New research from Google shows that improving the relationship with customers and suppliers is bound to be amongst the top New Year’s Resolutions for small businesses in 2013. But, obviously, not all communication is positive.
Some communication can be counter-productive - especially if the other party is getting the wrong impression. So, if you’re looking to interact more with your customers and suppliers and get more out of the relationship, there are some important things to bear in mind:
Have an objective for every interaction - Make sure you share this objective with the other party and be clear about the process and timeframe you’d like to work towards. This will ensure there are no surprises around the corner for them and make them more willing to engage with you.
Always leave the discussion with a valuable ‘takeaway’ for the other party. This could be as simple as giving a compliment or sharing information from other parts of the business, thereby helping them be more informed. When negotiating, the focus should be on a fair exchange.
Review your relationship strategy – Since you first started working with an individual, times may have changed, the company may have grown and the options for getting in touch will have broadened. Many workers are still clinging to traditional methods of communication such as the phone, email and meetings but some businesses are already starting to seek alternative ways to communicate. However, some businesses are already starting to seek alternative ways to communicate, with Google’s research showing 39% are increasing their use of online collaborative tools.
Be responsive – If possible, get back to people quicker than they would expect. This will build a lasting impression of reliability, efficiency and help build a harmonious relationship. Always provide a realistic timeframe for when you can get back to them if you can’t respond instantly.
Focus on results – Make sure you establish a clear, positive outcome to their request (even if you don’t know the answer simply establish when you will get back to them).
Acknowledge the importance of their request - make sure they feel appreciated and understood, even if it isn’t at the top of your personal to-do list.
Try to mirror their communication style – try and match their energy levels, pitch and tempo. People often assume others are like themselves and want to communicate in exactly the same way, but it is important to remember that different character types will respond differently to various communication method. A short text or instant message may be the first choice for some, while others could find this abrupt and would prefer a call or virtual meeting.
Present a professional image - how you look and the way you speak will have a substantially greater impact than what you actually say in the early stages of a relationship. This is increasingly important as online video conferencing options start to become more popular, offering the chance to engage face-to-face with the other party from wherever you are.
Hopefully this will ensure that your relationships in business go from strength-to-strength in 2013, helping you to win business and strike better deals with suppliers.
Seven Suphi is leadership consultant and behavioural specialist.