I was hurting. And I mean big-time hurting.
Heart rate over 90 percent for the past 20 minutes. Lower back seizing. Legs screaming. Eardrums pounding. Lungs on the cusp of bursting.
And then I cracked.
Don’t get me wrong, I love cycling. And one of the things I love most about it is the pain. In fact, I ride with guys who are 10 to 15 years younger than I am, 20 to 40 pounds lighter than I am, and some a fair percentage more ornery than I am, because the butt-kicking they give me keeps me young.
As competitive as I am, however, I’m also smart enough to learn from experience, dial down my ego and listen to what my body is saying. That day, my body was screaming, “Back off!”
My friends and I had been leading the Bicycle Fun Club ride. Once I surrendered, slowed down and recovered, it wasn’t long before another group pedaled by and I joined it. (We cyclists are a friendly crowd. At these large rides, there’s always someone happy to let you jump on.)
Two and a half hours later, Denny and I stood at my truck, with bikes and calendars in hand. I had been riding with him for over an hour talking about cycling, bike maintenance, kids, dogs, vacations and, yes, what we did for a living.
Denny owned a printing company with a team of salespeople who needed some help. At the time, I was a sales trainer-coach-mentor. So we stopped by my truck to coordinate our schedules for a sales appointment.
After we set our appointment, traded business cards, shook hands and parted ways, I found myself grinning from ear to ear. I had been riding bikes for years, and this was the first time I had found a prospect and closed a sales appointment while sitting in the saddle.
On the drive home, as I mulled over what had happened, I thought: I wonder whether I could do that again on purpose?
No End-Game in Mind
I pride myself on being a consummate solver of sales puzzles. As I often say: “I’ve never met a sales puzzle I couldn’t solve.”
Yet with all that puzzle-solving talent and experience under my belt, the truth is, the very best systems I’ve ever created for producing sales appointments with new prospects happened first by accident.
My success with Denny was an accident. But why? During my drive, I postulated:
The very best relationships begin with no end-game in mind.
The more I thought about this insight, the more profound it seemed. There we were, riding along, having a great conversation with no agenda at all, and look how positive things turned out.
But the puzzle-solver in me wondered whether I could replicate that success on purpose. If I had gone to the bike ride specifically trying to find prospects, would my results have been better? just as positive? or worse?
I mulled this over repeatedly, remembering example after example of relationships that had happened by accident and convincing myself that “on purpose” wouldn’t work.
And that’s when I thought of Cindy.
Nothing BUT the End-Game in Mind
It’s Tuesday, September 3, 1974, at 10:22 a.m., and I’m 14 years old. It’s my first day of high school, and I just walked into third-hour algebra.
There sat Cindy.
Call me a strange kid, call me a romantic, call me flat-out nuts, but I stood there dumbfounded staring at my dream girl, the girl I wanted to marry, the girl with the smirk that would make me smile forever.
And thus began the longest marketing campaign of my life.
During high school, Cindy turned me down for probably 20 dates, finally adding, “Will you PLEASE stop asking me?” Yet, because I had the end-game in mind from the moment I saw her, let’s flash forward seven and a half years. We are now the best of friends. We’ve laughed together, cried together, sat quietly and stared at the sky together. We’ve gone platonically to movies, swim parties, dinners. We’ve had boyfriends and girlfriends (respectively) and supported each other when relationships fell apart. She was even engaged but (thankfully) broke it off. I lived with a woman for more than a year, then split up.
It’s now Saturday, January 30, 1982, and we’re finally going out on our first real date. A week earlier, I had called Cindy to as if she wanted to do something, since neither of us were dating anyone. And for the first time since high school, I added, “This time, let’s make it an actual date.”
After an elongated pause, I heard the response I had been hoping for since that moment in algebra class: “Okay.”
Two months later we were engaged. A year and a half later, married. And as I write these words, we’re approaching our 35-year anniversary.
So in this particular case, it would seem that:
The very best relationships form with a clear end-game goal in mind.
How can both of these insights be right?
Do the best relationships happen naturally? Can you create these relationships on purpose? Can you “stalk” your way to success? Is it one or the other? Is it both?
How do business relationships and personal relationships differ? How are they the same? Do concepts within one type of relationship work within the other? Is there something else at play?
Now, there’s a puzzle worth solving.
The Intimacy Hierarchy
In It’s a Jungle Out There, I mentioned that Bill Prenatt (owner of Simply Successful) and I created this system for building critical relationships.
We spent months reverse-engineering our great relationships, analyzing how they formed, how they grew, what roadblocks got in the way, and why certain relationships went bad.
We analyzed business relationships together. I analyzed personal relationships as well. And when we finished, we had created the Intimacy Hierarchy – a 10-step process that shows the progress of relationships in easy-to-understand terms.
Following is our interpretation of that process – how relationships, from the most casual to the most intimate, form and progress. While it is structured within the context of business relationships, the concepts work on personal relationships as well.
Understand the Intimacy Hierarchy, and you’ll have a process for Stalking Tigers in all walks of life.
Four Levels of Intimacy
We begin with the four relationship levels. With each new level, the relationship intimacy increases.
