By Barry Maher
What would it take to make you successful? Stockbrokers, for example, base their success on making their clients money. Or maybe not. The following story is one of many similar tales I’ve heard from brokers over the years.
Back in the early seventies, when the market was dropping faster than Richard Nixon’s approval ratings, a stockbroker was trying to land a well-to-do contractor as a client. She wasn’t having much luck with him over the phone so one afternoon she stopped by his office. It wasn’t going any better until, searching for something to build a little rapport, she noticed a newspaper clipping mounted on a plaque on one wall. Accompanying the story was a picture of a little girl in a ballet outfit.
“Is that your daughter?” she asked.
It was the last thing she got to say for ten minutes. The proud parent went on and on about the kid and her dancing. With apparently justifiable pride. His daughter had even been selected by George Balanchine to perform in The Nutcracker at Lincoln Center one year. That seemed to thrill the contractor even more than it must have thrilled the girl.
A few months later, the broker heard that a world-renowned Russian ballet troop was coming to town. She bought two tickets. At $27.50 each—which back then, with the stock market busily tunneling its way to hell, was a lot of money. She sent the tickets to the contractor and his daughter along with a warm personal note.
“Whereupon,” says the broker, “the guy turned into what I call the Rasputin Account: Nothing I did could kill it.” Nothing. No matter how badly her recommendations performed, the contractor kept coming back for more.
As I said, any number of other financial consultants tell the same type of story. Which is why brokerages teach their people, “This business is not about making clients money; it’s about building relationships.” That’s just not what they tell their clients—most of whom seem to believe they’re more interested in making money than new friends.
A Simple Trick, a Possible Bore and Some Basic Motivation
There is of course a trick to getting someone to believe you care about him or her. The trick to getting someone to believe you care, is to care. Someone once said that quoting yourself is the hallmark of the true bore. That may well be true, but at the risk of confirming what you might already suspect, here it comes anyway. As Barry Maher (me) frequently says, “Concentrate on the What’s in it for them and the What’s in it for you will usually take care of itself.”
You can concentrate on the What’s in it for you and still be successful. There are business people out there who view business as war and the customer as an enemy that has to be overcome. They con the customer about who they are and how much they care, even if they tell the complete truth about their products and services.
Whether or not they have a problem with how that makes them feel about their jobs and their lives is their business. This isn’t about ethics. But the longer the relationship with that customer goes on, the more likely it is that their true priorities are going to come out. And when that happens—no matter how well liked they might have been before—they’re immediately going to drop back down to the level of just another huckster.