With all the investment that firms are making in technology it is easy to forget that most businesses are people businesses – staff and clients - and that the personal touch is critical to success. Building rapport gives employees that sense of appreciation that stops them getting itchy feet and it makes a big difference when negotiating with your clients.
I’m not suggesting that you or your employees should ignore key metrics, but an excessive focus on too many numbers can lead to a rigid and impersonal approach to business that will hold back your revenue and profit numbers…
Here are five of my top tips for strengthening personal relationships:
1. Call /meet when you say you will – it’s basic but I’m amazed how often people don’t. Even if you haven’t got anything to update them on, if you’ve said you’ll call/meet then do it. It shows respect and dependability and builds trust.
2. Birthdays – celebrate and client birthdays. A handwritten card or a phone call is a minimum (not an email!). Something a little more generous - flowers or cufflinks or a cake or an invitation for a drink – can set you apart… It can increase your costs but not by much if managed against return on investment and the goodwill it generates often ups success rate.
3. Spontaneous gestures – if you know your colleagues’ and clients’ interests then an “I saw this and thought of you” gesture can distinguish you from all the other consultants out there. A book, a print, a small gadget, even a relevant youtube video etc. will show you know them and have them in mind.
4. Personal invitations – if you are hosting an event, don’t just copy and paste names into an email distribution list. Give your contacts a call to let them know that it would be great to see them and to expect an invitation.
5. Give them something for nothing – if you are sending out a newsletter or can help a client with a relationship at minimal cost to yourself, why not make a gesture of goodwill. If an employee has done something particularly well then make a one-off announcement to praise them for the extra effort they put in.
Alex Arnot is non executive director to more than 20 companies.