True or false: people won’t care what you know until they know how much you care? In life, this principle holds true in countless exchanges: with friends, mentors, peers, family, advisors. Time and time again we can see how this logic plays out in the relationships we choose to nurture and keep close, as well as those that never seem to take off or thrive. The executive thought leader, Stephen Covey, is often credited with his concept of the emotional bank account, a figurative exchange in which we must make emotional deposits in the people surrounding us in order to build trust, deepen connections and establish intimacy in relationships. If you make too many withdrawals from a person’s emotional bank account without depositing in kind, you will find yourself driving that relationship into emotional bankruptcy.
But what about in business? In a digital age in which knowledge is power and best practices are exchanged as currency, it would seem that what you know about an industry is far more meaningful to success than how much you care about a company or person operating within it. Particularly in high-performing business models such as consulting groups, engineering firms, architectural partnerships, and yes, even marketing agencies, the pressure to present the next big idea yielding faster, cheaper and more sustainable results can be both overwhelming and satisfying depending on an individual’s threshold for stress and appetite for challenge. The thing that organizations often overlook in both their approach to growth and the message they present to clients, however, comes down to that one word: sustainable. One big idea, one best practice, one brilliant campaign will create a splash on your web page and a lead spike in your pipeline, but it will not buy your client’s allegiance, nor will it lead to the sustainable growth companies seek when engaging in an external partnership.
Partnerships breed loyalty, trust, shared risk and shared reward. A partnership comes from a place of personal investment and commitment from both parties as compared to transactional exchanges of goods and services. When you spend time between the exposed brick and beams at Valve+Meter you will hear some refreshing conversations amongst leaders and peers, many of which revolve around an unconventional word for a professional setting: love. The charge to love people well, which means celebrating their efforts as well as successes, but also means holding them accountable and speaking tough truths into their lives when necessary. Our love for one another reaches much deeper than that of ordinary colleagues and we view our clients as simply offsite partners whom we grow to love as well.
This belief system is far more than semantics and requires the same intentionality and change of heart as would love in any form and the result is just as powerful. Learning to love people well is a journey, not a destination, but it can start with a few fundamental philosophies for engaging with clients which will start you on the right path:
1) Tell them not what they want to hear, but what they need to hear. To tell a client what is not working well for their business, to hold up a mirror for their blind spots and to challenge their viewpoints takes a deep love for them as individuals and for their businesses as a whole. Anyone can provide affirmation and validation, it takes a loving partner to share compassion along with honesty in order to help someone reach their true potential.
2) Help them fall in love with you, not just your ideas. When you simply sell a client a creative design, flashy new website, catchy tagline or new piece of technology you have taught them to love your product, not your brand. Educate your clients on your culture, philosophy, approach to business and caliber of staff so they fall in love with who you are, not just what you’re selling.
3) Be transparent about results. Not every idea is a great one and not every test will yield results. Love requires vulnerability on both sides; a client is being vulnerable with their brand, their resources and their goals, and is deserving of your vulnerability in return.
4) Share in their dreams. Embark on a journey of falling in love with your client, adopting their pain points as your own, feeling pride in their strengths and successes. Embrace the hope and anxiety of helping them achieve their personal and professional goals. When you make their dream your dream you will be fueled by far more than revenue goals, and that will play out in both your client relationships and campaign performances.
When you approach business relationships from a place of love it is amazing the dividends you will see in employee output, client success and sustainable results. What you know may get you in the door, but how much you care will get you invited back again and again, so learn to love well in the workplace.