Rob Adams, new business sales executive at ITR Events, on the importance of small, genuine gestures in business and life.
The title of this piece is a quote from one of my favourite films, Vanilla Sky. Now, Vanilla Sky has nothing at all to do with sales (unless you count the subliminal Scientology recruitment messages hidden within), but the profound quote from the end of, arguably, Tom Cruise’s best film is a great mantra from which to create successful business relationships and to greatly improve sales.
Where do special, memorable experiences come from in B2B land? Is it price? Is it timely delivery? Or is it knowing that the human you’ve been interacting with at the other end has put their all into ensuring your service was second to none?
It’s often the unheralded human things that have the greatest impact on a relationship between companies and the individuals within them. I’ve witnessed very healthy business relationships last for decades, built upon an initial, seemingly small gesture made many years before.
Just one small gesture can influence a recipient so much that the thought of using another company for the same product or service would not enter his or her head, even in taut times between both parties. Genuine gestures that are useful, informative and entertaining can create something called ‘preferential attachment’ between customer and supplier. Most of the really successful companies in the world (you all know them) endorse methods for their employees to adopt processes that help curate a preferential attachment culture. A winning culture.
The really special companies systemise these processes to ensure that preferential attachment is routinely accomplished, rather than just wished for.
After all, why stop at one small gesture when 10 or more per client can create a fan base instead of a client base?
I’m sure that most of you reading this gave out Christmas gifts last month to your key clients and have felt really good when you received those ‘Thanks so much’ emails from them in return. But why wait until times like Christmas to make both your client and yourself feel this way? Why not do it once a week or once a month? Overkill? Who tires of receiving truly useful information, or things that give them recognition and value?
In terms of types of gesture, I’ve seen plenty of evidence to show that the lost art of human, un-digital interaction has been superseded in the mainstream by the ease and prevalence of email, PDF and social media interactions. This has made personable, tactile, meaningful and homespun interactions that much more rare (and therefore special) than they have been for a number of years – especially in the world of business.
In equal measure, the wily and the truly genuine ‘go-giving’ people in business know this exactly.
The wily exploit it and the genuine carry on doing what they’ve always done.
The exciting part of growing a business by using the little things to create steadfast relationships is this: The vast majority of people do not attempt to create special relationships with clients at all. Only a tiny minority do so. However, within this minority, the vast majority of people do not do it correctly and take shortcuts (e.g. social media messages, the odd email), usually because of that old foe, temptation.
Those that are in the minority of the minority are the individuals and companies that create a breadth of world-class client relationships by the offering of useful, informative, entertaining, tactile, meaningful and maybe even homespun gestures. And these are the individuals and companies that we all ache to emulate; these are the individuals and companies we all admire. A giving mentality is almost always present in them. There is no magic sauce, no hidden secret.
Here’s a tiny example of the kind of thing that these individuals and companies routinely do: When was the last time that you received a handwritten letter? Maybe it was from your grandparent? It probably made you feel warm inside, I don’t doubt. And this is the thing – something that paupers and millionaires have in common – the warm feeling that one gets from opening and reading a handwritten letter that exalts thanks and praise. The same is true for both the CEO and the cleaner at the dream client that you would love to work with. Or the client you already do work with.
Do it. Do the little things, there’s nothing bigger.