Three Power Laws to Help You Connect in the C-Suite
By Andrew Sobel
There are unseen but powerful laws that determine the success or failure of your client relationships. Just as an airplane must respect the laws of physics in order to fly, your strategies and behaviors must align with the Relationship Laws if you want to sell effectively and build your clients for life.
In our new book, Power Relationships: 26 Irrefutable Laws for Building Extraordinary Relationships, Jerry Panas and I have set out a series of road-tested Laws to help you connect, become relevant, resonate with others, and make a lasting impact in your relationships. To help you apply these laws to your own relationships, I have created a 90-page Power Relationships Planning Guide that you can download for free if you buy a copy of the book.
In this first part of a three-part series, I share three of the Laws that are especially important in the first stage of relationship building. This is when you want to connect with senior executives in a winsome, engaging, and memorable manner.
The Forgotten Ingredient
A client of mine was once stopped by a CEO’s executive assistant, after a meeting with the CEO, and told that her boss viewed his PowerPoint slides as the “price he had to pay to have a good conversation.” Her revelation underscored the fact that we focus too much on presenting, pitching, cajoling, and impressing. We sometimes bludgeon our clients with analysis and reams of paper.
What most senior executives actually want is to have is a vibrant discussion that helps to improve their understanding of the problem at hand and the possible solutions. Law One addresses this underlying need: Power relationships are based on great conversations, not one person showing the other how much they know.
To use this law to your advantage, you have to stop defining your client interactions in terms of giving a presentation, making a pitch, reviewing findings, or presenting your credentials. Instead, reframe every meeting by asking the question, “How can we create a great conversation?” It could be a great conversation about how you could work together with a prospect, or about your observations on how to improve the client’s operations.
How would you rate the quality of your client conversations right now? Do your conversations help you and the other person:
• Reflect and sharpen your views?
• Improve your understanding of a problem or challenge?
• Learn more about each other?
• Feel moved or fulfilled?
• Leave the discussion energized and wanting more?
Restrain your urge to impress. Spend more time crafting and planning your conversations before each meeting and you’ll dramatically strengthen your relationships.
The Best Way to Meet CEOs
A client of mine was promoted to a very senior position in a large, Fortune-100 company. She had been the deputy in her area, and was now at the top. She told me that the day her promotion was announced in the newspapers, she got dozens of calls from suppliers wanting to do business with her. “Do you know what I said to each of them?” she told me. “I asked them, ‘Where were you five years ago?’”
Many professionals ask me, “How can I build more relationships with CEOs and other top executives?” The best answer is the Third Law of Relationships: Follow the person, not the position. Build relationships with smart, motivated, interesting, and ambitious people, even if they’re not in an important job right now. Follow them throughout their careers.
Truly important people—those who are the top of their careers in any field—have often brought their advisors and trusted suppliers along with them over many years. While it is not impossible to break into someone’s inner circle after they have achieved great success, it’s also not an easy task.
Use Law Three and your job will become much easier. Start by making a list of people you know who are not yet at the peak of their success or position. Pick passionate, motivated, talented individuals. Do you know what their agenda is? How can you help them accomplish their goals? Stay in touch as they progress from job to job.
The Power of Reach
Executives are overwhelmed with demands on their time. Especially if they are at a senior level, everyone wants something from them. Connecting with prospects and clients—pulling them out of their routine and getting their attention—is a huge challenge that’s only getting tougher.
I once found myself halfway around the world, with only five minutes to convince a skeptical CEO that his company should hire me. At that moment, Law Eighteen became my best friend. It’s very simple but powerful: Make them curious. With only five minutes to spare, I had to throw the traditional sales process out the window (i.e., “ask good questions” and “establish your credibility”) and instead create a strong desire on the part of the CEO to engage with me—to know more.
When someone is curious, they reach towards you. They’re eager to take the next step. When you evoke curiosity you create a gravitational pull that is irresistible. Curiosity helps you get more of everything: More inquiries, more sales, even just more success at getting meetings with your senior clients. And yes, it works in your personal life as well. If you’re good at evoking curiosity, it can get you more dates if you are single and more RSVPs for your party!
You create curiosity and reach by showing just a bit of the glitter of the gold you have to offer your client. Say the unexpected. Surprise the other person with your candid answer to a tough question. Shake their thinking up by showing them a side to their problem they had not considered.
You’ll draw others in when you tell them what they need to know, not everything you know. Give brief answers to questions. Hint at things. Don’t lecture a prospect for ten minutes when they ask you to describe your firm. Develop contrarian or unusual perspectives. Be seen as someone who has refreshing points of view.
Also, ask the provocative questions that no one else is asking. When everyone is telling your client how to do something, you should be asking why they want to do it.
Above all, make them curious. With my CEO prospect, I took the first two minutes to mention several important risks his people had not considered, and one opportunity I felt they were missing. It made the CEO suddenly sit up in his chair. The meeting stretched to 15 minutes, and I got the sale.
One other Law that will help you connect, by the way, is number Two: Be unafraid to ask. Jerry wrote that chapter, and it’s about how he forged a lifelong relationship with one of the greatest retailers of the 20th century, J.C. Penney himself.
Once you connect with an executive, you have to then show how you are relevant to him or her. Remember, as hard as it is to get a first meeting with a senior executive, it’s even harder to get the second meeting! In Part Two of this three-part series, I’ll show you how to use the Relationship Laws to do exactly that.
Click here to get a copy of Power Relationships now on Amazon.com, and then you can download the 90-page Personal Planning Guide for free!