Associate conundrums: Developing business relationships

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Eleven of the qualifiers will go into the corporate group (encompassing corporate, projects, tax, real estate and competition) with four joining litigation (comprising disputes and employment.

Unusually, the finance group (banking, regulatory, securities and derivatives and restructuring) takes no qualifiers this time round.  You’ve gone to all the trouble of establishing new business relationships through various networking activities which you believe have the potential to become mutually beneficial long-term connections. You know that the relationships need to be enduring and that they will need some nurturing but you are equally aware that you don’t have hours and hours every day to be engaged in nurture-related activity. So what are the most effective ways of keeping these relationships alive?

The most important aspect of any relationship to remember is that it is for the long-term. There is no point in investing time, energy and effort into something that is only for a quick short-term gain. It takes care, thought and attention but the end result is worth the effort in that ultimately we can reach the heightened status of being a trusted adviser to a client.

At the start of our careers, our main offering to a client is technical expertise and as long as we continue to perform at a high level we will be relied upon to deliver. So when it comes to the development of a relationship at this level all that is required is that technical delivery and a cooperative and willing attitude.

Moving on in the relationship, and this can happen quite quickly once we have achieved the credibility of being technically adept, we will begin to get noticed for being able to provide associated expertise alongside our technical brilliance and this is where we can really start to develop the relationship most effectively by thinking about our clients and their businesses and demonstrating interest. This is extremely effective and hardly takes any time at all. It is about being aware of opportunities and not being afraid to them.

One of the most effective ways of demonstrating interest is the ‘saw this, thought of you’ approach. There are endless opportunities here and it doesn’t matter whether the client has seen what we are sending or not because either way what they will remember is the fact that we have thought of them in the first place.

After a while of being associated with expertise other than our technical skills, we become a valued resource to the client who will start to consult us on matters not specifically or wholly related to transactions and deals but often on more general matters and, on occasion, on personal matters and it is at this point that we have become their trusted adviser.

Armed with all the knowledge we have about the client, a wealth of opportunities will arise to keep the relationship alive by demonstrating care. Find out about people, what makes them tick, what their world view is and be interested in them not just as business opportunities but as people. We are people first, and what we do second.

By demonstrating interest in other people’s lives and remembering things about them (this is extremely important) we demonstrate that we are not merely interested in short-term gains and a few quick wins but rather we set ourselves above the rest when it comes to developing long-term relationships.

Luan de Burgh of the de Burgh Group is a professional public speaker and presentation coach.

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