Anyone who has been in sales and marketing will attest (privately or publicly) that relationships are what make them successful. “People buy people!” No matter how good a salesperson s/he is if they do not build a relationship, they do not have a client. Entrepreneurs know that too. Recollect how you got your first sale – your first customer. How was your relationship with that individual?
Relationships and Networking
Rela,tionships and networking go hand in hand. Networking is the cause, and relationships are the effect. You can associate with your peers at the local chamber of commerce, regional economic development agency, attending trade shows, conferences, seminars, and other networking events. But you have to remember – as you sow, so will you reap! Your networking objective must be to build a long term relationship rather than the short term gain of the next sale. You need to give back what you receive.
Your small business may not have the financial muscle to have an extensive marketing campaign. Did you realize your clients, your suppliers, vendors, and financers are your network too? How often do you meet with them? They can be a great marketing source once they trust you to be professional, credible, and reliable. Word of mouth marketing is not dead it. The tools to facilitate word-of-mouth marketing have just expanded to include Web 2.0. Use it.
Relationships and Contracts
At one end of the spectrum, I have met several businesses who just do not believe in contracts. Their business deals hinge on a hand-shake. I am not talking about a couple of thousand dollars: I am talking about upwards of half a million. Then others will not budge an inch without a signed, sealed, and delivered contract. Both of these approaches are risky and can undermine relationships.
Trust is an important ingredient in relationships. But as a legal entity, you have to protect your firm’s assets. But remember, a contract is only useful if both parties have the intention of adhering to the terms and conditions. If either one or more of the parties to the agreement do not intend to honor the contract, it is just a piece of paper. In this case, the relationship is the cause, while the contract is the effect.