There’s nothing quite like a personal tragedy to nudge a person into a state of reflection. My father passed away on May 30th after a massive heart attack. At age 67 he appeared as fit as anyone I know at any age. He swam twice per day, once in the early morning and again in the late afternoon, and managed his diet effectively so he was trim and athletic. With no history of heart trouble there was no reason to suspect that he had total or near total blockage of all major arteries in his heart.
But this post is not about my Father nor is it about grieving or life changes or any of the other introspective topics I may write about someday (when I’m ready). This post is about the power of personal touch (physical and emotional) and its power in business.
When my family was at the hospital for many days with my father, there were floods of emotions. For the most part I found myself able to hold it together…able to keep my emotions under control. What I found is that the times when I most freely expressed my sadness, in other words the times when I let go and cried the hardest, were the times when someone else was touching me. Whether it was my wife with her arm around me or my uncle offering me a hug, it was during times of physical touch and emotional closeness that I was unable to maintain my façade of control. While I may not have understood it at the time, I truly needed that closeness from those around me in order to deal with the horrible situation in a healthy way.
In my first recruiting position after college I worked as a Campus Recruiter for my alma mater. My manager at that time was a man named Lee Johnson (http://www.hardwickday.com/about/people/lee-johnson) and I’m thankful to say he was an intelligent and thought-provoking mentor and I learned many career-lessons from him.
He told me once that if you want to lock in a recruit (in this case the prospects were all high-school students choosing a college) a visit to the student’s home would “seal the deal”. He explained that by expressing a genuine personal concern for the family’s rather expensive college investment, and showing a personal commitment to making sure the student and family were comfortable with their decision, our school would ultimately be the college of choice.
Lee inherently understood that people gather as many facts as possible in an attempt to make an informed decision, but that by providing a personal touch in the sales process, we make their decision “real”. It’s easy to maintain distance from a decision when everything is based on facts alone. But when we reach out to a person and offer an emotional or physical connection, we allow the person to internalize the decision at hand and include both intellect and emotion in their decision-making process.
During my time recruiting for the school I made only one home visit….the high schooler sent in her deposit the following day. I know I didn’t sit in the student’s living room and wow her and her parents with facts and figures. Instead my visit encouraged them to internalize the decision they were about to make – and to make a decision that made sense to both their mind and their heart. We like to believe that people make business decisions solely based on facts and dollar signs. But the reality is that your prospects are humans and have a basic need for personal connection even in a sales cycle. Why do sales people entertain clients? To make them feel special certainly but also to provide a professionally intimacy that meets the unspoken need for a personal connection.
The next time you are working with a candidate or employee and you are truly looking to impact that person (or a decision they are making) find a way to reach out to them. Offer up a personal touch that will allow them to internalize the situation at hand. It was easier to view my Father in the hospital when I maintained a safe and clinical distance. It was only when others reached out to me that I could fully internalize and comprehend the dire situation at hand.
Do you have a colleague or client or prospect that you can reach out to today? If you are a recruiter can you have lunch with a candidate to make sure they understand the opportunity being presented and how it will impact them personally? If you are a hiring manager wouldn’t it be worth the time and cost of a plane ticket to go sit down with your prized recruit for a couple of hours to ‘seal the deal’? The effort you make to connect with someone on a deeper level might just be the breakthrough necessary to create a positive result.
Chris Fleek is the Director, HR Services for Octane Recruiting. He has over 15 years of experience in Recruiting and Human Resources. This post can also be found at http://blueblanketblog.com. Comments and dialogue are welcome and appreciated.