Doug Conant is the rare CEO who understands the connection between how people feel and the bottom line. A while back, Harvard Business Review told his story.

When Conant took over as Campbell’s CEO in 2001, for every two employees who felt engaged, one felt disengaged. That’s every bit as bad as it sounds; Campbell’s employee engagement scores were the worst Gallup had ever measured at a Fortune 500 company.

The company was struggling financially, but not for long. Under Conant’s leadership, Campbell’s sales and earnings growth soon outperformed their industry and the overall S&P 500.

What did Conant do?  He created powerful connections in the smallest of moments. He set a new tone by spending at least an hour a day writing between 10 and 20 handwritten notes to people at Campbell’s — welcoming new hires, thanking employees for contributions, and congratulating leaders for specific accomplishments. The company’s employee engagement ratio grew from the dreadful 2:1 to as high as 23:1 (Gallup considers 12:1 to be world-class).

Merely One Tactic

By understanding the forces Conant put into play, his lessons about building internal engagement easily carry over to professional services — and other businesses. Although Conant was focused on the internal organization, the lessons are equally powerful when it comes to generating new business.

The lesson is NOT that you must hand write notes. That’s a tactic. When it comes to business development, the lesson reaches much deeper.

Doug Conant

Something Even Better

You can do something easier than writing handwritten notes that arguably generates greater impact for business development. Focus on how what you do will improve the prospect’s business. Talk about their business rather than yours. This isn’t as easy as it sounds. First, you must overcome the default conditioning to tell prospects why they ought to select you.

Tony Schwartz explains that how your prospects feel influences their behavior and affects their decisions.  Feeling acknowledged and appreciated is a powerful feeling, and yet another example of how emotion plays an earlier and bigger role in the decision process than most of us want to admit. When your prospects are predisposed to say Yes, your entire business development process speeds along with prospects converting at higher rates. Your sales process requires a lot less “selling.”

It’s not news that getting your relationships off to a good start is very, very good for your business. What’s news is that it doesn’t take a special rainmaker’s gene to pull this off pretty darn well. Even introverts excel by focusing on the junction where their passion meets client problems. That’s a conversation you and your prospect both want to have.

Connect for Growth

Conventional wisdom is full of myths undermining your firm’s growth. If your firm or professional group wants to explore a simpler, done well approach to driving growth in revenues and profits, give me a holler.

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