Love in a Business Context

WORLD YOU LOVEYears ago, I worked with a guy who had very little patience for any lackluster salesperson who called on him. He often referred to any feeble sales rep as an “idiot” if they demonstrated even the slightest absence of sophistication, insufficient product knowledge or dearth of experience. (And let’s be honest, any of us in management positions have been guilty of the same thing). He’d usually politely listen to them for the scheduled amount of time, say “Thanks but no thanks”, send them on their way, then, once they left, vent about their lousy performance.

I recently found myself in a coaching conversation around this same topic. My client had been approached by a college junior who was seeking to sell public relations consulting services. The co-ed’s approach, proposal and grasp of reality severely missed the mark. My client decided immediately that she wasn’t going to hire her, but she was conflicted on how to break the news. My client asked me,“What should I do? She’s so nice, but she clearly doesn’t get it.”

So, I asked, “Well, how can you help her? How can you love her?” Yes, you read that right… “Love”.

The late M. Scott Peck, noted psychiatrist and bestselling author, in his book, “The Road Less Traveled” defines “love” as “the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth… Love is as love does. Love is an act of will — namely, both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love.”

We exist in a business world that is eschews love. We claim the value of relationships in business, but only if at the end, we are the beneficiary. But is that loving?

What if, instead, we responded in these challenging interactions as Peck suggests? What would the result be if, using the proper combination of challenge and care, we sought to help, just for the sake of others. What might the outcome be for our customers, our co-workers, our vendors?

So, my client mulled this over, and then decided to respond with love. You can read the story below via the following email exchange (Although I have obtained permission to reprint the following email messages, details and names have been edited to keep the parties anonymous).

From my client:

Darlene:

I want to sincerely thank you for meeting with Julie and I to discuss our product line and for sending over pricing for your services. After reviewing your menu of services, I have decided not to hire your firm for PR services. If I may, I would like to respectfully share with you my thoughts regarding your proposal. Before doing so, I want you to know that I found you to be very delightful, articulate and intelligent! Quite frankly, you are lovely! 🙂

When I received your proposal I was shocked by your hourly fees. The fees you are charging are in line with fees charged by seasoned professionals with many years of experience and hundreds of campaigns under their belts. I don’t even know where to begin to negotiate pricing when a rate is that high and disproportionate to experience.

With utmost respect, and in hopes that you can use this feedback to land your first job or next freelance gig, the proposal you sent me not only contained grossly inflated pricing but there were grammatical errors in your verbiage that jumped right out at me. This, coupled with your pricing, made me immediately lose confidence. You are a college junior without the benefit of senior level campaign & policy classes. At this phase in life you are still learning and have not yet landed your first full-time job with a Bachelor’s degree in hand. You are clearly sharp and confident but the people that will hire you are people my age who did multiple internships for free and worked for $5 per hour just to gain experience in the industry and build a resume. So, when a Gen X’er like myself receives pricing at this rate from a junior in college, we shake our heads and question if this is for real.

Again, I only want to share this with you in hopes that it will help you think through the proposal you’ll send to the next potential client or employer. If you would like, I would love to meet you for coffee to further discuss this with you. Truthfully, I want to help you, Darlene! I know you’re going to be very successful in this industry but you need to be realistic about what you’re offering, or you will not be considered for positions and/or taken seriously.

Please know I’m in your corner and would like to help you however I can!

Very warmly,
Kathy

Here’s the response from the vendor:

Thank you for your words. I truly appreciate the willingness to assist me with my career and I would love the opportunity to discuss this further with you. My apologies once again and I hope to meet with you soon.

Kindly,
Darlene

Instead of blowing her off, my client showed love. She did so in a business context. She did so solely for the benefit of the other party. And the recipient responded favorably. And hopefully, because of this loving gesture, there will be one less unprepared graduate in the marketplace as a result. Love wins…even in business.