All salespeople know that relationships with customers are important. But just as important are relationships within an organization and with the vendors who help that business run smoothly. Problems in these relationships can lead to problems in customer accounts, which can result in lost business. With that in mind, there are three steps to nurturing good, solid relationships within an organization:
Step 1: Follow Steven Covey’s Habit No. 5: “Seek first to understand.”
In order to build a relationship with someone you have to get into his or her world. Here are some ways to do that with vendors and people you work with:
Ask: What can I do to make your job easier?
When those around you realize you are willing to work with and help them, they in turn will be willing to work with and help you.
Ask vendors this question too. You want to make their lives as easy as possible. Keep in mind that your objective is to be a great customer for your vendors. Be easy to work with, make sure your interactions with them are good ones, and thank them when possible.
- Talk about their favorite subject. In other words, talk about them, their families, kids, pets, and related subjects. Try to keep the conversation positive and upbeat. Try to keep most conversations focused on good things going on in their lives and b sure to listen more than talk. Drop in some personal information, but make sure that the other person is doing most of the time and be careful not to out-shine them.
- Let others be right, let them go first, and make them feel important. Everyone’s No. 1 need—provided they have food, shelter and the basics—is to be recognized and feel important. Most people are mirrors. Let other people be right and let them be first, and they’ll not only do the same for you, they’ll also be much more willing to work with you.
- Treat others the way they want to be treated. The Golden Rule is of course: Treat other’s the way you want to be treated. It’s effective more than 90% of the time. To get closer to 100%, use Dr. Tony Alessandra’s Platinum Rule: Treat others the way theywant to be treated. Ask about their preferences regarding communication and other business protocols. Don’t assume that your preference is everyone else’s preference.
Step 2: What gets rewarded, gets repeated.
When I worked for Diebold, I used to give $5 and $10 gift cards to people in the installation and service departments. I also gave them baseball tickets and other gifts. On special occasions, during the holidays, or when they really went above and beyond, I used to give more expensive gifts such as jewelry or their favorite alcohol. Based upon rules and regulations you may or may not be able to do some of these. Either way, you must acknowledge and thank them for helping you and doing a good job. Stop by their office, thank them for what they just did for you, give them a small token of your appreciation, and ask about their favorite subject.
Here are some other ideas that don’t cost anything: Send an e-mail telling the boss what an asset they are to the company (make sure you copy them in); send a handwritten thank-you note; call them on the phone and thank them or stop by in person; build them up with sincere compliments; praise them in front of their peers or higher-ups.
Step 3: Treat co-workers and vendors like one of your top accounts.
A great way to build relationships internally and with vendors is to give them the same extra-special treatment that you give your top accounts. Here are a few ideas:
- Send birthday cards and holiday cards.
- Give holiday and birthday gifts.
- Study their areas of interest so you can have intelligent conversations with them.
- Give them books, articles, and other items related to their areas of interest.
- Pass on articles and other information about their high school, college, and hometown.
- Pass on good articles and information you come across about their kids, spouse, relatives, or their related interests.
- Find articles and other stories written about your vendors’ companies and industries, and occasionally discuss some of this information with them.
- Pass on items of religious and political interest.
- Give gift certificates to restaurants and stores.
- Give tickets to sporting events, shows, and dinner events.
- Contribute to one of their favorite charities.
- Make a small investment in their business or something else they are involved in.
- Give vacations or trips to trade shows and other industry events.
- Get creative and come up with other great ideas to turn co-workers and vendors into loyal partners and great friends.