Yes, yes, I know it’s a cheesy line from a chick-flick and you’ll be recalling the moment that Dorothy Boyd stares back at husband Jerry Maguire after his five minute speech and says ‘just shut up…you had me at hello’.
But, believe it or not, there’s an important business lesson in that rather saccharine dialogue from the 1990s movie, and it’s this….. Sometimes being yourself is all you need to plant the foundations of the very best professional relationship.
Every now and then, I’m reminded of my enormous stroke of luck / timing / success in securing a national brand business through a timely email at a point when I was little more than a one-man-band hoping to at least ‘make ends meet’ in the sector.
I’d messaged a CEO, referenced a couple of small accomplishments to date, and asked for the opportunity to meet him and hear more about his business and its needs.
I had no way of knowing if he needed immediate PR and marketing, whether he’d another supplier in place, or what he’d make of a small-time start-up with big aspirations.
What followed was an unprecedented formation of a trusted business relationship in which I became responsible for a ‘significant’ financial marketing budget for his brand.
He would later tell me that, despite my lack of experience compared with his current provider, and despite my lack of city address or longstanding legacy, it was my candid manner, my willingness to listen, and my genuine desire to ‘understand’ his business which secured his decision to appoint my service even before his secretary had returned with the first cup of tea.
I’m not for one minute saying all business is that easily won – and nor should it be.
But, instinct and initial impressions do go a long way.
I have an associate in the industry who has been working for one client for the best part of seven years. She’s not formally trained in the sector, and had no vast portfolio behind her when she launched into business for herself – but the client ‘saw in her’ a decency and desire which was all that mattered to him. She has been the custodian of his marketing ever since.
On the flip of a coin, I have known others who have pestered and pestered and pestered their way into securing contract wins with businesses. For some, it has worked. For others, the lack of initial chemistry could never be overcome, despite the good intentions of both parties to ‘give it a go’.
Whichever side of the business bidding you fall – be you the person seeking a consultancy service or the one chasing the work, be mindful that even when the relationships we’re looking to form our professional ones, we must remember how much human qualities and personal connection are crucial.
People buy people. If you’re entrusting someone to represent a brand, to know your business and to serve you well, you want that person to be capable of the holistic understanding of your vision – not just to have their eyes on the size of your budget.
And by the same token, if sometimes you find yourself being offered a piece of work from a prospect you ‘just can’t take to’, or you’re impressed by the credentials of a supplier who just ‘doesn’t seem to fit’, then remember that it’s okay to walk away and await a more compatible pairing.
Who you are and how you deliver is as important in business as in every other connection you have in life. Sometimes a mere Hello is all it takes to launch the most harmonious of rapport.
**If you’re interested in PR and marketing advice or support, please email me firstname.lastname@example.org
Pic by Stuart Miles