For all the attention given to developing unbeatable sales strategies and cutting-edge business negotiation techniques, great business relationships aren't as mysterious or complicated as some want you to believe.
There's little trick to it. The traits that serve you best in business are the ones that serve you best in life. Business people are, by and large, just people. A sense of genuine humanity and accessibility are going to get you further than a slick sales persona and intimidating double speak.
Good business relationships can be broken down into seven separate steps.
Set a positive tone for your company
Your company's business relationships will usually end up reflecting the personality of your senior team. We try to be very aware of this at Credit Karma. I want us to be open, candid and fair with our partners. The only way to ingrain these values in your company is through positive leadership. By setting these values down early, they've taken root within our business development and sales teams and scaled with us as we've grown.
Know your value proposition
When you're creating real value and have a unique offering as a company, everything else falls into place. It's easier to get noticed by larger companies in your industry. You never have to inflate your importance if you're bringing people real benefit you can speak to directly.
Find gain for both parties
Good partnerships have something beneficial for both sides. Successful relationship building comes when you realize that a deal will eventually fall apart when the economics are skewed too far toward one party. The fair deal is always the one that nets the most amount of value for both sides.
Err on the side of humility
In business, humility always trumps arrogance. Your partners will appreciate being treated in an honest and straightforward manner. Showing humility is about being respectful, genuine and upfront. It's an important attribute that will win you a lot of points.
Embrace your own personality
People too often put on a sales-oriented persona separate to whom they actually are. The older I get, the faster I see through these false fronts. You quickly start to realize that they're not as clever as you might have believed at an earlier point in your career. When you're working within the context of your own personality, you will be more effective and relatable to others, by default. You can't be afraid of embracing the traits inherent in your personality, whatever they are.
We are direct with our partners about what we think the best-case scenarios are and how business realities don't match up to these every time. By doing so, we're setting both of our expectations at a manageable level. Pleasant surprises are always much better than frustrating disappointments.
Keep the lines of communication open
Once the business terms have been established, keeping the lines of communication open is the most important consideration. If things start going south, it's vital for your partners to know that they can pick up a phone and get through to you. Human contact is a great way to diffuse conflict. It's hard to be frank and attack problems in any relationship when you're talking through intermediaries.