5 Ways to Cultivate a Strategic Partner

By: Jennifer Robinson

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Image Sourse: ThinkStock

It is important to your success as a business owner to network, but it is equally important to "find your tribe." That tribe should include several referral sources or strategic partners. These partners will be businesses that are complimentary to your own and will move in the same circles as you.

Once these relationships are formed, you need to grow and build them just as you would any other relationship in your network. Here are 5 tips to build your strategic partner relationships:

1. Cultivate your partners more than your customers/clients. The people you refer business to are more likely to return the favor. They are also individuals that understand how to return the favor best. Additionally, they are ultimately better salespeople than your clients and spend more time in contact with your target market.

2. Don't forget to treat your partners like friends. People do business with those they like and trust. Meet with your partners quarterly and make sure at least 1-2 of those meetings are not business focused. Try to attend the important life events of your partners. Other ideas to stay in touch between these meetings: forward an article relevant to their industry or invite them to an event. And look for ways to help each other such as trading spots in each other's newsletters or blogs.

3. Become a better Connector. Make a point of doing virtual introductions between your referral partners and other professionals. Being of value is always a great way to build a relationship and stay top of mind. Make sure you calendar a time to follow up to see how the introduction went.

4. Ask better questions. Make sure you are listening and asking questions most of the time. A lot of us know this as the 80/20 rule. Listen for the pain points your partners are challenged by and look for ways you can help solve them. This is true outside of business needs as well. Maybe your strategic partner is having issues with a poor accountant or an unreliable sitter. See what referrals you can make to assist them with any of their needs.

5. Don't keep score. Give, but expect nothing in return. Look for ways to give and it will come back to you. Never approach networking with the mindset that you provided a referral and the favor has yet to be returned. It is a long game. What is important is whether the relationship is mutually beneficial over time.

Bonus tip: When you hold a client appreciation event, invite your strategic partners as well. They will appreciate both the recognition and the opportunity to network that you provided them with by having them attend the event.

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Jennifer Lynn Robinson is the CEO of Purposeful Networking. She conducts keynotes, workshops and seminars assisting companies, non-profits, groups and conferences to help ensure your networking is working for you. You can connect with her at @AreYouNetworked on Twitter or Instagram or at purposefulnetworking.com.