5 steps to building great business relationships — Jim Dougherty

MIT Sloan Sr. Lecturer Jim Dougherty

MIT Sloan Sr. Lecturer Jim Dougherty

From Harvard Business Review

It was the early 1990s, the week between Christmas and New Year’s. I was working as a sales rep for a prominent software company. Making the rounds of my Wall Street clients, I wished them happy holidays and thanked them for their business.

As I was leaving an appointment with the CIO of a very large investment bank, I shook his hand and wished him a Happy New Year. He stopped me and went back to his desk, took out a piece of paper and handed it to me. It was an order signed by the CEO dramatically increasing their purchase of our software and renewing their contract six months early.

I was stunned. I hadn’t been looking to make this sale—really, there was no reason for him to reorder this early. But as his sales rep, this was spectacular news: As at many companies, my employer used “multipliers” at year-end to encourage reps to sell more, so I would make a lot more money making this sale in late December than in June.

I thanked him profusely.  And as I walked back to my office, I thought about why he did it. How did he convince his boss they should renew well before they had to?  What was his rationale to his boss for buying so much more?

Eventually it dawned on me that after years having a solid relationship with me, he’d taken an emotional stake in my success. He went out of his way and used precious political capital to help me out even when I hadn’t asked him to.  If I had asked for this it is quite likely it would not have happened and may even have damaged our relationship.

To me, this is the defining attribute of a great business relationship: when each party has an emotional stake in the other’s success. This reciprocal relationship is common in our personal lives—in most families, we can expect our parents and siblings to have that, as well as some close friends. But for a business associate who was a stranger only two years ago, how did we reach this point?

Read the full post at the Harvard Business Review. 

Jim Dougherty is a Senior Lecturer in Technological Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Strategic Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

One thought on “5 steps to building great business relationships — Jim Dougherty

  1. Absolutely! The way we do business today is very different. Years ago, all your business was done within your community. Now business is done on a global basis. You have to adapt the way you develop relationships with your global clients if you want to see your business grow.

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