It's All About the Relationships

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I just finished reading a great book called "Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior." Finally, I thought, when I first read the title, a book to explain why the rest of the world that doesn't agree with my thinking is so messed up! I snatched it from the shelf and eagerly delved into its pages, looking for the explanations my logical brain craved. Well, as you may have guessed, the answers I got were a little different from the ones I thought I'd find.

Newsflash: People, even when given a choice of thinking logically and getting beneficial results, will often act emotionally despite the consequences. The effects of this irrational behavior on businesses can be far reaching. And it has many causes. Here's one: A person's internal barometer for "fairness," the researchers point out, is a powerful emotion that "sways" even the most straight forward of business decisions. One case study in particular struck a chord with me:

A nationwide survey of car dealers revealed that when it comes to buying cars from manufacturers, the dealers didn't focus on the results of these transactions -- did I overpay? did I receive high quality inventory? Instead, the dealers cared more about how manufacturers behaved toward them. According to the research, what mattered to the dealers wasn't just whether they felt they got a good deal; they evaluated their transactions on such seemingly insignificant details as whether the manufacturer took "pains to learn the local conditions under which dealers operate," whether the manufacturer acted in a "polite and well mannered" fashion, and whether the manufacturer "treated dealers with respect." Indeed "fairness" factors mattered more to dealers than bottom-line profitability. To me, if there was ever a way to quantify the power of relationships in business, this dealer case study demonstrates it!

The authors point out one final take-away that struck close to home with me. "The researchers concluded that business owners place too great importance on margins and outcomes. They recommended that all managers -- regardless of industry -- put greater "effort, energy, investment, and patience" into nurturing the relationship. In the end, "the fairness of the procedure has as much to do with our satisfaction as the ultimate outcome."

Here, in this case study, I found the rationale to explain the irrationality of past business relationships gone sour. Far too often I, and I imagine other business owners, fight emotions with logical facts -- which in the end rarely results in swaying someone who simply feels you somehow done 'em wrong. It's a classic case of being so right you're wrong. How irrational is that?!

So the next time you're logically stating your case, just remember that those ears you're hell bent on convincing just might be wired with a little emotional baggage of their own. In the end, it's only through the development of relationships that you can truly hear what the customer is thinking, irrationality and all!

Last updated: Jun 17, 2008




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