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Building for the long term

Business relationships are built over time. They have to be earned. This building process requires that the client relationship constantly move forward; as such sales professionals in the transportati...

Business relationships are built over time. They have to be earned. This building process requires that the client relationship constantly move forward; as such sales professionals in the transportation industry must make a solid first connection with each client and then maintain a strong connection over the course of the relationship.

Value provides the necessary traction. Every conversation needs to move the relationship forward, and the value that is offered can only be channeled through effective two-way conversation. This requires clarity and the willingness to listen. When transportation or logistics professionals offer their clients advice on products and service or technology, their value not only has to be understood in order for a client to do something with it, but also communicated in a manner that motivates the client to act on the advice (otherwise no value and hence no relationship). The same holds true when discussing your company’s services; they need to be communicated so that clients understand, relate and take action. After all, the services are there for the benefit of the client. Since clarity is the foundation of persuasion, any service description must be carefully worded. By definition business relationships are about people buying something, and meaningful communication is at the core of any positive buying decision.

Just as relationships cannot be taken for granted, neither can the time granted to speak with clients. Since clients do not have to listen to transportation suppliers, the goal is to motivate them to want to listen, and again, act on the valuable advice. With busy schedules, these clients also need shorter meetings along with a reason to hear from your firm again. The more clients interface with your firm and receive value, which they are motivated to hear and act on, the faster the trust factor is escalated. Trust is the foundation of any relationship, and it is earned by design.

There is no relationship if nobody agrees to see you. The initial call is the beginning of the relationship, but by no means the guarantee of one. Impressions and expectations communicated during the initial call are remembered in a client’s mind throughout the life of the relationship. You should practice on how to make the right impression and control the expectations going forward. Traction also begins when you know how to find the very words that get clients pulling them in the door (rather than clients pushing their way in the door). You must speak in a manner that ensures that not only will you get heard, but are also taken seriously – and in a way that separates you from the competition. You need to speak in the language of their audience and use the power of words to be understood and motivate others to action. Finally, you must be willing to follow through on the most important behavioral change in business: self-assessment. Professionals will have the ability to immediately identify and remedy any communication harming the relationship, and leverage all dialogue moving the relationship forward.

You must stay connected to every step of the relationship. You create short, clear sound bites around conversations that are conducted every day, and by doing so, ensure absolute clarity. It also empowers them with the most effective questions to ask, and the best answers to provide proactively. In the end, people will want to listen to what you have to say at all times, providing the traction for a healthy ongoing business relationship. Your service offerings can be more easily understood and therefore more likely to be purchased. In doing so, more value is created, and with it, the relationship grows stronger.

Mark Borkowski is president of Toronto based Mercantile Mergers & Acquisitions Corporation. Mercantile specializes in the sale of companies in the transportation industry. He can be contacted at

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