Cultivating Relationships That Grow into Business…
A bountiful garden requires a lot of attention, and so does every worthwhile relationship. All successful marriages and friendships need nurturing and care, and that goes for our business relationships, too. The very best business relationships result in the ultimate yield—business.
Growing Relationships Is A Lot Like Growing Tomatoes
My dad, Frank, grew the most amazing tomatoes—the juiciest and most flavorful that I have ever eaten. He worked all year on developing his “little masterpieces,” composting the soil with veggie scraps, coffee grinds, eggshells, and more. When May came, he would go from garden center to garden center in search of the Ramapo variety that yielded the perfect tomato—large, juicy, meaty, robust, and oh-so delicious! After Mother’s Day he would say, “Time to plant the tomatoes!” And he did—in the front garden where they would get the full sun exposure they needed. Every day he watered, fertilized, staked, and protected them from pests and extreme heat. The prize was an abundance of ruby red gifts for family and friends to delight in and enjoy. This is a great example to follow in your business pursuits.
Tips for a Successful Garden of Business Relationships
Prepare a garden of ideal prospects. Like my dad, who prepared the soil and selected the perfect tomato plants, it is important for business owners and professionals to put time into providing the best product or service and identifying their ideal prospects. Thinking about your current clients, who are your best, most profitable ones? Are there ways you can improve your product or service to better meet client needs? Is there anything more you can do to attract more prospects like them—with a better, more targeted message or a larger reach through social media? You get the idea.
Look for the ideal soil to cultivate relationships
Have you joined the right networking, professional, or trade organizations to put you in contact with your ideal prospects or people that can refer or lead you to your ideal prospects? Take time to research the groups that best fit your business. Talk to others in your industry for recommendations and, if possible, attend a meeting or two before you join to see if this organization is, in fact, a fit for you. That’s exactly how I found a home in NJAWBO! Also, be on the lookout for new opportunities, but be selective and strategic in where you spend your time. Get involved with the groups that best serve your business. In working side by side, associates learn what it would be like to do business with you, so be impeccable with your word and deeds.
Time to Plant Your Tomatoes!
Plant your relationship seeds. When meeting a prospect, don’t be afraid to make the first move by being friendly and engaging. Be passionate without being pushy. Start with a smile and a warm handshake to establish an immediate bond. Make your initial introduction short and upbeat, as well as memorable and meaningful to your prospect—showing them how your business can benefit them. Fertilize the connection. If your prospect seems receptive, you can begin to fertilize your connection by asking a couple of questions to find out more about their business, “Tell me a little bit about what you do.” “How did you get involved in that field?” People love people who are interested in them and what they do. Ultimately, they do business with the people they like and trust.
Tend to your garden by LISTENING. Listen with your full attention—ears, eyes, and body language. Listen for what your prospect’s business needs are so you can seek opportunities for your business to meet these needs or the needs of one of their associates. Briefly let them know how you may be able to help them. This is your chance to create a desire to meet with you again.
Dig for a deeper personal connection. Just as tomatoes need water and sunlight to stimulate growth, the lifeblood of all relationships is, quite frankly, personal. I was recently at a trade show where I met someone who could potentially bring me in as speaker for her organization. I introduced myself, and we were off to a nice start, but when we connected about our sons who both recently got engaged, her eyes lit up. We became instant friends by sharing on a much deeper level and parted with a genuine interest to see one another again. Seek a way to find a common denominator personally with your prospect.
All Plants and Relationships Need Time to Grow
Allow time for growth. Don’t expect to walk into a networking event and walk out with a client. Tomato plants don’t produce fruit immediately after being planted. You must continue to nurture them. Keep building upon your initial rapport with a prospect by giving them value and showing them the value of doing business with you. Schedule a followup meeting to enhance your understanding of their business and their business needs. Send articles, information, and even referrals that could help them improve their operations. Share your testimonials from satisfied clients you have already helped. It is so much more powerful for happy customers to sing your praises than for you to do so.
Water regularly. Keep the lines of communication open by contacting prospects on a regular basis. The time may not be ripe today, but six months from now your services may be just what they need. One of my coaching clients was the son of a gentleman that I met at a chamber of commerce event months before. We met to discuss business, which later turned into an opportunity to help his son succeed in his school environment.
When the Time Is Ripe, Ask for the Sale!
Pick the tomatoes—ask for the sale! You have nurtured this relationship, now don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Ask for your prospect’s business. You have now earned their respect, their trust, and the result of their utmost faith in you—their business. Enjoy your tomatoes!
You can reach Laura at Laura@LauraGraziano.com or 973-204-8232.
To learn more visit www.LauraGraziano.com.