Working on relationship building? Great! So are we!
In fact, I recently wrote an article about relationship building with a quick tip on where to get started.
Today’s article is part two. And this time, we’re going to dive into process. I know, I know—relationship building and process—it probably doesn’t sound very enticing. But I promise you, this is good stuff! Keep reading!
Relationship Building: Do You Have a Process?
There are some things in life, like parenting, that don’t come with a handbook. Parenting, like building relationships, involves a lot of trial and error.
Through experience, and sometimes with help from a book or two (or ten!), parents figure things out. They learn what makes their kids tick, what motivates them, what demotivates them, and what they need to succeed. The happiest parents I know have figured out the power of routine, and that having a process creates a healthy space for everyone.
In fact, processes and routines are very powerful. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg and Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits—To Sleep More, Quit Sugar, Procrastinate Less, and Generally Build a Happier Life by Gretchen Rubin, both explore the role that habits play in our everyday lives. Duhigg believes that habits allow us to be more productive. And Rubin agrees that positive habits help us to build happier lives overall.
In sales, processes and habits lead to success. All great sales managers know that having and using a sales process can mean the difference between momentum, stagnation, and failure.
So, when it comes to building relationships, why not follow a process? Sure, it might seem a little “unnatural” at first, but I assure you that following a process will lead to deeper, more developed relationships.
Developing a Process for Relationship Building
Developing strong, healthy relationships doesn’t have to be difficult. But as I mentioned, it does take a little work.
I believe that there are three very important steps in the relationship building process. They are:
- Practice Effective Listening
- Communicate Often
- Be Generous
In this article, I’d like to dive into the first step of the relationship building process. Don't forget to document these steps in your Sales PlayBook!
Practice Effective Listening: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
Stephen Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, hit the nail on the head with his thoughts on listening. His fifth habit, “seek first to understand, then to be understood,” highlights an extremely important aspect of relationship building: effective listening.
We’ve all had (or maybe even still have) that friend. You know, the one that is me, me, me and doesn’t allow you to get a word in edge-wise? Or perhaps they allow you to speak, only to respond with, “I know, that’s happened to me before too.” Or they just completely disregard what you’ve said to begin talking about something else entirely. Whatever the case, don’t be “that guy” (as they say here in the northeast!).
Covey distinguishes between five types of listening, or “pretending” to listen:
- Ignoring: not really listening at all.
- Pretending: humming along while not really following.
- Selective listening: hearing what you want to hear.
- Attentive listening: paying attention to the words.
- Empathic listening: intending to understand what the other is trying to communicate.
In sales, the way we listen is extremely important. Salespeople in general have received a bad rap over the years because of poor listening skills. Instead of effectively listening to prospects, they spend their time pushing a sale. And nobody likes a pushy salesperson!
If you want to build strong relationships, developing good habits for effective listening, also referred to as active listening, is a great place to start.
To develop healthy listening habits that will help you build strong relationships, consider Covey’s four keys to empathic listening.
What NOT to do:
- Evaluate: do not immediately let the other know whether you agree or disagree.
- Probe: do not keep asking questions and investigating.
- Advise: do not counsel purely based on your personal experiences.
- Interpret: do not try to define the motives of the behavior based on your personal experience.
What TO do:
- Mimic the content: repeat what the other just said. This ensures that you are listening and that the other person knows you’re listening. The good thing about mimicking is that there is no place for judgment.
- Rephrase the content: tell the same story, but in your own words. You show not only that you are listening, but also that you understand what the other person is (literally) saying.
- Reflect on feelings: focus on the emotions that lie behind what is told, not on the words that try to express these emotions.
- Rephrase the content and reflect the feeling: this is a combination of the second and third form of empathic listening. It shows that you are really listening and understand what message lies behind the words.
When I was young, my dad explained that relationships have emotional bank accounts. He said that each person in the relationship has the ability to make deposits and withdrawals, and stressed the importance of balance.
In relationships, both in business and at home, emotional bank accounts matter. If I take the time to listen to my friends, co-workers, and family members, I’m working on my deposits in the emotional bank account. But if I spend all my time talking and don’t invest time in a given relationship, I’m making a withdrawal.
Do you tend to make more withdrawals then deposits in your relationships? If so, practicing empathic or active listening, and focusing on making deposits rather than withdrawals, will help.
Relationship Building: Next Steps
I hope today’s post helps as you focus on developing great relationships. Stay tuned for more on the relationship building process—I’ll be sharing more on communication and generosity soon.
Want to learn about this sooner? Check out our eBook on Building Relationships for Success.