Seven Ways to Build Meaningful Business Relationships

by Mike Semanco

Many finance and factoring companies try to compete on price or brand reputation. They believe that offering the lowest price or having the strongest reputation in the industry will win customers. But you can have a more powerful sales engine than either price or branding can provide.

According to Gallup, competing on price is a losing (and unnecessary) strategy to earn business. Instead, building business relationships is the X-factor for winning more business.

Why Relational Business Matters

The Godfather had it wrong: business is personal. You’re doing business with people, not organizations—and those people care deeply about what’s best for their companies. While the bottom line is always in the picture, it’s not the whole picture.

When it comes to doing business, your social capital is your most valuable asset in more ways than one.

Relationships create loyalty

relationshipsZig Ziglar said, “If they like you, they will listen to you. If they trust you, they will do business with you.” And increasingly, successful companies are realizing how true those words are. Build trust, and you’ll build loyal customers who love to do business with you. B2B customers are risk-averse, so if you’ve successfully built a relationship of trust with a prospect, they’ll pick you over the competition every time.

Relationships create referrals

People love to help friends and close connections. So it’s natural for your customers to introduce you to their network if you’ve taken the time to build a strong relationship with your clients. Word-of-mouth referrals are one of the most powerful sales tools you can leverage—they influence up to 50 percent of all purchasing decisions and generate twice as much business as paid advertising.

Relationships create partnerships

As your business relationships with customers grow, so will their trust in you. And with trust comes the opportunity for a deeper partnership that benefits both your company and theirs. As a trusted partner to your customers, you become a vital part of their business. You have unique opportunities to make a greater impact on their success.

How to Create Meaningful Business Relationships

While business is personal, it’s also business. Your relationship is primarily a professional one, not a social one. So how do you create meaningful business relationships that don’t feel awkward or transgress accepted norms? Here are seven ways you can foster strong relationships in business.

1. Be authentic

Authenticity (and passion) matters the most in business. Customers today can sense an ulterior motive a mile away, and you’ll lose credibility lightning-fast.

The foundation of trust is authenticity. Be yourself, be honest, and don’t pretend to have all the answers. Let your weaknesses show—your imperfection will actually endear your customers to you, and make you more trustworthy as a business partner.

2. Help first

If you’re authentically interested in your customers, you’ll show it in your eagerness to help them—even when it doesn’t provide any payoff to you. You don’t need to give away your services, but always be on the lookout for opportunities to be of service. Be quick to provide a referral, or share a resource. Pass along useful connections or share honest feedback. Even paying for coffee can make a big impact.

3. Think of customers as individuals, not numbers

When you’re head-down in sales numbers, it’s easy to forget that your customers aren’t the numbers you’re analyzing. They’re individuals with questions, anxieties, hopes, and motivations that your business can speak to. Remember to listen to your customers and to treat them as individuals who want the same respect you do.

4. Don’t skip the small talk

During Zoom meetings or calls, take a moment to ask about their weekend or their family. If you know they have young children in school, ask how virtual learning is going. When you show interest in their personal lives, you form a stronger rapport that says you care about more than the money they’re paying you.

A word of caution: some of your customers will be more interested in small talk than others. Be sure to read their nonverbal cues, so you don’t frustrate them with a slowness to get work done.

5. Don’t go through the motions

It’s common for businesses to send corporate thank-you gifts at the end of the year. Go beyond the cliched basket gift and give them something personal that shows you pay attention to their specific interests. That might be hockey tickets to a playoff game, or a fly fishing kit. Your gift doesn’t have to be expensive—just personal.

Also think about opportunities to surprise your customers. Mail a personalized, hand-written good-luck note before a major deal or important event. Send an apple pie on National Pi Day, just for fun.

6. Stay in touch

The key to a strong relationship is nurturing it. Don’t let your relationships go dormant—be sure to keep in touch with check-in emails or commenting on their social media posts. If you notice they’ve had a milestone event on LinkedIn, say congratulations. By keeping in touch on a regular basis, you’ll stay top-of-mind and nurture a healthy, ongoing relationship with your customers.

7. Don’t be a jerk

This may seem obvious, but it’s surprising how many business people aren’t kind toward the customers they want to do business with. Be very purposeful about showing common courtesy, respecting their time, and going out of your way not to inconvenience your customers. Show gratitude with every opportunity.


Business is personal—and that’s a good thing. By building meaningful business relationships with your customers, you create a sales advantage without competing on price. Try these seven tips to develop strong customer relationships that yield greater profit and reduces your sales costs and efforts.

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About the Author

Mike Semanco serves as President and Chief Operating Officer for Hitachi Business Finance. He has over 20 years of experience in the financial service industry. His career spans a variety of lending institutions, beginning with banks and credit unions to becoming a partner in launching Hennessey Capital in 2002 (which is now Hitachi Business Finance).
He can be reached at or (248) 658-3201.
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