Each of these four levels is broken into either two or three stages on the Intimacy Hierarchy scale – 10 stages in all – beginning with Connected To, and ending with Confide In. But before I describe the process of moving through the Intimacy Hierarchy, it’s important to discuss the transitions between levels and describe what we call an Opportunity Throttle.
An Opportunity Throttle is the lever to which you can apply pressure that causes intimacy to change. Each time you apply pressure, you basically test-drive the relationship to learn whether more intimacy is mutually beneficial.
An Opportunity Throttle proceeds as follows:
- You spot an opportunity to provide value – from something as benign as recommending a good book, to something as risky as making a referral or offering sage advice – and thereby increase the intimacy of the relationship. You step on the throttle by taking the risk of providing that value.
- You wait.
- Your effort is either valued or not by the other party.If your effort is valued, the relationship progresses – throttles up.If your effort is not valued, seems suspicious, is viewed as intrusive or perhaps is simply too much too soon, the relationship degrades.
It is during the pressing of the Opportunity Throttle that all the risk resides for both parties. These transitions can be tricky and must be tailored to both individuals. You should not press the throttle in ways that are outside your comfort zone or, based on your best judgment, outside the comfort zone of the other person. Press slowly and carefully in the earliest stages – you’ll be able to throttle up more aggressively as intimacy grows and trust develops.
Perception Is Reality
Bear in mind, when you press the throttle, perception is reality. But it’s not your perception that counts; how your attempt is viewed by the person receiving it is the only thing that matters. So do your best to see it through that person’s eyes before you throttle up.
Just this morning, before I began writing, I checked my email and found the following message sent to me through LinkedIn:
How are you today? I just came across your profile and thought I would reach out real quick and see if you would like to connect further here on LinkedIn.
I don’t usually reach out like this, but thought you may be a good candidate for my advanced leadership certification program and wanted to personally invite you to take a look at it.
If you are interested in learning more, let me know and I will introduce you to the right person on my team who can provide you with more information. Please send me a couple of times along with your phone number and email that could work for you. My Team will follow up with a confirmation or alternative proposed times to talk.
In the meantime, here is a link with more information, in advance: [link removed].
Keep up the good work.
I checked social media, and the sender seems like a great guy. Some people I trust and respect have even endorsed and praised him. Yet my gut reaction was that I had been lied to with the line: “I don’t usually reach out like this, but …”
Granted, with my passionate advocacy for transparency and truthfulness in sales and marketing, I am particularly sensitive to this stuff. So I could be absolutely wrong here – confirmation bias may be playing on my judgment. But with a cursory glance at my LinkedIn profile and a quick search, anyone can see that I’m not likely to respond to anything that even remotely smells of insincerity or manipulation.
Whether you’re stalking a Tiger with whom you can build a relationship or reaching out to a prospect to whom you can sell your product or service, the other party’s perception is the jungle reality within which you must live. The more you know about that person before engaging, the more likely you are to be perceived as you want to be perceived.
10 Stages of Intimacy Within the Four Levels
Now back to the story of how intimacy forms, transitions through stages, and grows over time. The following scenario represents one possible process. (We will cover other processes in detail in future books of the Stalking Tigers series.)
Level 1. Know – These are the earliest two stages of intimacy.
Stage 1. Connected To: You use Twitter to communicate your ideas, meet people, learn new things and otherwise connect. Someone follows you; you follow her back. At this point, you are connected to each other.
Stage 2. Connected With: Only marginally more intimate than Connected To, this is where you begin personal interactions. The time spent at this stage could be minutes or it could be years, depending on both parties’ risk tolerance and willingness to explore relationships.
For example, the person you follow tweets some profound idea or insightful bit of wisdom. You retweet the idea, and she notices. You strike up a dialogue. You begin to become more top-of-mind to each other. You now see one another’s faces in the tweet stream and recognize each other as someone of value.
You are now connected with this individual, because you’ve begun the process of sharing a more intimate interaction. Now that you are connected with her, you have the ability to spot an Opportunity Throttle that will allow you to dial up your relationship intimacy.
Level 2. Engage With – These next three stages of intimacy are where you test-drive collaboration based on mutual interests.
Stage 3. Rapport: Over time, you and your friend notice common interests, such as shared hobbies or passions. This gradually builds rapport and slightly increases the intimacy you share.
Stage 4. Synergy: One day your friend asks for advice, and you have the ability to give it. Your giving of the advice constitutes your using the Opportunity Throttle. Your friend’s willingness to accept and to appreciate the advice is her indication that the new level of intimacy is appropriate. Once you’ve successfully test-driven this level of intimacy, you agree to be friends on FaceBook or to trade email addresses.
Stage 5. Collaboration: Now that you’ve established rapport and found synergy, you take the step toward collaboration around your common interests. This is the point at which you both begin giving real value without keeping score. Perhaps you promote your friend’s events. Perhaps your friend invites people to like your endeavors.
Eventually the giving of assistance causes one of you to spot a new Opportunity Throttle, at which time you actually join forces on something and test-drive the Rely Upon (third) level of intimacy. By being accountable and responsible with trust, you dial up the intimacy and make the transition to the next level.
Level 3. Rely Upon – The third level of intimacy contains a three-stage process in which test-drives are repeated at higher levels of risk with each iteration. This process continues until an Opportunity Throttle reveals itself, and the Partner With (fourth) level is reached. Most relationships will never move past this third level, because no throttle is ever revealed.
