Informal Presentations: Building Relationships

Building relationships, not a client list

I didn’t notice the slogan on this taxi receipt until I was home from Texas and figuring out my expenses last week. But I immediately knew which driver had handed it to me.

On its own the phrase “building relationships, not a client list,” wouldn’t even register with me. It’d be just another meaningless promise, like “Chevron Cares.” But this guy had made an impression on me. When you get a taxi driver who tries to engage you it’s usually awkward. They insert themselves into your conversations when it’s not appropriate or they make small talk about the weather or where you’re from when it’s clear that they really don’t care. It’s so obvious that they’re just trying to increase their tip that I generally try to look busy with my phone to avoid the chitchat.

This guy, however, made it look effortless. He didn’t trot out the standard conversation-makers and he didn’t interrupt when my business partner and I were talking. But he helpfully explained that the insane-building we were wondering about was the Perot Museum (of course!) and entertained us with a story about a previous passenger and why we were hauling her bag around in the car with us. He made the ride so easy that it actually seemed like we already had a relationship. When we arrived at the airport he handed me his card and said “call me next time you’re in town and need a ride.” And it actually seemed like a good idea to me.

I always tell people that they should treat all of their interactions like little informal presentations. Talk to people. Learn something about them and share something about yourself. See if there’s anything you can do to be helpful to them. And, above all, be genuine. Because as soon as people think you’re acting insincere or, worse, like a salesperson, they’ll do whatever they can to distance themselves from you.

In other words, build relationships. Because you never know when they’ll be useful.