This past weekend was spent at my high school reunion. With an open house reception at the town library Friday night extending to a Town Day parade, receptions and a town hall party on Saturday and finally to a “See-Ya-in-5-Years” brunch on Sunday morning, the town of Arlington welcomed back its returning artists and dancers, pilots and soldiers, nurses and docs, professors and teachers, business leaders and tow truck drivers with open arms.
With high school yearbook pictures hung around our necks, each of us bravely entered the uncertainty of greeting friends and lovers who we may not have seen since graduation decades ago or at least since the last reunion. And what did each of us learn and take away from those three days of sharing stories and pictures, laughs and tears and absorbing an overall superb experience? I think that it is that real friendships never go away. No question, you can go home again, take a trip back into nostalgia and history and then jump ahead to the fullness of exploring that newly kindled relationship one more time. Why? Because it’s part of the DNA that exists in our head and is baked into who we are and not what we are.
Why do we go to high school reunions?
Of course, it’s for the natural curiosity of who became what, and what’s happened to everyone since the last reunion…or even since that rainy graduation decades ago, but there’s also a deeper reality of being in a place of peers where all of us, on one hand, have something to proudly say about ourselves, our work and families, while, at the same time, we may be searching for something that we feel we may have lost.
For me, having never missed a reunion except the time I was in Tanzania with the Peace Corps, it’s all about rekindling family roots and wanting to experience again that sense of trust at a time when trust was being given freely without questioning or asking for anything in return. Maybe that was the naiveté of high school, but since for this class in particular, it was also the harsh reality of Vietnam, deep underlying trust became the currency of friendship in our high school. Listening to the hundreds of stories, sharing email addresses and friending one another at night over those three days, was for me a confirmation that not only did that trust still exist, but that there also existed a deep desire on the part of everyone to reconnect, re-explore and once again reopen those friendships that were at one time based solely on trust.
What can I take away from this pinpoint in time in which there were hundreds of warm handshakes and deep hugs, countless jokes and back slaps, lots of laughs and a few tears? For me, it’s, once again, a confirmation that in both our personal and business relationships, we have a strong need to build connections, forge partnerships and establish a bond of fundamental trust.
Can I apply any of this to my Sales world? Sure...
- If I haven’t created deep underlying trust among the members of my sales team, as a manager, I’m always going to be slowing things down at a time when my real job should be trying to figure out how to speed things up and make me and my team more effective. No trust, there’s no unity in the spirit of the team or the solidarity of the sales process and its tools. No unity, then the messages will take longer to explain, the tools will be “kinda” used, and, bottom line, the machine will not be well-oiled and pretty quickly, the gears will wear down.
- If I’m not able to become the Trusted Advisor with my customers who are capable of becoming my Key Accounts, and I’m being delegated to the trash heap of “vendor” and “approved supplier”, then it should be pretty easy for me to predict what my sales forecast is going to be for 2013…with the beginning of that sentence starting with the words… “I’m hoping…”. Approved Vendors hope for their customers’ business. Trusted Advisors know about their customers’ business, and since there are no blocking points of not wanting to be open and transparent, then all that’s left to talk about is just how to grow the business relationship for mutual benefits.
Think about this trust thing during the balance of this week and how you could put it to the best use of you and the team over this most critical selling cycle between now and the end of the year. Ask the question at next Monday's sales meeting, "How can we build more trust with one another?"
And, by the way, if you get a chance to go to your high school reunion this fall, try to make it a priority in what I expect is an already overbooked schedule. Maybe it’s high school, maybe college or grad school, but this is about your roots, and you deserve to relive that experience…among a few trusted friends.