Emotional Bank Account: An Advanced Course
While teaching our Relationship Sales course recently I was brought up short when a student said, “Oh, that personal conversation, that’s the EBA part.”
Of course I was pleased because this student, who was not a client of the firm, knew our jargon and could use it in a sentence. Unfortunately, he used it WRONG! And you all know that it is risky to tell a paying customer that in fact, “NO, that is not what the personal conversation is.” But, I felt I really should. You see, one of the core concepts that we have taught in our classes over the last three decades is that of the EBA or emotional bank account. What exactly had our young friend gotten wrong? Well let’s start at the beginning.
The EBA is comprised of:
Empathy – demonstrating to the customer that you care enough to truly attempt to understand how he feels about things that are important to him.
Logic – proving your ability to assimilate the facts and circumstances of his situation and find creative solutions.
Ethics – being perceived as someone who deserves the privileged position of confidante.
Just as with a regular bank account, an emotional bank account is subject to “deposits” and “withdrawals.” When you are viewed as helping and being involved in the customers’ circumstances, you are making deposits. But, when you are perceived as selling or being distant and not interested, you are making withdrawals. The trouble begins when your withdrawals exceed your deposits on a consistent basis. In the terms of a banker, this is a moment of being NSF in your EBA.
Relationship selling requires you to have enough information about your customer to make recommendations that fit and really solve his problems. To get this level of information, it is critical that you first develop a significant EBA account.
It is important to remember that “digging” for facts is an intrusive behavior for most of us. You must always consider your customer’s perception. Is he comfortable with you? Is your emotional bank account large enough to ask personal questions? Have you earned the right to probe?
EBA is also not merely a skill to be demonstrated in selling. A big part of the perceived value of your services will be continued calling on your customers and continuing to increase your EBA balance. In other words, repeat the relationship selling process as part of your service delivery discipline.
Nothing will improve the quality of your relationships more than a continuous program of retention calling that focuses on solving more and more of the customers’ problems while reinforcing the value of all of the previous solutions you are providing. To achieve this goal, you will need to continually increase your EBA balance.
The more careful readers among you will already know what my dilemma was that awful day in front of the class. Nowhere in this definition is a discussion of “personal” stuff, or non-financial matters. Demonstrating empathy, ethics, and logic, is not a matter of being “personal” with the prospect. It is a matter of being human. It is just as important to demonstrate your empathy, ethics, and logic, on matters of business and money as it is when discussing the client’s family and personal life. Is there ever a bad time to lend an empathetic ear? It is especially helpful in turbulent times when discussing risk tolerance and willingness to ride out more volatility.
The moral of the story: be careful not to fall into simplistic understandings of critical relationship concepts.
The Power of Body Language
Is your communication as good as it could be and as effective as it should be? From a very young age we learn that communication is much more than the words we say. We probably figured out as toddlers that scrunching up our face, squinting our eyes and frowning tells people we are not happy. If we pointed at something it was probably handed to us. Body language and gestures play a big part in communicating our message.
Professor Albert Mehrabian, well-known communications specialist, concluded in an often-cited study that 55 percent of communication actually takes place through body language. (Words are about 7% and tone of voice is thought to be almost 40%) People intuitively and instantaneously develop a perception in the first moments they see you, and body language builds, confirms, or dispels those impressions.
So what does that mean to us as sales and service professionals? Using our body language to enhance our image and our communication is as important as reading the body language of others. Just yesterday I was in a bank conducting a transaction. The teller in the next window was leaning on her computer terminal, and twisting her hair as she talked to a young male customer who looked to be about her age. Can you picture this? It’s likely you’ve seen this behavior between dating couples in a bar. The message this teller was sending was very clear—I’m interested and I’m available! Needless to say that’s probably not the message the bank wants employees communicating.
Setting aside my previous example of non professional body language, how do we ensure that our body language communicates that we are professionals who are engaged with our clients and prospects and that we will deliver the expertise our customers are looking for? How does your body language measure up?
Posture and Stance
• Stand or sit up straight. Don’t slouch or lean against anything.
• When seated, place both feet flat on the floor, not crossed or tucked under the chair.
• Lean forward to exude energy or lean back to appear more relaxed.
• Don’t cross your arms across your chest as this can be viewed as defensive.
Keep in mind that an erect posture reveals confidence and poise. Drooping shoulders, sagging in the seat, etc., reveal a feeling of depression and lack of interest.
• Don’t touch your face or cover your mouth.
• Don’t touch the other party except for the handshake.
• To increase trust, keep both hands out in the open, not in your pockets or under the table.
• Do not grip your hands or clasp in the prayer position.
The “Eyes” Have it!
