One of the things I learned early in my business career was something that was not taught in any of my business classes in college. It is the essential thing that every successful business person knows.
Create value before expecting anything in return.
When I learned this, I focused on creating value where it was most needed with my prospects and clients. I start every relationship with this in mind. And it served me during and after my experience with the Miracle on the Hudson.
If you know my story, you know that I was in Brooklyn on the morning of January 15, 2009. I was working with a new prospective client that started with sending a wine basket to the VP of IT. He and I developed a business and, more importantly, a personal relationship.
As I was going through my experience on US Airways 1549, he was taxing out to fly home. Air traffic control stopped outgoing flights as they assessed what was happening with our flight. My client knew where I was going and my flight time, as he was the last person I spoke with before I boarded the flight and he was one of the first people to call someone at my company to ask about me.
Almost everyone on US Airways 1549 lost some or all of their luggage as most people listened to the flight attendant message when they told us to leave everything in the event of an incident. When I traveled then, when I was gone more than a day, I would buy each of my children something from where I was to give them a gift when I got home. Like almost everyone on that plane, I lost my luggage and those gifts.
The Saturday morning after the Miracle on the Hudson, I was getting ready for an interview and heard the doorbell. I thought it was the interviewer, but it was a big box being delivered by FedEx. When I got it inside, I opened it up, and it was a gift from my prospective client with another set of gifts for my kids and some items for my wife. I was blown away as I didn’t expect anything from my prospective client, and they remembered not only me but my family.
Becoming a part of the “family.”
The next week, my company asked me to go to a meeting with our prospective client in Holland, Michigan. I agreed to go, not so much for my company, but for my prospective client. That flight to Michigan was extremely challenging for me. That day was cold and all I was wearing was my sport coat.
When we started the meeting, we reviewed the two-day agenda and would go in and out of freezers and coolers. My prospective client asked me if I had a coat to wear. I told him I had lost the coat I had used the previous week in Brooklyn in the plane crash. He immediately walked me into their company store and personally bought me a coat. I got emotional as I had never had any client do anything for me like that before ( or since).
After my prospective client became my client, I asked him why he and his company did those things for me. And he told me that I had created so much value for his company and him since we began our relationship; I was now a part of their family, and family takes care of each other.
I recently shared this story in an interview for a sales magazine. The interviewer asked me how I created this value and that I was seen as a “part of the family.”
Many salespeople talk about “creating value” but don’t have a process or system that genuinely creates value. It starts with knowing what your true distinct advantage is, what you are most passionate about and uniquely gifted for, and how to translate that to what is most important to your relationship.
How I learned how to create value for my clients
Last week I wrote and shared about inclusive leadership. A part of being an inclusive leader is not only to share the mission but provide direction to whittle down the complexity of what potential clients want and then simplify and clarify what is possible. When you know your distinct advantage, you can offer this clarity and stand out, creating immediate value.
I have mentioned that I begin with developing relationships with people and my potential clients. This is a simple concept, but it is not easy for many people. People want to have a relationship with someone who gives them confidence. And how to do that, you need to be able to communicate effectively and in the modality ( are they visually, auditory, or kinesthetically oriented ) that person primarily resides in, which builds confidence between you and your client.
I learned many years ago that marketing and innovation are two primary ways to grow your business. Innovation comes from being creative. What you can provide when you know and act on your distinct advantage is knowing how to apply creativity for your clients. That is why they want to engage with you. You and your distinct advantage provide the wisdom with your knowledge, tools, and skills your potential client does not posses. When you provide creativity with your wisdom ( which takes time to acquire) you become an asset or more importantly, a part of their family.
This is what I learned why I became a part of my client’s family.
At that time, I didn’t know what my distinct advantage was, but I could provide direction, confidence, and unique capabilities by being creative for my clients and relationships. And that is one of the key reasons that ultimately spurred me to leave my company. I knew I could impact more people through my distinct advantage through leadership by providing direction, building relationships by providing confidence and providing unique capabilities by being creative and more importantly showing others how they too can do the same thing.
Over the following weeks, find out what your distinct advantage is. What you are most gifted at and most passionate about and put together your strategy on how you personally can provide direction, confidence, and creativity to others and you will be on your way to creating your own flight plan for your future and your client’s future!