In today’s competitive world, strong and lasting business relationships are critical to business success. Since lasting business relationships don’t happen overnight, they require dedicated amounts of time, energy and effort.

Here are 10 ways to build strong and lasting business relationships in an ever-changing business world.

  • Be Yourself – With social media, it’s easy (and common) to create an alter ego online. This is not a good way to begin relationships when more and more people search for and qualify people and companies online. Communicating your true personality, experience, beliefs and points of view can only help build a strong relationship. Your online persona should let others get to know your authentic self.
  • Develop Mutual Respect – To know someone well enough to convey respect can take significant time unless you have someone who can refer you. Referrals are essential to building business relationships. There are few things better than an introduction from a mutually respected business colleague who knows you and people you want to meet.
  • Pay Attention to What’s Important to Your Contact – Successful salespeople—and networkers—learned long ago that what’s on a person’s desk or walls can speak volumes about what’s important to them. Are there loads of family and vacation photos? Trophies? And let’s face it—people love to talk about themselves; when you get them to share about the things they love, doing so builds trust.
  • Don’t ‘Pimp’ Yourself on LinkedIn – How often do you receive a LinkedIn invite from someone you don’t even know, using the generic “I want to add you to my professional network.” Chances are, you’ve never heard from that person again, or if you have, it’s been to ask you for a favor. What they’re really interested in is poking around your network. It’s presumptuous and self-serving. Don’t be that guy or gal. Which leads me to the next tip.
  • Offer Before Asking – Educate, inspire and support others with your experience and expertise.  This helps build a foundation for trust that leads to lasting relationships. Communicate and share your thought leadership via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, speaking engagements, webinars, etc. Serving and helping others builds trust.
  • Be the “Go-To” Person – When business professionals are looking for advice, you want to be the “go-to” person to help them. Whether it’s for a job search, business needs or a referral, people should like you and know they can count on you to support them.
  • Set Realistic Expectations – Be open-minded to accept people and situations for what they are and not how you want them to be. Let go of preconceived expectations and go with the flow as you build relationships. Being likable is a way to show you’re open to learning and your input will be better received.
  • Stay in Touch, Help People Remember You – All deep relationships require regular nurturing to grow and thrive. Stay in touch with your contacts, even if it’s just to say hello, send a link to an interesting article, congratulate on a recent earnings report—whatever. Be proactive, consistent and genuine. If you’re going to travel to a city where you have one or more contacts, reach out and try to set up a non-business meeting. Give people a reason to remember you.
  • Answer the question that is not asked Where relationships are concerned, people often ask a different question than the one they really want answered. Behind many seemingly simple questions is often a larger issue that goes unmentioned. If you want to build a great relationship, look beyond the obvious.
  • Value the Messenger as Much as the Message – Most people assume that when someone in authority or power speaks, the message is more valid. Legend has it that Joseph Kennedy, father of President John F. Kennedy, was having his shoes shined the day the stock market crashed in 1929. Based on a tip from the shoe shiner, Mr. Kennedy sold his stock before the crash occurred. Do not discount the message because of who is delivering it. Good advice is good advice, no matter where it comes from.

What tips do you have for starting and building good business relationships?

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