Protecting Your Relational Capital

Stephen Covey wrote about emotional bank accounts, making the point that you can overdraw an account by making a withdrawal in excess of the deposits you have made in a relationship. The metaphor is apt for all of your relationships, even commercial relationships.

There will come a time when you need to spend some of your relational capital, and you want to make sure that you have more than enough on account to cover you. Here’s how to protect your relational balance sheet.

Don’t Ask for Commitments Greater Than You Have Earned

Very early in a relationship, when you haven’t made much in the way of deposits by creating value for your client or prospect, asking them to make commitments in excess of your deposits can quickly deplete your account.

You may want to close them for their business, but if you haven’t yet done the work to deserve a “yes” to your “ask,” then you are going to overdraw your account. (If you want to ensure that you create value in every client interaction, check out this free, 4-part video series at www.howtoplanasalescall.com).

Do Have a Presence

Nothing says you care more than having a presence. This means you visit your client frequently, and you know what is going on in their world.

By “being there” you find ways to make a difference, problems to solve, and new opportunities to pursue together. But even if you don’t, the fact that you showed up means you care. Just listening to what’s going on is a deposit, and if you are a great listener, a massive deposit.

Don’t Avoid Accountability for Problems and Challenges

If you want to bring your relationship account to zero as quickly as possible, all you have to do is avoid accountability for the problems and challenges you create. You are going to have problems executing your solution. You are going to have product failures. From time to time, you are going to be guilty of poor service. Problems come with the territory.

Once you cannot be trusted to own your problems, your relationship will be overdrawn.

Keep Your Promises

Every promise made and kept is a deposit. The more you do what you say you will do, especially when it comes to executing for your client, the bigger your account balance will grow. The more you help your client look good by being the professional that you are, the easier it is for you to make a withdrawal when you need to–and you will need to.

Make Continual Deposits in Your Account

There are a lot of ways to make deposits in relationships. Say thank you for their business. Send a card. Make a personal phone call. Do something unexpected and a little over the top. Help your client get a new client. Bring them a small gift of something cool that you tried and liked enough to share.

When you have a problem and you need more time to solve it, you want the relational capital necessary to cover you. When you or your company makes a major mistake without meaning to, the relational capital you have built up will protect you from being displaced. When a new purchasing manager decides it’s time to put the business out for bid, having a seven-figure balance in your relational account will ensure your contacts dig their heels in and protect you from harm.

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