Building More Meaningful Virtual Business RelationshipsFebruary 15, 2024

February 15, 2024

Building More Meaningful Virtual Business Relationships

IFMM-Col2-Steinberg,Scott-110x140Hailed as the world’s leading business strategist, award-winning expert witness, strategic consultant and professional speaker Scott Steinberg is among today’s best-known trends experts and futurists, and the bestselling author of “Think Like a Futurist;” “Make Change Work for You: 10 Ways to Future-Proof Yourself, Fearlessly Innovate, and Succeed Despite Uncertainty” and “Fast >> Forward: How to Turbo-Charge Business, Sales, and Career Growth.” The president and CEO of BIZDEV: The International Association for Business Development and Strategic Partnerships, his website is

Is it just us, or does barely a day go by without your e-mail or LinkedIn inbox receiving a deluge of unsolicited offers from previously unknown service providers? How about social media accounts — sometimes it feels like you can’t go 48 hours without receiving a request from a random stranger who “is impressed with your resume,” “just wants to connect” or “is looking to expand their connections.”

As we note in new book “The New Rules of Business Development,” sending these types of requests is a great way to end up in someone’s spam folder — or, potentially, ensure you’ll never do business. Thankfully, as a MICE industry leader, avoiding a few simple mistakes can help you and your teams more effectively stand out to new prospects, better connect with and engage potential clients and build better business relationships.

A few points to note upfront, before we dive deeper:

  • It’s important to know and understand your target audience’s background, operating reality, and potential pain points or opportunities — a one-size-fits-all query is a great way to alienate hundreds of prospects in the hunt to find one.
  • Leading with a service request or offer is like walking up to someone at a cocktail party and immediately hitting them with a sales pitch — uncomfortable at best, off-putting at worst and a surefire way to start things on a bad foot.
  • At a fundamental level, organizations and individuals do business with firms and partners that they trust, like and respect. Business relationships and negotiations go much more smoothly when you establish a trusted presence online and prompt others to come to you, not reach out to them instead.
  • If you do want to reach out, think first and foremost about incentivization: In other words, with countless competitors and service providers vying for their limited time and budget, what clear and compelling reason will make others want to connect with you?

The first question you should be asking yourself before attempting business outreach is: What can I do for them? Your goal should be to save others time, effort and money and help them solve problems — not immediately think about how to get paid off a cold call or email.

That being said, as a keynote speaker and futurist for over 2000 brands, I often remind audiences that it helps to think about some of the more common mistakes in business development that business people make as of late — and how you can avoid them. Below, you’ll find the 10 fastest ways to torpedo a working relationship, and ways to avoid falling into common traps associated with these pitfalls.

  1. Ghost others and don’t return emails or calls in a timely manner. Pro tip: If you don’t have an update, or aren’t looking to proceed, at least drop a one- or two-line email so you’re not leaving contacts in limbo.
  2. Don’t keep your word or follow through on promises or statements made. After all, people remember how you treat them and make them feel — and in a world of endless alternative options and providers, trust is the most important currency. Also remember: Businesspeople tend to stick around industries for a long time — and aren’t shy about sharing their thoughts with one another.
  3. Randomly bail out of negotiations or collaborations without warning or explanation. If the offer doesn’t fit your needs or priorities change, let others know. Keep in mind that you may need to come back with other requests later, or find that your chosen alternate provider may need replacing over the long haul.
  4. Only reach out or communicate when it’s clear that you want something. We all know folks that we only hear from when they have an incentive to reach out. When that happens, it’s not only obvious — it’s off-putting. You can avoid this hazard by making a point to stay in touch and offering to help others or keep up to date with them even when there’s no direct payout.
  5. Say “you’ll keep someone in mind” but never present an opportunity. Among the most insidious statements in business today, it’s meant to assuage your worries — not theirs. Service providers know: If someone’s been keeping you in mind for months or years, but never reaching out with opportunities or to see if there’s a fit, for instance, it’s not hard to notice that they don’t think highly of your offerings.
  6. Fail to make introductions or present promised networking chances. We’re all grown-ups here: If the person you’re being asked to introduce to another party doesn’t see a fit, they can always decline the invite or let the party know. Trying to play gatekeeper is a great way to alienate others and ensure that they return the unwanted favor as well.
  7. Hesitate or decline to support others when they reach out for assistance. You may not have the insights, resources or capabilities (or time on your schedule) to help, but it doesn’t take much to send a quick note to someone or somewhere that does; for example: “Sorry, Jane, I don’t have the answer — but have you tried checking in with Jim or checked the resources on this corporation’s website?”
  8. Decline to do the homework and research needed to understand the other party. If you don’t know who you’re pitching, what’s important to them or where they’re currently looking to focus business efforts, you might as well be taking random swipes at the air.
  9. Underprice or undervalue the worth that others bring to the table. Similarly, you need to know what budget range and financial ballpark a prospect is playing in. Noting that time is money? Wasting a prospect’s time by, say, offering a service that’s out of their budget, or requesting that work be performed for far less than their going rate actually costs both them and you in the end.
  10. Ask for something without offering something of equal or more value in return. It’s like walking up to someone and saying: Hey, what can you do for me? Consider: If you don’t have something of value to offer or trade to the other party, what incentive do they have not to politely shut the door on you?

Long story short: It’s not hard to enhance your chances of landing new clients or attracting fresh business prospects when you apply a little bit more research and critical thinking. The most common mistakes business people make are to not communicate effectively, align pitch with their audience or understand their target market. Happily, all are easily remedied with a little up-front planning and effort — and when you strive to build more meaningful connections and win-win relationships at every turn. C&IT


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