Stage 6. Respect: Mutual respect is developed through the trial-and-error process of making commitments to each other and then monitoring the outcomes of those commitments.
Stage 7. Trust: Trust forms as expectations are met while collaborating. The higher the risk, the greater the trust. As trust grows, so does the intensity of the risk during the next iteration.
Stage 8. Reputational Risk: Using a business example, giving someone a strong referral is a significant indicator of trust, because you’re willing to risk your own hard-earned reputation by making the referral. Risking your reputation repeatedly over a period of time and having that risk honored is the Opportunity Throttle that sometimes elevates people to the highest levels of business relationships.
Level 4. Partner With – These are the final two stages in the highest level of relationship intimacy.
Stage 9. Inner Circle: Use your own definition for what “in my inner circle” means. We each have that close circle of friends and associates upon whom we truly rely; who can rely totally on us; whose success we care about the same as our own; and so forth.
Stage 10. Confide In: At the highest end of the Intimacy Hierarchy is the “I will confide in you” trust. Think of the people in your life whom you absolutely trust to hold a confidence. Most of us have a handful of these people at best. But the ultimate question is: Why so few?
The idea behind the Intimacy Hierarchy is simple: If relationships are the cornerstone to success, then understanding relationships and transitioning a higher number of them to higher levels of intimacy will create a surer path to success.
Stalking Tigers is a process of applying the Intimacy Hierarchy concept to building honest relationships with people who can have a major impact on your career, your business, your charity or your life’s work. But to start, you must know where you stand in your current relationships, so you can strategically determine how to proceed.
In the first book, we learned that at most, you can manage about 250 relationships that are more than casual.
In this exercise, you will go through your current contact database to identify the 250 people with whom you have or wish to have the most intimate of business relationships, and rate each relationship based on its current stage of intimacy:
- Connected To
- Connected With
- Reputational Risk
- Inner Circle
- Confide In
In It’s a Jungle Out There you set your end-game goals, and categorized and listed your Tiger targets.
In the exercise above, you accurately measured your starting point toward Stalking Tigers.
Before you begin stalking, however, you need skills. And no skill is more important than the ability to engage Tigers in conversations that will develop trust. Because the last thing you want is to reach the Synergy and Collaboration stages of intimacy only to have the Tigers pull away.
How Trust Develops – From Day 1
In Chapter Three of my book “Honest Selling: How to Build the [Your Name Here] Sales System,” I explain the value of great interview skills as it relates to being trusted, and I teach the Visceral Trust Interview (VTI).
The importance of this skill cannot be over exaggerated, so I’m repeating that chapter here.
Trust is a learned behavior, but, because you began learning it the day you were born, it’s a visceral, in-your-gut response – based on elemental emotions. These visceral emotions are developed from the moment we’re born until we become adults – guiding our actions along the way.
However, as we progress through childhood, we are taught that trusting can hurt us, and we internalize that message. I certainly don’t remember the doctor’s slapping me on the butt when I was born, but I do remember my first trust/don’t trust lesson, when my mom told me that I shouldn’t talk to strangers:
“Why not, Mommy?”
“Because strangers might hurt you, and we don’t want you to get hurt.”
I also remember a time, about age 6, when my best friend broke a window and blamed it on me, so he wouldn’t get spanked. I got grounded for a week, and I never trusted him again.
Throughout childhood, lessons such as these are repeated many times. After each lesson, our defensive instincts kick in, and we react by modifying our internal selves. Eventually (around age 12), we transition from childhood reasoning to adult reasoning. This is when we perfect the ability to separate our outer selves from our inner selves, and to project facades of who we are. Of course, throughout our adolescence, most of us develop multiple facades with slight variations, so we are protected in different situations. Who among us would not admit that the person we project on a first date is just a tad different from the person we project for a job interview?
So, as we transition from childhood to adulthood, we perfect our facades, and learn to project whatever image we believe is appropriate for each situation. Unfortunately, it is our hiding behind these facades that blocks trust from naturally occurring at a visceral level, and that leaves us in superficial relationships until time proves that trust is warranted.
Because this is a complicated subject, I’ll recap what I’ve stated so far:
- The only way to earn real trust is to be worthy of it.
- The only way to earn deeply held trust is to be worthy of it over time.
- We have all learned to project different images of ourselves – facades – as a sort of protection against having our trust violated, and this hinders our ability to establish trust with one another as adults.
In effect, adult facades are keeping us from trusting sooner, and knowing that fact is what unlocks the secret to establishing trust at a slightly faster pace than would normally occur. In other words, to speed up the rate at which we establish trusting relationships, we must have conversations behind the facades.
The Visceral Trust™ Interview
A Visceral Trust (VT) interview is nothing more than a questioning process designed to make it easy for an interlocutor (IL) to drop the facade. There is no manipulation involved – it’s nothing more than having a genuine interest in learning about the person being interviewed. The real person, not the facade.
I want to make this perfectly clear. If you use the VT interview, you will not establish deeply felt trust in 15 minutes – establishing this level of trust takes much more time. However, you will connect with the IL on a visceral level, and you’ll avoid doing anything that prohibits the formation of trust.
To successfully complete a Visceral Trust interview, and converse behind the facades:
- You must be worthy of trust, because behind the facades people have incredibly accurate gut instincts.
