Building a Business Relationship

Posted by Kirby Turner on July 21, 2004

Over the last few years I have watched and learned about building business relationships. I have seen huge mistakes made and I have seen techniques used that lead to great success. However, the key to building a relationship, whether good or bad, is always same…communication. A lack of communication will spell disaster for any relationship while a good amount of communication can spell success.

Good communication does not guarantee success but it eliminates the element of surprise. Most people don’t like surprises unless it is for happy moments. Having a surprise birthday party thrown in your honor will make you feel good. We like those types of surprises. However, being told that the project is going to take twice as long to complete and at twice the cost is not the type of surprise you want. It’s not a happy moment and the customer does not like those types of surprises.

While we all know no one likes the bad moment surprises, I’m constantly amazed when I see a development team surprise the customer team and project stake holders with bad news. You are not going to be able to prevent bad things from happening within a project, but you can eliminate the element of surprise and it starts with communication.

You can eliminate the element of surprise by communicating with the customer on a regular basis. This communication must include the good, bad and the ugly. The good news is always easy to share, but you also should be willing to share the bad and ugly news even at the risk of having the project canceled. The relationship you are building will only strengthen with your honesty and upfront nature, and this should result in greater awards further down the road.

Frequent, open, and honest communication is a key to building successful relationships. However, one must know how to balance the information communicated. Someone who cries wolf all the time will loss credibility. Likewise the individual who only shares good news is likely to be perceived as hiding information, which can result in a loss of credibility as well. The trick here is to balance the information shared and provide only the information required by your audience to keep them informed and to eliminate surprise.

As an example of this, if your project is showing signs of slippage share this knowledge with your customer, but don’t make it sound like a crisis. Just indicate that there are early signs of slippage and outline your plans to counter the affects. This should be done early on instead of waiting until there is major slippage in the project timeline.

If slippage occurs, the customer will not be surprised by the news. If slippage does not occur then the customer will see your were able to mitigate the risks. Either way you were able to eliminate the element of surprise and instilled greater confidence in your abilities with your customer and thus strengthening the business relationship.

Eliminating the element of surprise with regard to unfortunate news will help strengthen your business relationship with your customer and will hopefully result future work with your customer.

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