Building Business Relationships: 15 Critical Habits to Master

Building any relationship is like tending to a garden. It takes a lot of patience, nurturing and intention. Today we’re diving into the art of creating long-lasting and meaningful relationships. Not only will these tips help establish solid business rapports, but they’re also practices you can bring to how you interact with friends and family too.

You’ll learn:

  • Why you should aim to ask questions 80% of the time
  • How to stay more in the moment with interactions (and keep the phone away)
  • Why the art of “thank you” notes should still be alive and well

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(With your host Andrew Youderian of eCommerceFuel.com)

Welcome to “The eCommerceFuel Podcast,” the show dedicated to helping high six and seven-figure entrepreneurs build amazing online companies and incredible lives. I’m your host and fellow ecommerce entrepreneur, Andrew Youderian.

Hey, guys. It’s Andrew here, and welcome to “The eCommerce Fuel Podcast.” Thanks so much for joining me on the show today. And today it’s just yours truly, flying solo, but wanna talk about something that I think is one of the most important elements of long-term business success, also one of the biggest indicators of just overall happiness in life, and that’s relationships.

You know, specifically in today’s episode, talking about the 15 critical habits that you should master to build better business relationships.

You know, this is something that fairly or otherwise, has such a tremendous impact on your business success, something that, you know, over the course of the last, you know, especially four or five years or so, building up eCommerceFuel as a community for store owners is something that I’ve thought about a lot more.

Trying to think about in more of a genuine way and not a scaly, aching networking way, but how can you build genuine relationships that are beneficial for everyone involved, and also everyone enjoys being a part of that also can help your business?

And so that’s what we’re gonna tackle today. This is part of a two-part series. Next week, we’ll talk about all the faux pas that people make, myself included, when dealing with people, connecting with people, building relationships, trying to reach out to people. Today we’re gonna focus on, hopefully, the good things to get this off.

So, before we jump into that though, I wanna give a shout out to our two phenomenal sponsors, both companies I love, have used, or I’m using. And the first one is Klaviyo, who makes email marketing automation incredibly easy and profitable. And Klaviyo is putting on their first…they do a lot of workshops and things, but I think this is their first event in Boston.

It’s like a full on conference. It’s called Klaviyo Call-in BOS, B-O-S, and it’s September 13th through the 14th in Boston, of course.

Very cool event, where they’re focused on email training, you know, how to make the most of your email marketing in Klaviyo, of course, but also just how to grow your eCommerce business in general. It looks like a phenomenal event. You can learn more about it at ecommercefuel.com/boston_event, and also get $100 off with the coupon code, “eCommerceFuel.”

And secondly, a big thank you to Liquid Web, who offers the internet’s best managed hosting for WooCommerce. A couple of cool things about these guys. One, their WooCommerce installations are so much faster than a normal one, because they’ve entered it from the ground up to be optimized for WooCommerce.

For example, they’ve rewritten all the database calls for their installs in their hosted environment, so they have 95% fewer calls, which makes Woo just that much faster.

They’ve got a full dataset that they can give you to load up into your store in their virtual testing environment, so you can actually test your store and see how it does in different scenarios. They manage all their upgrades of your plugins of WooCommerce core, manage it for you, and they automatically scale your disk storage, your RAM, your CPU, your bandwidth, so you don’t have to manually go in to resize it as needed.

They think about a lot of the stuff. So, if you’re on WooCommerce and you want the best solution for running your Woo store, check them out. And you can do that at ecommercefuel.com/liquidweb.

A Disclaimer

Right at the top here, I wanna put a enormous disclaimer and say I am a very imperfect person, and while these are kind of some of the things I really try to strive for when connecting with people, when building relationships, I have failed at almost all of these, if not all of these, at some point. Likely, perhaps, you know, even in the last year alone.

So, if you’re listening to this and, you know, I go over something and you’re thinking, “I’ve met with him, or I had an interaction with him that he totally failed on this,” I apologize. I most certainly have, but these are the ones that I try to do to the best my ability to be able to kind of think through as I’m, you know, kind of trying to get connected with people.

