Relationships, in both your personal and business life, are a key component of success. We aren’t really taught how to do relationships well. But people are more likely to want to do business with someone who is honest and likable than someone who is less than pleasant. Improving communications and relationships is an important area to focus on because it is so likely to improve your business and your life in general.

Because there have so many critical ethics violations by large corporations, there has been a new call for businesses to be “transparent”- that is radically honest. Studies have shown that customers are more loyal to companies that make mistakes, quickly admit them and fix the problem than they are to companies who never made a mistake. Be as transparent as possible with your customers, vendors and employees to improve your reputation.

Eye contact is crucial when you are interacting directly with an individual. Eye contact indicates that you are listening and that you care. We’ve all been involved in a conversation with someone whose eyes are traveling the room. This makes the speaker feel devalued. Try improving communications by paying attention and look them in the eye.

People want to feel known. We all have a story to tell, but most of us are so eager to tell it we never ask other people about theirs. By truly wanting to get to know your customers or employees, you build loyalty and support. This also helps you root out problems early. Be of service and learn to truly ask and listen to the people around you.

Learn to read body language. There is plenty of information available so that you can learn to pick up on the subtle communication that people send out non-verbally. Crossed arms, lack of attention, and how someone is holding their head are all cues on how they are feeling and, when it comes to sales or relationship management, can help you identify problems early on.

Be liberal with praise. Dale Carnegie, in his classic How to Win Friends & Influence People, recommended finding one thing with every person that you meet that you can genuinely praise or compliment. This is true with customers but also with employees. Recruiting staff is much more expensive than retaining them. Make it a goal to praise people once per week or more for their work, how they handled a situation or just their overall demeanor.

Be sure you are open to input (aka criticism) from others. Let them know that you’re comfortable discussing conflict and concerns. By setting this standard of honesty up front, you are encouraging them to do the same. All of this goes a long way to developing the groundwork for a healthy, open relationship. Your likability and your communication skills can make the difference in your business success.


by Steven Schlagel – August 24, 2009