If you know anything at all about me, it’s likely that it’s this- I’m ALL about the relationships that I create. I’ll never blatantly walk up to someone and tell them they should be buying a product or service. It’s just not my style. Granted I’ll shamelessly self-promote something, but that’s typically just for the sake of shits and giggles.
For me, it’s never been and never will be about trying to win a client for the sake of numbers. It’s about creating an everlasting relationship that’s going to benefit everyone. Now that doesn’t mean I can’t close deals or win clients over, I’m just not direct and blatant about it. Again, I’m ALL about relationships.
Relationships are how I do business
For the first few years of my career, I worked for a small computer company and much of my time was dedicated to Client Services and Management. My boss was a total sales guy. He could close anything and everything. I swear, that guy could sell ice to Eskimos in Arctic if he wanted to. And the funny thing is, he would do it and get off on doing it! It wasn’t me though. I felt dirty every time I tried to make a deal happen that way. I closed a lot of deals and landed a lot of projects, but it wasn’t just about the win for me. It was more about one question and one question only: “Were my clients happy and satisfied?”
Because this was my top priority, I spent a lot time that wasn’t billable talking to clients, visiting their offices unexpectedly, setting up lunch meetings, coffee, happy hours, etc. I didn’t care that I wasn’t billing and making my commission on the deal. I didn’t care that I was spending my own money (I’ll talk about this a bit more in a minute). I did this because I knew that building an everlasting relationship creates a much stronger bond than a few dollars on a small deal. I did it because I am a very sincere person that cares about people and relationships.
Again, for me it wasn’t about the quick buck or closing a sales deal. It was about building relationships with clients and ensuring satisfaction. I had my proposals out there for these clients, but we never talked about them initially. That was never the intent. The intent was creating a bond and looking at the situation as a partnership.
So I did this for many years. I talked to clients regularly, bought them lunch on my way to their office, coffee, etc. I did a great job at this and increased consulting revenue by 5x in under a year, turning a 2 person team into almost half a million in profits. Yes, I said PROFITS. Now to some of you that might not be a big deal, but to a couple of 21 yr. olds it was pretty damn rewarding.
Something that bothers me until this very day though is that I didn’t learn how to KEEP a relationship going after that. I never kept in touch with any of those clients after I stopped working with them. There was no LinkedIn and MySpace wasn’t really a good place for “business networking”. The point is, I made some good contacts and dropped the ball. I’ve learned not to do that anymore, and now more than ever I understand the importance of staying in touch with the people that I meet, be it at any level or situation.
These days I regularly send out emails, Facebook messages, LinkedIn messages, etc. to keep in touch with the people I meet and work with. I set up time to catch up over drinks, coffee, lunch, etc. to see how people are doing. I do this because I want to make sure there is always an open line of communication with the people I’m connected to.
Remember, it’s not about the number of contacts you have, it’s the relationships you create.
Creating relationships has an opportunity cost
What most people don’t realize when it comes to sales and business development is that the latter is about partnering to create a relationship. To this day, I always tell my clients or people that I’m working with that I’m looking to create a partnership and become an extension of their business. This holds true in everything that I do. I want the client and/or person to feel like I’ve become an extension of their business, their family, their way of life…and that I’m not just some guy that came in, made a quick buck or fixed a situation and moved on. That doesn’t live on forever. A genuine relationship, however, is everlasting.
Another thing that a lot of people don’t realize is that nothing comes for free, not even a relationship. When you’re trying to reach individuals and trying to identify business development opportunities, you’re going to have to invest one of two things: Time or Money
I do a lot of things for free. I’ve spent many a lunch time offering free SEO services and/or allowing people to pick my brain regarding online marketing. Even as recently as BlueGlass LA, my intent was NEVER to make a penny off of the conference. And I didn’t. I never asked for a single dollar and never took one. I buy people lunch, I take people to dinners, I buy drinks for our team at work during a happy hour…all because I want to create relationships with everyone I meet. I never get reimbursed for this and I never want to. It’s more personal to me that way and is much more rewarding.
Neil Patel talks about this in his Beginner’s Guide to Attending Conferences, mentioning that taking people out to dinner is a good way to create a one-on-one connection. I love doing this, and I replicate this on an even broader scale by finding a few key people I want to meet and connect with and buying the group dinner.
The reason I do this is that I know connecting with people and creating that relationship can lead to future business opportunities. This almost always proves to be very beneficial in the long run. I totally believe that if you do something good for others you will get taken care of somewhere down the road. Maybe not immediately, but at some point in your career. And it’s important to always have that long-term outlook.
Relationships are more beneficial
THIS is the moral of this story: Pitching a sales deal will end up working and I can close a deal with the best of them. But treating people with respect, like a human being, like a partner, is more important and beneficial. Creating a relationship is always going to pay off ten fold, both professionally and personally.