By: John Hutchins, VP of Client Services
When training new sales people or recruiters, I often harp on the importance of building relationships with both client managers and candidates. It recently occurred to me that “building relationships” may not mean the same thing to everyone. Some people don’t actually build what I would consider to be a relationship. They end up building something less than that – something more like a “solid acquaintance.” Three main elements to relationship building include: (1) direct contact; (2) altruism; and (3) time.
- I don’t believe you can develop a true relationship with someone unless you have direct contact with them on a regular basis. In-person contact is the best and quickest way to begin developing a relationship, but in today’s email /social media / text driven world, I’m willing to acquiesce that in-person contact is not the only means to developing a relationship. I do think in-person contact helps build that sense of trust that is critical to any relationship. There is something about meeting someone in-person, eyeball to eyeball, that helps initiate and solidify the relationship.
- Altruism is the second element to building relationships. This is really the difference between building a true relationship with someone or, as I mentioned in the opening paragraph, building a solid acquaintance. Building a true relationship means approaching the other person with a sense of selflessness. This means being truly interested in them and what is going on in their life. It also means helping them when there won’t be anything in it for you. Believe it or not, the best sales people have altruistic relationships with their best clients. If it is truly a solid relationship, each person is approaching the other person in an altruistic way. The sales person is feeling that they really want to do what is best for the client manager. The client manager is feeling that they really want the sales person to succeed and prosper. Sales shouldn’t be an adversarial relationship like it so often becomes, where each person is trying to get the most out of the other person, while providing the least. In the best business relationships, each party is honestly looking out for the best interests of the other party. Rare – yes, impossible to achieve – no.
- Finally, as I’ve learned firsthand over many years, time is an essential element to many things in life, including relationship building. Time is necessary for building trust and a major aspect of trust is stability. You can’t have a solid relationship with someone who isn’t willing to have direct contact with you on a regular basis or who is altruistic one moment and selfish the next. Stability over time builds trust and trust is one key to building solid relationships.
I would love to provide short cuts and silver bullets to my new sales people and recruiters when it comes to relationship building, but unfortunately short cuts and silver bullets are in the same category as unicorns and dragons, they don’t exist. Success requires purposeful and consistent hard work. With regard to relationship building, that means direct contact, altruism and time.