Business Development

Blog posts about business development.

Building Business Relationships – Part Two: Following Up and Following Through


Follow UP is an excellent skill to demonstrate in business, but it takes real leadership to follow THROUGH.

In a previous post we talked about making a positive first impression. The most important thing a person can do after meeting someone is to send a thank you note, acknowledging the meeting. That thank you note, a follow up, is really an extension of that first meeting.

Follow up is a response to an event, like that first meeting. Follow through, on the other hand, has no ending. We may have to follow through with someone many times about the same situation, and this goes far above and beyond checking a task off a to do list.

Take the example of a bookkeeper. A client asks her to make a payment to a vendor. She follows up by completing the task. To follow through, however, she contacts the vendor to ensure they received the payment and that everything was handled correctly.

Follow through is more than taking actions. Part of being a leader is to be proactive and plan the series of follow up actions that will enable us to follow through. If we are going to follow up with someone, when will we do that? What are the possible reasons for following up, and how will we execute the follow through?

Follow through is really about accountability. What have we said we were going to do, and did we do those things? If we have not done those things, have we taken responsibility for that and renegotiated the next steps?

In business someone told me decades ago, “Never mess with an employee’s pay or vacation. Get those things right.” If we have a commitment to people to follow up AND follow through on correcting paycheck or vacation errors, our employees will stay loyal forever because they know their leadership will be accountable in ways that matter.

Building Business Relationships – Part One: The First Impression


Building any kind of relationship always starts at the beginning: the first impression. Before we even get in front of a person to make that first impression, however, it is very important to be comfortable in our own skin and with who we are.

The most successful relationships are built on authenticity. If we can’t boldly be our authentic selves, then we may seem to have something to hide. The quality of openness engenders a positive relationship.

The flipside of being comfortable in our own skin is to be truly and sincerely interested in learning as much as we can about the other person. What can we do to assist other people to express their authentic selves?

When we shake hands with someone and say, “I’m glad to meet you,” if we also look them in the eye and imagine that we are looking deeply into who they are as a person, then we will receive an impression of their true nature.

It is very important that this process be sincere. If we only affect an interest in another person, they will know that it is false interest.

With practice, we can genuinely develop more interest in hearing what other people have to say than in what we, ourselves, have to say. Listening to others frees us from being too focused on our own personal situations and troubles, from the inner dialogue that sometimes says, “Ain’t it awful!” Deficit-based thinking will never leave the best impression, so we strive to stay in a positive state of mind (asset-based thinking) whenever we are interacting with other people.

If we are open and receptive to listening and learning something about each new person we meet, they will respond in kind. The first impression we create will be that of someone who is authentic, a good listener, positive and interested in them. From there we can continue to build a mutually beneficial relationship that improves over time.

I once heard a speech by a very wise colonel. He said that in defining for himself how to make a good impression, he decided to treat everyone he encountered not as if they were the general, but as if they were the general’s wife.