When was the last time you looked up while having a conversation? Do you recall the last lunch meeting you had when you didn’t make your smartphone part of the place setting? Or another visual: you are at anetworking event and your Bluetooth headset is visible around your neck. One or all of these scenarios may resonate with you or someone you know on a physical level.
Social media has broken the communication barriers of space and time, says Barbara Pender, certified social media strategist, certified Six Sigma Green Belt, and one of the co-authors of BOLD. “Who knew being ‘social’ on would make us less social givers? Social media has given us the ability to project who we want to be, only to show up as someone else. Go ahead and take a look at your profile in the mirror. Are you looking at your representative or your representation?” asks Pender.
Whether with clients, colleagues, leads, or influencers, building solid, valuable relationships is crucial to business success. Connecting and “clicking” adds value to all parties involved. People do business with people they know, like, and trust, which in turn means more leads, contacts, financing, contracts, or sales.
As a business owner, you must work hard at relationships, so, be careful not to burn bridges. “Today’s foe could be tomorrow’s ally,” says Jacqueline Whitmore, business etiquette expert and founder of the Protocol School of Palm Beach. Quoting Warren Buffet, she notes that “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it.”
There are plenty of seemingly harmless behaviors that might be damaging your business relationships, especially now, with the extensive use of social media and networking. Here are 10 missteps you might be guilty of:
1. Not crying for YELP or other location-based services, such as Foursquare, Swarm, Urbanspoon, Google Maps, and so on. “Attention brick-and-mortar businesses. Allow customers and prospective customers the opportunity to build your reputation,” says Pender. “Good, bad, or indifferent does not weigh as heavily as having an opinion, and that they are willing to share it and that you are willing to respond to it. ‘The customer is always right’ and respond accordingly so that the customer will always return or tell someone of their experience.”
2. Not telling everything. Be truthful in every aspect of your business; your credibility can be severely damaged if you intentionally lie, misstate, or misrepresent yourself or your products and services, says Whitmore. “Never share confidential information and betray someone’s trust. Instead, foster a reputation for honesty with customers.” In the social networking realm, be forthcoming. “When I interact with you, my digital follow up is to go on LinkedIn and get more,” says Pender. “But if, upon my arrival to your profile, I see no picture, no recommendations given or received, and it simply looks incomplete; I am not feeling the need to connect and pursue.”
3. Not having a strategy. How do you want to make an impact? “Let’s start by stating the obvious, make sure that I can reach you,” says Pender. State the obvious, across all platforms, social media, website, voicemail, and business cards. Decide who falls into your net worth and then network in that social arena. Your strategy should be deliberate, turn off all chats, check out your platform, support and then serve.”
4. Not being authentic. Stop jumping on the buzz bandwagon looking for justification. “Speak from your heart; be authentic,” says Pender. “People you connect to when you are genuine are the ones you’ll want to stay in touch with,” she adds. Strive for authentic connections. Don’t be someone you are not in order to gain acceptance. Relationships formed based on who we think others want us to be rather than who we are, turn out to be counteractive.
5. Not being positive. Are you a glass half-empty or a glass half-full type of person? While you want to be realistic in your expectations, you also want to be an optimistic person. Experiencing negative people and negative situations leaves an impression that is both mentally and physically damaging, not to mention spiritually draining.
6. Not responding timely. Not answering your phone, not being on time, and not replying to your e-mails is a relationship killer. Yes, you are busy, but it sends out the message that you don’t care, says Pender. Take time to respond to e-mails even if it is a quick message saying that you are overwhelmed and will follow up at a later time, she explains. Doing simple, respectful, things will go a long way.
7. Not keeping your promises. Your credibility is dependent upon your ability to keep your word, says Whitmore. One of the fastest ways to ruin a business relationship is to over-promise or over commit to something and then under-deliver, or not deliver at all. Make sure you have a system in place to help you accurately estimate how much time, money, and effort something is going to take before you promise it. “Forewarn a client of a potential roadblock and he will be much more likely to be forgiving.” Also, it is better “to under-promise and over-deliver,” adds Whitmore.
8. Not being flexible. The key to negotiation is allowing for common ground and being able to compromise. Also, disagreements and personality conflicts are a part of doing business. “Strive to handle conflict gracefully,” Whitmore says. Everyone makes mistakes, so, acknowledge yours. “Generally, clients will be flexible if you quickly acknowledge the error, apologize, and work to rectify the situation,” she adds. “Don’t make excuses or blame others, instead take responsibility, find the solution, and start moving forward again.”
9. Not adding the personal touch. Business relationships should not always be about business. Remembering important events in your clients’ lives, sending a card in the mail or a simple e-mail message, can go a long way in building memorable relationships. “Acknowledge birthdays and anniversaries, children’s activities, and accomplishments (i.e., graduations). This shows that are you are paying attention, and that you care enough to remember,” Pender explains.
1o. Not networking masterfully. This has its place on the URL and IRL (in real life). Says Pender, “step out of your social-media-platform comfort zone and attend meetings, events, conference. ‘As seen on Facebook’ is not the tag that you are looking for.” Also, be willing to share your contacts and resources, and others will be more likely to help you as well.