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Regardless of whether you’re in a small business or a multinational organisation, you shouldn’t underestimate the importance of building effective business relationships. To conduct business and manage successful projects, you need to establish and maintain relationships with employees, your team, suppliers and various other internal and external stakeholders. If you build successful stakeholder relationships, this can enhance your business profile, create potential career opportunities, additional service and overall business success.
So how do you successfully build stakeholder relationships? And how do you ensure that these relationships enable you to influence in a positive way? By following our 5 top tips…
1. Build trust
Rule number one in the stakeholder game – successful and influential partnerships are ultimately built on trust. Give people a reason to trust you by always doing what you say you are going to do. Be honest and open about project progress and never over-promise or feel pressurised to say yes to unreasonable demands. Your stakeholders will respect you more for being transparent about situations and this will ultimately build trust.
2. Think in ‘win/win’ solutions
Being able (and willing) to put yourself in another person’s shoes and understand how they feel is key to building strong stakeholder relationships. Try to view business situations from your stakeholder’s perspective and be committed to sourcing solutions that will benefit all parties. The idea of a win/win solution is not based on compromise but on the understanding that mutual benefit can actually be drawn from every project.
Whether a potential supplier has been in touch (but you don’t need anything from them at the moment) or your largest and most important client – remember, always respond. You can obviously prioritise your communications in order of importance, so you don’t need to respond straight away, but simply ignoring people shows you have little or no regard for building strong relationships. You never know whether that supplier or client might actually be useful in the future so always send a quick email response or phone call to acknowledge contact. It’s vital.
4. Ask questions
The most effective stakeholder relationships are built on people asking purposeful questions whether it be to check understanding of a particular project or prompt discussion. Asking questions, in particular open questions, also develops rapport and encourages conversations. It, also gives stakeholders a sense of ownership over particular projects. So ask away!
5. Continuously demonstrate your competence
Building great stakeholder relationships is by no means a one-off exercise. You should continuously develop these relationships by demonstrating your competence and reliability, keeping updates on track and communicating key agreements and decisions. Perhaps try treating your stakeholders like you would a valued client; take time to have one-to-one conversations and engage with them regularly. Take interest in their world and you’ll earn respect, demonstrate your competence and ultimately build strong, meaningful stakeholder relationships.
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