The Park Lane hotel was buzzing as hundreds of guests arrived for the conference. I joined the queue and picked up my delegate pack and seeing there was a long morning ahead I headed to the toilet to make my self comfortable. As I stood in the toilet the gentleman next to me broke all British protocol and began a conversation – well really a monologue. Initially he talked about the big night out he had just had and how he wished he could have stayed in bed this morning. Then he began to talk about the conference time table, how boring it looked and that he’d never heard of any of the speakers and that he wished he’d stayed in bed!
About thirty minutes later the conference host introduced the keynote speaker and the audience applauded. As I stood from my table and walked to the podium and look out to the crowd there was one man whose head fell into his hands. At the end of the keynote he was the first person in the air to speak to me saying, “I’m sorry I had no idea who you were”.
If it matters who a person is we have an authenticity problem. The ultimate test of your authenticity is how you treat those people who it appears can do nothing for you.
Treating everyone as a VIP is simply the right thing to do. There is however a powerful business case for doing so:
Firstly, you never know who someone is. Looks can be deceptive. I remember waiting in the reception area of a prestigious hotel to meet an ultra high net worth business owner. I had taken extra care about how I had dressed that day. “Hello Matt” – I looked up and there was a gentleman wearing trousers that were too short for him by about two inches and who was holding a plastic carrier bag full of paperwork. At first I thought he was one of the people I had met at the local charity but it turned out to be the business owner! Contrastingly some of those in a snazzy suit can be the most broke.
Secondly, you never knows who someone knows. According to Professor Dunbar an anthropologist at Oxford University each of us has a cognitive capacity for meaningful human relationships of 150 people. Every person you interact with could either become your greatest advocate or your greatest critique to the 150 people they have a meaningful relationship with. Word of mouth is very powerful whether for good or bad!
Thirdly, you never know who someone will become. As was once said be careful how you treat people when you are on your way up because you’ll meet them on your way down. It may be that you don’t meet them on your way down but instead someone who you met and snubbed accelerates past you in their career progress and you suddenly find yourself needing someone you had once written off.
At the heart of what it takes to treat everyone as a VIP is a lot of love; a genuine love for clients and customers and a love for what you are able to do for them.
I was passing a local branch of my bank I popped in with what it seemed was a relatively simple request. The cashier couldn’t help but suggested I telephone my personal manager – three personal managers, several days and hours on the telephone later I eventually spoke to someone who recommended that I telephone the banks call centre. There are many things that make people feel loved and valued but being passed around trying to find someone whose job it is to answer your query is not one of them.
How you treat those people who it appears can do nothing for you is the ultimate test of your authenticity and your competitive advantage. The first behaviour of highly effective relationship builders is to treat everyone as a VIP.