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3 Ways to Appear Credible

2 min read

I listened to what had heart and meaning for him. And I heard something I would have otherwise missed.

Recently I was at a dinner with a prospect in the aeronautics industry. I know next to nothing about that industry, and having been invited last minute, I didn’t have a chance to do my research ahead of time.

He was clearly very proud of his company and talked at length about the history of the organization and the humble beginnings of the founders. As I listened, I was wracking my brain for any examples of clients in similar industries. I found a name, but couldn’t remember the details of the engagement. The panic began to rise in my throat as I waited for him to ask me what I knew about aeronautics.

But he didn’t. He kept talking, telling story after story about the way his company lives its values and develops its employees. I took a breath and tried to come back to the present.

Suddenly, a phrase came into my head: “Pay attention to what has heart and meaning.” It’s a quote from Angeles Arrien, a cultural anthropologist and communication expert.

I listened to what had heart and meaning for him.

And I heard something I would have otherwise missed. This prospect was telling me that his company started as a family business, and that he was completely devoted to keeping it so—despite the massive growth and competition it was facing.

Suddenly, I had it.

We work with a financial services firm that started as a family business, has been around for over 100 years, and has grown exponentially in the years since. They hired us because they want to make sure that the story of the company and its founding lives on. They want their people to feel connected to the original values, which were about helping regular people become financially independent. They want their managers to act like entrepreneurs and innovate, much like their founders did.

So I took a risk and said, “It sounds like there is a lot of care and thought that goes into your organizational values and that the company history is deeply important to your leadership team.” Then I told him about the financial services firm.

He looked at me, his spoon poised in the air above the flan we were sharing, and said, “That’s exactly what we are facing.”

We don’t have the business yet, but we have a follow-up meeting with several key stakeholders to hear more about their challenges.

Use these methods to connect with your prospects:

1. Take a breath and come back to the present. I promise you that there is more value in what your prospect is saying right now than in the dusty file cabinet called your memory.

2. Pay attention to what has heart and meaning. What does your prospect care about? What are they proud of? When do you hear excitement in their voice? Acknowledge what you are hearing.

3. Tell a story. Talk about similar issues and challenges you’ve addressed with other clients, even if it’s not the same industry.


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