Ann Marie Sabath is president and founder of At Ease Inc., an 18-year-old international business development firm. Guided by her extensive business experience, she and her staff have taught more than 50,000 individuals from various business sectors how to gain the competitive edge. Small wonder, then, that Sabath and the concepts she espouses have been the object of attention in magazines such as Forbes and on TV programs such as The Oprah Winfrey Show. In her new book, Courting Business: 101 Ways for Accelerating Business Relationships, she shares her wealth of knowledge about relationship development, a skill she considers key to successfully courting business, but which she contends is sadly lacking in today’s business world.
According to Sabath, the main principle behind relationship development is “getting others to develop a long-term relationship because of how you treat them” and not because they need the services you provide. Courting business, she says, is “the process of identifying your target market and getting prospects to want to do business with you.” Problems occur when individuals become too caught up in their job description and fail to realize that customer service and relationship development should exist at every level of the company and not just with the salespeople.
Courting Business is not arranged in typical chapter-by-chapter format. Instead, subheadings guide the reader to topics. Sections such as “The Power of a Compliment” and “Stroke, Don’t Provoke” emphasize the importance of positive engagement. Rather than join in when others are demeaning clients or the competition, Sabath advises concentrating on maintaining positive relationships with existing clients and on developing new clients by being complimentary and sincere. Getting caught up in the competitiveness of business breeds negativity, which can cause you to lose customers.
“Creativity + Consistency = Courtship Success” and “Keep Your Prospects ‘Warm’ ” emphasize the importance of persistence, even when the door keeps slamming shut. “Relationship development is a process rather than a single interaction,” Sabath writes. It may take a year or more to close a deal with a prospective client. The key is to maintain a positive attitude and to keep trying. At the same time, Sabath points out that while it makes sense to pursue “hot” prospects, it is equally important to continue nurturing those prospects who appear lukewarm, but who may need your services eventually. Consider those prospects investments that will start to show returns in the future, Sabath advises.
While other sections of the book seem to state the obvious, clearly they warrant reinforcement because the errors they discuss are repeated often. One such section is “News Flash: You Act Like You Look, and You Get Results Based on How You Dress.” Proper business attire will make you feel more confident and cause you to act with more authority. The section “Clients Are Prospects Too!” reminds the reader that “80 percent of your business comes from 20 percent of your clients.” Don’t take established clients for granted, Sabath urges, but continue to improve your relationship with them and mine all possibilities for additional business that may surface as a result.
“Courtship Tips” highlighted throughout the book sum up relevant points made in previous sections. They are especially useful when you need a few relationship reminders but are short on time. True stories and experiences illustrate the arguments made in each section. There are also quizzes and exercises that can be used to reinforce specific points and to put the concepts into a more personal context. The index is helpful when you need to find the specific section that deals with a particular subject.
In her introduction to Courting Business, Sabath writes that the “book has been written as a quick read” and indeed my initial thought was that I would quickly dispatch it. It contains, after all, fewer than 200 pages, with generous line spacing and a big enough font size that clearly allow for rapid reading. However, while the book is an easy, uncomplicated read, it offers complicated ideas in a deceptively simple manner. There is a lot of food for thought in these pages. Be prepared to commit several hours to pondering the ideas and suggestions in it.
Courting Business: 101 Ways for Accelerating Business Relationships
Author: Ann Marie Sabath
Publisher: The Career Press Inc., 2005
Reviewed by Soroya Brantley