- You must ask questions that the IL wants you to ask, instead of the questions you want answered.
While being worthy of trust is required, it bears repeating that the real key to getting behind the facade the IL projects is to ask only those questions he or she wants asked. So remember, in a Visceral Trust interview, it’s not your agenda that counts – it’s the IL’s!
What Children Can Teach Us About Trust
Have you ever had the opportunity to be “interviewed” by a curious, outgoing 6-year-old? The child will know no boundaries and will ask you any question that comes to mind (regardless of how personal it may be), will listen intently to your responses, and, without fail, will ask you follow-up questions to what you just said. Yes, these questions may be simplistic in nature, sometimes even only one word, such as “Why?” but the goal remains constant: to satisfy the child’s natural curiosity.
The first part of establishing trust is easy, just be honest and forthcoming at all times. The second part, however, requires a bit of effort, because it goes against most of what you’ve been doing throughout your adult life – protecting yourself by communicating facade to facade.
The key to encouraging your IL to drop his or her facade is to drop your facade first. Instead of behaving as a typical adult – waiting for your turn to talk, so you can make your point – you must become that curious 6-year-old child. You must stop telling and start asking, which brings us to the topic of interviewing anyone, anywhere, anytime and creating relationships based on trust.
Once you learn how to interview ILs with heartfelt curiosity, you will open the door to building relationships based on trust faster than if you stayed behind your facades. It still takes longer than 15 minutes, and you must remain trustworthy over time to establish deeply held trust, but opening up your inner child, and the inner child of your IL, will definitely speed up the process of creating trust.
Visceral Trust Interview Rules
Most adults find it very difficult to learn new processes without rules. Even when we’re relearning something nearly instinctual, having a set of rules to guide us is helpful. So, to begin, let’s set some ground rules for the Visceral Trust interview:
Rule 1: Ask questions – do nothing else.
An exception is a statement that frames a subsequent question: “Earlier you said you took architecture in college. Why did you choose architecture?”
Rule 2: Never establish commonality.
Establishing commonality, or rapport, is what salespeople using traditional selling methods do, and it has no relevance to establishing trust. In fact, since manipulative salespeople do it so often, it’s detrimental, because prospects usually see it as manipulative even when that is not the intent.
Let’s assume the prospect just told you he loves to fish. If you were trying to establish commonality, you might reply with something like, “I love fishing, too. When did you realize you love to fish?” The first sentence – “I love fishing, too” – doesn’t really frame the next question, so saying it is a violation of Rule 1. And, since salespeople often use commonality tactics, doing so will reestablish the facades you’re trying to eliminate.
So leave off the commonality part, and just ask the next question: “When did you realize you love to fish?”
Rule 3: The first question must be venue appropriate.
Whatever the venue – ride on an airplane, sales appointment, business networking event, social party, chance meeting at a coffee house, in the stands at a child’s baseball game, charity event, bike ride, etc. – there is always an acceptable question suited to the venue. “Where are you headed?” “Why are you willing to invest time to talk with me today?” “How do you know Sally and Bob?” “What brings you here?” “Which one is yours?” “How long have you been supporting Nurses for Newborns?” “How long have you been riding?”
By keeping the first question venue appropriate, you’ll avoid the impression of being intrusive.
Rule 4: Subsequent questions must be about a subject previously introduced by the IL.
People will bring into a conversation the things they feel are important. If your IL discusses a coworker, then you had better ask questions about the coworker, because that’s what he or she wants to discuss. Additionally, if the IL discusses a coworker’s betrayal, for instance, you will most likely want to ask a “How did that make you feel?” question, because that’s what he or she really wants to discuss – people open up emotional subjects specifically to discuss the emotions of those subjects, so honor that desire by granting it.
Also, people don’t talk about things they want to keep private, so you are not allowed to ask questions about anything the IL did not bring into the conversation.
The key to this rule is that the IL controls the content of the conversation, not you.
Hint: Sometimes people will answer a single question with multiple-part answers. They might start with one subject, then bring up two or more additional pieces of the puzzle. As a general rule, they will discuss the most important subject first, so try to ask follow-up questions based on the first part of the response. However, sometimes you may hit a dead-end on your subject, so try to remember everything your IL tells you (in other words – listen!), so you can regroup by saying, “Earlier you mentioned [X] …” and then asking a question about that.
Rule 5: Give brief answers to the questions you’re asked, then follow up with another question of your own.
Suppose an IL mentioned his college, and you followed with the question, “What college did you attend?” Suppose his answer to that question was, “I went to Yale. Where did you go?” Simply answer the question, then follow up with another question of your own: “UCLA. Why did you choose Yale?”
Rule 6: Never be judgmental – either positively or negatively.
In a Visceral Trust interview, your purpose is not to validate or refute the feelings of the IL. You must accept the IL for who he or she is without judgment of any kind. The more neutral you can remain, the more your IL will engage.
Honesty And Dishonesty
To conduct a Visceral Trust interview, you must make the first move. You must be willing to throw away your facade, trust the IL to be honest and be totally open and honest yourself. You must become the curious 6-year-old, without inhibitions and with a sincere desire to learn about the other person. If you make this emotional commitment, the IL will instinctually sense this, which is why he or she will lower the adult facade, and speed up the process of establishing trust. If you don’t make this emotional commitment, you will fail in this interview technique.
