How to Build Strong Business Relationships — Remotely

Although many managers have adapted to virtual meetings to replace face-to-face ones as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, developing new business relationships online presents a particular set of challenges. Because successful relationships are built on trust, it’s critical to make an effort to work around virtual interactions’ shortcomings.

As described in our book, Searching for Trust in the Global Economy, just prior to the pandemic, we interviewed 82 managers from four regions of the world about how they decide to trust new business partners. Their answers varied by region and culture. For example, we found that managers in both Latin America and the Middle East/South Asia wanted to spend time getting to know potential new business partners in person in order to establish trust. In Latin America, managers were using that time to assess potential business partners’ shared values, whereas in the Middle East/South Asia, managers were focused on assessing respect for different values.

Then in November and December 2020, we re-interviewed 21 of those managers and asked them how the pandemic was affecting their ability to develop new business relationships. We found that their cultural differences were still active. For example, trust did not change during the pandemic. It was still low in Latin America and the Middle East/South Asia relative to East Asia and the West. 

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