Building and Nurturing Business Relationships
Molly Fletcher, Author, The 5 Best Tools to Find Your Dream Career
In today’s business world, we are more connected than ever. Yet in many ways, we’ve lost what I believe to be the real driver of business success—authentic relationships.
For 15 years, I worked as a sports agent representing some of the top athletes, coaches and broadcasters in the game. In an industry where there are actually more agents than athletes to represent, it takes more than just strong negotiating skills to be a successful agent. You must be a skilled relationship builder in order to attract new clients and keep the ones you have.
Whether or not your job title suggests you are in a business development role, you most likely are in some capacity. Our success and growth depends on relationships, and we must be intentional about how we do this. Here are a few lessons I learned:
Connect don’t communicate. This seems basic but if you don’t get this part right, you won’t get any further in the relationship. In order to connect, you have to approach the relationship with a real desire to turn it from a connection into a long-term, meaningful relationship. Making the shift requires commitment, honesty, openness and a little bit of vulnerability. Don’t be afraid to share a story or a bit of personal information. It doesn’t have to be anything too revealing, but just doing so can signal openness, shift the dynamic, and create a connection.
Manage your energy. Are you investing your energy in the right relationships? Sometimes we expend all our energy on one relationship without realizing the negative impact it has on all of our other relationships. If you have a relationship that is draining valuable energy, time, and resources, ask yourself: “Is it worth it?” That answer will help you find clarity in how to move forward.
Build a favor column. Are you adding value to your relationships? Relationships are built over time, through consistency and over delivering on promises. Find ways to add value to the lives of those you work with or want to work with. It could be anything from sending a timely piece of industry news to recommending a book or making an introduction to a connection that will benefit the other person. If you want the relationship to grow, add value in an authentic way.
Ask for introductions not referrals. Relationships are powerful. Oftentimes we are just one relationship away from the next big deal or an exciting new opportunity. Mine your existing relationships for potential introductions, and then make a specific ask. First, make sure you have added enough value to this person that they will want to help you. Second, be intentional about asking for the introduction. For example, as an agent, if I asked one of my athletes to refer me to any of their friends who were looking, chances are they would forget about it. Instead, I would look at the upcoming schedule and say something like: “Hey Joe, I see that Brian is in town next weekend. Would you be up for inviting him to dinner with us on Thursday? I’d love to get to know him better and see if we can support him.”
In order to transform our business relationships, we must invest in them. Be intentional about how you incorporate your relationship-building skills into your business development plan.
About the Author
Molly Fletcher has worked with some of the top names in sports including Tom Izzo, Ernie Johnson Jr., Matt Kuchar, Doc Rivers, John Smoltz, Joe Theismann, Mike Fratello, Lenny Wilkens, Erin Andrews, Billy Donovan, Bobby Cox, and many more. In 2010, she started her own consulting agency MWF Enterprises where she speaks to audiences nationwide on topics related to business development, management, team building, negotiation and women in leadership. She is the author of two other books, The 5 Best Tools to Find Your Dream Career and The Business of Being the Best.