On rare occasions, you’ll interview a dishonest person and you’ll initially get carefully crafted answers, based on the IL’s current facade. However, when you use this interview process correctly, a curious thing will often happen: Once you get past the facade, the floodgates may open. Dishonest people will tell you stories of lying, cheating or stealing, and will often actually brag about their deceptions. My point is, when you interview a dishonest person, you will probably know it, because he or she will be quick to tell you. It doesn’t happen that often, but you should be prepared for the possibility.
On the incredibly rare occasion, you’ll interview someone who simply is not willing to drop the adult facade. That is his or her choice, and one you should absolutely not fight. You are free to ask any question you like. But he or she is free to refuse to answer and you should honor that. When I encounter someone like this in a sales situation, I find a way to politely end the meeting and leave. This is a strategic choice built on experience. Simply put, I won’t work with anyone who I don’t trust or who refuses to trust me. This is by no means a judgment on the prospect’s reasons for staying behind his or her facade. It is merely the recognition of the reality that mutual trust is key to my ability to succeed, so its absence is a red flag to be avoided.
Watch The Facades Fall
Sitting in first class on a flight headed from Nashville to St. Louis, a woman sat down next to me …
Gill: Hi. I’m Gill.
Ann: It’s nice to meet you. My name’s Ann.
Gill: Nice to meet you too. Are you headed to St. Louis?
Ann: I have a layover in St. Louis, but I’m actually headed to Denver.
Gill: Why are you going to Denver?
Ann: Denver is home. I’ve been in Nashville on business.
Gill: What do you do?
Ann: I’m a financial consultant. I was going over some new investment strategies with the CFO of one of my clients.
Gill: Are you an independent consultant?
Ann: I’m an independent broker for E.F. Hutton. What do you do?
Gill: I’m a consultant in the IT industry. How long have you been a broker?
Ann: About five years now. Before that, I worked at a Denver bank.
Gill: What did you do at the bank?
Ann: When I left, I was the director of the Lending department. Prior to that, I was a loan officer for about 10 years.
Gill: Have you always worked with finances?
Ann: Funny as this may sound, I actually majored in drama and tried my hand at acting. I took financial classes, so I’d have something to fall back on, if I couldn’t make a living at it.
Gill: Why did you choose drama as a major?
Ann: I’ve always loved to act, and I wanted to major in something I knew I’d enjoy, rather than something that focused on career only.
Gill: When did you first realize you enjoyed acting?
Ann: When I was a kid, my friends and I would put together plays for our families. I was always the producer, director and lead. It was kind of selfish, now that I think about it, but we all had fun, so I guess that’s okay.
Gill: What did your family think about your plays?
Ann: My dad thought they were kid stuff, but my mom and two brothers loved them. I even got them involved in some of the plays. I’m not too sure they enjoyed that as much as I did, but they played along anyway. I remember one time, we got so many people involved that there wasn’t anyone left to watch, so my mom suggested that we do the play at church. I was 8, and it was my first time acting in front of a large group. The pastor of our church had one of those old reel-to-reel recorders, and he taped it. I got to see it again a few years ago. The thing that impressed me the most is how my mom let me run the show. There were so many ways she could have helped me make it better, but I never asked for her help, so she let me go my own way. After I saw the tape, I asked her about that. She said it was my turn to be chief, so she played the role of Indian. She also said one of the hardest things was to get the other adults to stay out of my way. As an adult, I can look back and see lots of times she did that. It’s probably why we’re so close.
Gill: You said that your dad thought your plays were kid stuff. What do you mean?
Ann: He saw everything in terms of how much money you could make. He was really hard on us about money, especially my brothers. I guess he figured that, since I was the girl, I’d never be the breadwinner, so money didn’t matter as much. But, he still saw my plays as unimportant.
Gill: How did you feel about that?
Ann: I remember coming home after the church play and telling him about it. He said something like, “That’s nice, Honey, but I’m busy right now,” and sent me out of his office. I’ll never forget that night, because it was such a high and such a low at the same time. I never tried talking about my plays with him after that.
Gill: Why not?
Ann: I guess because I knew he wouldn’t be interested, and trying to tell him would ruin the fun I was having.
Gill: Did you and your dad ever develop any common interests?
Ann: Eventually. I was good at math, and when I started bringing home good math grades, he would always brag about it. He also started helping me with my math homework whenever I asked. I suppose that, once he saw my aptitude for numbers, he figured I might amount to something, so he started telling me how important math was to whatever I did when I grew up. Of course, when I decided to major in drama, he was pretty disappointed and told me I’d never make any money acting. That’s why I minored in finance.
Gill: What do you mean?
Ann: I knew that he wouldn’t be interested in what I was doing in college unless it was math-related. I minored in finance, so I’d have a reason to see him on a regular basis and something to talk with him about.
Gill: What affect did that have?
Ann: It worked, I suppose, because I see him all the time. We both live in Denver and get together for dinner fairly often. Of course we also visit on all the holidays, birthdays and other dates important to the family. He’s also mellowed a bit now that he’s retired. And he’s really great with my kids.
