Have Business Relationships That Last

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Ed Wallace, a “recovering CPA,” was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule speaking and consulting to talk about his new book – Business Relationships That Last.  Some of us instinctively know how to manage business relationships, but most of us need a system.  As W. Edwards Deming said, 94% of failures are due to poor systems, only 6% are human error.  It’s worth noting that just because you have a system for managing relationships, it doesn’t mean that it’s mechanical and rigid.

Why did you write this book? (Ed answered this question in two parts – personal and professional)

“The personal reason I wrote this book is that I was a senior VP for a software company and one afternoon I was at my
desk when I was supposed to be out of town. My wife called and said our 8
year old son Grant fell and to meet her to see Grant. As I was leaving the office, my wife called back and she said we have to meet
at the helipad. Let me tell you, Nan, nothing can prepare you for a MASH scene where you see
your son laying on a gurney. It’s petrifying. You don’t know what’s
happening. It looked like he had a severe concussion and he’s
semiconscious. This was the cathartic moment that showed me how fast
things can change. I realized that I had the whole dream, but I notice
I wasn’t leaving anything behind. I had always wanted to write about
relational platforms. This was the moment when I needed to do this.
Within 6 months, my boss bought me out of my contract and gave me 6
months severance. During these same 6 months we had to take Grant for MRIs
because he had a spot on his brain, but don’t worry, he’s good to go now.”

“Professionally speaking, it’s a big message and it’s perfect for the times. This is a process to build business relationships using 5 steps to turn an acquaintance into a high performing contact.  A research firm asked senior VPs the secret to their success. 88% of them said relationships. They followed up asking them what they did with that information.  24% track relationships in their CRM systems. Great, now what did they intentionally do about them? Less than 5% said they have strategies to manage the relationships. Shouldn’t you have processes for your relationships when 88% of Senior VPs say that’s the key to their success?”

What are the essential qualities of a solid business relationship?

“Credibility, Integrity and Authenticity build solid business relationships. Credibility is the power to elicit belief. So once you’re credible, people begin to share their Relational GPS – Goals, Passions and Struggles. This lets you make commitments, that when deliver on them, gets you integrity. During the process, you have authenticity. This convergence builds relational capital, the distinctive value created by people in a business relationship.

Your client’s Goals Passions and Struggles matter. When you understand their goals, you can help them.  A GPS in the traditional sense gives you directions from satellites that have converged. They tell you where you need to go. If you’re trying to build a relationship, you really need to learn about all the aspects of your prospect’s/client’s GPS as well. Passions are things that people care deeply about. The way you hold a conversation or provide a referral builds credibility, which opens the door for people to share their passions. As they share their passions, they realize they can share some of their struggles. When people reveal their goals, passions and struggles, they’re laying out their road map. It’s important to note that this is not linear, but once you’re credible, people will typically share their goals first, then struggles and finally, passions.”

Tell me two things I can start doing immediately to develop better business relationships?

“First, every meeting you have is a perpetual audition, even in a good relationship, so don’t take a relationship for granted. Second, be prepared to ask good questions. Questions lead to credibility which launch the relationship.  Have worthy intentions about the relationships, where their needs come first. Don’t take any of the meetings for granted. You can always advanced the relationship a little further. Do you want to get really good at asking questions?  Sit down and interview a young kid for 5 minutes while they’re doing
something, like playing with Legos. Go ahead, ask follow up questions with a 5 year old. This helps you
get good at asking adults questions. It’s the 2nd, 3rd, 4th questions
that get you in.”

Ed, you write about the concept of “common ground” in the book, what does that mean?

“Common ground is the first rung on the Relational Ladder. What we suggest is to not guess whether the person we’re speaking with wants to build rapport or talk about business. Let them lead you down the path about what they want to talk about. It’s their meeting to decide whether they want to talk about business or personal.

Let me share a story.  We had a meeting with the VP of Talent of a company. She had a week old vase of two dozen roses on her desk and had to move them to see us. We didn’t bring up the roses. We go through our meeting and at the end, she wants to hire us. As we’re preparing to leave, she asks, “why didn’t you ask about the roses?” We told her that we like to model for our clients what we talk about. She still hasn’t told us what the roses were for! It’s crucial to let the client steer you. This means we start by telling her “we’re glad to meet with you today” and then wait to see how the meeting should go. Did they start talking about rapport, asking questions about your trip and whether you found the location easily or does the person get right down to business?  Pay attention and follow their lead.”

Can you tell me what the five rungs are on the Relational Ladder?

1. Establishing Common Ground: launch the relationship
2. Displaying Integrity and Trust: secure the relationship
3. Using Time Purposefully: invest in the relationship
4  Offering Help: share relational equity
5. Asking for Help: realize returns on your investment

Can you share some examples of how your clients have implemented what you teach and what the impact has been on their business?

“Some clients have built the Relational Ladder into their CRM systems and made the terminology of the ladder into their system. The conversation goes around the relationship first, not about where are they in their pipeline. Sales cycles have been reduced significantly. One internal team implemented this and had a customer satisfaction increased by 55% after the account manager and the CSRs implemented the system. Another high tech sales firm reduced their sales cycle 22% in 6 months.”

If you’re interested in learning more about Ed or Business Relationships That Last, check out his website or drop him a line.

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