The Long Game vs. The Short Game — How Small Business Owners Can Master Authentic Customer Relationships Success isn't just about the number of sales or the size of our businesses. It's about the relationships we build.

By Alykhan Jetha

Key Takeaways

  • The balance between networking and sales is delicate but essential.
  • Networking is truly about building genuine relationships: about truly getting to know people, understanding their challenges and offering help, regardless of any immediate financial gain.
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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

One of the biggest discoveries I made early in my entrepreneurial journey was the importance of building genuine relationships. It was one of the reasons I developed Daylite, a CRM and project management tool, which became the cornerstone solution of my business. I had initially designed it for myself, with the primary goal of being able to store key information about people I was meeting along my business journey.

Networking with authenticity

During those early days of my entrepreneurial experience, I understood the critical difference between networking and sales. So many people conflate the two, yet networking – when done right - is rooted in the authentic desire to build a relationship with another human being. Customer acquisition can be the desirable outcome of successful networking, yet it should not be the core focus and the means to an end.

When I joined a global organization for entrepreneurs called EO (Entrepreneurs' Organization), I knew I would be meeting many people I could do business with. And yet, I appreciated EO's key non-solicitation policy. This organization focuses on peer-to-peer learning and support in its purest form. And this focus aligns perfectly with my philosophy: growing our businesses by connecting with others authentically, learning from each other and offering support — not by soliciting for business. This ethos of creating value and mutual respect is central to how I approach networking.

Networking is truly about building genuine relationships: about truly getting to know people, understanding their challenges and offering help, regardless of any immediate financial gain. Mixing networking and sales activities simply leads to inauthentic interactions. People can sense when they're being treated as potential sales targets instead of as individuals with whom one might form a genuine connection.

Related: The 10 Commandments of Networking You Must Know to Build Authentic Connections

Connection beyond the initial sale

In sales, authenticity and transparency are also vital. Building a human connection with our clients should not end with the proverbial handshake. At my company, our customers value the relationship we've nurtured over time beyond a simple transaction. Much of that starts with a transparent sales process and expands into the investments we regularly make in education and support, which keeps us alongside them throughout their business journey.

We leverage the product we sell for our own customer relationship management processes. Daylite helps us remember key customer information, which is crucial for building long-term relationships. Remembering personal details, preferences or past conversations isn't just a courtesy; it's a fundamental aspect of forming a lasting bond. These small details can significantly affect how people perceive our interest and commitment to the relationship. In turn, enhancing customer experience leads to a notable impact on sales revenues.

Related: Want to Succeed as an Entrepreneur? Discover the Key to Building Long-Lasting Connections

Playing the long game

This all boils down to the key difference between the long and short games in business. The long game is about networking and relationship-building, while the short game focuses on making an immediate sale. Both have their place in any business but require different approaches and mindsets. Networking is about being a resource to others, helping without the immediate expectation of a return. This contrasts with the sales side, which tends to be centered around a transactional approach and mindset.

When talking to my teams about authenticity and bringing value to a prospective or current customer, I always emphasize the importance of being a resource to others. Simply put, the greatest value we can offer someone in a business relationship is help, support, sharing knowledge, truly caring about their business goals, and being there when needed, without the immediate expectation of a return. This approach fosters a sense of community and mutual support, which is invaluable in business.

Success isn't just about the number of sales or the size of our businesses. It's about the relationships we build, the network we nurture, and our impact on others. The balance between networking and sales is delicate but essential. Understanding this balance can make the difference between fleeting transactions and meaningful, lasting business relationships for solopreneurs and small business owners. The journey towards mastering this balance is a path to better sales and a more fulfilling and sustainable business model.

Alykhan Jetha

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Founder of Marketcircle

Entrepreneur, bootstrapper, underdog. President & CEO, Marketcircle. 20+ years as a tech & software entrepreneur – and incredibly proud of what Marketcircle has achieved. But it started quite differently. Passionate about lean entrepreneurship & process-driven startup growth.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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