A businesswoman smiles at a male colleague who is speaking during a business meeting.
To ensure a successful partnership, have frank discussions about the goals of the collaboration, the responsibilities of both parties, and a timeline of expected results. — Getty Images/Thomas Barwick

As a small business owner, establishing a strong business-to-business (B2B) relationship with a large company can be a gateway to improved customer satisfaction and loyalty, increased sales, and ample opportunity for growth and collaboration. Strengthening bonds with business counterparts can help a partnership flourish, unlocking doors to new networking opportunities and creative ventures for both the supplier and the customer. Here are a few ways you can establish a strong B2B relationship with a large business.

[Read more: B2B vs B2C: What's the Difference?]

Conduct your research

Before jumping into a B2B partnership with a larger company, conduct research to ensure the organization you're considering teaming up with is a good fit for your company. The partnership should be mutually beneficial — if it's not, you could waste precious resources or, worse, battle it out in costly litigation.

Look for the warning signs of an ill-fitting business partnership, such as an unstable history with former business partners, patterns of poor/inconsistent communication, or prior legal issues. It's also important that you ensure the business you’re considering collaborating with has a positive reputation. By thoroughly conducting research early on and ensuring a good fit before committing, businesses can save themselves a lot of money and resources in the long run.

The partnership should be mutually beneficial — if it's not, you could waste precious resources or, worse, battle it out in costly litigation.

Recognize your own responsibilities in the partnership

Establish a business plan that lays out the partnership's details, including a timeline of expected results, intended goals, and the expectations and responsibilities of both parties. Then, establish a regular meeting schedule to check in and revisit the plan to address any gaps and ensure that the goals are being met. You’ll succeed more by keeping both parties' best interests in mind rather than working solely for your needs.

Create authentic relationships starting at the top — this means establishing relationships with the company leaders and ensuring those positive relationships trickle down through all the employees involved. As partners, you're part of the same team, and your companies should function as one.

Be confident

Taking on a larger business as a customer can be intimidating for a small business owner, as large companies often compete with small companies rather than create a partnership. However, having confidence in the partnership is key.

Confidence instills trust in the partnership, and it demonstrates to your customers that you can solve their needs, building loyalty and credibility for your business. When dealing with large companies, remember that your B2B relationship goes both ways and stand your ground.

The company chose to work with you based on your business's capabilities, positive reputation, and service, and because you stood out among competitors. Value your services accordingly during negotiations.

[Read more: B2B Sales Techniques for Building a Loyal Customer Base]

Establish clear communication

Maintaining clear communication is crucial to building a healthy and successful B2B relationship with a larger company. Without it, you're likely to experience miscommunication, which can lead to lost revenue, missed opportunities, and broken trust.

Therefore, focus on creating a clear line of communication — be it through regular meetings, a dedicated messaging channel, or an email chain — for all the parties involved and provide ample opportunities to discuss the challenges and needs.

Don't overpromise to appease a customer — state upfront what you can and can't deliver to ensure the partnership is a good fit. Discuss your financial requirements, including the estimated costs and margins, and determine roles by discussing each other's strengths and weaknesses. Transparency builds trust and helps the collective team feel like they are working together toward a common goal.

Be willing to take chances

When getting into a B2B partnership, both companies are taking a risk by putting themselves into a long-term relationship. Suppliers risk a sizable investment in a relationship that has not yet proven to be financially viable or successful while the customer risks spending a lot of money upfront in the hopes that the product or service will solve their problems.

This risk can yield great outcomes if you sustain the relationship, as success comes to businesses that take chances and invest in themselves. However, to do so, both companies must acknowledge the risk both sides are taking and discuss concerns and uneasy feelings openly. By coming together to discuss hesitations, partners can better understand who they are working with and the intentions behind their actions.

[Read more: 5 Smart Ways to Market Your B2B Business]

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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