Gaining competitive advantage through the power of relationships

Gaining competitive advantage through the power of relationships, an article by Ascend - leading boutique talent strategy and leadership development consultancy based in London, England.

Some companies and individuals have a product or service that is so unique or ground-breaking that it sells itself. People come searching for it and are willing to pay above the odds due to the perceived value that it will bring to them. Just look at the iPhone. It had people queuing for miles just to get their hands on one. We had survived for decades without one but now most of us absolutely had to have one!

These products and services are rare.

In the main, we all work for companies where, in our particular sector, our products and services are similar if not exactly the same as the competitions. All you have to do is search for something on Amazon to see how saturated the market is on any one product. Obviously marketing and brand cache has a great role to play in informing our decision on what to buy and of course, in today’s more risk-averse companies, the old adage ‘No one ever got fired for buying IBM’ is still around.

But there is another way that you can successfully and sustainably win and develop business, regardless of whether it is better than anything else on the market. One thing that has remained constant in our society is that people buy from people they know, like and trust.

Here are Ascend’s top tips to help you quickly build close, trusting relationships with potential and new clients.

Be interested in the other person, not just as a client but as a whole person.
In other words treat them as human being not human doings. Remember the little things: children’s names, holiday places, hobbies, etc. and use them to make your interactions less formal and more relaxed. Listen to what they are saying and to what they are not saying (a colleague of mine says – ‘give them a jolly good listening to!’). Make sure you summarise to check understanding and to show that you were listening.

Disclose something of you as a person.
It gives opportunities to build rapport. I once won some business because a client found out we had the same breed of dog!

Be credible and reliable.
Know your stuff, do your research, tailor your approach and give them a feel for what it will be like to work with you. Furthermore, deliver what you say you will, when you say you will. This will further build and sustain their trust in you.

Be clear on the benefits.
Clarity is imperative and leaves little room for confusion. Make sure you are clear on the benefits of any solution you are proposing and articulate the positive impact it will have, not just its process or features.

Be prepared to challenge.
Too often I work with people who are so conflict averse that they won’t challenge a client when they think they are making the wrong decision or being unreasonable. Clients often respect you more for standing up to them when they are out of order, or for pointing out when they are going down the wrong path, if you have their best interests at heart

Be strategic about who you are spending your time with.
We all like to spend time with people whose company we enjoy most but are these the people who can help you to achieve your business goals? Make sure you know who the key decision makers and influencers are in respect to achieving your business goals. Which relationships do you need to strengthen? Are you focusing your efforts in the right area of the organization? Are you building strong relationships with the people who sign the cheques?

Be honest about your relationships.
Sometimes no matter how hard you try, a relationship is not always going to work. It may be a personality clash, a perceived slight or just lack of chemistry. Learn to recognise when this is the case and focus your time and energy elsewhere. Think about assigning someone else in the organization who might be a better match for the particular client.

Ascend runs a number of in-company interventions, from executive and team coaching to inspirational workshops, aimed at helping senior people build more effective client, and sometimes internal, relationships. We use a range of models, frameworks and interactive exercises to help you build the relationships you need in order to achieve your business (and sometimes personal) goals. 

We are also running a two day Open Programme on Building Powerful Relationships in late September in London. Details will be coming out shortly.

Ditto Branding