Eye contact is an important part of your body language. Most people show their true feelings through their eyes. You can build the confidence others have in you by making direct eye contact with everyone involved in the conversation. Woe be it to the person who makes eye contact with only one individual when dealing with couples, or only one or two people in a group when dealing with a group such as a board members. Smile comfortably with your eyes as well as your mouth. Solid eye contact while listening communicates interest in what the other is saying. You don’t have to say the words, “I hear you and what you are saying is important for me to understand.” Your eyes are sending that message loudly and clearly.
Be careful not to stare or glare. If making eye contact makes you nervous look at the middle of the other’s forehead right above their eyebrows. It will look like you are making direct eye contact and help you eliminate the butterflies in your stomach. Avoid looking away when someone is talking to you and NEVER roll your eyes, or move your eyes rapidly. Frequent blinking can be read by others as lack of trustworthiness. Eye-rolling communicates intense disrespect for the person with whom you are engaging.
Most of us work in multi-cultural environments these days, so it is useful to know that in eastern countries, subordinates or younger people may avoid direct eye contact out of respect or deference, but it may be misunderstood in an international context.
Here’s a Heads Up
We all know that nodding our head can communicate agreement and/or the message, “I understand what you are saying.” No one is expected to keep on shaking his/her head throughout the conversation, but appropriate nods of the head enhance the level of communication. Interestingly, when women nod their heads it tends to mean I’m listening. When men nod their heads, it tends to mean I agree with you.
Facial expressions can telegraph what’s in our minds and enhance communication. There are times in client and prospect interactions when we must ensure that our facial expressions remain neutral. For example, facial expressions that communicate disapproval of something our client/prospect is telling us can be extremely detrimental and may shut off communication and in the extreme cause the prospect/client to seek services elsewhere.
Our face-to-face communication with each other is made up of three elements: Words—what is actually said; Tone of voice—how we say the words; and Body Language. Mehrabian’s research indicates that approximately 55% of our message comes across through the non-verbal channel of body language. Making solid eye contact and maintaining open body language are keys to ensuring that you are an effective communicator. Ask your sales coach or a trusted colleague to observe you in a client interaction and critique your body language. If you are a sales or service supervisor, spend a few minutes observing your direct reports in their interactions with clients. Is their body language enhancing or inhibiting their communication or their professional image? Little things do matter!
The Cost of Change
Staff Article by Eric Timm, Director, TRUSTCOMPARE®
“Change is hard” is a phrase that everyone acknowledges can be true (and one that consultants love to use). If this is a true statement, can you do anything to minimize the impact your decisions have on your clients?
While recently working on a research project, I spoke with a large number of employees across a wide variety of trust organizations. One of the topics of discussion was vendor relationships, and a common thread was a certain level of dissatisfaction with vendors. When I inquired further, I was told that the main problem was when a vendor changed their account representative. In conversation after conversation, I heard about the impact of having to break in a new account representative and the lost productivity that occurs when forced to adapt to a new liaison. I was surprised at how much dissatisfaction was expressed simply because of changing personnel. Although the products and services had not changed, changing the company’s representative resulted in a seemingly disproportional amount of turmoil and unhappiness.
This same message was repeated in several interviews, but given today’s changing business environment, with restructuring, cost-cutting, and turnover, I was not surprised. Businesses have to react to their environment and changes sometimes have to be made. It is easy to assume that, as long as the overall level of corporate service is maintained, the client relationship will not be majorly impacted by merely changing the point of contact. This far into the project I was beginning to believe that.
In the last interview for the entire project, I asked my usual questions about the perception of vendor relationships. At this point in the project, I was expecting to hear the same comments about account rep turnover affecting organizational efficiency (and vendor satisfaction). The staff member I was talking with, from a small, midwestern trust department, mentioned that their relationship with the vendor was excellent and their organization was extremely happy. Surprised at the praise being heaped on the vendor, I asked for more details. It turns out that the vendor’s account representative had been working with the department for 25 years, and was described as a vital member of the department who “knows our accounts as well as we do.” For a 4-person department, a long-term account rep was like a 5th member of the staff, making the department function more efficiently. My interview subject mentioned that it was nice they did not have to spend any time training their account rep, and that the relationship deepened every year it continued. The cost to the department of account rep turnover would be extreme, even more so if they were forced to incur that cost several times over several years.
Receiving this gem of wisdom in my last interview of the project was extremely gratifying, and drove home an important point in how much impact we have on our client’s well-being. Making changes to the client contact, even with a great reason for doing so, can result in major upheaval and turmoil. Through this project, I realized that the key to a successful relationship often lies with the person who is in direct contact with the client.
Although it is not reasonable to expect that you will never have organization changes (a 25-year client rep relationship is extremely rare), how you manage that change can be critical to your client. We are all vendors, either providing services to trust organizations or to trust clients, and we need to be aware of the full impact of our changes on clients. Managing that impact could go a long way toward maintaining a good relationship with your client.
