Tailor your address book: how to reconnect with old business partners

Now that the holiday rush is over and the deadline for doing your taxes isn’t too close for comfort, you have a little time to breathe. How to use it?

Many business owners spend the first few weeks of a new year evaluating the past and setting new goals for the foreseeable future. It makes sense: the relative calm after the busy holiday season allows for a short but significant period of reflection.

One of the main factors you need to evaluate is how your business partners contribute to your success. Whether suppliers, distributors, wholesalers, or retailers, your business partners have a significant impact on the overall success of your business.

That’s why it’s crucial to pick the best possible business partners and keep them. It’s mostly a trial and error process: you need to work together for at least a couple of months to know whether a business partner is the right fit for your business. If things don’t work out as well as they should, you may consider looking for new partners.

Whether suppliers, distributors, wholesalers, or retailers, your business partners have a significant impact on the overall success of your business.

But maybe, over the course of the last few years, you lost touch with a business partner who seemed like a great fit. Maybe you didn’t need their supplies for a while, or stopped manufacturing for their market.

There are many reasons for a well-working business relationship to cool for a little while. Life takes your respective businesses on different tracks; it’s perfectly normal and there’s nothing to be awkward about.

And yet it may seem like a daunting task to contact a business partner you haven’t spoken to for a while. Just like with an old flame or that very cool kid from seventh grade, you may feel shy and back out of dropping them a line.

However, avoiding talking to an old business contact just because you haven’t spoken for a while is not a sensible business decision. Luckily, there are various tactics you can employ to minimize the awkwardness and get right back to where you left off.

Trade shows

The best way to reconnect with an old business partner is to run into them accidentally on purpose. Relax, it’s easier than you think. No, you don’t have to spy on them and hang around their office building.

In addition to meeting new clients, trade shows provide an excellent opportunity to reconnect with old business partners. You’re working in the same industry, so it’s quite likely you’ll attend the same shows. Before showing up, check out the list of exhibitors and attendees (if available) to see if you can spot any familiar names.

If they’re exhibiting, swing by your old business partner’s booth. Pick a time when they’re not too busy and approach them. Don’t assume they’ll recognize you right away, especially if it’s been years since you haven’t heard from each other.

During your initial chat, let your former business partner know that you’d like to start working together again. Suggest a follow-up meeting in the very near future where you can discuss the details in a more private setting.

Explain who you are and how you know each other. Inquire how they are doing and let them know about any major developments with your business.

While trade shows provide excellent grounds for reconnecting, they tend to be too busy and hectic to really get into details. During your initial chat, let your former business partner know that you’d like to start working together again. Suggest a follow-up meeting in the very near future where you can discuss the details in a more private setting.

But even if you can’t find your former business partner on the exhibitor list, chances are they’ll be there. Trade shows are very important occasions for business people to learn what’s new in their industry and make contact with potential clients.

Keep your eyes open; it’s highly likely you’ll spot your old business partner checking out an interesting booth or listening to a talk about the latest technological developments in your industry. Approach them to say hi and let them know you’re interested in working together again.

Email

If you don’t want to wait for the next trade show or your business partner lives far away, and it’s unlikely you could bump into them at an event, simply send them an email. If geography allows it, you can suggest a personal meeting to discuss potential cooperation, but if not, you can get straight to the point.

Regardless of the nature of your former relationship, it’s best to start with a professional, polite tone. Even if you used to get along really well, some time has passed since you’ve last been in contact and you can’t assume you can just pick up things right where you left off.

You can briefly explain why you’ve been out of touch but there’s no need to dwell on the past. It’s more important to describe what made you contact them and why you want to cooperate again.

Don’t assume that your business partner will be interested right away. Just because you used to work together doesn’t mean they’ll want to do it again. Pitch your idea the same way you’d pitch it to a new potential business partner.

LinkedIn

If you don’t have your former business partner’s current email address, you may want to try social media. LinkedIn is an excellent platform for business communication. Send a brief, professional message, explaining why you’re getting in touch and ask them to get back to you.

Using Facebook, Twitter, or any other platform for messaging may not be a good idea. Many people look at these platforms as a means to stay in touch with friends, or follow brands they’re interested in as consumers.

If you reach out to a former business partner via Facebook, they may assume you want to rekindle your friendship but not your business cooperation

If you reach out to a former business partner via Facebook, they may assume you want to rekindle your friendship but not your business cooperation. In addition, the format of Facebook Messenger or a Twitter message suggests a cadence of quick, informal notes – not the ideal format for a business pitch.

If the only contact you have to an old business partner is their Twitter account, send them a quick message and ask for their business contact information. That way, you can make sure they won’t misunderstand the reason why you’re getting in touch.

Whichever medium you use, make sure to stick to a professional but friendly tone. Make your pitch irresistible and before you know it, you’ll be working together with your old business partner in no time.

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