Like many small-business owners, Ashish Rangnekar, CEO and cofounder of BenchPrep, started his company on a shoestring.
“I didn't have a sales force or a million-dollar budget in the beginning,” says Rangnekar, whose company provides personalized, interactive educational courses on portable devices. “What I possessed was the ability to tell my story to potential customers and build those relationships.”
Rangnekar’s efforts paid off. Since starting in 2010, he has 30-plus clients, and his courses have been used by more than a half million students.
A small-business owner’s relational IQ—the ability to get along well with others, manage conflict and problem-solve—can be more important than his or her actual IQ, according to Van Moody, author of the The People Factor and professional speaker. Q
“Lasting success in the workplace depends on your ability to relate effectively with people,” Moody says. “Research shows that 60 to 80 percent of all difficulties in organizations stem from strained relationships between employees, not from deficits in skill or motivation. Small-business success often has little to do with acumen or product quality, but everything to do with the ability to successfully navigate relationships.”
Raise your relational IQ and increase business by keeping the following six tips in mind.
Make Working With You Easy
“Your customers and partners should never feel like maintaining a relationship with you is painful for them,” says Michael Weissman, founder and CEO of SYNQY, a company that specializes in growing new small-businesses and turning around brands with Internet marketing techniques.
“People immediately turn away from friction,” Weissman says. “Do everything you can to lower the emotional, logistical and financial costs of working with you. If you don't, your relationship might not be strong enough to withstand challenges from competitors. The truth is if a customer has two companies that both provide excellent service but one company is easier to work with, that company will get the job every single time.”
Increase Your Capacity for Empathy
The ability to understand where others are coming from goes a long way toward creating good business relationships.
“When I put out verbal or written communication, I consider what I have to say from a recipient's point of view and ask myself if I’m speaking to his or her needs,” says Phrantceena Halres, chairman and CEO of Total Protection Services, a certified security services company that protects infrastructure assets for businesses.
“I’ll inquire about the person's situation, including what he or she has already tried that hasn't been effective and why I'm being contacted,” Halres says. “Taking an interest in the person sends a positive message and gives me important information as to what to do and what to avoid.”
Have A Trustworthy Online Presence
Now that an increasing number of relationships are established digitally before you meet in person, it’s critical that you establish trust online instantaneously, Weissman says. “Ask yourself if your online presence is building relationships or is it just transactional?” he says. “It’s important for businesses to also be relational digitally.”
Make It Reciprocal
Don’t be a “taker,” says Moody. “It’s important to recognize when a relationship could use more of a giving spirit. When we think about what we can do for others instead of what we can do for ourselves, we get to the very heart of healthy, successful interactions. In a strong relationship, both people willingly give far more than they take."
The strongest relationships are mutual and synergistic, Rangnekar agrees. “People are much more interested in what you have to say when they realize that you truly understand what they need and want, and that you care.”
It took Rangnekar six months of relationship building before he secured his first educational publisher.
“Don’t expect to be best friends overnight,” he says. “Relationships take time. We worked for several months before securing that first publisher. Because we so patiently cultivated that relationship, not only did we land that company’s business, they referred us to more publishers.”
Maintain The Relationship
When it comes to business relationships, a lot of emphasis is put on starting relationships, but not a lot focuses on building those relationships for the long term, Rangnekar says. “I can’t emphasize enough the importance of maintaining your business relationships so they stay healthy and profitable for everyone.”
Keep these relationship-building tips in mind, and you’ll soon find yourself with increased business and happy customers.
Read more articles on customer service.
A freelancer since 1985, Julie Bawden-Davis has written for many publications, including Entrepreneur, Better Homes & Gardens and Family Circle.