So, as an overarching framework for all of this, obviously, relationships are huge in life and business, in our personal lives, and that’s why I think this is important. But I wanna stress, this shouldn’t be a rule book that you’re using only to just try to get what you want. Don’t be icky about this. That’s not what this, kind of, you know, this framework is intended for.

Just because there’s good habits you can have and good rules about connecting with people, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care about them.

So, I look at all this with the mentality of I wanna meet great people that I enjoy. I wanna build relationships that are mutually beneficial, hopefully, for other people and for myself, but I also wanna be intentional about it, because it’s really important. So, that’s kind of the framework I take in all this.

We wanna take a long game, we wanna plant seeds. We’re not doing this to be quid pro quo, you know, I do something for you and you come back and do it immediately for me. That’s not how this works. But relationships are important, and I think it’s important to foster them intentionally.

I think it’s really important to understand that people are building a profile of you, and an image of you, and a brand of you, based on all the little things you do. I’m a huge believer in the importance of details. And just like, you know, an Apple brand or the Wal-Mart brand have different perceptions based on all the little things that you experience when you use their products, when you go to their store, people have that with you and so, it’s important to think about it.

If you’re not, that’s something that’s important to think about.

1. Remember The Details

All right, so step number one to building better relationships, and that’s remember the details about people. I have the world’s worst memory. I will commonly be talking with my siblings about things, something that happened three years ago, like a major trip that we went on for like four days, and I can’t remember it. It’s just gone.

So for me, this is especially important, but I write things down when I meet with people. If I’m on a phone call with someone, I’ll jot notes down. If I meet with someone in person, I’ll try to either take notes, or if it’s a place where I can, I’ll try to come back later and jot things down, and I’ll try to put those into some kind of database so that I can remember the important things about people’s lives and their businesses.

So, I use…HubSpot has like a free tool, a free CRM, where you can kind of just track all this kind of stuff. I use that. And, you know, whenever I meet with someone, I’ll kind of put in things about their business and their life that are important for me to remember about them, so the next time I see them or talk to them, I can kind of, you know, get up to speed. This can kind of come across as robotic, but for me, I genuinely wanna remember things about people, I just have a terrible memory, and so this helps me do that.

So, that’s one thing. I also like to tag, you know, when I put people into kind of that little CRM, what city they’re in, what kind of skills they have, what they need, you know, so if there’s something that they’re trying to do, so that in the future if I’m going to Detroit, or going to Austin, or maybe I’m looking to, you know, in the future, raise money or, you know, trying to find someone, someone comes to me who needs to connect with someone who knows Amazon really well, I have that all in there because I don’t trust my brain.

2. Prep For Your Calls

So, number one, remember the details about people. Number two, prep for your calls. We all have calls where we connect with people, and we’ve all been on a call where we hop on and the person on the other side is, you know, “Oh, what do you do again?” like, you know, it takes you five or 10 minutes to get up to speed. If a call is important enough and someone is important to meet with, spend five to 10 minutes prepping to understand who the person is, what their background is, because you can hit the ground running so much more quickly.

Also, think about the questions you wanna ask them. You know, look at their LinkedIn page, see if you have any common connections. This is really important. And if it’s someone you do know, look at the notes you took from the last time so you can kind of have a have a sense of where they were the last time you talked, and you can follow up and ask them how the things that are important in their life are going. So, this is really important.

3. Have a Body of Work

Number three, have a body of work, some kind of body of work. This could be, you know, if a lot of people listening to this are an eCommerce podcast, it could be a blog. I love, when I’m getting ready to meet someone, or if, you know, somebody asks for a call or a meeting or something, if they have a blog that I can learn more about them, oftentimes that makes me much more likely to wanna connect with them, or to remember me if we do connect again I can really have a better sense of who they are and I can try to build some common ground with them more quickly and find out what’s important to both of us.

Having a body of work not only helps you get up to speed, other people get up to speed with you quickly, but it helps build credibility and greases the wheels for cold intros, especially if you’ve done something that’s interesting or impressive.

4. Ask More Questions

Number four, and I might have put this as one number one, but more questions. I think probably the biggest thing that people inadvertently do to kill their ability to connect with people is they talk too much about, you know, things that are either uninteresting to the other person, or about themselves.