Gill: How many kids do you have? …
… An hour and a half later, the plane landed in St. Louis and we disembarked. Ann stopped me in the gangway, shook my hand and said, “Gill, before we get to the terminal and I never see you again, I had to say that you’re the most interesting person I’ve ever had the pleasure to ride with on an airplane. It was great getting to know you.”
* * * * *
You can do a Visceral Trust interview any time you have 15 or more minutes of time with another adult. I opened this chapter with my conversation with “Ann” on the airplane. Naturally, I related that from distant memory, so it represents only what I recall of the first 10 or so minutes of the conversation. But the basic content of the conversation is enough to demonstrate how the interview works. Now that you’ve learned the VT interview rules, go back and read that again.
In case you didn’t notice, throughout the interview, I asked Ann specific questions about what she just said. For instance, when she said, “I’m a financial consultant,” my question was “Are you an independent consultant?”
First, by using the word “consultant” in my subsequent question, I showed Ann that I was listening. (Note: This is not the same as “parroting” the IL, in which you restate her answer – “So you’re a financial consultant” – then following up with a question. Parroting is a phony technique that creates sales resistance, because it’s not how people naturally talk. So I don’t recommend using parroting with prospects.)
Second, by asking a question about what she just said, I allowed Ann to control the content of the conversation – we talked about the subjects important to her, not the subjects important to me. But based on my question choices, I was able to control the direction the conversation took. By direction, I mean forward in time, in the present or backward in time, and shallow on many subjects or deep on one subject. This shared control is a key component in what makes the VT Interview work.
Third, I never tried to establish commonality by switching the conversation back to me – “I’m a consultant, too” – so Ann knew in her gut that I was more interested in what she had to say to me than what I might want to say to her.
It is these three specific actions that cause the facades to fall and thereby create an atmosphere that promotes openness, honesty and trust.
Tigers And The VT Interview
The Visceral Trust interview allows you to connect with Tigers behind the adult facade – at the visceral level, where trust resides. It works, because the Tiger being interviewed controls the content of the conversation while you control the direction. So, rather than being duped into discussing things that are important to the interviewer, as would happen using other techniques, your Tigers get to talk about things that are important to them.
A side benefit of the VT interview technique is that people will tend to trust you sooner than they would have had the facades not fallen. But, this interview technique does not establish trust, it merely makes it easier for prospects to trust you, which shortens the time before trust is created.
It’s important to note that a key difference exists between the VT interview and most other trust-building techniques. Other techniques have specific agendas – such as searching for a specific piece of information from the prospect or guiding the prospect’s thinking in some way. In the VT interview, you have no agenda other than an honest desire to learn about the IL. I believe the absence of specific agendas makes the VT interview more successful, more versatile and much easier to use.
But the bottom line is, to actually earn trust you must be trustworthy.
The VT Learning Curve
The first time you practice the Visceral Trust interview, do so in a safe, social environment. A great starting point is to take your significant other to dinner at a quiet restaurant, where you can have a long, private conversation.
At some point after the food is ordered (so that interruptions are less frequent), start the VT interview process by asking a follow-up question about anything that was just said. Try using questions like “When did you first realize that?” to explore the past. People don’t often get the chance to relive past experiences, and doing so will likely open new areas of conversation for you to enjoy.
After you’ve practiced in a few social settings, try the VT interview in your next conflict situation, such as the first time a store clerk gives you an attitude. Instead of arguing your point, simply do nothing but ask questions about whatever the clerk said:
Clerk: Our store policy is to not accept returns after 30 days.
You: May I see the policy, please?
Clerk: I don’t have a copy of the policy handy.
You: Where can I get a copy?
Clerk: I’m not sure.
You: How can you find out?
Clerk: I guess I could ask my manager.
You: Who’s your manager?
Clerk: Tom Thompson.
You: Can you find Tom, and ask him where a copy of the policy is?
I admit that this conversation example is simplistic, but the idea is important – practice in a heated situation, so you’ll learn to remain calm when conducting the VT interview, because remaining nonjudgmental is a key to success.
Once you’ve practiced with friends, and experimented in a heated situation, you’re ready to use the VT interview with prospects. Start using it in simple situations, such as when networking or interviewing people for articles, books or customer surveys. You might even try taking good customers to lunch, and doing a VT interview with them, so you can strengthen the relationships you’ve already created.
When first learning this interview, people often struggle to ask questions about subjects the IL has raised. A simple technique for keeping on track and stimulating creativity is to start your question with Who, What, When, Where, Why or How. Interestingly, you can ask any one of those things about any single subject.
Gill: Nice to meet you too. Are you headed to St. Louis?
Ann: I have a layover in St. Louis, but I’m actually headed to Denver.
Who do you know in Denver?
What are you planning to do in Denver?
When was the last time you were in Denver?
Where are you headed in Denver?
Why are you going to Denver?
How long will you be in Denver?
It takes a ton of strategy, planning and execution to work your way into a one-on-one conversation with a Tiger, so you really don’t want to blow even one opportunity you earn! If you learn and apply the techniques of the VT interview, you will have a much greater chance of moving each Tiger further up the Intimacy Hierarchy, and a much greater chance of achieving your goals.
Honesty, Humility and Courage
The part of Brad’s job that he disliked the most was networking at the many industry trade associations he had to attend. His was a pull-through sales situation in the construction industry – he didn’t sell to the end-game customer; he sold through the vendors from whom those customers bought. As such, hanging out at industry meetings and schmoozing those vendors was a mandatory part of his job.
