s (consultants, contractors, service-based professionals) success is tied to how well they build and maintain trusted business relationships with clients, potential clients, influencers, and partners.
But many of us are not taught how to build or manage those relationships. Oh, maybe when you were young you were taught how to sell a physical product such as cookies, candy, or magazines, but what if the product is you?
There is a proliferation of books and articles on relationship building as well as books and articles discussing the business of you and you as the brand. There are build relationships checklists galore to assist you. As a business owner, there is a good chance that you’ve received your share of emails about how a particular CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software application could help you get clients.
As an introvert, I would love to have a software application manage my personal relationships, but relationship building requires you to connect and get to know one another individually. There is a personal aspect to building trusted relationships and I can’t figure out how an application can take the place of a human being.
If you are not sure what I mean by trusted relationships, consider checking out the Medium article “Is TRUST the Glue in Your Business Relationships?”
Here is my response to the independent business professional who just happen to be a top-notch project management professional…
“You’ve a top-notch project management professional. Your clients love the work you do.
Change your perspective slightly. Think of relationship management as stakeholder management. Once you know who you want to build a relationship with don’t try to sell them you. Get to know them. Develop a strategy for building and managing that just like you would develop a stakeholder strategy.”
We continued the conversation discussing several aspects of relationship building but here are five points that I highlighted during the conversation.
1. Become interested in the person. Take the time to understand them. What’s important to them and why? How do they communicate? What is the best way to engage them?
2. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Some people say “you need to give to receive.” Other people say adapt a “customer-oriented mindset.” Here are my words. Treat people like you would like to be treated. Be kind and respectful. Be open and honest. Trust them and help them trust you.
3. Own the communication. Take responsibility for communicating with the person. Determine what information you want and need to share as well as what information is not of interest to the person. Ensure you complete the communication loop so that you know the person not only heard you but understands your message.
4. Master awkward relationships. Everyone has their strengths, but they also have their weaknesses that can result in awkward relationship situations. Is the person a brilliant strategic thinker who struggles to verbally communicate but can clearly articulate a concern in writing? Maybe the person vanishes when there is a problem that they don’t want to confront, even if they need help. Or maybe still, the person doesn’t want to admit they don’t know something.
5. Create plans for key professional relationships. It would be helpful if you could create an individual plan for every relationship, but that is not realistic for many of us. Create a strategy for each key professional relationship and create a generic strategy for everyone else. For key relationships, note if they are your ideal client, affiliate, referral partner, or good acquaintance. Capture the interesting information (point 1) about the person and ways to master an awkward relationship (point 4).
Before I forget, I don’t want you to think that I disapprove of CRM applications. I don’t, but a CRM software application is a tool like spreadsheets are a tool. You need to understand the concepts behind using the tool. Both tools help you track information with the goal of saving time and helping achieve efficiency. Over the years, I’ve used CRM applications as well as spreadsheets to build and manage meaningful and trusted relationships.
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Hi, I’m Laura (Dallas) Burford. I help independent business professionals (consultants, contractors, freelancers, service-based professionals) and boutique consulting businesses get clients and make money.
What I do: I partner with professionals and businesses on clarifying their focus and then work with them to get clients that they want to work with so that they make money and grow their businesses.
How I do: I leverage a simple and flexible framework known as The Consultancy Model©. For those new, stalled, or reentering the consulting world I have a signature program known as Consulting JUMPSTART Blueprint©.
Why I do what I do: I want to see people to succeed and not fail. Sometimes all that is needed is an extra hand.
Check out the Free Resources page on Laura’s Consulting Guide for free consulting resources.