Again, I’m not perfect about this at all, but I kinda have a rough rule that you should never talk about something that you brought up to a group or with an individual for, for more than 90 seconds without being further prompted. So, spend 90 seconds talking about your new venture, spend 90 seconds talking about, you know, the fact that you are madly into building model trains now, and then stop. Create some dead space.

If the other person is really interested in it, they’ll prompt you on. They’ll ask you more, and then you know you’re not boring them.

I mean, I think it happens a lot more than people think, where they think they’re talking 50% of the time and people are talking more like 75% to 80% of the time. So, it helps a lot when you’re building with people, like that old kind of cliché people, you know, “If you wanna be interesting, be interested in people,” it’s so true.

So, aim to ask questions 80% of the time and talk 20% of the time, and based on the way our brains work in a very strange way, you’ll probably get closer to that 50-50.

And then also try to ask better questions instead of…when you meet someone for the first time, instead of asking kind of just the, “What do you do?” I like to ask things like, “What’s your story?” It’s really open-ended, people are kind of taken aback a little bit by it sometimes. Sometimes it throws people off of their path, something like, “Oh?” and they go in a way you have no idea. They don’t start with work, they start with what’s important to them.

Or ask people what’s the most interesting thing that they have done over the last, you know, the best part of the last month or their last year, things like that.

5. Be Concise

Number five, be concise. This kind of goes back to, you know, asking more questions. I think it’s important to be self-aware about what people are interested in, how much information they need. I think we all, myself very much included, tend to give more information than is necessary.

The more concise you can be about things, the more time you have to cover other ground, to learn about people, to talk about things once you do find common ground that’s interesting to both of you.

So, being concise, I think it’s really important. The people that I enjoy having conversations with the most for hours and hours and hours, are people that are concise. So, it’s so much out of practice.

6. Have Face-to-Face Interactions

Number six, get together in person. Obviously, if you’re in person, this is, you know, already you’re doing it. But if this is a relationship that’s online, that you’ve never connected with, there is so much power in being in person. The amount of rapport and trust you build face-to-face versus in a virtual environment is exponential.

ECF Live, the conference we throw every year for our private community, this is 100% the reason we do it. The content, yes, is important, but the real reason we do it despite the fact it’s not a big money maker. I mean, we make a little bit of money, but relative to the time we put into it, it’s not worth it. If we were trying to build a business just on that alone, it would be a poor business model.

The reason we do it is to strengthen the relationships in the community, and to build connections with other fantastic, interesting people. So, get out there. Industry events really important, organize a meet-up for your city, connect so much better in person than you do virtually.

7. Give Your Full Attention

All right, number seven, give people your full attention. I’m gonna, you know, call that one that’s probably, you’re guessing doesn’t come up, but phones. You know, if you’re meeting with someone, unless you’re using your phone for some kind of aspect of the meeting, turn your phone off. If you get a text message, ignore it. You know, nothing drives me crazier than if I’m sitting in a meeting that I’ve blocked out with someone, or a good friend, and they’re on their phone the whole time.

It drives me nuts. I feel, you know, I feel disrespected. Even if the disrespect isn’t intentional, they’re prioritizing other things over you.

So, if you have to turn your phone off, it’s likely the end of the world isn’t gonna happen, and if something does happen where, you know, you have a spouse or a really critical business emergency that you think might happen during that time, preempt, you know, sitting down with the meeting by saying, “Hey, I’m sorry, I usually don’t, you know, sit with my phone out here, but I’m expecting something might happen. If I have to hop off, or take a call, or text, I really apologize.”

Same with talking to someone in person. If, you know, if you’re at a conference, or your at a networking event or a happy hour or something, when you’re talking to someone, like square your shoulders to them, you know, look them in the eye, don’t…We’ve all talked to someone where you feel like you’re talking to them, but they’re looking around, you know, they’re trying to connect with other people.

You know, someone walks by and immediately, they swing over to talk to them, and you feel shafted. You feel like you don’t matter to them at all. It’s a horrible feeling.

