How can I build business relationships

10 tips to help you make and maintain contacts with other entrepreneurs!

Establishing and maintaining valuable business contacts requires time and energy. Entrepreneurs, managing directors and salespeople should proceed systematically when establishing and expanding their network of relationships.

Nothing comes from nothing - this also applies to networking. Because not only establishing contacts, but also maintaining them require time and personal commitment. Therefore, here are some tips on what you should pay attention to in business relationship management, i.e. in the systematic development and expansion of business relationships.

Tip 1: Do not contact blindly!

The term “Business Relationship Management” already suggests: Building and maintaining relationships in a business context is never purposeful. Rather, the overriding goal is: Your business - and that of your network partner - should benefit from this in the medium or long term. Before you start networking, you should therefore carefully analyze: Which people and organizations could it be worth building a relationship with, directly or indirectly? For example, because they could become lucrative customers themselves? Or because they could be important referrers because of their network? Or because you could benefit from their know-how?

Tip 2: Less mass, more class!

Building and maintaining personal relationships takes time. It is accordingly important not to deal with God and the world Relationships to maintain. Studies show: Nobody can maintain close relationships with more than 150 people. Even if there are a dozen more contacts in individual cases, the fact remains: Your time is limited. It is better to invest them in a few fertile contacts than many infertile ones. Define criteria for yourself by which you decide: I want to build a close (business) relationship with these people or organizations and not with them.

And think about, for example, before and at the start of a congress (based on the list of participants): Who do I want to contact and why? Otherwise, there is a high risk that your new contacts are chance acquaintances who are of no use to you in business. And don't be afraid of rejecting a contact request - for example via Xing. Because the same applies to networking in social media: It is not the mass, but the class of contacts that makes the difference.

Tip 3: plan time for networking!

A good network does not fall from the sky. You have to work it out. So decide, for example: In future I will invest ten percent of my working time in establishing and expanding business contacts. Because if you never attend an association meeting due to lack of time, you cannot get to know anyone there. And if you never call, visit or invite friends “just like that”, you will not develop a personal relationship with them. On the contrary: the relationship cools down over time. Incidentally, this also applies to regular customers. You should also contact them more often “without cause” - and not only when a contract extension is pending. Otherwise there is a great risk that a competitor will in the meantime develop an ever closer relationship with your customer. With the consequence: at some point you will be rid of your regular customers.

Tip 4: Good preparation is essential!

"Oh fright, oh horror, how do I address the person? And what do I talk to her about? ”This is what people often ask themselves when they want to contact someone - for example at a symposium. The contact and topic choice will be easy if you prepare adequately. Suppose your target person is the managing director of a medium-sized company. Then take a look at the company website? How does your target person present themselves there? Does it seem relaxed or stiff for a managing director? And is there your résumé on the website? If not, take a look at Xing or LinkedIn. And google what is on the Internet about your target person and their company. Maybe she wrote technical articles. Then a start to the conversation could be: “Mr. Meyer (or Ms. Müller), I recently read an article from you on the subject of x in the newspaper y. It inspired me a lot because…. ”Such a start in a conversation flatters almost everyone, and the ice is broken.

Tip 5: If you are in a good mood, you will be well received!

Before you contact someone in person, you should ask yourself: Am I in the mood for this at all? Because if you are in a bad mood and don't really feel like making small talk, then your counterpart will notice this immediately - not just based on your (body) language. Your eyes are especially treacherous. So, if you're in a bad mood, skip networking. Or put yourself in a good mood beforehand. For example, by thinking about a nice experience for two or three minutes. For example, your last vacation or a great business success. Then your mood improves and you approach other people in good spirits.

(Image: © NoahGolan - Fotolia.de)

Barbara Liebermeister is an expert in business relationship management. She is the author of the book “Efficient Networking: How to Turn a Contact into a Business Relationship with Value”, published by FAZ-Verlag.