How are you – The crisis as a litmus test for your relationship management

By Carla van Elst – deze tekst in het Nederlands

Since the launch of the lock down in many countries all over the world, organisations and governmental bodies come to the unpleasant discovery that their relationship management is not in order. In recent history too little time has been invested in maintaining relationships. A quick fix is not an option right now. In fact, this crisis is a settlement of past policies, so say Jean Paul Wijers and Bengt-Arne Hulleman of the Institute of Strategic Management (ISRM). At this time of the coronavirus pandemic many ask them the question: How do I maintain my business relationships?

Is there anything I can do for you? 

Those who have their relationship management in order, can now fall back on reciprocal relationships. Are your relationships not based on sales alone, but rather on interaction and confidence – this is the right time to get into contact. To benefit from reciprocity, to be there as a friend.  Call your contacts to let them know  ‘I’m thinking of you’ and you will find out that they are there for you too. “Ask them: ‘What’s going on with you? Are you ok and in good health? Is there anything I can do for you?’ This is a great way to strengthen the relationship further, something to benefit from long after the coronavirus pandemic.”

Wake-up call

For those who thought they had strong business relationships and now discover that those contacts have always been sales-driven, this crisis is an awful wake-up call. They see their turnover fall and have no option to turn that tide. Of course they can now also contact their business relations, but as soon as that smells like ‘sales’, there is a problem. “That is of course always the case, but even more so in times of crisis. Sales is only about your own interests: What do you want to buy from me? That is not a question that really fits right now. Only to business relationships with which you have built a personal relationship, based on mutual trust, can you say in this situation ‘we are having a hard time, so if you still have some revenue, think of us’.”

Long-term approach

Those who still have to start building strong business relationships can only reap the benefits after the crisis. “Characteristic for relationship management is its long-term focus. It takes a lot of time and a lot of investment, without knowing beforehand whether you will get something in return and when. Moreover, in that process you must focus entirely on the interests of the other person, attach at least as much value to them as to your own interests. This has often been difficult, especially in the corporate world. Why develop all kinds of social skills that cannot be expressed in direct profit, for a yield that is not yet visible or measurable?  The corona crisis has mercilessly exposed what is wrong with that view.

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This post is also available in: Dutch