By Jeanette Mulvey, VP B2B Content, Purch

Having a relationship with a small business is a lot more like marriage than dating. That’s because the qualities small businesses desire most in a business partner revolve around dependability, predictability and great communication. While being mysterious and unpredictable might inspire a fleeting romance, they definitely aren’t the qualities that build long-term relationships – in romance or business. Instead of a whirlwind courtship, slow and steady wins the race when it comes to attracting small business clients.

If your business plan involves acquiring SMB clients, you’ll need a plan for keeping the romance alive long after the contract is signed. Keep these three things in mind to ensure a long-lived and happy partnership.

Be Honest– Tell potential clients the truth about what to expect from your company. Don’t promise things you can’t deliver. This will ensure the honeymoon phase doesn’t end before the relationship gets off the ground.

The first step to making sure you can deliver on your promises is ensuring that your employees and sales reps aren’t overselling. Make sure you’re being transparent within your own organization about what you can and can’t offer a potential partner. Nothing will spoil the relationship faster than clients feeling they’ve been the victim of a bait and switch. Don’t be the bald, fat guy with the profile photo that looks like Ryan Reynolds. Own who you are (and what your business can do) from the beginning and your clients will know what they’re getting into.

Be Reliable – Nothing will fizzle the relationship faster than not being dependable. Being consistently late for dates or regularly cancelling plans are pretty much deal breakers. It’s no different when courting SMBs. Ensure you have processes in place to keep the lines of communication open. Let customers know what to expect and alert them if plans have changed. Soon enough, they come to trust and rely on you.

Sometimes things go wrong and your clients, just like your significant other, will understand if you just own up to the mistake, apologize and don’t make it a habit.

Know Whento Call It Quits– Everyone knows that even princes can turn into frogs. And sometimes, the customer isn’t always right. If you’re having second thoughts about the relationship, don’t drag it out. Let your customer know your concerns and try to work out a solution that works for both of you. If that doesn’t work, then be open to considering that it just wasn’t meant to be. Don’t focus your precious resources (and energy) on relationships that don’t work. Instead, build a solid foundation with the clients you know you can count on for the long run. Remember, a select group of long-term committed relationships will be much more valuable to your business than a passing fancy ever will.

Author:Jeanette Mulvey is VP of B2B Content at Purch. She has been writing about business for more than 20 years. She’s interviewed hardware store owners in Saskatchewan, fashion designers in New York and eyeglass manufacturers in Italy. She also started and sold her own ecommerce startup. However, her real small business education came while running her family contracting business where she got a firsthand lesson in everything from payroll processing to collections. She has a degree in American Studies from Rutgers University.

JOIN JEANETTE MULVEY AT THE B2SMB INSTITUTE LEADERS’ FORUM: As a featured speaker at next week’sB2SMB Institute Leaders’ Forum, Jeanette will share her insights on how SMBs are influenced by online reviews during a SuperPanel discussion titled, “The Good Word: How You Can Win More SMBs Leveraging Online Reviews.”