Business relationships: Are you easy to deal with?
I recently read an article about the value of projecting an image that’s consistent with your personal branding. It reminded me of an encounter I had which prompted me to look at my business relationships and ask “What am I like to do business with?”
I met Jane (not her real name) when I joined a monthly networking group. Conscious that an upcoming holiday meant I was going to miss the next meeting, Jane was one of several members that I set out to meet one-on-one so that it wouldn’t be two months before we could connect again.
Although Jane was initially enthusiastic about my invitation to catch up, pinning her down to a time and place turned out to be tough going.
She was busy in the few weeks leading up to my holiday, so we arranged that I’d contact her on my return. At that point, she wasn’t forthcoming in suggesting days, times or locations that would suit her, which made things slightly difficult, but I was happy to take the initiative and offer some options.
In return I received a novel-length email telling me that the coffee shop I’d nominated was “not in her zone” and a blow-by-blow description of ALL the tasks and appointments she had on her schedule.
Far too much information! By now I was starting to feel that connecting and developing a business relationship with me was just another chore on Jane’s to-do list, and my enthusiasm was waning.
"...take a step back and stand in your clients’ and suppliers’ shoes for a moment. How could you make yourself easier to do business with?"
In the end, I suggested we simplify things and talk on the phone (BYO coffee!), and again suggested some suitable times.
Two weeks later, I’m yet to receive a reply to my email, and have been left with a bad taste in my mouth!
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But actually, Jane has taught me a valuable lesson about the lasting impressions created during even the most fleeting of interactions, and their potential impact on my business relationships.
I’m aware that the judgements I’ve formed about her may not be accurate, but nonetheless my impression of Jane is that she’s difficult to deal with, and I question what she’d be like to work with. I no longer have much desire to get to know her, and the whole experience means I’m unlikely to recommend her to potential clients either.
I suspect Jane is oblivious to the effect she’s had on me, and the impact it could have on our future business relationship. That awareness has made me reflect on my own communication with those who want to create business relationships with me.
My availability to spend time with people in person or on the phone is limited to the two days each week that my baby is in childcare – and of course these are the only days I have for my client sessions too. I can see there have been times where I may have been “hard work” to connect with myself, and that this may well have damaged potential business relationships or limited my work opportunities.
I don’t want others to be burdened by my limited time constraints, so, thanks to Jane, I’m now consciously asking myself whether I make life easy or difficult for the people I interact with. Do I seem interested and engaged? Do they leave me feeling valued and important?
It is easy to get caught up in your own world and your own priorities, but take a step back and stand in your clients’ and suppliers’ shoes for a moment. How could you make yourself easier to do business with?