So, this isn’t always possible to do, and there’s exceptions. If you’re at a wedding and you’re talking to the bride and groom, cut them some slack, right? Like, that’s a hard social environment for them to be totally played all the time. If you’re at a birthday party with the guy or the woman who’s, you know, having the birthday, same thing. Like, think about those nuances, but do your best to focus on people and really, you know, make sure they feel like you’re giving them their full attention on there.

8. Respect People’s Time

Number eight, be uber respectful of people’s time. This is especially important if you’re having a one-on-one meeting where things can’t get started until you get there. If you’ve had a bunch of friends and you’re all meeting for happy hour at six, and there’s, you know, seven or eight of you, if you’re a little late, not a big deal, because the other people can enjoy themselves, connect while…You know, you’re not critical to the stuff getting kicked off.

If you’ve got a call at one o’clock, if you’ve got a meeting that your input’s need for and people waiting for you, be punctual. You know, like try to be there on the dot. And this counts for like getting places early, like if you’re gonna…I try, I always try to leave buffer time because I’m a big proponent of…I’m not a proponent of, but someone called me a pessimist in this regard, but thinking that things usually go wrong.

So, I try to leave, you know, five or 10 minutes buffer to get to a place early.

If I think it’s gonna take me five minutes, I’ll try to leave, you know, like seven or eight or 10 minutes early to give myself a little bit of buffer.

So, you have to be uber respectful of people’s time. People notice if you’re late, even if it’s by five or 10 minutes.

9. Show Appreciation

Show appreciation. This is a big one. You know, it’s amazing what people are willing to help you out with, especially on an ongoing basis if they feel appreciated. I think this is any kind of relationship, not just for business. But of course, it applies in the business world as well. If people are doing an incredible job with something, even just a quick email to thank goes a long way, or acknowledging them verbally, or writing a little, you know, kind of fashion, but writing the “Thank you” notes.

I still I’ve got some “Thank you” notes with kind of some nice ECF stationery and, you know, I try to write, you know, three or four of those a month to people who are either who happened to just help out or make a difference somehow. And I regularly get comments on how much that meant to people.

So, also some little gifts. You know, if you’ve been doing a good job learning about someone really listening, if you’ve a horrible memory like me, taking notes about them, you can try to get a sense of what people like and what’s important to them, and if the time comes to give them a gift or show appreciation, try to connect that back with something you know about them. People notice that kind of stuff. So, show of appreciation, I think, regularly is really important.

10. Take Yourself Less Seriously

Number 10, don’t take yourself so seriously. I tend to have a bit more of a light-hearted personality, and so maybe this is why, you know, a lot of my favorite people are people who I can joke with and kind of rib on and have fun and can laugh at themselves.

But even people that are more serious…I don’t know a whole lot of people who really are drawn to people that are very serious and take themselves, you know, very seriously.

Can’t have a little bit of fun and can’t laugh at themselves. Something goes a long way, I mean, it goes a long way to be able to at a minimum, laugh at yourself a bit and be able to relax and have fun in a group.

If that’s not you, I’m not telling you to not be yourself, but that’s something that, you know, if you can naturally work towards being a little less serious, I think that helps you connect with people in a personal way.

11. Be Warm

And kind of going to the same thing is number 11, be warm. And it’s a little bit, you know, kind of along the same lines, but…I went to a conference recently where I met someone, and walked up to him, tried to be really warm, you know, thinking like…asking, you know, about their lives, trying to connect with them and just showing interest in them, and just the ice treatment. And I thought it was me.

I thought I was annoying them, but as I kind of watched them throughout the course of the conference, that’s just how they interacted with everybody.

Obviously, I’m making some assumptions, but I think that they’re killing their ability to be able to connect with people. I think that might just be how they’re hard-wired, but it’s tough because they’re really killing the opportunity to connect with people. They’re not intentionally doing it, but they’re putting up a big sign says, “I’m not interested in talking to you,” or they’re putting up a big sign that makes people feel like they dislike them.

And so, try to be warm, you know. These are kind of cheesy stuff but, not cheesy, but stuff you would just assume. But, you know, be smile, be open. Let people know that you’re excited to be talking to them. It goes a long way.

