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How to Build Strategic Business Relationships (Episode 77)

David Nour is internationally recognized as the leading expert on strategic business relationships. As the author of 10 books, (click here for tips on publishing) including Co-Create and Curve Benders David serves as a trust advisor to global clients and coaches, corporate leaders and rising entrepreneurs. He also speaks about 50 to 60 times a year all around the world.

He’s an adjunct professor at Emory University, and his unique insights have been featured in a variety of prominent publications, including Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.

He’s originally from Iran, where his parents currently live, while he’s lived in Atlanta, Georgia for 40 years. David flew into the country in 1981, and landed in JFK with a suitcase and a hundred dollars. His parents shipped him to a place where he didn’t have any connections or speak the language. On his own, he flew down to Atlanta to live with an aunt and uncle that he hadn’t seen since birth.

He grew up in the U.S., finished high school, attended University, and in many ways considers the United States his home, though most of his family lives in Iran.

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Business Relationships

David has learned how to use strategic business relationships to accelerate growth.

Like most professionals early on, David took jobs in sales and sales management. He learned firsthand that people only buy from people they like and trust, but these two things aren’t the only keys. David believes that people only buy from people they respect.

When he moved into sales management, he quickly learned the same lesson. People work for people they like, trust, and respect.

In this way, regardless of what any of us do, we’re all fundamentally in the relationship business. Unfortunately, most people don’t know how to use this to their advantage, beyond family ties.

David has noticed that, particularly in the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America, people build relationships first from which they do business. When he moved to the states, it seemed that if, and only if, the business part works, then people would ask the person about their family, their loved ones, or develop a personal relationship. While this trend happens in many western countries, the U.S. is a prime example.

There’s a disconnect that develops because of this, particularly when we go into places and people don’t look like us, sound like us, or come from our backgrounds.

After his time in sales, David got into consulting and went to graduate school. From there, he spent several years at a private equity firm which eventually shut down.

David then decided to go on a “listening tour.” He went to 35 leaders that he liked, trusted, and respected, and asked them an important question.

“What do you believe I do exceptionally well?”

The consistent response was, in essence, networking.

A lot of networking was pedestrian or retail oriented, while his background was enterprise. So David decided, why not both?

What if he helped individual leaders with their teams?

What if he could help them identify, build, and nurture over some period of time, teach them to sustain, and ultimately capitalize on their biggest asset: their portfolio of business relationships?

This led to his empire, and expertise, in strategic relationships.

Relationship Economics

Relationship Economics, which also happens to be the title of one of David’s books, is in short what he teaches others to utilize.

Most of his seminal work is outlined in this book, which details how to be more intentional, strategic, and how to be more quantifiable in the relationships you choose to invest in.

The first chapter covers the top 10 reasons most networking doesn’t work, and in short, it’s because there’s no purpose, no goal, and no plan.

When David gets asked to work with an organization, he typically works with the CEO of that hyper-growth company. They focus on the outcomes they’re after, and unfortunately, when it comes to business relationships, a lot of people confuse output (what you do and how you do it) with outcome (which is the result or business outcome).

Next, David starts to ask the “who” questions.

Who do we need? There are no new challenges, there are no new problems: the only new challenges are the ones you haven’t thought of.

They start identifying who else has seen their problems and solved them? Who else has addressed this challenge or opportunity?

Who do we know? Who already knows us, likes us, and trusts us?

Customers, partners, investors?

Who’s in our existing “relationship bank” that could accelerate us to the outcome we want?

10 Mistakes in Relationship Building

  1. Not knowing what your priorities are, or lack of purpose.
  2. Lack of intentional interaction.
  3. Lack of relationship development.
  4. Haphazard and reactive efforts.
  5. Not evaluating what’s in it for them – asking the question “how can I help them?”
  6. Not asking them directly what they need.
  7. Not meeting people where they are.
  8. Not investing in training your team.
  9. Avoiding change/criticism.
  10. Making too many to-do lists.

Everybody makes to-do lists. Very few people make “stop doing” lists. What are some things you’re doing with your business relationships that are not helping you? What are some things that need to change? You need to modify it to elevate the relationships.

If you can move past these mistakes and start really interacting with people, those are relationships that will stand the test of time.

For more from David, follow any of the links to his LinkedIn and books above, or head over to his website.

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