Five ways to build better business connections

For business leaders who are used to in-person interactions, it’s a brave new world. The worldwide spread of the COVID-19 virus and the advent of social distancing guidelines mean that people are now spending less face-to-face time with others. Businesses must re-think the way they conduct operations, as face-to-face contact may not always be an option. Leaders must make a concerted effort to build better connections and sustain existing relationships. With social distancing guidelines constantly shifting and businesses struggling to remain operational in these uncertain times, staying connected is imperative.

The value of interpersonal connections

As face-to-face interactions decrease, the pandemic has allowed us to appreciate the value of social capital and creating interpersonal connections. According to a Forbes report, the future workplace is one that “embraces technology including its limitations and one that treats in-person connections as more intentional and precious.” What does this mean for the average business leader?  By being intentional, it simply means making the effort to reach out to business connections, clients and employees to stay in touch – whether that’s by phone, video conference call, email, text message or another communications channel. We need to consciously carve out time to cultivate our relationships. Here are five ideas to help you build better business connections:

1. Develop a plan

Businesses should develop a stakeholder engagement strategy that focuses on strengthening relationships and networks, and enhancing interactions with clients, partners and employees. The plan should clearly identify all of the stakeholders that are important to your business and map out how often you will contact them, the type of proposed interaction, and by what channel. Discussions could be related to a specific business campaign or objective, or be more casual. Sometimes it’s nice to just check in and see how people are going.

2. Make them feel valued

Every interaction with stakeholders should make them feel valued and appreciated. Think about how you can make your stakeholders feel special and important. Make a note of clients’ birthdays or special milestones and help them celebrate. Monitor your clients’ achievements by following them on social media and be quick to congratulate them. It’s also important to be there for your clients during challenging times, such as experiencing a loss or an illness. A thoughtful card or small act of kindness will be remembered. And, of course, remember to thank your clients for their business. At Christmas time, consider sending your clients a small gift for their continued support.

3. Communicate

Be transparent and communicate regularly with your clients.  Inform them of any news updates for your company, whether it’s a new product or service or the latest health and safety update on COVID-19. Developing a company newsletter or eDM are some ways to keep clients informed and engaged. Keeping open the channels of communication with clients will build trust and avoid any risk of miscommunication or misinterpretation.

4. Ask for feedback

With every business, there is room for improvement. Ask your client for honest and constructive feedback on your customer service and the products or services that you provide.  If you choose to act on their feedback, inform your client when you do. It will demonstrate that you are listening to what they have to say and that you value their opinion.

5. Listen to what clients say

Delivering excellent customer service is just as much about listening, as it is about doing. Listen to your client and take note of what they say – whether it’s a preference for emails over phone calls, or whether their favourite recreational activity is playing 18-holes of golf. The next time you connect with your client, they will appreciate it when you ask how their game was over the weekend, or switch to communicating with them via email only. If they offer important information about their company, take comprehensive notes. Ask focused questions to help you clarify any points or key messages. Make sure you take steps to resolve any issues or progress any requests. By making a conscious effort to communicate with their clients regularly, business leaders will be rewarded with strengthened interpersonal connections and loyal clients.

A solution to stay

To learn how your business can adapt to the shifting business landscape, please contact Phillips Group’s Managing Director Stephanie Paul or on our Group Executive Directors Melanie Edgar, Sarah McCreeshHelen Hutchings.