If the vendors didn’t like Brad, they wouldn’t recommend his brand, and his mortgage wouldn’t get paid.
But being the consummate introvert, Brad found a trip to the dentist preferable to the glad-handing that went on at these events. Knowing it was part of the job, however, he continued to muster the courage to attend.
In typical fashion for most introverts, Brad developed the habit of arriving immediately before the meeting began and heading straight to a seat – avoiding the networking. This particular morning, however, two things got in Brad’s way. First, he misunderstood when the meeting was to start and arrived considerably early. Second, the meeting room was closed, so he was forced to hang with the crowd in another room – a room dedicated to networking – where the “pain” was great.
A trip to the bathroom delayed things a bit. Standing in line at the bar helped stave off minutes as well. Catching someone he knew and stumbling over hellos helped shave a few more ticks off the clock. But with Brad-like consistency, he eventually found himself standing alone along a wall, wondering how much more awkwardness he would have to endure before the meeting began.
That’s when Brad spotted Sally.
Glancing his way from the depths of the crowd, with bright eyes and an “I get it” smile on her face, Sally broke from the masses and strolled over.
Moments later Sally offered her hand, softly chuckled something that sounded a bit like “You’re funny” and asked, “So what do you do?”
Somehow Brad found it easy to talk with Sally. She hung on his every word, asked follow-up questions and seemed to have “make Brad comfortable” as her number-one goal. A few minutes later, Sally even motioned to some other people she knew to join the conversation, and before he knew it, Brad was schmoozing a full half-dozen people without even breaking a sweat.
Still, he couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling that everyone else was in on a joke.
Then the meeting bell rang, and Brad and the crowd meandered toward the event room, when a quiet voice, deep inside, tugged at Brad to turn his head and glance toward the wall where he had been standing. And that’s when Brad saw it – the source of the humor, the inside joke within which he had yet to be inside.
On the wall directly behind his perch was the largest painting of flowers Brad had ever seen.
For the remainder of his time selling in the construction field, Brad was known as “Wallflower Guy.” Never again was he afraid of meetings. Never again was he alone in a crowd. Always the first to arrive and permanent designator of “The Wallflower Area,” Brad developed relationship after relationship and closed deal after deal.
Authenticity is pheromones to Tigers.
There is no right or wrong when it comes to personality and behavioral traits. You are the product of genetics combined with experience, and your particular brand of human is unique. The choice lies in how you choose to use your unique blend of traits.
Brad used his unique blend to hide from crowds and saw limited results. He then used that same blend to bring humor to others and experienced the results that honesty, humility and courage creates.
The Power of Stories
Had I simply told you to use honesty, humility and courage to endear yourself to Tigers, you probably wouldn’t have understood fully or remembered the lesson as well.
Stories convey concepts more powerfully than most things, because they’re entertaining and because people can see themselves in the stories they hear and thus connect with the characters on an emotional level. That connection is key.
Start a file on your computer or smart phone and name it “My Stories.”
Any time you have a few minutes or simply feel inspired, pop open that file and brainstorm your list of life stories, recording only as much information as you need to remember it at a later date.
Here are a few of mine:
- Conversation on the bike with Denny where I landed a sales appointment by accident.
- The day I first saw Cindy.
- Time I got shot at the gas station.
- The sale that saved us from bankruptcy.
- Being asked to fill in for a speaker whose flight was delayed.
Any time you catch yourself telling a story to make a point, add that story and its point to your My Story file.
Whenever the mood strikes you, open the file and elaborate on a story until you’ve told it fully. (Perhaps use the speed-writing techniques I explain here.)
When you have a story fully told, share it with a colleague or friend and ask for an opinion. Don’t tell the point of the story – ask your friend to tell you the lesson he or she naturally finds. (You can also use this to throttle up existing relationships.)
Start capturing the stories of your life, the lessons you learned, the lessons others learned from them. Don’t ever stop!
When someone in your life tells you a great success story, capture that in your file as well. Be sure to include the name of the person who told you the story, so that if you ever decide to use it you can get permission to do so – either permission to tell the story and attribute it to this individual, or to tell the story but change the names.
Stories sell. Whether you’re selling a product, a service or yourself, stories are a powerful tool.
A tip for having your stories sell with even more power is this. Whenever you tell a disparaging story, make sure the story is about you. But when you tell complimentary stories, make them about others if you can.
An origin story captures a key event, lesson, idea, concept, epiphany, etc. that changed your life. They have power, because they’re real and real matters.
Dad ran a small remodeling company. He built decks, finished kitchens and basements – that sort of thing. One day when I was 12, he was headed to a sales call for a huge deck and invited me to tag along.
I watched as Dad interviewed the Jones couple and got them to dream of life on their new deck – entertaining people from the office, barbecuing and sharing cocktails, just enjoying the space and building relationships that would last them a lifetime. It was a great project for Dad to get, and they were bonding with him like old friends catching up.
So I was kind of shocked when I heard Dad say, “You don’t want to hire me. I’m really good at building fast and ‘close enough,’ and providing bang for the buck. But I’m not a master carpenter, and that’s what you want.” Then he dug out a competitor’s business card from his Rolodex and handed it to the couple, saying, “This is who you want to build your deck.”
