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____ Wednesday March 04, 2015 ____

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Communication

6 Ways to Form Winning Business Relationships

In today’s fast-paced and impersonal world, knowing your product better than anyone in your industry is not enough. Those who provide extraordinary service are the ones who are going to attract more customers, close more deals and get ahead of their competitors.

Jacqueline Whitmore, an internationally-recognized business etiquette expert, author of Poised For Success: Mastering The Four Qualities That Distinguish Outstanding Professionals, and founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach, says a dissatisfied customer can cost your business more than revenue — it can damage your reputation.

Here are six simple yet powerful business principles that will help you win relationships and earn repeat business:

• Keep your word. Your credibility is dependent on your ability to keep your promises. It’s important to be upfront with your customers. If you can’t complete a task on time, notify everyone involved in the project immediately. Forewarn a client of a potential roadblock and he will be much more likely to be forgiving. Simply put: under-promise and over-deliver.

• Be honest. Be truthful in every aspect of your business. Your credibility can be severely damaged if you intentionally lie, misstate or misrepresent yourself or your products and services. Never share confidential information and betray someone’s trust. Instead, foster a reputation for honesty with customers.

• Show up on time. Punctuality is a reflection of your overall organization. If you are consistently late, your clients may begin to wonder if you’re the right person for the job. Aim to arrive early. It gives you time to use the restroom, compose yourself and check in with the receptionist before an important meeting. If you are going to be late, call ahead and let your client know when you expect to arrive.

• Acknowledge mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. Generally, clients will be flexible if you quickly acknowledge the error, apologize and work to rectify the situation. Never try to cover up or ignore your or your company’s involvement in the problem. Don’t make excuses or blame others. Instead, take responsibility, find the solution and start moving forward again.

• Handle conflicts gracefully. Disagreements and personality conflicts are part of doing business. If a client, partner or employee tests your patience, questions your authority or criticizes your work, don’t react with hostility. Strong leaders remain calm in even the most trying circumstances. Even if you are boiling inside, don’t let others see it. Maintain a calm disposition and stay on topic. If you must concede, do so with grace.

• Don’t burn bridges. When you or your business is threatened, your first reaction may be an emotional one. As Warren Buffett once said, “It takes twenty years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” If you need a few minutes to cool down, walk away and return to the conversation or email later. Today’s foe could be tomorrow’s ally.

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