How to Build Business Relationships

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Image of networking business people.
Image of networking business people. (Image: Ridofranz/iStock/Getty Images)

Business relationships are the heart and soul of any company. All businesses, from computer resellers to cattle ranchers, need relationships with both suppliers and customers. Solid, long-term business relationships built on trust and honesty can result in purchase discounts from suppliers and repeat business from customers. To generate business relationships, you'll need to find a way to get yourself in front of potential partners and show them why they should work with you.

Networking

Networking is the act of building relationships with others. If you're just starting a business, you can use your personal contacts to locate potential suppliers and customers. Even if you only have a small network of friends and colleagues, every person you talk to may potentially know someone who can be of value to your growing company. If your company is already established, professional networks such as local chambers of commerce and professional societies can be good places to interact with other business leaders who may be helpful as you try to grow your company.

Providing Value

Customers tend to do business with people they trust and with companies that can provide them value. Value comes in many forms. For commodity products, "value" can simply mean the most inexpensive alternative. However, for many goods and services, "value" means much more than the actual price. If you can provide a solution for customers that they can't obtain anywhere else, you are providing value. If you have the skills or technique to offer a client something that is unique, you can provide value even at a higher price point. Determining what a client needs and providing it can be a significant advantage in terms of building a business relationship.

Thinking Long Term

A business relationship is not a one-time transaction. Many products can be sold once for a quick profit, but the key to a sustained business relationship is long-term thinking. By dealing fairly with your suppliers and customers, you are likely to build the foundations of a long-term business relationship. One way to establish a long-term relationship is to set up recurring orders. If you're happy with your suppliers, you can enter daily, weekly, or monthly orders that immediately put the business relationship on a longer-term footing. The same is true with your own customers. The more you can successfully deliver products that meet or exceed their expectations, the more you entrench the business relationship. The more your dealings with both suppliers and customers are "win-win" for both parties, the stronger your business relationship can be.

Referrals

In terms of generating additional business relationships, the best source is often a satisfied customer. If you do good by a client, ask if any friends or colleagues could also benefit from your services. You may find that your best clients are more than happy to pass your name along to other interested parties.

In terms of suppliers, a good business relationship is a two-way street. If you find value in the goods and services you're provided, don't hesitate to give your supplier's name to other businesses in your network. Sending additional business to the companies in your network can solidify your relationship and possibly lead to referrals of your own.

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