12. Be Brief (With Emails)

Number 12, this is kind of getting into the email realm, but double-check your emails and keep them brief. This may be because I have a editor as a spouse, Annie is an amazing writer, has never made a typo in her life, it seems. But people judge you by your emails, by the way you write. And most people I know that I would like to be respected by also, you know, are really great writers.

When you do write emails, I always try to read them over a couple of times, especially if it’s someone who I don’t have a great rapport with, or I haven’t established a good, you know, level of trust with. I did this, this was a mistake, like I said, you know, a disclaimer at the top, totally fail on.

This is something I made a mistake on the other day. I was reaching out to a very successful national journalist at a major publication. After I hit send, I have a bad habit of going and rereading my emails, noticed a glaring typo in the subject line. Horrible, because I did not take the time to double-check my email. So, double-check your emails, typos, you know, fix those up.

And then, don’t write a novel. Be rocky. Be rocky, excuse me. Don’t write a novel, that’s a rocky move if you do that. So, try to be as brief as you can.

13. Make Introductions, Bring People In

Number 13, introduce people and bring them into a conversation. So, if you can be a connector in a small group, people notice that, and it’s a way that you can obviously connect to other people, but just elevate the entire level of discourse with a group. Get people involved, not only does it help with the general discussion, but it makes people feel included. And people notice that, and they appreciate it.

So, I think a lot of times people are, when they jump into a group setting, especially if they don’t know people, there’s an apprehension there. It’s totally normal. So, if you have that and you know a lot of the people there, ask people if they know each other. Just take a minute and say, “Hey, does everyone know each other here?” Introduce people.

If someone’s being really quiet in your circle, especially if you know that they have an expertise in the area or something, ask them. You know, just say, “Hey, what do you think about this, so and so?” or, “You’ve done this, what was your experience of that?” People notice that, and they really appreciate that. So, do your best to introduce people to each other and bring them into a conversation.

14. Introduce Yourself

Number 14, introduce yourself to other people. And again, this is something that’s scary. Like, we’ve all walked into a party, or a, you know, happy hour or something, and didn’t know a single person in the room. For anyone that’s less than just an absolute complete extrovert through and through, you know, it’s a bit scary.

There’s a right way and a wrong way to be able to connect with people that you don’t know in an environment like that. I think the wrong way is you walk up to a group of let’s say two or three people, and you completely starting engaging with one person exclude the other people in the group, not a good way to do that.

Another way is to walk up and just start giving a speech about something, you know, a monologue about some topic, even if it’s closely related to what they’re talking about. See the point before where we talked about your 90-second rule, not talking forever about stuff.

So, how do you do this? Or how should you? Walk up to a group, you know, kind of listen, kind of just, you know, mossy up and try to join that circle, and when there’s a gap in the conversation, introduce yourself. Just, you know, say, “Hey, I hope you guys don’t mind. My name is Andrew, nice to meet you guys. Don’t wanna interrupt, but I just wanted to join and listen in.”

And then chances are likely people will ask you questions, if they don’t, ask the other people questions. Again, be interested in them, try to figure out what’s important to them and what their story is. That’s a great way to organically bring yourself into a group without killing the dynamics of it and walking it. Because we’ve all been in a group where somebody walks and totally blows up what was an otherwise great discussion.

And another…this is one that I, if you’ve got a terrible memory like me, if you’re not sure if you’ve met, we’ve all introduced ourselves to people multiple times, and it’s super-awkward, right? You walk up, you’re like, “Oh, hey, I’m Andrew.” And they’re like, “Oh, yeah.” I remember one time in college I did this. I had met someone like three times, and they’re like, “Yeah, we’ve met three times,” and you just feel like the world’s biggest jerk. It’s human. It’s what happens sometimes.

But if you’re not sure, just, you know, go with the, “Hey, we’ve met before, right?” or, “Have we met before? You look familiar.” And a lot of times, that’s genuinely, I’m not sure, and I think I’ve met people before, but maybe it’s a couple of years ago. It’s a way you can still introduce yourself without…mitigating a little bit of that fear of reintroducing yourself.

