Everywhere you look these days, people are espousing the importance of relationships. Moments later, they begin telling you how to hack, trick, or 10-step your way into one. It’s true, relationships are the key to just about everything one might hope to achieve in life, so it’s a no-brainer that much is written about them. However, despite many articles to the contrary, there are no shortcuts. You can’t fake authenticity and relationships that mean something require it.
Seth Godin, one of the world’s foremost voices in marketing, says, “authenticity, for me, is doing what you promise, not ‘being who you are.’” So many of us fall victim to the latter when we think about being authentic in our own lives. I like Seth’s definition—as it pertains to business and life—and it’s no coincidence that it’s in line with the approach I’m about to share. The B.R.E.A.D. method, much like it’s carb-rich counterpart, is meant to rise and fall depending on its environment. It should adapt to your situation whether you, like the aforementioned Mr. Godin, are a marketer or in business at all for that matter. It is a framework that breaks down the process of building relationships into bite-sized, actionable chunks, and if followed, at the other end, you’ll be left with something impactful.
Please note, I am not a relationship counselor —or a baker for that matter—but in the context of this article, we’ll be baking our B.R.E.A.D. for the purpose of winning and maintaining quality customer relationships, so pardon the business-centric jargon. But if you break the points below into their simplest terms, you can use this framework for just about any relationship you might encounter.
Build what? A relationship, of course! Before any of the subsequent steps in the B.R.E.A.D. method can take place, you’ve got to develop a rapport with your prospective clients. There are many ways to go about it. But more than anything, you’ve got to get in front of people and show them your authentic self. Do what you say you’ll do, show up, and be consistent. The beliefs and feelings created in these early meetings will set the course for subsequent conversations—for better or for worse. So don’t mess up!
During this phase you’ll be:
Up-Front Conversation (U.F.C.)
The up-front conversation, or U.F.C., is not a step in and of itself. Rather think of it as the butter (or jam or honey or extra-crunchy, whatever you’re into) that keeps the whole loaf sticking together. This conversation is meant to be had at the end of each stage of the process to properly frame the next step and get prospect buy-in. You want permission to keep the relationship moving, and by doing so, you minimize the risk of coming off too pushy. Talk to your prospect, ask them if they are open to the next conversation, and, if so, set a time and place to have it.
I should probably also note that when going through this process, despite the catchy acronym, you are much more likely to make B.B.B.R.R.R.R.E.E.E.A.A.D. than simply B.R.E.A.D. These steps—AKA meetings—while linear in their design will likely need to be repeated time and time again until the transition to each subsequent step makes sense and is mutually agreed upon. So don’t get frustrated if it seems like we’re moving fast in this article, remember it’s just a framework, you can adapt it to your process as necessary.
Once you have created deep-enough and meaningful-enough relationships with your prospect and having received permission to proceed, you can move on to the research or “qualification” step. I say “-enough” because by this stage of the game, you aren’t likely to be bosom buddies, but the relationship should have matured sufficiently to warrant next-steps. In this step of the process, we begin asking questions to establish fit. Do you (client) have a problem we (agency) can effectively solve, and if so—do we want to?
During this phase you’ll:
Remember: Be sure to work in your next U.F.C. to set the stage for the next round!
By this stage, you’ve built what is sure to blossom into a mutually-valuable, long-term relationship with your prospect. Further, you’ve managed to set clear expectations based on in-depth conversations — often more than one — that have allowed you to fully and deeply understand client needs and, more importantly, their “why.”
It is also at this point that we begin to establish the terms of the relationship. Contracts will be drafted, terms agreed to, and hands will be shaken.
During this phase you’ll:
Oh, and slip another U.F.C. in here before moving on.
Things are in full swing now! Paid 100% up-front — or 50/50 if balance down isn’t doable based on the size of engagement — you are set to work strategizing and planning resources and tools for meeting — then exceeding — the future outcomes discovered during the “why” conversation held back in the RESEARCH step.
During this phase you’ll:
Yes, you still need a U.F.C. after this step. As part of your plan of action, you will have no doubt set reasonable expectations for the delivery of work. As a result, the conversation you’ll need to have to set the stage for the fifth and final step will be one designed to define the critical dates on the calendar where you’ll meet again to compare notes, share work, or receive critique. So while this U.F.C. is a little different than prior conversations will have been, it is still part of the process to move forward.
Work is shipped, and the client is thrilled — every time. Having achieved some level of success that moves the client closer to their established future state, we have set the table for additional engagements and referrals.
The client must understand that just because we’re at the end doesn’t mean we won’t be there for them. Much like our process’s bready namesake, we’ll have their back, hanging around their posterior for the long-haul. When possible, make guarantees and stand behind them to further maintain and more deeply root our new relationships.
By this stage you will have:
U.F.C. time baby! That’s right, you aren’t done just because you’re done. Because of this outstanding engagement and subsequent goodwill, you will probably have new opportunities coming down the pike as we speak. So just when you thought it was time to say arrivederci, it turns out it’s time to say ciao and begin anew.
Everyone knows — dietitians, you stay out of this — that B.R.E.A.D. is what makes the world go round. A low-carb life without it is barely worth living, not unlike one devoid of meaningful relationships. Using this simple process, you can level up the relationships you are making in business, but applied to your personal life, the ethic described herein will lead to quality engagements outside the office as well.
How do you foster and maintain quality relationships in life and business — and Is there any difference? What food-based-acronym do you live your life by? Have suggestions for getting this extra 20lbs off my tummy? I’d love it if you’d share your two bits and get involved in this conversation. Join our community here in the comments or feel free to find me on the socials to take this conversation wherever the audience most suited to hear it can get involved - I am @ryanroghaar here on Medium, Twitter, and Instagram and click here to find me on LinkedIn.