Discussion2On a theoretical level we all know that reputation is important and that, without a relationship, business does not get done – so you need both to generate revenue reliably.

If you are proactive in building strong relationships you’ll enhance your reputation.  It becomes a single circular band as people who have great relationships with you say good things about you and your reputation gets better and better.  People hear about you from your ‘fans’ and make contact and, if you’re doing the right things’  become raving fans in turn.  It’s the easiest way to generate a stream of people who want to work with you – and the hardest.

Shine up your reputation

I’ve already written several blogs about this so, rather than reinvent the wheel, take a look at:

What are people saying about you?

How shiny is your reputation?

A bit more than expected

What is your reputation worth?

Develop great relationships

Relationships are rarely an accident – certainly not in business.  If you rely on happenstance to bring you customers you won’t have a very stable business.  However, the relationships you have with your clients is core to a successful business; if you don’t work on the relationship, people defect to your competitors.

Yes, we’re all busy working on our businesses, but building good relationships with potential clients is what will influence them to come back to you when they need what you’re offering.  In other words, it’s an essential part of your marketing and sales process.

How many of us are guilty of these sins?

  • Ignoring a retweet or mention on Twitter without acknowledging it or saying ‘thank you’
  • Not engaging with people on our Facebook Page – just sending out a stream of ‘we did this today’ posts
  • Sending out requests for contacts on LinkedIn with the standard text and not messaging those connections that you’ve made
  • Talking about yourself at a networking event and making no effort to find out about other people in the group

Of course, if your potential clients aren’t on a particular platform then simply keeping your head above the parapet is OK, but if you’re planning to use a particular platform (or networking group) as a means of getting business you need to not only be visible, but also to stand out from the rest of the crowd.

I teach people how to use LinkedIn well and simply changing LinkedIn’s standard:

I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn

To something you’ve written yourself puts you in an elite group that makes up less than 1% of LinkedIn users.  I use:

I find LinkedIn really useful to talk business-to-business – it would be good to get connected and hope that we’ll both benefit!

And this brings me lots of positive comments.  I also have a message ready that I personalise and send out to everyone whose connection I accept.  This often gets a conversation going and has resulted in several 1-2-1s with people who are nearby and a few Skype chats with people further afield.  So many people see the LinkedIn connections process as a numbers game rather than a relationship opener that I really stand out as unusual.

Show an interest in people – particularly in those people who match your ideal client profile – and offer help, share your knowledge via blogs, newsletters, Twitter tips, YouTube videos or downloadable material.

Sharing your knowledge, tips, advice, suggestions all help to cement your relationships.  It doesn’t have to be one-at-a-time, it can be as simple as sharing a really good blog you’ve read with your connections via an update or Tweet.  If you want to reach people more reliably you will need to actually email that information – and that can be done by sending the information to your chosen connections either directly from your email client, by a newsletter system or using LinkedIn tagging and messaging tools.

Converting relationships to revenue

It’s all down to having a system – and before you shout ‘how can you systemise a relationship?’ there are steps to take to ensure you build solid foundations in any relationship.  You need to be consistent and be authentic.

If you show a real interest in the other person you’ll find that they share their challenges and, if you’re willing to give advice and help, often become a client.  The more relationships you have, the more people you can help, the more clients you gain – and the more revenue you generate.

Of course, it takes effort, but it doesn’t need to be a huge mountain to climb – it’s all about developing habits that contribute to building relationships.  What can you do that will improve your relationships with new connections and contacts?