15. Be Intentional In Your Relationships

And then the last one is, be intentional about which relationships you wanna nurture. It’s impossible to keep 500 strong relationships in your life. It’s not gonna happen. You know, if you connect with someone and you don’t talk to them for three years, that takes a toll. It takes a toll on kind of the trust and the rapport, even if it’s a little bit of one, apart from your college roommate you spent, you know, two years your life with, it’s still…relationships are like plants.

They have to be watered. Some are more durable than others, but all of them need, you know, to have a little bit of love put into them.

So, I think it’s really important to pick out the, you know, the top let’s say five to 10 relationships that are really important to you to maintain. This goes for your personal life and also for your business life. And make sure that, you know, make sure that you connect with those people, even if it’s in small ways throughout the months or the years, but be intentional about that. Be proactive in reaching out, connecting and doing things.

So, those are the 15 things. Again, I’m not perfect at these at all. And some of them, you know, I think there’s probably obviously some disagreements on. These are the kind of the things that I try to do when I’m trying to generally connect with people, and that I feel are important. But I’m sure you’ve got other things, so I would love to hear your thoughts on these.

Call me on if I’m wrong, let me know things that I missed. You can kind of comment on the episode over at ecommercefuel.com/podcast.

And a big shout out to my mom and dad, who drilled a lot of these into me, especially my mother. So, she has…my mom is a, both of them, they both have a great ability to introduce people. My mom especially, in social situations, is really great about, you know, introducing people, making people feel included things like that. So, mom and dad, thanks. I would likely have zero friends if it weren’t for you. Not that I have that many to begin with.

Next week we’re gonna jump into what I think are some of the biggest mistakes people make when building relationships, and trying to connect with people. Some of the most, you know, self-destructive habits people have that they think are helping, but they’re actually really hurting. So, that’s what we’ll be covering next week.

That’s gonna do it for this week’s episode, but if you enjoyed what you heard and are interested in getting plugged into a dynamic community of experienced store owners, check us out at ecommercefuel.com.

eCommerceFuel is the private vetted community for eCommerce entrepreneurs, and what makes us different is that we really heavily vet everyone that is a member to make sure that they’re great fit, that they can add value to a broader community.

Everyone that joins has to be doing at least a quarter of a million dollars in sales via their store, and our average member does over seven figures in sales annually.

So, if you’d like to learn more, if that sounds interesting, you can learn more and apply for membership at ecommercefuel.com.

And I also have to thank our two sponsors that make this show possible. Liquid Web, if you are on WooCommerce or you’re thinking about getting on to WooCommerce, Liquid Web is who you should have host your store, particularly with their managed WooCommerce hosting. It’s highly elastic and scalable. It’s got built-in tools to performance test your store so you can be confident it’s gonna work well, and it’s built from the ground up for WooCommerce.

You can learn more about their offering at ecommercefuel.com/liquidweb.

And finally, Klaviyo. For email marketing, they make it email segmentation easy and powerful. They integrate with just about every card out there, and help you build incredibly automated powerful segments that make you money on autopilot. You can check them out and get started for free at klaviyo.com.

Thanks so much for listening, and looking forward to seeing you again next Friday.

Want to connect with and learn from other proven eCommerce entrepreneurs? Join us in the eCommerceFuel private community. It’s our tight-knit vetted group for store owners with at least a quarter of a million dollars in annual sales. You can learn more and apply for membership at ecommercefuel.com.

Thanks so much for listening, and I’m looking forward to seeing you again next time.

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Flickr: Sheila Janssen

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7 Comments

  1. I also had thought about doing a personal CRM in the past, but wasn’t sure what to use for that. I played around with Hubspot, and that will seemingly work great. I have a horrible memory as well, so this will be fantastic for me personally.

    Being a self-defined introverted extrovert myself, I find myself hiding in my shell at things like networking events and conferences just because I’m not good at going up to people/groups randomly as you used in your example…Your tips will be helpful!

    On the opposite side of the spectrum, any advice on go-to ways to get out of conversations or step away from an individual/group when you’re ready to move on?

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