4 Principles of Business Relationship Management Everyone Should Know

Many companies create a business relationship management (BRM) team to solidify relationships between stakeholders and team members. Yet quite often, only people with “relationship manager” in their title receive training on the importance of relationships in business.

To develop a strong corporate culture built on solid relationships, everyone within your organization must understand the four core elements of business relationship management:

The Business Relationship Management Professional (BRMP®) Certification is the fastest way to evolve relationships, advance relationship management capability, and drive value for an organization.

Transform your business relationships

Capability: Good Intentions Are Not Enough

All companies have some level of relationship management capability. Companies with a BRM team show a desire to develop that capability further.

However, nurturing relationships is everyone’s responsibility. If only a few people in the organization understand and value the importance of relationships, you will constantly run into roadblocks. These obstacles prevent the building of solid partnerships.

Employees who don’t understand the value of business relationships might not take care of them. For example, they might not share information, or they might not be very open in their interactions. They will be polite but won’t try to understand what is important to the other person. In certain instances, they may display passive-aggressive behavior.

Employees who don’t care about business relationships may not value their interactions with others. That includes exchanges in meetings, through email, or in face-to-face conversations.

Such an attitude leads to friction that undermines the trust required to create strong partnerships. The result is finger-pointing, blaming others, and failing to communicate important information.

When people exchange “who said what” emails, it reveals broken relationships. It shows that team members don’t want to take ownership of anything. By developing BRM capabilities deliberately, you can build a positive organizational culture that unites teams, breaks silos, and builds trust.

Companies can encourage creativity, innovation, and, most importantly, shared ownership by building and fostering great relationships.

Discipline: The Path Toward Strategic Partnerships

The BRM Institute defines discipline as “an effective application of knowledge, demonstrated through a set of competencies and mindsets, to advance BRM capability.” The goal is to build trust, earn credibility and ultimately deliver true business value.

Effectively, discipline is how you apply capabilities. To understand the level of BRM discipline within your organization, these are a few questions you can ask:

Relationship management should happen in all interactions. Success comes from applying the appropriate methods in the proper context.

BRM discipline includes many tools and techniques, but there is no need to use them all to be successful. The effective use of the correct tool at the right time will lead to the desired results.

Each tool allows organizational teams to develop more trust from stakeholders in their work and the value they provide. That trust is an essential component of building strategic partnerships.

Maturity: All Business Relationships Are Not Equal

Business relationship management helps secure bonds between individuals and business units within an organization.

Let’s take a typical example: organizations that deal with an IT department. Executives or senior management take months to plan a course of action for the company’s future. Eventually, they sign a contract with a third-party supplier.

However, IT managers are brought to the table only once all the critical corporate decisions have been finalized.

What happens is a situation that many IT professionals have faced during their careers. The executives’ decisions force IT teams to integrate new systems and processes within existing ones.

Sometimes the timelines are unrealistic. Keeping IT out of the loop and treating them as order-takers increases the likelihood of failure.

The same phenomenon occurs in the opposite direction. IT managers make technological decisions that don’t fit with the strategic business direction.

It makes getting the funding required for their projects more difficult. Each failure erodes trust in the IT department and causes the deterioration of relationships with stakeholders.

Professionals aspire to a seat at the decision table where they are considered strategic partners, not just order takers. They want to be heard. They want to provide input, and they want trust. Reaching this level requires relationship maturity.

Business relationships are like personal relationships: you need to work on them, so they bear fruit. You wouldn’t share bank account information or intimate details of your life after knowing someone for only a few minutes. That level of trust requires time and work. 

A Model to Understand Relationship Maturity

At the start of a business relationship, you need to build trust and work toward becoming a strategic partner. But without a clear understanding of maturity, it’s impossible to diagnose where a relationship stands. The BRM Institute offers a maturity model that allows us to recognize where we stand with other stakeholders or business partners.

BRM Institute's Maturity Model
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Maturity changes from one relationship to another. For example, executive teams may have a Strategic Partner relationship with IT. But the relationship with Legal could be as Service Provider and the one with HR as Order Taker.

The ultimate goal is to reach the Strategic Partner level, but you can’t do that without meeting the requirements of the preceding level. Moving from one level to the next is not linear.

When people attend the Business Relationship Management Professional (BRMP®) Certification, they often experience an aha moment once they understand relationship maturity.

Most teams struggle to move from Order Taker to Service Provider because of the much higher expectations from stakeholders. Once teams understand the maturity level of their relationships, they can build a roadmap toward becoming strategic partners and having shared ownership with other stakeholders.

Value: It’s in the Eyes of the Beholder

Value is determined by the beholder. Therefore, it is essential to understand the nature of beholder value so expectations can be managed.

As value providers, we are responsible for understanding what a business partner values and managing expectations. Otherwise, it’s easy to focus on what we find important only to deliver something that doesn’t meet the stakeholder’s expectations.

For example, we could think that the most important value is “fast” or “low cost” or “high quality.” In reality, the greatest value for the stakeholder may be “first to market.”

So we deliver a fast, low-cost, and high-quality solution without understanding what is valuable for the stakeholder. If competitors deliver their solution first, ours loses its value in the eyes of our business partner.

4 Principles of Business Relationship Management Everyone Should Know

To illustrate, let’s take the example of a building contractor. As the homeowner, you determine the value, and you are accountable for it. The contractor is responsible for delivering renovations that are of value to you. They are spending your money.

If you give them carte blanche and they renovate to their tastes without checking that it meets your expectations, the result will not be valuable to you. The renovation remains incomplete, even if the contractor did an excellent job.

This example illustrates a common occurrence in IT. The business doesn’t always understand what needs to be done when implementing a new solution.

It’s the responsibility of IT to understand what business partners value. Conversations bring this information to the surface. Through shared ownership, IT and its stakeholders can develop a solution that delivers real value.

Why Everyone in Your Organization Needs to Know and Apply Business Relationship Management

Business relationship management is not only the responsibility of a small team in an organization. It’s everybody’s responsibility.

Every company has a certain level of BRM capability, but often, it isn’t well understood. Many companies know that relationships are essential for a successful business. They invest in building relationship capability, but that’s not enough.

Teams also need the tools and techniques that help create mature relationships. There are many such tools, but you rarely need to use them all. It’s better to use fewer tools but at the appropriate time. That builds relationship management discipline within an organization.

By applying this discipline in all relationships, companies build maturity. Mature relationships are essential for creating true strategic partnerships between teams, individuals, and business stakeholders.

Through solid strategic partnerships, teams can understand what truly matters to a business and deliver the value that stakeholders desire.

Organizations are in the business of building lasting value, and relationships are the cornerstone of value.

And that’s everybody’s business.


Register for the revamped BRMP Certification today to raise your business relationship management capability.

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