There are four steps every business relationship goes through as it becomes established. These stages are awareness, knowledge, liking, and trusting. Each stage builds on the previous one, and opens up more opportunities for you through your business contacts. Think of the four stages as rungs on a ladder. The only thing is these rungs are no consecutive. Awareness is the first rung and it is relatively easy to reach. For each step after that though there is an additional rung missing. It takes twice the effort to reach the knowledge stage of the relationship as it does the awareness. Then once again it takes twice that effort that it did to reach the awareness stage to reach the liking stage. Finally, to reach the trust stage, you once again need to double the effort it took to progress to the liking stage. As you can see, building a successful business relationship takes a lot of time. So, what exactly are these stages that are being discussed?
The awareness stage is just what it sounds like. Your business partner has an idea of who you are your company are, and at least they know you exist. They aren’t very confident in your work, and don’t have an established working relationship with you or your company, yet they are aware of the type of company yours is and what they do.
In the knowledge stage, your business partner has more knowledge about you and your company than they did in the awareness stage. They are sure they know the type of business your company performs. They have no doubts about who they will be dealing with and the company they represent and they consider you as an option when their company needs something that your company can produce or supply.
In the liking stage, they don’t just know the work your company performs they like it. They have worked with you in the past as your relationship grew between the two companies. If they have a choice between your company’s work and that of another company they will most likely choose yours as they know the quality that goes into the work and the quality of the product they receive. They enjoy doing business with your organization.
The trust stage is the hardest one to achieve, and with many business relationships it will not be established. This is not only a relationship where they trust the quality of your work, but they view you as an authority in your business. They will quite often come to you to get your opinion on a situation which your expertise can be useful to them in. This is one of the strongest business relationships, and it is quite rare to establish. When it does, many times the two companies will form strategic partnerships in business, working together on many endeavors.
These stages are not just for establishing business to business relationships, but also for developing relationships in your own office. Keep in mind someone might, recognized your name as someone who works in the company but nothing else. Or they can know you well as a coworker but not think much of your work. They could also like your work, and enjoy working with you on projects. Finally, they could view you as a key confidant and someone who’s opinion they will seek out when working on a project because they trust you and value your opinion. If you realize the work it takes to establish these relationships inside your own company and with other companies you deal with, it will increase your chances of success in the business world.