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Focusing On Helping Others For the Win

Putting the spotlight on clients, employees, and even vendors leads to a more robust business.

I’m sure you can relate to this scenario: A vendor reached out to me asking for time on my calendar to hawk his wares. I’ve long since sworn off these kinds of meetings since they are woefully one-sided. The salesperson usually shows up having done little to no research about my business or pain points and proceeds to talk at me, making it all about them and their product. What a turn off!

Focusing on Others
Photo by JGI/Tom Grill/Getty Images

Since I like to sell things from time to time, I try to be sensitive to this dynamic when approaching any new relationship. A killer strategy that seems to work wonders is pretty simple: make the conversation about the other person and you win. That’s it. Simple. We’re all afflicted with the same vanity and drama levers. That is to say, humans like to talk about themselves and are usually running at a surplus level when it comes to pain. It’s just about knowing what questions to ask.

I’m not sure when I figured out this method, but while I’ve seen it work well personally and professionally, I decided that to really stress test it, it needed to work on a vendor. I decided to grit my teeth and took the next vendor lunch opportunity that came my way. I began peppering the salesman with questions about his life. Where was he from? Where did he grow up? Did he have family? What did he enjoy doing in his off time? As he talked, I started making mental notes, especially around questions like, “What do you love/hate most about your job?”

Also by Henry Clifford: “Time Out” For the Win

I then went in for the kill. “What can I do to help you?” I said. “Well,” he replied, “I’d love an introduction to your CFO around the time you do health insurance renewals.” “Sure!” I shot back. Then it got good. He asked me the same thing. I’d never had a vendor ask how they could help me. I thought that by taking an interest in him and helping him get what he wanted, I might trigger what Robert Cialdini calls “reciprocity” in his book, Influence. Sure enough, that’s exactly what happened. Reciprocity is very simple: I give you something and you feel indebted. That’s it. Watch reciprocity at work next time you’re in a supermarket as droves of people promptly buy buckets of peach salsa after noshing on chips and dip at endcap sample stations. I then asked the vendor for an introduction to someone inside his organization who clearly needed our services.

Before you write me off as a transactional, opportunistic, and manipulative shill, allow me to explain myself. I genuinely do care about the people in my life and helping them get what they want. Vendors don’t necessarily always fall into that bucket, and my lunchtime experiment was all about proving that putting someone else before you in the least likely of situations would result in good things. After all, the vendor is supposed to sell to you, not the other way around.

Also by Henry Clifford: Kedging FTW

I try to understand what each person at Livewire wants and do my best to help them get it. I’ve asked each of our employees to tell me what their aspirations and dreams are. This serves a dual purpose. If I know what each of our employees want, I’m automatically looking for opportunities to help them as I walk the earth. The other side is a means of mapping out the years ahead on the way towards a larger goal. Employees are much more likely to stay at a place where they feel seen, heard, and acknowledged.

Do you understand what the important people in your life want? What are you doing to help them get it?

Stay frosty, and see you in the field.