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I was attending the Wellesley Chamber of Commerce Annual Business Award ceremony a couple of weeks ago and enjoyed the company of many fellow business owners, friends and clients. Watching this year’s award winners coming up on stage reminded me of the exact same ceremony in 2013, when Kirsten and I received the award for ‘Outstanding New Member’.

Outstanding New Member

Looking at the recipient’s of this year’s award, among them  my favorite little grocery store, Fells Market, started me to think about the qualities a business owner needs to be successful in this noisy, crowded and fast-paced market place. Why do people do business with each other? Why do customers come back over and over again? Is the saying: ‘People do business with people they know, like and trust’ the whole truth?

Let’s dissect this common saying and explore what it actually means.

1. We do business with people we know

Knowing somebody in the business world has many dimensions. It can be a college friend, somebody you have seen at many networking events, somebody you collaborated with on a project or another panelist you met at a conference. Many people know many people – loosely. You have met once, maybe twice. You know at what company the person works and what his or her title is. But do you really know what your contact is doing? What is going on in there world?

Truly knowing somebody takes more then a quick handshake. It takes interest in the business or project. It takes interest in the strength and weaknesses of your contact. It takes knowledge. You can only refer somebody the right business if you know exactly what they are doing, what their strengths are and what their ideal client is.

I’m a big fan of Judy Robinett’s work. If you haven’t read her book “How to be a Power Connector” and learned how to structure a powerful network, you’re missing out!

Takeaway: Create true connections with people who fit your target audience, your needs or your interests at that point in time.  

2. We do business with people we like

Why do we actually like one person and dislike the other? Why do we react often immediately to a certain behavior? Without being a psychologist, I had the chance to study this for a while now at many, many networking events.

We like people who are similar to us. In a similar position, similar age, same gender, same hometown etc. Similarities drive likeliness.

We also like people who give us the feeling of importance. People who listen. People who are interested in the your experience and expertise. People who ask more questions then they give answers.

And we like people who are authentic. People who are real. People who are not talking to us because they want to close a deal.

Takeaway: Authenticity and storytelling beats every well crafted sales pitch. 

3. We do business with people we trust

Think about this for a moment. What does trust actually means in a business environment? Does it mean that you don’t sell bad products or talk somebody into bad deals? Does it mean that you don’t talk behind somebody’s back about their products or services?

I don’t think so. Trust is not a commodity. It’s not given to you just because you did a decent project or provided your everyday service.

Trust is earned when you go above and beyond your every day delivery. When you become a trusted partner who provides valuable information. When you solve a problem immediately. When you follow-up on your promises instead of creating empty talk bubbles at a meeting. When you advocate on behalf of your contact or his/her company. When you make meaningful connections.

Takeaway: Set-up your operations for excellence. Be consistent and efficient to deepen your network and create ambassadors for your business.

Doing business in a noisy and crowded marketplace can be frustrating. Or it can be a great chance for differentiation. Find the 1% you do better than anybody else and impress your network with your passion!


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