Relationships are not a one-way street

By kschilling

The Advocacy Network

I received a call from an FMO today. Now that in itself is not shocking, as I receive at least 12 emails and four calls daily from IMO, FMO and other alphabet soup groups who want me to produce business for them. Of course, the pitch is always about relationships, just as most sales pitches focus on "relationship" building, these organizations use the same rhetoric to solicit my business.

The group whose call I mention in this article are particularly numb to any realization of what a relationship is. I will withhold the name to protect the innocent, yet the name rarely is important, as the behaviors are all the same. Anyway, I first received a contact from this group three weeks ago and spoke with "James" (not real name) who was nice enough and seemingly concerned about my welfare in this industry. As I have recently done, I decided to use James and his organization as a test case to validate just how hollow any relationship is after the initial response. I followed through and signed up with James and his group after I set specific qualifiers with him as to what I would be doing while a member of their organization. The next four contacts were a hysterical series of misadvertures, each more bizarre then the last.

James followed up to tell me he did not receive my email submission, so I sent it to him for a third time (forget the second, as that is too long a story). Eight days later, I receved a call from the sales manager, who shared with me that James was no longer with the firm. This gentleman proceeded to rehash the same pitch James did. When I told the sales manager that I had already sent James my paperwork, he seemed rather surprised, as he couldn't find it anywhere. Being the premier professional that he is, the manager told me he would follow through and find my paperwork; yet he still took another several minutes to see just how much business I might be willing to provide for the organization "as a sign of good faith" (his words, not mine).

Fast forward to today's call, which came from a new person at the same organization who opened the call by asking "if I was working any cases she could help me with."

I'm guessing you might share my disgust, but the simple reality is that the word "relationship" is extremely overused. The actions of those who use the word prove beyond a shadow of any doubt that many talk about relationships but few actually understand how to earn the right to have one. All communications and value exchanges are formed through relationships. This is not a one-way street where you win and I lose; it is a two-way street that provides shared value and hopefully an emotional bond which grows into a meaningful relationship.

If you want my business, you need to earn it, just as I must earn the right to do business with any client I nurture. It is very disingenuous to believe you can call me and immediately achieve the same level of trust enjoyed by those in relationships built over the years. I respect professionals who have developed relationships with clients and customers by providing value and continuing to put the best interests of their clients first. The question that must be asked is whether the industry is now better served through the platform of so-called independent distribution chains who have no true differentiation points other then idle rhetoric about relationships. I submit it is time to put some meat on the bones and develop unique selling propositions and other core differentiations which could help agents develop their own professional practices.