A SOUND FOUNDATION
BY: AMY PETERSEN, CO-FOUNDER + CHIEF SALES OFFICER, MORTARR
7 KEYS TO BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS IN BUSINESS
I can’t stand silence. At work, in a meeting, in an elevator, during yoga – I have to fill the silence. I even hum when I’m alone in my office. Some might consider this a problem, but I consider it a strength. One of my biggest actually.
My inability to withstand silence has opened so many doors for me throughout my career. How? It’s granted me what some might call “the gift of gab”. Whether in an elevator, hotel lobby, on a tradeshow floor, or a coffee bar my inability to tolerate silence has propelled me to spark up conversations with new people left and right. Usually it starts with something simple, like me asking about their day. As simple as that sounds it has led to some amazing relationships. And after all isn’t that what life and business are all about?
While filling the silence is a great conversation starter, there are some deeper themes that also help create and grow relationships.
IT'S A SMALL WORLD.
My first sense of relationships, or the importance of relationships, happened at a very young age. I grew up in a small town, where everybody knew everybody – and no, we weren’t all related. But because we all knew each other, we helped each other out. It wasn’t something anyone thought about, it was just what you did.
I’ve kept that mentality with me. Throughout college and my career, that small-town mentality has served me well regardless of where I’m living, where I’m working, or what industry I’m in.
The AEC industry seems to be an even smaller world. People may change companies, but they’re probably still in the same field. Don’t let those relationships diminish because of location or title change. Maintain the connection — you never know what it might lead to.
I’ve been in sales and marketing my entire career and I really, really dislike salespeople who are too sales-y. Who doesn’t? Believe me, I’ve seen it all and it boils down to the simple fact that they aren’t genuine. They’re in it for what they need in any given moment. And as we know from personal relationships, that isn’t going to last. Professional relationships aren’t that much different from personal ones. You gravitate toward, you connect with, people who share some sort of common connection or goal. Working with people that you have a connection with, in a mutually beneficial relationship is something to seek out.
So, skip the canned small talk and find commonalities. If you were to host a dinner party, who would you invite? What’s on your top 10 travel list? I try to start up a conversation with them, find some common ground, and go from there.
ALWAYS BE OPEN TO MEETING NEW PEOPLE.
You’re never too old, too settled, or too advanced in your career to meet new people and make new relationships. It would be a mistake to think otherwise. Think of it this way: The baby boomer generation controls 8.4 million businesses in the United States. They started retiring in 2016 and will continue to do so at a rate of 10,000/day for the next decade. Those businesses will be sold or passed down to the next generation. Who is filling those seats? How are you introducing yourself to them? That next generation might not care that your grandpa and their grandpa golfed together.
PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE.
It would be foolish to think that the world is changing, but relationships aren’t. Online relationships are just as important as the ones you are building offline, and relationship building IS business building. I don’t believe you need to be an extrovert to be good at relationship building, but I do think you need to have a strong sense of self. That allows you to find an approach that works for you and helps you find common ground with people. It helps you remember that people are just people. It can be intimidating pitching to a leadership team, or to someone in higher authority, but remember we can all relate to something. Usually that something is human, or something furry, like dogs. Did I mention I have a dog named Birdie? She’s a hit around the office and just one small example of some common ground I share with animal lovers everywhere.
Social media is a great way to stay in touch with those you have relationships with. I can see who is commenting on my stuff and I comment back, like and engage with their posts. Whether it’s professionally advantageous or not, it doesn’t matter. You never know when things might come back around – whether new collaborations or new ways of working together might be possible further down the road.
It really goes back to creating those genuine relationships.
MAINTAIN. MAINTAIN. MAINTAIN.
I don’t think anyone will disagree when I say loyalty in business sadly isn’t what it used to be. And there is competition everywhere. The bottom line drives more and more decisions, and that’s not unique to the AEC industry. But relationships impact that.