4 Steps to Building Profitable Business Relationships

“Our success has really been based on partnerships from the very beginning.” – Bill Gates

Just a few months ago, I knew almost nobody at the top levels of the entertainment world. Then I signed one piece of paper, and bam!… vice presidents were returning my calls. I went on to produce a live entertainment event – the International Sketch Comedy Competition – on Hollywood’s famed Sunset Boulevard that was covered by virtually every major network in town.

I was able to do it because I aligned myself with a very powerful partner in the entertainment business – a prominent comedy club and production company. By partnering with this company, my International Sketch Comedy Competition suddenly became a “must attend” event within the industry.

Making deals with powerful partners is one of the best ways to “leapfrog” your way to a position of influence and profitability in the blink of an eye. And not only in the entertainment world. I’ve made many lucrative partnership deals, including another one this year where I became the CEO of a large direct-mail business. Again, I was the “small fish,” but the big fish was more than eager to team up with me.

You, too, can take advantage of this idea to help build your own income. One strategy that I’ve put to use time and again is what I call “Incremental Relationship Building.”

But first, you need to come to terms with a cold, hard truth: Your potential power partner probably doesn’t need you at all. So if you simply approach him with a proposition, he isn’t likely to be interested in it. Why? Because there is no relationship. And powerful people generally do business only with someone they already have a relationship with.

That’s where my Incremental Relationship Building strategy comes in. This technique allows you to initiate a relationship and then widen it until it is strong enough for your potential partner to feel confident and positive about working with you.

Here’s how you do it…

Step 1: Choose a Potential Partner

Let’s say you sell a natural herbal toothpaste, primarily on the Internet via your website. You realize that if you could connect with an e-zine publisher who has a huge subscription base of readers interested in natural health products, you could greatly increase your sales. So you identify a few publishers that you might be able to build a relationship with. (That is the kind of logic you want to use when choosing potential partners.)

Sometimes, your potential partner may be right in front of your face. Some years ago, for example, I owned and operated a soda/snack vending machine business. I had about 20 machines, and they were all profitable. My problem was that I didn’t have the capital to get more machines. So I gradually developed a relationship with a vending machine distributor who eventually became my partner and provided me with additional machines for a percentage of the profits.

Step 2: Propose a Deal Your Potential Partner Can’t Refuse

As I said earlier, your potential partner probably doesn’t need you. But if you make an offer that is very enticing, he might just say “yes.”

I’ve made this work in my own information publishing business by contacting some major Internet publishers and offering to sell their products to my relatively small customer list. Agreeing to work with me in this way would require no investment or effort on their part, but they would receive a share of my profits.

How could they say no? There was no downside for them. And eventually, these relationships grew to the point where I was able to approach them about marketing some of my products to their customer lists – a really good deal for me.

Step 3: Make Sure the Initial Deal Works Out Well for Your Potential Partner

When the initial deal that you make with a potential partner works out well for him, he will begin to trust and respect you. At the same time, he will see that you know what you’re doing. And that is the kind of person successful businesspeople want to work with.

Step 4: Offer to Expand the Relationship

Once you’ve worked together on a deal that has been mutually rewarding, you’re no longer a stranger but a trusted colleague. And with this new status, you will be far more likely to get a “yes” when you propose a bigger deal.

The first year of my International Sketch Comedy Competition, I made a deal with the Laugh Factory to provide a prize (getting to perform on the Laugh Factory stage) for our winner. It wasn’t a hard sell, as the owner strongly believes in helping new talent, it cost the club nothing, and it was sure to lead to some free publicity. Because that first experience with the event was so positive for them, the owner was receptive to expanding their role – and last year, the Laugh Factory became an actual partner in it.

Incremental Relationship Building – I don’t know of a better way for a small-businessperson to increase his ability to make moneymaking deals with people in powerful positions.

[Ed. Note: Paul Lawrence is a produced screenwriter, direct-mail copywriter, and business author. He is also the creator of the Quick and Easy Microbusiness System, ETR’s program for starting a business for under $100. Paul’s “Get Rich in 90 Days With Small Business Dealmaking” audio program will teach you in easy-to-learn-and-do steps the secrets he’s used over and over to secure powerful business partners.]