Having a positive relationship with a client or vendor doesn’t necessarily mean becoming their best friend, but it does require establishing some of the building blocks of basic friendship.  When a client needs additional service, a speedy turnaround, last-minute changes or something else that involves the vendor going out of their way to make an extra effort, chances are, they will have a better chance of getting that preferential treatment if they have a great relationship.  Likewise, when the vendor needs a referral, reference, or insight into a problem or anything else that involves the client going out of their way to make an extra effort, chances are again, that they will have a better chance of that happening if they have a great relationship.

During a business trip in New York City last week, I thought about this simple principle a lot.  Establishing strong relationships is critical for mutual success.  As I went in and out of meetings, it was evident to me where strong relationships had been formed and where I needed to work harder.  In my effort to work on my relationship building, I put together  seven keys to improving relationships:

1)    Trust

Trust is everything. Without it, there is no relationship.

2)    Honesty

Be honest at all costs- even when you have made a mistake or have to deliver bad news. Being honest might not always be easy, but you will be better off in the long run and the client will respect you for having done so.

3)    Face-Time

Don’t be a name at the bottom of an e-mail.  While it often very difficult to find the time to do this with our busy schedules, having a face to face meetings, lunches, etc. will go a long way in building a relationship that goes the distance.

4)    Agree to Disagree

You are not always going to see eye to eye with everyone you meet.  While it is important to listen closely and understand the opinion and position of others, it is critical to stay true to your beliefs.  It doesn’t have to be a fight, but you will feel better about staying true to yourself and your client or vendor will respect your honesty and truthfulness in your position.

5)    Compromise (when you just can’t agree to disagree)

Ah, where would this world be without compromise? Nowhere is the answer. And that is exactly where your relationship be if you do not practice compromise. We have to understand that we will not agree on everything and when you just cannot agree to disagree, you must compromise.

6)    Communication

This is a vital key to fostering a healthy relationship with anyone.  Most disagreements and breakdowns in understanding are due to poor communication or misunderstanding.

7)    Listen, listen, listen

Always give your client your full attention and really listen to what they are saying to you. There is nothing more annoying than being misunderstood or forced to repeat yourself because the other person is half listening.