You can’t run a successful business alone. I don’t care how good you are; success is built on strong business relationships. Real estate investors sometimes think they are a one-man show, but whether you’re doing two deals a month or two deals a week, you are relying on the strength of your business relationships to close those deals.
When I talk about business relationships, I’m referring to everyone I do business with on an ongoing basis. This includes my private lenders, employees, real estate attorney, acquisitionist, realtors, contractors, interior designer — the list goes on! It’s important to cultivate strong business relationships with every one of these people. There are many ways to do this, but this month, I’m sharing the top-five habits I practice to build profitable, long-term business relationships.
1. Have a Servant’s Heart
This is something I have discussed many times because it is at the core of what I do. In business, especially when you are building business relationships, you should always put the other person’s interests first. This isn’t always easy to do, especially when the other person is asking you to do something that’s not convenient for you. But putting in the effort to go above and beyond what would be expected shows how invested you are in the business relationship.
Recently, I sold a property and cashed out with a $100,000 check for the private lender who loaned the money on the deal. I could have easily dropped that check in the mail and went about my day, but because they’re local, I gave them a call and offered to deliver the payoff check to their home personally. This is what it means to have a servant’s heart. The private lender really appreciated getting the check sooner, and it made our business relationship stronger. Having a servant’s heart means making it easy for people to do business with you.
2. Keep Your Commitments, Appointments, and Promises
Here’s something amazing that I have discovered: Just doing what you say you’re going to do will leave the herd behind you. You stand out from the crowd by doing what you say you will do.
Some time ago, I started offering a free business-strategy session to real estate investors who are not my students yet. It’s kind of like a free sample. In the first six weeks, around 40 real estate investors made appointments. Of those appointments, over 50% didn’t show up! Unfortunately, this is how the world operates. Most people don’t think twice about breaking their promises or ignoring “small” commitments. But you should treat every commitment or promise like the business deal of a lifetime!
If you want to nurture your relationships, show you respect the other person’s time, and prove that you are a person of integrity, just keep your commitments and show up — preferably 10 minutes early.
3. Show Honest and Sincere Appreciation
In other words, don’t take anybody for granted. I read a recent study that looked into why people stop doing business with companies. According to the study, 68% of people said they stopped doing business because they felt ignored by the manager or the employees of the company. This same thing applies to you and your business relationships.
Keep in mind that business relationships include your employees. The no. 1 reason employees have low morale isn’t because of their pay or the number of vacation days they have, it’s because they feel ignored and underappreciated. The relationship you have with your employees is just as important as the relationship you have with your private lenders or real estate attorney.
Here are a few ways I show my honest and sincere appreciation:
- Sincere Gratitude and Thank-Yous – I make a point to show mutual respect to everyone in my business by thanking them for the work they do. Even though I’m paying them, I still thank my employees when they do something for me. A lot of business owners don’t think they have to do this. “I’m already paying them,” they say. “Why should I thank them for doing their job?” Like I mentioned earlier, it’s not a lack of pay that creates low morale; it’s a lack of respect. Just thanking people for a job well-done and recognizing their efforts is an act of respect.
- Handwritten Notes – Thank-you notes are so rare these days that just taking the time to write one makes you stand out from the crowd. People don’t throw thank-you notes away because they’re so infrequent! It feels good to get a thank-you note, because it shows someone took the time to sit down and write something by hand to express their gratitude toward you. Handwritten thank-you notes are worth 100 times more than a thank-you text.
- Gift Cards – At my most-recent live event, I invited my real estate attorney to sit on a panel with me so we could answer questions and show the audience how we do business together. I did not expect her to come for free, but when I offered to pay her, she just shook her head and said, “No, Jay, I wouldn’t think of it!” Well, that was very kind of her, but I still wanted my real estate attorney to know how much I appreciated her time. I wrote a thank-you note and included a $100 gift card to her favorite restaurant so she and her husband could enjoy a nice meal together. It’s that little extra effort that shows your honest appreciation.
4. Make People Feel Important
Just the other day, one of my staff members did a fantastic job on a project I had assigned. The project was for another department in my company, and she stepped up to help. Shortly after she completed the project and sent it back, I got a call from the head of that other department. He spent the whole call bragging about her to me, saying what a wonderful, fantastic job she’d done. As soon as we got off the phone, I went straight to that staff member and told her about all the praise the department head had for her.
Passing along the compliment made her feel important, and she deserved it. She did a really good job. Make sure everyone knows their efforts and accomplishments are recognized.
5. Be a Connector
When I say, “Be a connector,” I’m talking about referrals. By referring other people to your various business colleagues, you bring added value to your relationship by garnering more support for their business. I’ve given out referrals to my real estate attorney, interior decorator, contractors, and just about anyone I do business with when I have the opportunity.
Keep in mind that you can’t just pass out someone’s business card and call it good. If you have the opportunity to refer someone to a colleague, you have to do it right. Here are the steps you should take to give a referral:
- Step 1 When you give the person who needs the referral your colleague’s contact info, ask permission to give their contact information to your colleague, too. They’re going to say yes, because they have a problem that needs solved.
- Step 2 As soon as they give you permission, contact your colleague and give that information to them immediately. I usually call, though sending an email may be more appropriate in some cases.
- Step 3 Don’t forget to use the magic phrase, “They are expecting to receive your call.” People love to hear this phrase because it makes them feel important.
Not long ago, we had a visitor at our church who was new in town. This visitor learned from other church members that I do a lot of business, so they came to me and asked if I knew a good attorney they could work with. Of course, I referred them to my attorney, using the steps I outlined above. Both this visitor and my attorney were delighted. This is what it means to be a connector. I literally opened the door and connected two people to do business together.
You’ve probably noticed that these practices aren’t processes. For maintaining business relationships, you can’t make a checklist that you cross off steps and forget about. These are habits you need to develop until they become second nature.
People can tell when you’re not being genuine, when you’re just going through the motions because you want something and not because you care about them. Business relationships, much like personal relationships, last when you genuinely and sincerely care about the other person.