What Type of Business Relationships Do You Want?

Last Updated Jun 23, 2011 6:08 PM EDT

Selling is all about building relationships, of course. However, if you're going to have good business relationships you must differentiate between the kind of people you want to be around, and those you'd best avoid. This post provides an easily-understandable model for doing just that.

First, some background. Earlier this week I went to the Sales 2.0 Conference in Boston. As usual, it had fabulous content, if you're interested in the latest and greatest in sales technology. One of the best conferences on technology in sales, period.

However, for me, the high point of the conference was a one-on-one conversation that I had with Philip Styrlund, the CEO of the Summit Group. Philip and I connected because Gerhard Gschwandtner, the publisher of SellingPower magazine (and host of the conference) suggest that we talk.

The conversation went far afield, into various subjects, such as our mutual appreciate for the writings of C.S. Lewis, but the part of the conversation that really sticks with me is what Philip had to say about friendship and business relationships.

He advises people to practice what he calls "relationship frugality" -- limiting your business relationships to people who make you feel energized and inspired. To illustrate this point, he drew me a little diagram, which I think is so brilliant, I'm including it as a scanned image:


The way I remember him explaining this diagram is that there are two poles that determine how different personalities react to one another. One pole is whether that person makes you feel drained of energy (depleted) or full of energy (additive). The other poll is whether that person tries to include you in relationships with others (multipliers) or try to sequester you away for their own usage (dividers).

Philip says, and I agree with him, that you should focus on business relationships with additive multipliers, and try to get out of business relationships with depleting dividers. (Hence the circle with the arrow.)

Now, here's a VERY important point. These attributes are not inherent to any individual, but dependent upon the interaction between the two individuals in question. In other words, a person who is a depleting divider around ME, might be an additive multiplier around YOU!

I experienced that exact situation at dinner that evening. I was sitting between two very successful guys: a marketing executive and a CEO. For me, the marketing executive was definitely an additive multiplier; we hit it off immediately and I came away feeling and knowing that I'd made a friend.

The CEO, however, made me feel awkward and drained whenever I tried talking to him. However, he and the guy on the opposite side to me were having a fabulous conversation together, totally energized, totally in sync. For each other, they were additive multipliers!

I really love this way of thinking about relationships because it explains, for instance, why I find my wife's friends so draining, even though she thrives on their company. (I can just take so many discussions of Anime before I'm ready to hide in the bathroom.)

Philip's model, in fact, has caused me to reassess nearly every business relationship that I've experienced. I now see that I've done my best work when I've been working with additive multipliers, and that every time I've tried to work with a depleting divider, it's turned into a minor (or major) disaster.

Anyway, I learned some other cool stuff from Philip, which I hope to share with you in the future.

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