Moore or Less: Building Business by Building Relationships

MOORE-or-Less-Graphic_Pat-Fuelling.jpgThe art of selling is an intimidating process for most CPAs striving to join the shareholder/partner ranks in their firm. But why? Most likely they are approaching it all wrong – forgetting that at the heart of successful business development is the basic fundamentals of relationship building.

When I was growing up, my father was in sales. It led to a lot of ups and downs in family income, which in turn led to some stressful times. As I decided on a career choice, I chose what I thought was a safe, no sales profession – accounting! Boy, was I wrong. As I have progressed through my career, I have realized (in a good way) that business development and the sales process is vital to every CPA firm’s longevity and success. Today, I actually really love the business development process. So, what changed my paradigm? A simple piece of advice that my dad, of all people, gave me – “sales is all about relationships.”

Once I understood this point of view, it demystified the fear of being the proverbial “used-car salesman” or the cold caller trying to push a product on you. Relationships are a part of everything we do. We have them at work, in school, with friends, in our church, on athletic teams and in our families. When we look at the business development process through the lense of a relationship versus a transaction, it provides us with immense opportunities.

So what are the keys to successful relationships? Let’s take a look at a few of them below:
  1. Listen- The hardest thing most of us do is listen. Everyone likes to talk about themselves and what is going on with them. The successful relationship reverses this and allows a person to listen to the other person. A lot can be learned about what makes a person tick, what their pain points are and who they are as people if you listen to what they are saying. The old saying of “God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason” is true when it comes to building a relationship.
  2. Show Interest – This goes hand-and-hand with listening. When we show an active interest in the well-being of others and there is authenticity in what we present to others, relationships and the trust that goes with it, will solidify.
  3. Be Proactive and Follow Through – When you listen and show interest, you tend to find what the need is the other person has communicated. Think of how those needs can be met and resolved in a way that provides the individual with what they need. If possible, try to find something that goes above and beyond what they need, and instead provides value. Too often we say we will do something but fail to do so until it is too late. This react vs respond outcome is unfortunately the rule versus the exception. When you respond to the need and follow through with what you say, you become the leader people will gravitate to.
  4. Don’t Be Afraid to Fail – We have all read about those individuals that failed many times before finding success. For example, Walt Disney was told he wasn’t creative, Sir Thomas Dyson had 5,126 failures before creating the vacuum cleaner, Abe Lincoln, Thomas Edison, and the list goes on and on. Just think of how radically different our world would be without these individuals and their contributions to our society. With business development, you won’t always have success. That doesn’t mean you failed. It just means there are better opportunities for you to go after.
  5. Always Say Thank You – Thank you notes are a lost art in today’s world. Even though it seems archaic, a handwritten thank you note stands out. It shows you care and when we all have thousands of emails; a longhand note makes a difference. 
Not all of these relationship-building attributes will guarantee your success in business development, but they can help simplify what it means to thrive at the process of bringing in new work (or more important, developing meaningful relationships). Don’t let the deception of what the world says sales should be deter you from your ultimate goals. As the old saying goes, “you catch more flies with honey instead of vinegar.”