Just as there is a growing lack of respect in society as a whole, respect plays an ever-increasing role in business. In the business of ever shrinking margins, gone are the days of the quick sale and one-time customer. Securing repeat business is your future. Lasting relationships are based on respect, and business relationships are no different. Some people will argue that you don’t have to respect someone do business with them. Perhaps. But the lack of respect will erode your relationship over time like rust biding its time on the underbelly of your truck.
The kind of respect that will strengthen your relationships has to do with respecting your customers, their customers, and yourself. When you respect your customers you respect their time, and that respect is manifested by your actions: showing up on time, calling ahead if you are going to be a few minutes late, returning all messages (voice and e-mail) and in a prompt time frame. Yes I know this is simple stuff, but it is stuff that is lacking in business just the same, and demonstrating a lack of respect.
Respecting someone’s time also means giving him or her full value for his or her time. The more people value the time spent with you, the more time they will spend with you. Every conversation that provides value has the power to move the relationship forward. Respect for customers is also about respecting their needs, which requires that we take the time to listen to them before offering a solution to a problem we know nothing or little about. It also requires that the solution fit the needs and not the other way around. (Hard selling has no place in a respectful relationship.) Since customers need to understand and relate to what we are saying, the onus is on us to make sure our communication is crystal clear; when questions are asked, we need to have a good answer and verify that the answer actually put the question to rest. Customers also need to know details about our solutions, which means that we need to know every last detail about them first. Product knowledge demonstrates respect for customers and for their customers who also benefit.
We demonstrate our respect for our customers’ customers by making sure that we stand behind everything we offer and provide excellent service, because our ability to make our customers more effective and efficient ultimately benefits their customers as well. Commitments on any level need to be honored without hesitation.
It is harder to keep such commitments to others when we don’t keep the commitments we make with ourselves. When each of us commits to doing something the act of following through shows respect for ourselves, and makes the ability to keep commitments to others a simple matter of routine.
Perhaps the easiest way to see the power of respect is to look at how you react when you do not get any respect. When people are shown disrespect, it causes them to be defensive; your whole demeanor is guarded. When that happens the relationship is no longer as open and straightforward as it should be, and that can understandably lead to a holding back on the full level of service that is normally offered in a relationship where one’s own value is fully respected. A lack of respect can cause less dialogue to take place, since why would you want to spend any more time talking to a disrespectful person than you need to? With less dialogue to feed a healthy relationship, relationships starve. A lack of respect shuts down the very communication needed to build long-term relationships. Respect, on the other hand, creates open dialogue. Effective–Two-way communication builds trust, and the more trust you have, the easier it is to move any relationship forward. Simply put, respect is the seed of trust. I trust, with respect, that you will put it to practice.
By: Mark Borkowski is president of Toronto based Mercantile Mergers & Acquisitions Corporation. Mercantile specializes in the sale of mid market companies sold to large strategic buyers and private equity firms. He can be contacted at www.mercantilemergersacquisitions.com