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Relationship building key in business

“The foundation stones for balanced success are honesty, character, integrity, faith, love and loyalty.” — Zig Ziglar

SMES CHAT BY PHILLIP CHICHONI

Starting a new business is not easy. When you are new in the market, it is a real struggle to attract customers. The success of a business depends on its ability to gain traction and attract enough customers to enable it to break even and generate enough cash inflows and revenue to cover its operating costs.

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Many new small businesses collapse in the early stages from one common problem: running out of cash. However, running out of cash is not the real problem. It is just a symptom. It is a symptom of poor sales growth.

In his 12 Rules for Startups, billionaire, businessperson and investor Mark Cuban says sales is the cure. Increase your revenues and cash flow by selling more. Think of ways of getting your product moving faster. Employ creative marketing tactics that do not cost a lot of money.

One important thing that struggling entrepreneurs ignore is the power of relationships. It is a fact that people do business with people they know, like and trust. The more people know you, like you and trust you, the bigger the base of potential customers you have.

One of the best networkers in the world, Harvey McKay, always talks about the importance of getting to know lots of people and building relationships. He says when he gets into an aeroplane or attends a sports tournament or a concert, he makes sure he gets to know the people next to him. He always saves the details of the new people he meets in his rolodex or smart phone. He also makes sure to make a note about something remarkable about that person, whether he is an avid sports fan or where his children go to school. Such detail enables him to contact that person later and start building a relationship. So powerful is his networking and relationship building that when he published his first book, Swim with the sharks without being eaten alive, over 300 000 people who knew him bought a copy straight away.

It is a lot easier to launch a business or a new product when you have a large network of people who know you, like you and trust you. These are the people who will buy your product quickly and without hesitation. However, how does one go about building relationships?

The best way is to network a lot. Attend events that the people you would like to network with go to. Get as many new people as possible to know you. However, avoid the mistake of trying to sell straight away. People do not like being sold to. Besides, if you go around trying to sell your product to every new person you meet, you will look desperate and annoy people. Remember, the purpose of networking is not to sell something or to ask for favours. It is for building relationships, which, when well-nurtured, can turn into business relationships. Therefore, stop trying to take before you give.

The goal of networking is to connect with people who can help you make a sale, get a referral or establish a contact. When we network, we want something. However, at first, never ask for what you want. Forget about what you can get and focus on what you can provide. Giving is the only way to establish a real connection and relationship.
Maybe you are desperate. Maybe collaborating with a major player in your industry could instantly boost your sales. No one cares. No one should care. Those are your problems. Those are your needs.

Never expect other people to respond to your needs. Other people may sympathise . . . but helping you is not their responsibility. The only way to get help is to help others first. Ask what they need. Ask what could help them.
Care about other people first; then, and only then, will other people genuinely care back. Caring is contagious. When you do something good for someone without being asked, that person will feel indebted to you. They will feel the need to reciprocate. Most times, you will get much more than you give in the first place.
Many people struggle to make the first move when they attend a networking event. Here are some tips that I have found to be useful when working on making new connections:

  • Be curious about people and what they do.
  •  When asked, describe yourself in terms of the value you provide.
  •  Find out what the other person likes, such as sports teams, cars, hobbies, etc.
  •  Make sure you get contact details so you can follow up afterwards.
  • Open a conversation to assess what the other person needs.
  •  Offer to provide information, or help where you can, or link them with someone you know who can help them.
  • After that, keep in regular touch.
    Follow these tips and you will soon build a powerful network of people who can help you grow your business. Moreover, remember to give first before expecting to get.
    Until next time, keep on accelerating your growth.

Phillip Chichoni is a consultant who helps SMEs and entrepreneurs build sustainable businesses. You may contact him by email, chichonip@smebusinesslink.com. You can also visit http://smebusinesslink.com

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