by Larry Jacobson, author of “Insta-Trust: The Proven Trust Building Process to Create Instant Rapport & Long Term Relationships“
Your success as a businessperson depends on building quick trust with new customers and business contacts. Nothing is more important for your future.
It is Valentine’s Day. You and your spouse picked a nice (and expensive) restaurant to celebrate. You wait 15 minutes for the waiter to come to your table, and when he arrives, he acts in a robotic manner. He does not give you a warm greeting, he does not present an ounce of warmth, and he does not go out of his way to make you feel like he cares one iota about either of you. How does that make you feel?
When a new customer visits your office, they are coming for a specific purpose. The same is true if you are meeting a person for the first time to negotiate a deal, obtain financing or achieve some other business objective. Regardless of the setting, you need to build a fast and personal bond with the person sitting across the room with you (literally or virtually). This is where so many businesspeople are inadequate.
Why a Personal Bond is So Essential in Today’s World
In today’s world, customers and financial companies have a multitude of choices in terms of who they decide to work with. With all due respect to you, even if you have world class technical skills or a great product or service, you are going to lose business opportunities to those who have mastered the skill of making others personally comfortable FAST. While the stakes are far more important than the Valentine’s Day interaction described above, people have little tolerance in terms of working with others who make zero effort to find out about them as a human being. I am not suggesting that you become a schmoozer or chatter box, but you need to not treat potential customers or vendors as someone who is solely a human money-making candidate.
How Personal Should You Get and For How Long?
You don’t need to ask about their family, or their favorite sports team or TV show, until or unless you know them quite well. Superficial icebreakers are almost as bad as showing no interest in a person have just met.
You can take a personal interest by asking in a very general manner about how they are feeling, what they perceive as their specific problem, and how they think you can help them. This is true whether you are in a sales situation, pitching a bank or investor, or in the beginning of a negotiation. The initial focus should be on them, not you. Then say nothing and let them speak (not forever, but for a professionally realistic time period).
Trust builds when you let the other person feel they have the ability to open up to you. Nothing is more important to the success of a business than making others feel they are not on an assembly line for your benefit. So, the number one thing you can do is ask them open-ended questions about themselves and their issue, and let them speak interrupted.
Another thing you should do is to show empathy. You can show empathy four ways.
First, acknowledge their issues and their feelings. You would be surprised how many businesspeople say nothing to the other person after they describe their concerns and jump right into problem-solving mode.
Second, through nonverbal cues, acknowledge them and their concerns. Head nodding, a soothing voice and not interrupting all demonstrate strong empathy on your part.
Third, try to assess their personality and adapt your interactions to who they are. A person who is nervous and unwilling to volunteer information needs to be addressed differently than a person who is willing to volunteer even non-germane information.
Fourth, and perhaps most important, convey both in word and action that you are partners with the other person and collaborators in helping them get what they need.
Assume They Assume You are Qualified
Virtually all businesspersons feel the need to show a new customer or counterpart that they are highly qualified to do the required work. There is a simple response to this type of behavior: Don’t do it. Show quiet confidence and start from the mindset that the other person assumes that you can actually perform with excellence what is being discussed.
When you are meeting a business contact for the first time, start the meeting by letting them describe their issue, mindset, and concerns. Only once that occurs should you start your diagnostic questioning, and even then, you should constantly ask if they have any questions. Your questions should be designed to establish needs, not to show how smart you are. Businesspeople who start out trying to impress the other side solely with respect to their technical skill set run a huge risk of turning off those with whom they’re interacting. Meet them on their level and they will equate your skill with your interest in them on a human level.
Remember: IT’S ALL ABOUT THEM
You have a huge knowledge base in terms of what you can provide for the other person. Not only do you have the knowledge, but you have the experience. The most successful businesspeople understand that knowledge without human connection is like a high concept movie with a star but no compelling story. The movie needs both a star and a story. You need first class technical skills as well as first class personal bonding skills to help others achieve their goals. If you start out minute one from a mindset that everything you do is all about making a connection with the other person, you will convey an attitude that is outward centric. The person who conveys strong outward centricity will always reach their goal.
Larry Jacobson, EdD, JD is a practice transition specialist and attorney who has represented professionals and professional service firms for over 40 years. He developed his proprietary Wheels of Insta-Trust™️ and personality archetype analysis in working with his clients. His new book is “Insta-Trust: The Proven Trust Building Process to Create Instant Rapport & Long Term Relationships“. Learn more at protrustconsulting.com.