You don’t trust business anymore, and I think that’s great. You have this pain in your gut when you make a deal and it bothers you when you sell a contract.
That pain is wonderful
Those feelings deep down are signs that you are still alive, that you are human and breathing. That you want to live. The acts of marketing, business, and signing contracts aren’t inherently bad or evil. In fact they are some of the most beautiful and complicated human relationships we engage in.
The problems come when we think about relationships as transactions
Please be honest with yourself. Anyone in busienss who has sold anything has a moment where they hated themselves. At least once. And the reason you hated yourself? Because you focused on the transaction instead of the relationship. It grates against our souls and if we give in to the temptation once, the next comes so much more easily.
People in general do not trust businesses
And the lack of trust isn’t caused by MCI or Enron or Lehman Brothers, people don’t trust because businesses don’t treat them like people. They feel like transactions made to serve the corporate interests. Now, the corporations don’t see it that way, but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t there. We live in a world where the transaction trumps the relationship, only because most businesses are not designed to cultivate relationships, only to streamline transactions. We make sure that the transaction costs less and less, keeping the price the same. This practice, while monetarily beneficial to the corporation, has the added problem of devaluing the relationship with the client over time. And the relationship is all the client cares about.
And relationships are becoming everything
Can’t you just feel that business needs to change. Maybe you’ve written a book about it, or a blog post, or just felt it in your gut. You have to see things are changing. This is how. Much as been made of relationships in business during the past 20 years. But I think that they all miss three vital points.
The first is that this is a battle, a war between ideologies. The fight is between those who want to blank out, cut costs, treat people like numbers, and “just run their business” and those who understand that with so many choices in the marketplace, people are looking for companies that are willing to give them a relationship. Clients recognize that a relationship is an asset, that it’s difficult to provide. They will reward you for that.
This is a war, between businesses that simply want to sell stuff and those that value and cultivate relationships
The second vital point that this movement for relationships has not latched on to in any meaningful way, is that the human need for relationships is natural and rational. It makes a lot of sense. But rarely do we delve into the psychology that underlies our basic motivations and ideals. I think it’s knowable, you can understand it, and it will make the bigger picture so much clearer. And clarity makes the details shine. I think that this has been generally ignored in the past because it’s pretty difficult to talk about, and not at all easy to illustrate.
A third vital point missed, mostly because the underlying causes were unknown or ignored, is the impact of storytelling on communication. We tell stories, to ourselves as expectations of things to come or past, and to others in order to convey information. It’s lovely that storytelling is emerging as a qualified topic of conversation, but I rarely see any information that goes beyond reciting some information you can find with a quick Google search. Typically it involves some variation of the three act structure, maybe some hero’s journey mixed in, but there’s a much deeper level that will allow you to communicate more effectively more often.
Ultimately, if you decide to operate relationally, there will be serious consequences for you personally and your business. You will have more clients, you will make more money, you will create an amazing reputation. But I wonder if those will matter to you anymore? Because when you start cultivating relationships beyond creating transactions, you begin to care more about relationships. That may have unintended consequences.
Are you ready for this revolution? Will you be able to make the change? If you don’t or you aren’t, and you fight this movement, I guarantee that you will be left in the dust of those who are.