Relationships are the beating heart of every facet of business. While it’s trendy to talk about the need to humanize all our interactions, marketing initiatives are especially successful when they’re founded on personal connections. Whether you’re working with internal teams like sales, IT and Human Resources, or building relationships with partners, customers and vendors, understanding each other’s goals should be foundational. The best relationships mean conversations become meaningful, team output hits the target, and collaboration replaces dissatisfaction.
But don’t such relationships just come naturally? That’s what many people assume, especially if you’re a big extrovert like me. But, a natural connection doesn’t get you off the hook from deliberately cultivating productive connections, especially in our age of digital communications.
The new applications driving our business life may have made tasks easier, but they’ve also made us busier. We communicate mostly through email, instant messaging, text, quick video chats or conference calls with a dozen people. Our efforts to solicit input from sales leaders, distributors, customers and other players usually means that we plow through so many deliverables that engaging personally with any one connection can get lost. Our interactions can be task-oriented and even superficial; as a result, we’re losing out on the potential for higher accomplishment.
The Rewards of Relationships
When clients, and colleagues understand each other, collaboration produces bigger results. Rather than pursuing programs that may conflict, or simply fail to support, each other, they can analyze each other’s aims and create a synergy that accelerates both paths to success and minimize missteps. It could be using the right targeted marketing data to drive a powerful sales approach or really learning about a client’s internal systems to design more efficient processes. Knowing IT’s possibilities can help to design more efficient systems while listening to customers can help create stronger personas and campaigns.
In many ways, relationships operate in a similar manner to cold calling; you need to know something about the prospect before you pick up the phone. By knowing their interests, you can use tools to understand what they’re looking for and what will interest them about your product. That level of awareness helps change an impersonal meeting into a relevant conversation.
The same principles apply to building relationships. By demonstrating awareness at the start of the connection, you’ll have additional credibility to help the other person feel more confident and comfortable working with you. The measurable ROI of any relationship is important – but so are the “soft skills” that help build the value you offer each other.
The Four Traits of Valuable Relationships
While each relationship is unique and varied, some important commonalities exist between how we approach and maintain them:
Represent your brand in a consistent way and you’ll distinguish your company from the competition. Too often, teams will roll out the red carpet at the beginning of the relationship and then lapse into a more perfunctory way of dealing with their partners and colleagues. Outreach becomes more infrequent, meetings become impersonal, and soon there doesn’t seem to be a relationship worth preserving.
By consistently delivering a positive experience, from thorough follow-up to engaged conversations, you’ll prove that you are committed at every step of your journey together.
- Setting the Right Expectations
Even relationships built with good intentions can go awry. The most common culprit? The two teams are working from different playbooks. Ensure you are speaking the same language and really understand the key terms for mutual understanding. When talking about key terms such as defined personas, addressable markets, quality leads, and contactable records, make sure both sides define and understand them in the same way. Unless you set the right expectations at the start, it’s easy to feel disappointment with the results. To make sure everyone’s on the same page, communicate your goals and find out theirs.
What constitutes the finish line? How will you both define success? Are there any fissures in the two team cultures? What resources will partners need to deliver? Holding open dialogues at the beginning can help unearth misunderstandings before they cause too much damage and give both teams a chance to course correct. Shared goals help everyone feel more connected and build the momentum that can accelerate accomplishments.
Transparency fosters trust because your vendors, clients and constituents have the visibility that makes them feel confident. Share your struggles as well as your achievements so everyone knows where you stand. Being open about your results can encourage your sales team and other departments to be more forthcoming with their own information, helping both of you acquire new insights. Too often, different teams will operate in a spirit of competition rather than collaboration – but transparency shows you’re a trustworthy teammate who’s committed to their success.
Ongoing reviews with your partners and vendors offer a great opportunity to reiterate the mutual benefits of your arrangement. Agree on a reporting process and feedback loop so that everyone knows what information they’ll get and when to expect it. Whether you’ve signed a new client or are trying to tighten alignment with your sales team, documenting roles and ownership is a smart way to understand who’s responsible for each component of the goals.
- Deliver the Right Solution
This may sound obvious – but it’s surprising how often teams fall short of the mark. After a few meetings, each believes they know what the other needs and months later realize they are drastically off course.
Spend time getting to know the other team’s strategic direction, corporate objectives and challenges so you know how your solution will impact all of them. Instead of asking the IT team to configure your marketing automation solution, find out how you can design a set-up that works for them as well as you. Come forward with multiple solutions and options whenever possible; offering more than one path to go down increases your odds of finding the best solution for both parties.
As we execute on different projects, we may refer to our interactions with different stakeholders and coworkers as relationships. But if we want to harvest insights and process improvements, impersonal communication just won’t do. Only by building meaningful connections will we reap the benefits that drive meaningful results. By following the four steps outlined above, everyone – not just charismatic extroverts – can build and maintain important relationships that drive results.