10 Tips for Building Relationships

While I’ve been managing projects at Sain Associates for more than 30 years, I’ve also led our marketing and business development efforts for 25 years. I love serving as Sain’s Director of Business Development because I enjoy building relationships, talking with people, and helping people.

The main goal of business development is to find new customers and clients and maintain existing relationships. Over the years, I’ve worked with many people and seen how they do business, which has led me to create my own ideas and philosophies about developing relationships with clients.

Here are ten pieces of advice that have been helpful in my experience. I keep these ideas and guiding principles in mind every day at Sain Associates:

  • Consider first how you can help someone else be successful. Serving and helping others builds trust, and it is an important step in developing strong business relationships. Trustworthiness has been important from the beginning of Sain’s history, and it is a big part of having high integrity, which is one of our core values.
  • People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. This is one of my favorite laws from John Maxwell’s book 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. Caring about other people reflects my spiritual beliefs and guides our professional practice.
  • Be involved in civic organizations, professional organizations, and ministries that allow you to give back to the community. My involvement in the American Society of Civil Engineers, Irondale and Shelby County Chambers, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and other organizations has helped me grow as a leader and hopefully be a better person.
  • Host client and colleague appreciation gatherings. Events create visibility for the company, provide networking opportunities, and create goodwill. Supporting charities of our clients is just as important as supporting our own because it shows that we care about things important to them.
  • Become a thought leader or expert in your industry. I can’t say enough about the power of social media. Sain’s social media, weekly blog posts, and e-newsletter have raised awareness of our business in the marketplace. Sharing about the technical and personal side of Sain Associates helps people learn more about us, what we value, and what’s important to us.
  • Work hard to have your services valued rather than seen as a commodity. Differentiate your service or character as unique to the needs of your client. For example, one of our clients asked the design team to get support letters for his submission for state historic tax credits, and we were able to help.
  • Be the most accessible person in your office. This is always my goal. I try to return phone calls within two hours and answer emails within the same day I receive them.  I’ve had clients tell me they give me business because they know they can reach me.
  • Don’t send an email when you need to talk with someone. When in doubt, you should talk face-to-face or over the phone.
  • When hiring staff, remember that the person’s character is as important as their skills. We are blessed with a great team at Sain, and they are vitally important to our business.
  • Always thank people for their business. And when seeking new business, always ask for the job.

Ultimately, I recommend looking at business relationships and marketing opportunities first by how you can help others. I think it’s more common to ask what you can get out of other people instead of how you can serve them. It may be a different way of thinking about business development, but it has been very successful for us at Sain Associates.