by Bette Price, CMC

   While interviewing presidents and CEOs for my True Leader book, Gary Nelon, Chairman and CEO of First Texas Bancorp coined the expression, "Fast birds don't fly far." He used the expression to explain that while companies sometimes appear to be highly profitable in achieving quick success, it is often unrealistic and very short lived--ala Enron or the bubble. The same can be said for salespeople.
   True sales leaders know that when salespeople merely focus on meeting quick, short-term sales goals, it does little to create sustainable, long-term revenues. To avoid the short lived success syndrome, salespeople must view the sales process as longer, not shorter. That is not to say that some sales cannot be turned rather quickly, depending upon the specific client's need. But, it is to say that to achieve continual momentum rather than merely getting momentary, short-term sales, the salesperson must be committed for the long haul. That means taking the time to build strong, long-lasting relationships. The problem is many salespeople don't know how to do that. "How do you expect me to build deep, committed relationships with all the people I have to call on?" a frustrated salesperson asks. "I don't," the savvy sales leaders responds.
   Savvy sales leaders know that true, valued relationships can only be built and nurtured with a handful of people if they are to be effective. Yet, when these relationships are built successfully, it quickly differentiates the true sales pros. It's the old 80/20 rule. Spend 80% of your time building purposeful relationships with the clients that you most connect with emotionally, intellectually, and values-wise and spend only 20% of your time nurturing relationships outside of that small core group.
   As you build the relationships, build them with purpose and intent�a purpose and intent that will provide mutual benefits for all. Remember, people do business with people. Despite price and a variety of excuses, when all is said and done, if the relationship is strong and mutually beneficial, the relationship will always win over all other objections. As you build and strengthen relationships, these individuals will become your influencers�your advocates. They will move you to your second tier of contacts who will accept you more readily and eventually the process begins to multiply. I know this from firsthand experience.
   I met Cheryl in a group seminar many years ago. Al-though our meeting was rather fleeting, there was strong chemistry from the start. Every now and then over the next year Cheryl and I would talk on the phone. One day she called, seeking consulting services for her new boss. It was a small project, but one I readily accepted. The results were so successful that her boss then hired me for a year-long major project that took me across the country, working with his new team. As Cheryl moved on in her own career, we continued to develop our relationship�even when she moved across the country. It's been about 15 years that we've now been into this client/friend relationship�a relationship that has truly evolved to one of not just business friends, but loyal lifetime friends. I've been a support to her and she's been a support to me. We've shared good times and tough times and through the years our relationship has deepened immensely. We're loyal to one-another. And that loyalty and belief in one-another has not only impacted our business relationships, it's positively impacted our lives. Through the years I have not only had the opportunity to provide my professional services to Cheryl and her colleagues, but to numerous referral clients as well. What a gift. What a joy.
   Yes, business is about generating profitable business. But let us never forget that business is mostly about our relationships with people.
   It's difficult to have a large circle of these kinds of relationships. I'd say mine constitutes no more than ten or twelve. Yet, from that small, intimate circle of closely knit client/ friends ripples a large pool of others that can be valiantly served and nurtured. And, what begins to happen is that some from the larger pool just naturally slide into the inner circle to replace those that life has transitioned from the core client/friend circle into the greatest circle of all�the intimate circle of "lifetime friends."
   Here are some things to think about when developing your core circle:

  • Which clients/prospects do I connect with very naturally?
  • How are our lives similar?
  • What can I bring to the relationship besides business?
  • How can I be a referral source for the future?
  • What is his/her value of a friendship with me?
  • What can I give as well as receive?
  • How genuine am I being?
  • Can I devote time to nurture this relationship?
  • Am I balanced in my thinking as I develop this relationship?
  • How will I know if I've made a wrong choice?
  • How much time am I willing to invest?

   No, fast birds don't fly far. Client relationships, like other good investments, take time to come to fruition. Yet, when you commit to choosing well and investing the time, your relationships will soar and so will your business. If you're really serious about building your inner circle, take it to the next step with this recommendation:
   A Must Read: If you are committed to building and nurturing long-term relationships, you must read Networlding by Melissa Giovagnoli and Jocelyn Carter-Miller.