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3 DEC 2018
There is much discussion right now over the rapid advances in technology and communication that are defining the future of the built environment. But communication isn’t only about digital innovation. This will always be a people business – one in which client relationships and business development are key.
So, it stands to reason that personal communication – and that buzzword ‘emotional intelligence’, or EQ – is just as important as technology.
As the industry evolves, you need to continuously develop your skills and find ways to differentiate yourself and your business. Now, more than ever, EQ is an essential ‘tool’ to have in the bag. Embrace the human side of business relationships and you will be more confident with clients, more effective with sales and – quite probably – more content in yourself.
“Your EQ is the level of your ability to understand other people, what motivates them and how to work cooperatively with them,” explains Howard Gardner, the influential Harvard theorist. “It's not how smart you are that matters, what really counts is how you are smart.”
The notion of developing strong relationships with clients is not new. In fact, it is the very thing the industry is built on. But the way in which we build those relationships can vary drastically from one professional to another.
It's not how smart you are that matters, what really counts is how you are smart.
Harvard Project Zero
There have always been the ‘rainmakers’ who would fly around the world meeting people in both the private and public sectors, speaking at conferences, hosting parties and introducing people to each other. Those people still exist, but not everyone has the natural ability to operate in such a way and not everyone has the time to dedicate their life to business development. Nevertheless, in this ever-evolving industry, the pressure is on for every individual to contribute to the growth agenda of their firm.
Surveyors and engineers are stereotypically referred to as introverted, detailed, analytical people. It might be true that there are more introverts than extroverts in the profession, but there is no correlation between being introverted and being ‘good’ at client management, business development and leadership. In fact, those people who are more analytical often make excellent business developers and client relationship managers – they simply need to apply a methodical approach and develop their emotional intelligence.
Be aware of how you feel in a given situation. Tune in to that emotion, recognise it and learn from it. If, for example, you’re walking into a room full of people you don’t know, take stock of your mental state and evaluate how it might affect the situation.
Some people talk when they’re nervous or excited. Sometimes we get carried away when talking to a client and begin to ‘solutionise’ too early, potentially missing something crucial. So, take a breath, slow down, and ask yourself Why Am I Talking?
Empathy is not necessarily agreeing with everything someone says, but standing in their shoes and understanding their perspective. If you can reflect back to the client their hopes, concerns, challenges and fears, you will be building a strong relationship.
Genuinely enquiring about people and taking a real interest in them and their situation will build rapport and create trust. As Franklin D Roosevelt said, “I don’t care how much you know until I know how much you care.”
Accentuate the strengths in others and go out of your way to deliver positive feedback on them. This can be anyone who is relevant to the discussion – a receptionist, a junior on the team, your client (just don’t overdo it!).
It’s easy to make someone happy at the point of promise, but we are measured at the point of delivery. Being known as someone who always does what they say they’re going to do is a powerful personal brand.
Finding a true differentiator in a highly competitive and crowded market is challenging, particularly as most organisations can stake a credible claim to be as good as anyone else. Yes, technological innovation, pricing structures, expertise and experience are key, but so is EQ.
If you want to do the best for your clients, to come up with the most innovative ideas, and secure their buy-in for future projects, you have to return to basic human relationship principles.
In an industry where technical expertise is a given, those who can also master emotional intelligence might just have the edge over their competitors.