A few months later, Mrs. Jones called Dad. “You’ll be hearing from our neighbors,” she said. “They asked us who built our deck, but we told them to call you.”
Dad never was a craftsman with wood, but he sure was a master craftsman with people. And that is why he succeeded at sales.
At the time, of course, I had no idea Dad’s actions would change my life. I was just excited to spend some time with him, because he was usually working. It wasn’t until years later that I connected the dots from what I now call Honest Selling to that first sales call with Dad.
You have origin stories of your own. If you invest the time to capture them you will not only have great stories you can tell, but learn some important lessons about yourself.
Tell one origin story.
In It’s a Jungle Out There, you determined your end-game goals for your Stalking Tigers efforts.
There is a story behind those goals. There’s something that motivates you to do the hard work of building relationships with the Big Cats.
Write your story. Share it with others. (I’d enjoy reading it myself.)
The secret to re-creating “accidental” relationships, like the one I had on the bike with Denny, is to reverse-engineer what occurred by accident, analyze the nonemotional factors that contributed to the relationship that naturally formed, and then replicate those factors on purpose.
First, let’s summarize my meeting with Denny but leave the emotions out.
- A cycling group rode past me, and I asked whether I could ride along.
- The cyclists agreed, so I jumped on the back of their pace line and, after recovering, took my turns at the front as any good cyclist will.
- Roughly 30 minutes later, we stopped at an organized rest stop, where I introduced myself to the cyclists and thanked them for letting me tag along.
- Denny smiled, stepped forward, introduced himself, shook my hand and asked, “Bad day?”
- We struck up a conversation about biking.
- Our conversation continued for two or so hours as we pedaled the Illinois countryside, eventually covering many subjects not related to biking at all.
By reverse-engineering what occurred, I detected a repeatable pattern of logical steps and saw that, while the Connected To stage occurred as we rode – when I first asked to join the group and then played by the group’s rules – the Connected With stage didn’t occur until we were on a break, when casual conversations started the process.
So to re-create the Denny magic on my next group ride, I crafted a plan to engage more people in casual conversations about biking, but not while we were on the bike. Here’s how that plan went:
The next week I showed up at the Bicycle Fun Club ride an hour early, so I could park my truck only 30 feet from the check-in van.
After setting up my bike, I opened the tailgate, set out two boxes of Krispy Kreme doughnuts and a tub of coffee and cups, and dangled my feet and waited.
“Good morning. Want a doughnut or cup of coffee before your ride?” I asked anyone passing who glanced my way and smiled.
That first morning I had several great conversations and found a group of 20 people with whom I could ride. By the end of the event, I had used the VT interview to get to know a dozen of them well enough to have learned where they worked, whether they had anything to do with sales or running a sales team and, if not, who they knew that did.
In each case, the conversation started with biking – venue-appropriate subject matter – then later transitioned to other things like family and job. So by honoring the reason we were together first, I was able to transition to the strategic purpose of my conversations with them later.
Within three weeks I created two sales appointments out of those 20 conversations.
The next time I prospected for sales appointments on the bike, I not only brought pre-ride doughnuts and coffee, but post-ride beer and beef jerky. And I chalked up another dozen new relationships and one more sales opportunity.
By reverse-engineering my Denny accident into its core, nonemotional components, I was able to replicate the process and produce the magic on purpose.
The same thing is possible with Tiger relationships that happened by accident.
Here’s your Tiger-stalking lesson until next time:
- Go through your current list of contacts, and mark the top 10 Tigers with whom you currently have strong relationships.
- For each Tiger, think back over how the relationship started then strengthened over time. Look for the 10 stages of intimacy and document the Opportunity Throttles to which you or the Tiger applied pressure.
- While removing the emotions, document the steps from the Connected To stage all the way to the current stage of intimacy.
- Tell the stories of the great relationships in your life.
Do this for all 10 of your top Tigers, and you’ll be ready for the next steps.
Before I close this chapter of the Stalking Tiger series, let’s summarize where we are, what we’ve learned and what exercises we should complete.
Great relationships generate success, but only if you care enough about each other to take action and accept risk.
The Tigers in our lives are an important part of that success. The bigger the Tiger, the more influence he or she will have and the more valuable his or her assistance will be.
The best relationships evolve from giving without keeping score. Your sincere desire and willingness to help others is the fuel that will build relationships with those who have a sincere desire to assist.
In your first exercise from It’s a Jungle Out There, you stated your end-game goals, analyzed the types of people whose assistance you need to achieve those goals and developed a list of Tigers to stalk.
In the first exercise in this book you analyzed your best 250 relationships and rated each on the Intimacy Hierarchy scale from 1 to 10. In the second exercise, you began capturing the stories of your life and the lessons you can draw from those stories. In the third, you told the story of your end-game goals. In the final exercise, you reverse-engineered the relationships you’ve created with the top 10 Tigers in your life. And hopefully you throttled up a few more relationships by asking some Tigers for assistance.
In our next book of the series, Behind the Eye of the Tiger, we’ll delve into the psychology of Tigers, do some personal introspective work, get our entire stalking plan organized, and take the earliest steps toward building the new relationships we need to succeed.