It was the 5 of us on that infamous Zoom call. Adam, Carla and I from our side, Sean and Kelly on the customer side. A couple of months earlier we signed the agreement. Carla, our CEO, was the one who got us this deal through a past relationship with Sean, the customer’s COO. Kelly is our main point of contact for the rollout on the customer’s side. I played the role of the executive sponsor for this client while holding a VP title. Adam was identified as the Account Manager, the go-to guy, the face of the company guy, the day-to-day guy, the always there for you guy and the customer comes first guy. Adam is in his late 20’s. This is his 2nd job after college. He is vibrant, happy, positive, and overall good. Customers like him, he updates the CRM….he’s good. He checks the boxes, follows the procedures. He’s good. But there is one thing missing. It seems Adam was missing an element of humanity. Couldn’t really put my finger on it, but it’s as if he was going through the motions almost automatically, semi-robotic like. He would start meetings in an official manner, all business. He would follow up with detailed minutes within an hour after the call. Yup….he is good.
"I'm looking for a partnership and not just a "suppliership""
So, the five of us are on the call. Somewhat of a kick-off call. Adam starts the call as usual, all business. He’s got a detailed agenda up and he is in a ready to take notes mode. The call ends and all the boxes are checked. Everything seemed swell, the ducks are in the row, timeline is drawn, and next steps are defined. But I felt like something was missing. That call didn’t FEEL very “huggy”. Didn’t FEEL like the trust level nor the openness was there. And I still couldn’t put my finger on it. Then my phone rings and it’s Carla. My boss. The one who was with us on the call we just had. She has Sean, the client’s COO with her conferenced in. She asks Sean to go ahead and share what he just shared with her. Sean, in a very calm voice, nothing too alarming says:” you know, we are looking for a relationship, not just a “suppliership”. This kid, Adam, sounds like a great kid but in the past 2 months since we signed the agreement, we have had about 7 calls with you guys. Total of 9 folks from my team attended. I asked all 9 of them how they felt about the relationship so far, not the product, not the service, the relationship. 7 of them asked me in return – why we were switching the incumbent. I replied that I am looking for a relationship, for someone we can really trust, who can get to know our business and not just what is not working on their product. Someone who would be a true partner and not just a vendor. They all responded with a….well boss, this Adam guy is super professional but we know nothing about him and he never asked anything about any of us. You see Carla, the incumbent is actually a bit cheaper, but I don’t have any reason to really trust them. We never got personal”.
The third element of Emotional Relevance® in business relationship is Get Personal. Along with Stand Out and Make an Impact comes Get Personal.
What does it mean exactly? Well, it means many things over a long, ongoing relationship but allow me to focus on one important layer of getting personal.
In her work, Amy Reinstein, a children speech therapist, talks about the importance of getting down to the child’s level:” Come down to their level in every way. Come down to their eye level AND to their development level”. Thinking about it in relation to the corporate world, the analogy is not of course to come down to their development level but rather, align yourself to their level. At times you will need to go UP to their levels and at times down. Down or up is not the point but rather the alignment. Find out what you can about them so you can match your approach to theirs. Make sure you get down to their eye level so they can really, emotionally FEEL they can trust you and you can trust them. Their “development level” could mean knowing their market, their challenges, their personal as well as their company’s challenges. Their aspirations. This is what I mean here by getting down to their level.
Do whatever you can to eliminate that border, that wall, that table between you when you just start the relationship. Try to get to a point where you are sitting next to one another and not in front of each other. When you get there, when you are at their eye level, when you are indeed sitting side by side you both will FEEL you can trust each other, and this is when the magic happens.
Let me give you a practical example.
This past weekend I was in Savannah GA for a Volleyball Tournament with my 14 years old daughter. We stayed at this cool, boutique style hotel called Andaz (a Hyatt Brand). My second morning there, while my daughter went to get ready for her next match, I came down for breakfast. Got greeted by Amanda who was all smiles behind the mask and and led me to the table. I sat at the back, pulled my laptop out and noticed the cool music in the background that helped overall the ambience to be more “huggy” (here is that word again but you know what I mean…).
A couple of moments later, here comes Rachel. First thing she does is sitting down next to me, looking at me with a smile and goes:” so, where are you from?”
She sat NEXT to me. She "came down" to my level. She got personal. I felt hugged and I felt like I could trust her. She could have recommended the oysters and salmon for all I care, and I would have probably considered it although I don’t eat seafood. She just had that personal, relaxed, warmth about her and….she sat down NEXT to me so there was no table between us.
Imagine there is a table between you and your client, and you are trying to get to a point you both feel you can sit next to one another. In today’s world, developing relationships online is a bit more complicated. I get it but give it a try. The other day on a call with a client I asked where he was from. When he mentioned the name of the town, I brought it up on the screen on Google maps. Street view. He, all emotional and excited, guided me to his actual street (“oh my god, yes, keep going straight, now turn left….HERE IS MY HOUSE!! Come on in I will get you something to drink”). We felt closer. Trust level went up. We felt….hugged. I can tell you that most likely, neither of us remember the actual business items we discussed on this call but I guarantee you that on the next call we are already sitting next to one another and not in front of each other. We got down to each other’s eye level.
We got personal.