Sometimes when speaking on the power of relationships, I bring along some candy. Offering sweet treats elicits a lesson I want to impart on my audience — whether it’s 600 financial executives at a professional development seminar, a group of clients at EY or a sales and marketing executives forum. It’s the law of reciprocity.
Simply put, if you want something, you have to give something. If you want a friend, you need to be a friend. If you want success, you need to help others become successful. As soon as you give away what you ultimately want, you’ll get it back yourself.
At The Fedeli Group, we follow that philosophy closely. Years ago, I heard the grandson of Nordstrom’s founder discuss how they took back merchandise at any time, no questions asked. Sure, some people abused the policy, but Nordstrom didn’t change.
“We’re not going to mistreat the 90 percent of the people who appreciate what we do because of the 10 percent who don’t,” he told me.
Do unto others
How true, I thought. Some people will take advantage of the law of reciprocity, but that doesn’t mean you should treat people poorly because of those exceptions.
It all comes down to a cultural belief. Culture is the most important ingredient of success. With the right culture in place, you’re able to effectively set your success strategy.
Nothing is more important than relationships in our organization — whether it’s with clients, associates, strategic partners or the community. In business, the most critical relationship is with your associates. In most businesses, successes and failures center on people, so it’s imperative to have the right people in the right positions.
Next, focus on engagement. If associates are engaged, they are much more apt to buy into your mission, which increases the chance of success. After all, the biggest indicator of happy clients is happy associates.
So how do you engage clients? We engage by building relationships. We ask ourselves how we can help our clients solve their problems, no matter what they are. You don’t need to give your clients all the answers, you simply need to know how to help them find the answers. Providing that type of value equates to happy clients and a greater chance of success.
But it’s important to keep in mind that a critical component is going from success to significance.
Realize what life is about
Life is truly about making meaningful contributions.
The bottom line is that building and sustaining a successful relationship means that you go above and beyond — do more than is expected. If you say you’ll call back in a week and call back in three, you’ll fail. But if you promise to call in a month and call three weeks later, you will exceed expectations.
And, when you learn how to effectively manage expectations — under promise and over deliver — you will realize the sweetest treat of all.
Umberto P. Fedeli is president and CEO at The Fedeli Group