How To Be A Good Business Partner
Being a good partner is about providing the framework and the people to develop a solid relationship.
Articles published March 17, 2017
Over the years I have found the most rewarding parts of my career have been those related to building lasting relationships with people I have come to respect. I enjoy working with business partners, clients, and fellow employees to solve difficult challenges and help us all become better at what we do.
Today, I wanted to take some time to discuss what this means as it relates to client relationships. If you are in a part of the business where you deal with clients on a day-to-day basis (or if you are a client to someone) you know what I mean when I say they come in all forms. Just like people have varying approaches to who they are as a person, clients have varying approaches to how they handle business relationships. Some are straightforward and to the point, while others prefer to take an approach that is more abstract and difficult to grab ahold of.
People that work with clients vary in their approach in the exact same way. Some have a real skill when it comes to communicating clearly and succinctly with a client, while others seem to struggle with even the most basic interactions.
Below are three key areas that I believe are critical to successful business partnerships that are built on more than a contract. Instead, they are built on people working together for a common goal and respecting the relationships that come from this.
Don’t Give the Client What They Want
I used to think being a good business partner was about giving the client what they want, when they want it. I mean, telling a client you can’t provide something is the makings for a bad relationship, right? Over time, I have come to the realization that this is not the case at all, and can actually lead to a very shallow and ultimately unsuccessful partnership.
My point here is that it is your responsibility to understand what your client wants to accomplish and help them find the best way to meet those objectives. So, when a client asks you to take a certain action, take the time to ask what they are trying to accomplish, not just what they are asking for. As the expert, you can help them determine the best way to accomplish their objectives. The best path to doing this may not be at all what the client “wanted.” Instead it is focused on what the client “needs.”
So, as I said, don’t give the client what they WANT but be prepared to intelligently provide them what they NEED.
Some business professionals feel like they have to put on a certain face when they are with a client. This leads to any number of challenges, because attempting to be someone other than yourself is not sustainable. It will not make you happy and, over time, this will come through in your direct client dealings. Instead, find a way to integrate your approach to working with clients into who you are as a person. I recall one person I worked with that was quite direct and maybe even a little brash as a person. At first she tried to be super nice and sweet with her clients, but you could just tell it wasn’t her. Over time, and with some coaching, she learned to use her direct approach in a productive way that made her known as a direct, straight-shooter that her clients respected deeply.
We are all human and our clients know that. Don’t try to be something you’re not. You will be happier and your client will know that you are always genuine, even if you’re not the most polished person at the table.
Respond Quickly, but Resolve Thoughtfully
Did you ever have a situation where you emailed someone or left a message and they did not get back to you in a timely fashion? Doesn’t it drive you crazy? It does the same for clients and, in some cases, it’s worse because there is an expectation there.
It’s amazing how the simple act of being responsive can shape a client’s perception of the relationship. Think about it for a second: when someone is very responsive to you in any aspect of your life, it immediately enhances your view of how important you are to them. The same is true for lack of responsiveness, in an opposite sort of way.
It is important to take the time to be responsive, but this does not mean that every time a client reaches out you have to have the quickest answer possible and get back to them. In fact, doing that can have the opposite effect (remember what we discussed about giving clients what they NEED). If you are too quick to get an answer, you may not be as thoughtful about the solution and may, in fact, lead your client to believe you don’t understand their needs.
Instead, when your client reaches out, take a deep breath and let them know you understand their need and will find the best possible solution. This provides the client with an understanding that you are there for them and provides you with the runway to be an effective business partner. The key is not always to get to an answer in lightning speed, but to keep the client informed and work on getting a solution to their problem.
Here at Aureon, we know that being a good partner is not about simply executing on the services you have agreed to perform, it’s about providing the framework and the people to develop a solid relationship. This kind of approach helps the client achieve outcomes through thought leadership and an action-oriented approach.
Are you being a good business partner to your clients?