Three Types Of Business Relationships: Which Should You Nurture?

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Six degrees of Kevin Bacon is actually only three degrees in the business world. And what you do with those relationships is critical to how you grow your business, according to David Nour, best-selling author of "Relationship Economics."

"We are losing our ability to touch and engage," said Nour, who presented his message in a session Tuesday at the Best Of Breed, or BOB, conference in Monarch Beach, Calif. "Everybody has a story."

Nour divides relationships into three buckets: personal relationships or discretionary relationships that may not be relevant to your profession; functional relationships such as those with a colleague or customer; and strategic relationships that extend the horizon of your business.

He urged solution providers to focus on nurturing the strategic relationships. "Leave the product conversation behind and get to know the person and the business problem they are trying to solve. By building relationships, rather than making transactional sales, businesses will get an ROI -- up to 50 percent more customers," Nour said.

This is a very North-America-centric problem, he added. "The rest of the world builds relationships first and then does business. In North America we tend to build relationships after we do business," Nour said. He urged solution providers to think about how much time they spend at the edge of their customer base.

One of the overarching themes at the BOB conference is that CIOs and customers are using their peer networks for technology recommendations more than ever. As solution providers build these strategic relationships, they need to understand that the CIO is becoming a business strategist and they need to help him or her accelerate business goals -- not sell technology.

"Business leaders care little about your input but, rather, your output," Nour said.

Many in the audience were nodding in agreement as Nour's message seemed to resonate. And while Nour was talking at a 20,000-foot level, his experience was grounded in the fact that he started his career in sales at ComputerLand, moving to SGI and later IBM. Today he is a speaker and has consulted for organizations including KPMG, Hewlett-Packard and Disney.

Later Tuesday Nour is going to lead a smaller "Relationship Economics" workshop with some of the BOB attendees.

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