For those of you familiar with Dr Ivan Misner, the founder of BNI, you may be familiar with his formula for developing profitable relationships;

V + C = P

Where V = Visibility, C = Credibility and P = Profitability.

The key thing to note, here, is that relationships don’t just happen, you have to work at them to develop them to the point where they become profitable.  It’s also worth noting that ‘profitable’, in this context, doesn’t necessarily relate to a monetary profit. The important thing is that there should be a mutual benefit gained by both parties in the relationship.

Yes, you can apply this philosophy to any kind of relationship, not just a business networking relationship. It applies equally to the mutual benefit gained through developing a relationship with your life partner, your children, business contacts or friends. In fact, it applies equally to any type of relationship you can think of.

For me, a truly profitable business relationship is one where the parties involved are keen to refer one another to business opportunities.

This is referral networking. You might think of a profit as obtaining a sale. And there is value to this, but building that relationship to the stage where there is a desire to refer one another is the pinnacle that we should be aiming for.

Profitable Relationship

I like to break down this relationship building process into smaller chunks to help me understand and grade the relationships that I have with different people. And I think of these steps as the ‘rungs’ of a ‘ladder’ that I wish to climb – Hence, “7 Steps to a Profitable Relationship”.

It probably seems obvious to say this but I’m going to, anyway.

You have a different ‘ladder’ for each individual relationship that you have and you’re, almost certainly, on a different ‘rung’ of the ‘ladder’ with different people.

So, if you have relationships that you don’t think are bringing you the reward that you think they should be, whatever kind of reward that may be, understanding this philosophy will help you realise which ‘rung’ you’re on with those people and, more importantly, it will help you to identify what you need to do to move that relationship up the following steps to where you want it to be.

The first 3 steps on the ladder relate to building your Visibility.

Step 1

The first ‘rung’ on the ‘ladder’ is Awareness. It’s that point in time when someone becomes aware of you – and it only happens once. They say that you only have a few seconds to make a great first impression so this first step is quite important. However, if you don’t quite make the first impression that you’d like to, all is not lost.

Building a relationship is a process and all processes take time. You do have control over how long it may take because you can choose how much time and effort you put into building that particular relationship.

But, you shouldn’t be seen to be rushing it as that will send out the wrong message.

So, how do people become aware of you? That can happen in a number of different ways and, as I’m relating this specifically to the process of business networking, I’m going to talk about the ways people may become aware of you from a business perspective.

This is not a definitive list of how people may become aware of you but it should give you the general idea.

  • You may meet them in person either at a business networking meeting, a business meeting or socially.
  • You may send them a piece of direct mail or an email.
  • They may get referred to you.
  • You may talk to them on the telephone.
  • In the world of social media you may ‘connect’ with them through LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Ecademy or any other of a plethora of social media platforms.
  • They may contact you in response to an advert or other marketing activity.
  • They may hear about you by reputation.

There are other ways that they may cross your path but the point is, this is the first time that they ever come across you and it’s the very first step towards building a profitable relationship. In fact, this first step may involve them coming across you more than once.

Step 2

You get on to someone’s 2nd ‘rung’ of the ladder when they develop a degree of Familiarity with you. By familiarity, I mean that they at least recognise your name. It’s entirely possible to get on to the familiarity step with someone simply because they come across you on more than one occasion.

For instance, the following could happen;

  • You send a piece of direct mail to someone and it creates enough interest for them to read it and take note of it.
  • Perhaps they may have a possible need for the product or service that you mentioned in your direct mail piece but they’re still doing their research. So, you follow up with a further mailing. Or…
  • You follow up with a telephone call or an email.
  • Because of their interest in what you do they speak to a few colleagues or associates to see whether any of them know you – or know of you. Perhaps one of them knows you quite well and endorses you.

Each of these steps represents another event that causes them to come across you again. As a result, they start to develop that all important Familiarity. You’re now on the 2nd ‘rung’ of the ladder.

This is just for illustration but, hopefully, you get the point.

Now, it’s not essential that you have to actually speak to someone for you to move up to the second ‘rung’ on their ladder but you will have to speak to them if you have any aspirations, at all, to moving up to their 3rd ‘rung’.

Of course, a face to face meeting is even better.

Having said that, I do know a number of people that build relationships using nothing more than social media and a telephone. They simply don’t do face to face at all. In fact, sometimes, they build relationships over long distances or internationally which makes it very difficult for a face to face meeting, in any case. Maybe, it’s those occasions where face to face is very difficult that has led to this creative use of Social Media and a phone. Sometimes, there’s just no alternative.

I must confess that, as a fan of face to face communication, I used to find it a little strange to think about building a relationship without meeting. But some people have developed hugely profitable relationships without ever having met and I’ve made a point of learning as much as I can about Social Media Marketing to enable me to build strong relationships over long distances.

Step 3

The 3rd ‘rung’ on the ladder is when people start to get to know & Like you. In this instance, I’m going to work on the assumption that you’ve now met them in order to move up to that all important 3rd step. Of course, although we don’t want to appear to be rushing the development of the relationship, we do want to move it forward as soon as we can, and you may like to consider some of the following steps to help move you to that 3rd ‘rung’;

  • Meet for coffee.
  • Meet for lunch.
  • Give them something that they will value. A report of some kind relating to some aspect of their business. Or some useful information of another sort.
  • Do them a favour. The bigger, the better.
  • Introduce them to someone who will be a great contact for them.
  • Help them to overcome a particular challenge that they’re having.

Do you get the idea?

Remember. Whatever you do, whatever you give, do so without expectation of anything in return. Do it without attachment. You see, if people think that you’re doing something simply to get something in return, they won’t see what you do as being sincere and they’re less likely to want to give to you, in return.

On the other hand, if you have no expectation of getting anything in return you will come across as being completely genuine and they will want to give back to you. It’s the ‘Law of Reciprocity’ in action.

You see, it’s not just important for them to get to know you but, more importantly, they need to get to like you. If they don’t like you, you’re highly unlikely to get on to that 3rd ‘rung’ of the ladder.

So, you’ll only get on to the 3rd step when they start to Know & Like you.

These are the 3 steps in a relationship that build your Visibility. In the next part we’ll look at those steps involved in building your Credibility and, from there, moving you into Profitability.

See you next time.

By Marcela