Real Engagement – The Fine Art of Building Relationships that Work

The new buzz word in the virtual marketing world is engagement.  But what happens on social media is just one aspect of engagement, and a very narrow one at that.  What engagement really boils down to, regardless of context, is relationship building. Whether you are discussing Facebook likes, or visitors to your website, or commenters on your blog, or actual customers who walk through your door, engaging is just another way to talk about relationship building.  As powerful as social media or the internet can be, it is only one of many contexts where building a relationship, or engagement, is critical.

How do you connect with your clients? How do you communicate with your employees? Are your suppliers and subcontractors easy to work with, or are many of your relationships challenging? Ultimately that lead needs to become a customer, and the supplier needs to give you a quote, and your employee needs to be able to function with autonomy and clarity of vision. News Flash: all of these interactions are defined by the quality of your relationships. So, on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is “shaky” and 5 is “fantastic”, how good are your key relationships?  If you were to list all the people you depend on for your business to succeed, where would you put each of them on your “quality of relationship” scale?

There is a great deal of effort that has to go into relationship building and there are many places along the way where a key relationship can go south if it is not cultivated and managed with care.  Here are a few things you can do to build better relationships and move the shaky relationships on your scale closer to fantastic ones.

  • Get to know the person or people with whom you must work. I am not talking about an interrogation session or a 20 point questionnaire; think more along the lines of paying attention to the clues they drop about what they care about, or what they are curious about, or what they need. Notice how they communicate- are they more visual or verbal?  Flamboyant or subdued? Are they direct and succinct, or do they jump from topic to topic? All of these clues can help you connect with them. Your objective is to figure out how to make sure you are effectively communicating so that you can offer them that they want or need to move the relationship forward.
  • Be responsive. Don’t try to be something you’re not or offer to do things you really can’t do. Just be flexible.  There is always some give and take when you are first getting to know someone. Look for alignment and build on it.
  • Take the time to evaluate the long term potential of the relationship.  Are there shared values or common goals?  Do they seem trustworthy? If so, invest the time to develop rapport. Some relationships take years to cultivate fully.  When it comes to customers, your business model will determine how much time to invest, such as how much loyalty matters versus price.  But even in the shortest sales cycle with a great degree of price sensitivity, loyalty and relationship can still play a role.  Be open to opportunity and consistent in delivery.

Finally, know when it is time to walk away.  Engagement is really about finding the people who can help with your success and then building a long term, trust-based relationship with them. If the fit isn’t there, or the trust level is missing, it might not be right. Stop before you are too invested and just walk away.

To learn more and hone your engagement skills sign up for Real Engagement: Business Relationships That Work

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