A solid network of business contacts can help you get many things, including a great job. As Monster.com points out, it’s often the relationships you’ve established that will both tip you off about a great opportunity and provide you with inside information needed to ace the interview. Those same relationships can help you find new customers, negotiate the best prices from vendors, and give you the jump on industry trends. All you need to do is build and nurture them.
That’s a task that can be made a lot easier with a little help from 1936. That’s the year that Dale Carnegie’s classic self-help title, “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” first hit bookstore shelves. The book continues to enjoy strong sales among today’s professionals and entrepreneurs for a very simple reason: When it came to building business relationships, Dale Carnegie knew what he was doing. Consider these five relationship-building ideas from his collection of wise, homespun advice:
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Become Genuinely Interested in Other People
While you may tempted to spend every conversation with a high-value prospect or customer waiting for the opportunity to make your pitch and close the deal, the decision to simply and genuinely engage the person across the table is always the better approach. After all, as the Indiana Small Business Development Center points out, people are more likeley to do business with those that they know, like, and trust. The best way to begin engendering those qualities in a business relationship is to demonstrate that you see the other party as a person and not merely as another entry in your book of business. Later, when it’s time to ask for the sale, you’ll know how to tailor your offer to meet their true needs.
Be a Good Listener
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Listening with focused attention to others allows you to communicate your commitment to their well being almost without saying a word. According to Psychology Today, it is also a vital method for attaining new business ideas and insights, helping you to understand your customers in ways that formalized market research never could. For example, when a customer has a complaint, instead of being defensive, be open to what they have to say. Concentrate on understanding and solving the problem. Utilizing your listening skills and then taking effective action will help you win that customer’s loyalty, gain valuable knowledge that will empower you to serve other customers more effectively, and may even lead to a stream of referrals.
Try Honestly to See Things from the Other Person’s Point of View
It’s only natural to see every human interaction in terms of your own interests. To enjoy a higher level of success with other people, try instead to see the situation in terms of the costs and benefits to them. If you’re clashing with a colleague over the best way to implement a new software system in your company, there may be a very good reasons why you view the move as a great step forward while they see it as an impending disaster. Once you understand where the person is coming from, you are free to seek a viable way to make a change that will serve you both.
Focus on Making the Other Person Feel Important
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Etiquette means a lot. When you focus on putting others at ease and communicating how important they are to you, you solidify your relationship and rise in their esteem. You don’t have to be formal in all your interactions, but you do have to be caring and thoughtful. If someone helps you out, send them a hand-written thank you note. By investing the time to write your thoughts out on actual stationery and dropping it in the mail, you show that your appreciation was more than just an afterthought.
If composing longhand notes seems a bit daunting, you can make it easier on yourself by batching your note writing tasks together into a slot of dedicated time and ensuring that you have the necessary supplies on hand. Buy a roll of stamps and then hop online to order stationery for your business. If that sounds like an expensive prospect, rest easy. Reasonably priced vendors are out there. OvernightPrints offer custom postcards online for as little as $4.25 for 25.
Let the Other Person Save Face
Sometimes, interactions go wrong. In these instances, it’s important to remember that your relationships are worth far more than the satisfaction of being right in a heated moment. Even if you are absolutely convinced that the person you’re arguing with is utterly wrong, always give them a way out that will allow them to save face. As the Houston Chronicle points out, the best way to do that is often to work towards a compromise that allows all parties to feel they’ve won something of equal value over the course of the conflict.