Meditations on business relationships in 2021 - the year after
It was a beautiful fall sunny day outside the White House on September 15th just a few months ago when the United Arab Emirates and Israel signed a historic peace treaty. It seems like the overall theme of benefits from this historic agreement was around economic cooperation. Preparing for this big day, Israeli airlines and travel agencies in both countries were putting some finishes touches on travel packages between the two longtime foes. Business leaders on both sides were already finalizing dates for network meetings and conferences. Just a week later, social media in the region was inundated with testimonials from Israelis visiting Dubai for the first time – busting myths like you cannot walk the streets while holding hands with your girl or you are not allowed to sleep in one bed in your hotel room. And some UAE folks visiting Israel for the first time after decades of being told to be aware of the Zionistic big bad wolf.
“I am quite keen about this family reunion”
Mohammad Al Abar
Underneath it all, the simple person on the street (i.e. you and I) live the culture, we feel it in our day to day and when speaking to a few of my friends who have made the visit to Israel and Dubai they all said the same thing – we felt like we finally met our long lost brothers. The emotional connection, being part of the same region, same history, same struggle got us to FEEL Emotionally Relevant. After all, when we experience something together, a struggle, a hardship, a success, an achievement, if we went through a similar experience together, we FEEL more connected. This is what I call The Emotional Anchoring. And when we feel more connected, we open up more and this is when Empathy and Trust are established. Which leads to a more fruitfully mutual relationship through a higher Brand Equity (personal and professional) deriving from loyalty.
So, I asked my Israeli friends who traveled to Dubai for a conference how is business looking. They said that they are not sure but man, it felt great. “What do you mean?” I continued and one of them replied:” since we felt like we met a family member we haven’t seen for a while we were too busy catching up. It’s like, we didn’t have to go through the trust dance as we already knew each other. Even though it was a business conference, it was not about business”. What is it about then? I pushed back. He then said – “don’t worry Alon, business will come. It’s not about business”.
In recent years, more and more research has been conducted on the impact of emotions in the customer experience. Making it a personal and emotional connection for the customer. When you speak with a client, make sure you also make a personal connection, learn about THEM, about their family, befriend them as it will help the business. And I would like, at the opening of 2021, the year after, to claim that the opposite is how it should be.
It is about the relationship FIRST and only then about the business. And yes, I know that if you go into a conference room in New York for an 8 figure deal they expect you, those New Yorkers, to get down to business first but I am telling you…..don’t. Think relationship first. Forget about the business. Set that emotional anchor first.
Business will come. It’s NOT about the business.
”Everybody is asking how we can do business with Israel and I say I am not interested in business. Can we meet each other first? Kind of like our kids meet your kids” “We don’t do business; you need to first come meet my mother and I will meet yours”.
Mohammad Al Abar
So, what happened during 2020? We have all gone through a struggle. Together. The Emotional Anchor has been set for all of us. More and more recent research shows distinct trends of higher cooperation, openness and co-opetition. We have all become more open, more vulnerable, more accepting and more….human. More empathic, more trusting. During this global and emotional experience, we tapped into our innate human needs which is aligned exactly to the Emotional Relevance® Cycle. Now all you need is to be aware of that cycle and….well…go through it again…and again and business will come.
Once a week I pick up the phone to someone in my network. Just saying hi. How are you? I try to look at their profile, some recent activity so I can make the conversation a bit more relevant but really, I just call for a small Emotional Anchoring. I say nothing about business, not a word about work (unless they bring it up of course). The initial response to these calls is typically a bit of a surprise (type of an emotional experience to set that Emotional Anchor) and then after about 2-3 minutes of chit chat another emotional reaction of something along the lines of being puzzled. They expect me to sell them something and when I don’t, not only I am being a bit different but they realize they don’t need to put their buying hat on but rather be themselves. About 95% of these calls at that point of the conversation, turn to some laughter, a shared personal experience and some insight about their life. Just like in the Emotional Relevance® Cycle – an Emotional Anchor, trust and empathy leading to loyalty and Brand Equity.
Two years ago, I called someone from my network. He wasn’t a customer at the time. He is not a customer today either. We spoke for about 12 minutes in total. The usual – I started by saying I just called because this article I read reminded me of him and I figured I’d call to say hi. You could “hear” his look of “OK, what is he trying to sell me?”. After he asked me how I was doing and I replied with – the family is great, everyone is healthy and that I just won a tennis match that weekend he dropped all of his guards and shared a personal story of his own. I bumped into him a couple of months later at the airport. We spent 45 minutes together at the Delta lounge. We started the conversation from the same point we ended that call a couple of months earlier. Since then we spoke a few times, consulted with each other and even referred business to one another. Last week he called me up. I was happy to hear his voice (another emotional reaction). He said he has some business for me. Not sure yet if it will work out or not but I know that the Emotional Anchor was still there and made its impact.
Try it. Resist your instincts, call someone, and don’t speak about work. Be you, let them be them. Set an Emotional Anchor and don’t worry, business will come.
After all….it’s NOT about business.