Turn off your smartphones … I’m talking relationship building
I’m joking. Don’t turn off your Smartphones … just put them aside long enough to read this. I began this article focused on how to build a strong relationship with your banker, but it has morphed somewhat. Relationship building isn’t unique to banking — it crosses all industries. It is about people, business and life.
If you are like me, you have occasionally been a bit envious of those individuals whom, from the outside looking in, seem to be natural connectors. You know the type — they offer and deliver help effortlessly. Whether it comes naturally or takes effort to be “strategic,” relationship building requires an investment and involves as much giving as getting. “To do more for the work than the work does for you – that is success,” said Henry Ford. The man knew a few things. Listen Up.
You can’t build relationships sitting behind your desk. Relationships won’t come to you. If you have identified business relationship targets, go seek out those individuals – shoe leather still matters.
Focus. Build relationships one at a time. This may sound sobering, but there are no short cuts. Relationships of any depth and quality require time and energy. Pre-populated mass emails may reach a lot of individuals, but they rarely open the door to build a relationship. I can imagine all the social media gurus cringing right now. I did not say don’t utilize social media platforms to connect. They can be a great first step. I love social media, but building business relationships requires focus. Mark Zwilling, founder and CEO of Startup Professional, writes, “More relationships are not always better. Highly successful business leaders don’t necessarily have larger networks. Be selective about the associations you form, listen carefully for situations where you can add value and derive value and prune the rest.”Ask questions. Have you ever noticed that most people like to talk about themselves and about what they think? When you connect with someone, ask questions … about their business, their interests and their family, etc. Then be quiet and let them speak. This bears repeating because it can’t be over emphasized: be quiet and let them speak. Don’t fall victim to the habit of formulating your next thought while the other person is speaking, or worse yet, interrupting. Stay present.
Overcome your fear of rejection. Many people struggle with approaching others to connect in business situations because they are nervous about the response they will get. If your job responsibilities require you to develop business, this can be a significant challenge … but to succeed, it is something you will have to overcome. Be confident and understand that every person has something unique to offer (and I am not speaking about products or services). There is only one you. Keeping the emphasis and conversation on the other person goes a long way to dissolving any anxiety in these types of settings.
Be tenacious. Connecting with others cannot be a “one and done” activity. The key to expanding your connections and building meaningful relationship is persistence. There is a process to follow, not a formula. Develop your process and be consistent in applying it.
Be creative. Building relationships requires thought and planning. There should not be a one size fits all approach. A little extra effort can make a unique impression on someone. What about sending a card or handwritten note, rather than an email, or pushing a button on your LinkedIn feed? Plan and keep a supply of cards in your car, office briefcase or at home. It only takes about 25 seconds. I’ve timed it.
Oh, and did I mention follow up? Of course, you all know that. To quote the apparel and shoe giant, Nike, “Just Do It.”This last one comes from my 12-year old daughter, Layla, who just this morning gave me a sign for my office that was written out in colored pencils. It says, “Always Be Yourself.” I think that is good advice at any age.
Gwynn Davey is Tampa Bay regional president at ServisFirst Bank. She previously served as the market president of Hillsborough County, for Bay Cities Bank in Tampa, from 2013 until its sale to Centennial Bank in October 2015. She also previously served the Tampa Bay community for Bay Cities Bank through positions of increasing authority, rising from vice president of commercial lending to senior lender, and ultimately to her final position as market president. Contact Gwynn at [email protected]