I met with a young man this morning that I had met earlier at a public event. We agreed to meet over coffee and to talk. When he sat down at the coffee shop table he opened his portfolio, as if he were ready to talk business with me. I wondered what he would begin talking about.
His portfolio was filled with his business cards and cards of dozens of other people that he had recently met. Later in the conversation I learned that these new business cards came from a trade show he was at.
It also included his company brochures, catalogs and even a proposal that he was going to take to another meeting later in the day. He pulled out his pen and flipped over his note pad to a blank sheet.
I led the conversation and we had an enjoyable time together. I got him to talk about himself and what he wanted to be doing. Our conversations focused on getting to know each other, not about business. However, remember, I guided the discussions. He did take lots of notes during our chat, which I appreciated because I shared lots of new ideas with him.
During our chat I asked him if he was dating anyone. I could see on his face that he was wondering where I was going with this question. He politely said he was. So I asked him another blunt question, “When you go on a first, second or even third date, do you carry an engagement ring with you?”
He looked even more stunned, but answered, “No.”
“Why not?” I asked him.
“I’m not ready to get married and I want to get to know the woman before I would ever think about marriage, let alone proposing,” was his response. I could tell he was perplexed with my questioning.
I told him, “Good idea. Do the same thing when you are meeting with people, new clients or even clients that you have a proposal on the table with.”
I shared with him my recommendations of how to meet with someone and focus on the relationship before “diving” into business.
Just as in building a relationship with my wife, build a relationship with the people I do business with starts with good conversations about them. Not selling, or proposing.
When I meet with someone, I spend a few minutes (or what ever amount of time is available and appropriate) to build on my relationship with them.
Sandler Sales Training taught me to use an up-front contract when I meet someone. I ask how much time they have to spend with me. Once I know how much time is available for the conversation, I spend as much of that time as I can building and expanding the relationship. Then, when appropriate, I let the conversation turn into business. At which time I may open my portfolio and discuss business, products, proposals, etc.
Building the relationship creates a better environment and opportunity for the next steps. Talking business, proposing products, solutions, services or, yes, maybe even the engagement ring.
Build the relationship first, with each conversation.
Success is more likely and rewarding when you develop and nurture the relationships.