Making Relationship Deposits in the Right Currency

The Gist:

  • Your relationships are like a bank account into which you can make deposits.
  • You can also make withdrawals from these accounts, including withdrawals that exceed your balance.
  • It’s important that you make the deposits in the right currency.

In 1988, Stephen Covey published a book titled The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. The book was about human performance and living a meaningful and purposeful life, one that you directed yourself. His framework started with becoming independent so you could improve your ability to be interdependent. A lot of people executed Covey’s strategies and many years later the book holds up very well, mostly because principles like “Be Proactive” are always going to benefit you.

One of the most important concepts of the book was something Covey described as an emotional bank account. The idea was that you have an account in all your relationships. To make a withdrawal, you first have to make the necessary deposits, in this case things like trust and closeness in your relationships. The greater the balance in your emotional bank account with others, the better the relationships. But the reverse also holds true: if you don’t make emotional deposits, you may end up overdrawn, with a negative balance.

I fully agree with Covey that you want to make deposits in your relationships—including your professional relationships—so you can strengthen them over time. But let me try to add a little more granularity and nuance, specifically in terms of what sort of deposits you make. A few months ago, I sent a payment to a company in Europe. The invoice had a dollar sign in front of the amount I owed, so I sent the money in US Dollars. It turns out, though, that I owed more than I paid because the company meant to provide the bill in Euros. I made the deposit in the wrong currency. Have you made the same mistake in your professional relationships?

Things salespeople should know

What Salespeople Need to Know

You prospective clients often have different requirements for professional currency, even if they are unaware of them. Making deposits starts by understanding what currency they accept and what they reject. Using the four levels of value is one way to assess what counts as a deposit to stakeholders in certain roles.

Imagine that you sell a SAAS product to organizations. You’ve been taught and trained that you need to convince someone in senior leadership to attend your product demo (this is not likely to be true, but sales leaders the world over command it nonetheless). Here’s the problem: the senior leader has zero interest in seeing a demo of the software because the currency they accept is “strategic outcomes in line with their goals and initiatives.” When a senior leader isn’t compelled by what you share, you can be certain that your choice of currency is not accepted.

On the other hand, the end user who is going to use the software you sell cares deeply about how your software works, how it will give them more time, how easily it will let them do their day-to-day work, and how it will improve on the process or software it is replacing. The product level of value is more meaningful to the end user than any conversation you might have with them about the company’s strategy and goals.

Paying the right currency

Paying in the Right Currency

One of the most tactical and practical frameworks to understand currency (yours and others’) can be found in Anthony Robbins’ Human Needs Psychology model. Robbins provides six categories of human needs, and for our purposes here, we can treat each need as a currency (and no, Bitcoin doesn’t count). The six human needs are as follows: Certainty, Variety, Love and Belonging, Significance, Growth, and Contribution. The more you recognize a need, the more confident you can be about making deposits in the right currency.

You might imagine that the risk manager you are speaking to will value certainty most highly, based on their role. But after a conversation or two, you might discover that their concern for certainty is outweighed by their need for significance. When the contact tells you that they are new in their role and that they were hired to “turn this place around,” you might recognize that you need to switch currencies.

Likewise, the senior leader who you believe is a hard-charging, growth-oriented individual might accept deposits in the currency of growth and the pursuit of their goals. That’s a good guess, as far as it goes. But when the leader tells you that they are grooming their successor to take over in two years, and that she really wants to set the company up for future growth, the currency you can expect to deposit is almost certainly “contribution.”

Know Thyself to Know Others

Know Thyself to Know Others

I don’t believe there is a better way to determine the currency another person appreciates than first discovering which currency you prefer—and why. Understanding your own needs and preferences makes it easier to determine how others choose their currency.

Here in the Midwest, for example, our general work ethic often prevents us from expressing gratitude or recognition. We tend to be stingy with praise and we also tend to be humble, avoiding any accolades for doing what is expected of us. This is all fine and good—except for the people who expect something more meaningful than “Thanks for doing your job, Jimmy!” In the same way, when your client needs a currency that is paid in “certainty,” getting nine steps ahead of them in a conversation not only means you are not making the necessary deposit in the relationship, but may serve as a withdrawal that exceeds your balance. Given that you don’t get monthly statements of your relational account balances, you have to pay close attention to what each contact values and why.

Do Good Work:

  • What currency do you prefer to receive when someone makes a deposit in their relationship with you?
  • What is the primary currency you prefer to give?
  • How do you discern what currency another person values?

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