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What Is This "Relationship Equity" You Keep Talking About & 3 Ways To Increase It

Imagine the relationship you have with your parents, siblings, close friends or significant other. The trust, understanding, and empathy that exists is a direct result of the depth of knowledge you have of each other and the shared experiences that have shaped your relationship. You know whether you can count on each other, how each other will react in certain situations and if your ideas will be supported. The strength of that bond is Relationship Equity and the stronger the bond, the greater the psychological safety within the relationship. 

Professional relationships work very much the same way. A former employer once enlightened me as I was struggling to meet my sales quota.  He said “people buy from people, not companies!” It forever changed the way I approached business relationships and opened the door to focusing on building relationship equity with my customers.  

I know from personal experience the importance of investing in relationships, of getting to know the person and not just their profession because it’s not “if” but “when” something will go awry.  The greater the equity within the relationship the greater the chance of working through challenges and many times coming out stronger on the other end.  Plus it’s just more fulfilling personally and professionally.    

The year is 2011 and I am parking a box truck filled to the hilt with boxes full of customized apparel for the iconic Colorado event, The Triple Bypass, a 120 mile bike ride over 3 mountain passes and 10,000 feet of climbing. The next 10 minutes will determine the fate of what until now has been a longstanding positive relationship with the event organizers.  

In the rear of the truck are what are supposed to be “Double-Triple” vests for those riders crazy enough to turn around the next day and do the ride in reverse.  The vest is a badge of honor and kind of a big deal.  However we discovered while packing the truck that our production facility made a mistake and simply printed more “regular” Triple Bypass vests.

The ride is in two weeks and today is ride packet stuffing and sending day.  If the “Double-Triple” vests aren’t here they aren’t going in the packets for event day.   Fortunately we’d spent time with the ride organizers, chatting them up when connecting on details about their order, riding in their event in previous years, going on training rides, overall getting to know them and building equity.  As a result they gave me and the company a lot of grace that day when I told them the most important piece of apparel wasn’t going to be there for the event.   We of course proposed solutions and the vests did eventually get to those Double Triple riders.  If we had not spent time getting to know, like and trust each other they could have easily gone with another vendor the next year.  I am happy to say they didn’t and are still using the same apparel provider today.  

Take a moment and reflect upon the professional relationship that you have, are you happy with the equity you’ve built? 

Here are 3 ways you can increase the Relationship Equity of your professional relationships (psst, this also works with personal relationships).

Tip #1 - Own Your Mistakes

With the apparel flub we did not pass blame to anyone else, we owned the error and immediately focused on the solution. When the order arrived at our warehouse and we discovered the mistake a plan of action was implemented and the entire organization rallied around solving the problem. While the story above is centered around the client it is important to note that every team member within the organization rallied around solving the problem. We avoided finger pointing and we just focused on how to  make this right by our client. Because we focused on the clients needs and not our own it was easier to navigate the difficult time. The outcome resulted in a closer knit team, an improvement in our process and the confidence to face future challenges.   

Tip #2 - Reach Out

“Reach out, reach out and touch someone” was an ad campaign by AT&T in the 80’s that encouraged us to pick up the phone and call someone. Have you noticed how easy it is to NOT call someone now and instead email or text? This is a passive form of communication and is not the best way to build relationship equity. “Get Scrappy, and make the phone calls” was the rally cry from Ross Bernstein when he spoke at our National Speakers Association Colorado Chapter meeting in March. In the beginning they may not answer but your efforts will pay dividends in the future as the relationship grows. Each phone call is like adding sunshine to a watered garden. It is what is needed in order to cultivate a bountiful relationship.  

Tip #3 - Shared Experiences

Shared experiences are the greatest investment in building relationship equity. Have you ever traveled with acquaintances and at the end of the trip they have become close friends? The same goes for your professional relationship, meet them where they are. Find out what associations they belong to, what conferences they attend, what hobbies they enjoy and create opportunities to join them.

Imagine building relationship equity in your very first conversation.  You can with a strategic introduction and some simple networking skills.  Reach out to learn how.

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