Winning Hearts, not Minds: 9 Insights for Developing Business Chemistry

John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd had chemistry. Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling had chemistry, though it was, admittedly, a semi-evil chemistry. Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley did not have chemistry.

You can also call chemistry the “x factor” or say that two people are of “like minds.”  But no matter what you call it, millions of business transactions are won and lost every day due to chemistry.  Price, product and location are critical, but it doesn’t erase the single most important determinant in any sales transaction:

People want to buy from people that they like.

Our own B2B integrated marketing agency has had the pleasure of winning new business assignments because “the fit was right” or “we felt you understood us.”  We’ve also lost business opportunities because “we didn’t connect” or the competing agency had a long standing relationship with the CEO.

You can prepare for a meeting or presentation. You can research and identify innovative ways to touch an audience or stakeholder group. You can create extraordinary new marketing strategies.

Can you develop chemistry?  Box it up and bring it to your next meeting? Um, no.

But, you can stack the odds that chemistry will develop.  Here are 9 insights to help you get started:

  • You know the company’s business needs, but do you know the individual needs and ambition of the team members? What do those professionals hope to achieve in their own careers?
  • Where did your targets work before they joined their current company? How might that experience have influenced their perception of your presentation or work product?
  • Do they have a hobby or a passion? Sometimes the evidence exists on an office wall or a desktop.  Hint: when in doubt, start with where they went to school or if they have children.  It’s shocking—I know— but people generally like reliving college or their kid’s latest adventure.
  • What professional trade groups do they belong to?  Do you have any friends in common that you can discover via LinkedIn?  We trust peers, so a friend in common could be a “quick start” for you.
  • During the presentation, can you find a way to help the group let off steam? People like to laugh, and they are usually eager to chuckle over the little ironies and snafus that exist in every business culture.
  • Are you listening carefully to the discussion clues?  Read between the lines to see if there are opportunities to demonstrate your empathy towards others.
  • Do you focus on displaying your own credentials in a meeting?  Even if they have asked for you to describe your capabilities, most buyers don’t want to spend much time on that information. Instead, create a presentation that weaves your credentials into ideas that helps them hit their own business goals.
  • Are you displaying chemistry with your own team members?  Your prospect is likely to enjoy working with professionals who sincerely enjoy working with each other.  Happiness and collaboration are contagious.  Our management team has worked together for many, many years and we still laugh together every single day.  Clients and prospects consistently notice.
  • When you start a new relationship, take the time to understand more than just the organization chart.  The rising young star may crave more attention than the Business Unit leader, or the geographic chief might have just been reassigned from a functional role they had for many years.  If you understand their personal desires, you’ll go a long way towards building a real bond with them.

At this point, I’m sure you recognize that each of these insights relies on beginning to understand who your target is as a person, not just a business professional.

If you start by trying to connect as an interested friend, you’re more likely to trigger the potential that they will treat you in the same respectful, thoughtful and interested manner.   And that may be the beginning of a beautiful friendship…

Do you have a business relationship that started or continues to succeed because of chemistry? Or have you lost a business opportunity because you couldn’t make a meaningful personal connection? Will you share your lessons learned with us?


Connect with Elizabeth:

Phone: 212.840.0017
Twitter: @elizabethsosnow
LinkedIn: Elizabeth Sosnow