The first step is simply to understand the impact on the client from changing their account rep and the potential for disruption that can result. Your understanding of the client’s experience will help drive your response to the situation.
Second, create a transition plan for changing account representatives to help reduce the impact. Providing additional help in the form of written documentation, a higher level of hands-on contact, or a special hotline number for questions might help to assuage the client’s fears during the transition.
Third, a strong communications effort can show the client that you are concerned with their comfort level through the transition and with their overall satisfaction. Providing them with an opportunity to leave feedback on the process can help you quickly identify transition-related problems that could, if unchecked, result in lowered satisfaction.
Although change is inevitable, it does not have to be a painful event for your clients. By properly managing the process of changing account representatives, you can mitigate the impact and maintain client satisfaction. With a thoughtful response, you may even deepen your existing relationship and increase satisfaction.
Thank You Notes—Will they really improve your business?
We have long preached that taking the time to send a handwritten thank you to a prospect, client and/or center-of-influence is not just the “classy” thing to do, it reinforces the value in the relationship. It is that little something extra that others appreciate and remember. They may not always remember your name, but they will remember you as the gal or the guy who takes the time to send handwritten thank you notes.
In every workshop we host, a participant usually offers the idea that receiving a thank you note may be considered a key step in helping to cement a relationship. We agree! There’s always a discussion about handwritten vs. word processed. Ok, if your handwriting could have been your ticket to medical school, opt for computer-generated.
Often participants comment “I used to send thank you notes, but I just forget.” We encourage those who have “fallen off the thank you wagon” to get back on.
Because expressing appreciation seems to be a lost art in today’s business world, your efforts in sending personalized thank you notes will be recognized. You and your organization will stand out.
Several years ago, John Kralik, a Los Angeles Attorney, wrote a book about his experiences in writing and sending thank you notes. Mr. Kralik’s renewed energy for thank you notes began as a New Year’s resolution.
The book, 365 Thank Yous, is an interesting and thought-provoking chronicle on how he rediscovered the value of sending thank yous; what it did for his business and his life. His was an exercise-a very meaningful one—in learning to be grateful.
John Kralik shares tips for writing meaningful thank you notes. They are all good. (We won’t repeat them here. After all, he is an attorney and we don’t want to be accused of plagiarizing his work). Kralik reaffirms that handwritten, on a small note card, short and sincere will win the day. His tip #10 is perhaps most useful: Write a lot of thank you notes—you’ll get better!
An unintended but welcomed consequence of writing thank you notes? John Kralik reports he began to feel better about himself in the process. Couldn’t we all do with an increase in our self-esteem?
If you or your staff find writing a thank you note difficult, these tips may help you get started. It is helpful to remember that less is more:
1. The first sentence starts with “You,” or “Your” and is focused on the person receiving the note.
2. The second sentence is where you thank the person.
3. The third sentence is an action idea, or next steps.
Shoot us an email and tell us what thank you notes have done for you and your business development.
The Last Word
with LOYD POHL
Sometimes people aren’t enough!
That intro statement may sound odd coming from an organization that focuses on people development. We truly believe that (at least in most cases) your people make the difference. However….
About a year ago I had a bad experience at National Car Rental in Scranton, PA. I arrived late at night to find that they didn’t have a car for me. Yes, I had a confirmed reservation. Despite that, they were out of cars when I arrived. And then about a month ago it happened again. Same place. Same situation.
The PEOPLE at the counter tried to be nice and pleasant, but simply couldn’t overcome the major mistakes made by the management of the organization.
I really do not know when the decision was made to run the inventory down so tightly that they had no ability to respond when someone didn’t return their car in time to be turned around and rented out again. But based on my experience, it happened nationally about a year ago – and the manager of the Scranton operation took it too far.
Aside from my diatribe – what’s the point? Well, are you making management decisions about your inventory that is affecting your staff’s ability to effectively manage your clients? Have you cut staff? Not replaced retiring officers with experienced strong relationship managers? Have you let account loads become so big that no proactive standards of service are possible to deliver?
You may not be doing any of those things, but we know some institutions are. Eric’s article in this issue discusses how important a relationship manager is to the perception of the relationship with a vendor.
When we help organizations with tiering/segmentation and standards of service, we often will work on those independently and then bring them together by applying a reality check exercise. Simply multiply the number of clients in each tier times the proactive contact standards for that tier. Add them up and divide by 12 and you have the monthly client call goal. An unfortunate reality is that proactive call standards devised with the customer relationship in mind often get reduced because of practical capacity limitations.
Face it – our relationship manager’s time is our inventory. Are you managing your inventory too tightly?
Chief Executive Officer