“The good life is built on good relationships.” That is the conclusion shared by Robert Waldinger, director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, during his Ted Talk presentation. His position is based on the findings of Harvard’s Grant and Glueck study – the longest study of adult life that’s ever been conducted. For 75 years, the Harvard research group tracked the lives of 724 men from very divergent backgrounds. In more recent years, they have added women to the study.
As it turns out, the old adage, “you can’t buy happiness,” is true. It isn’t fame, fortune, stature, education or success that makes us happy; it’s relationships. “It’s not just the number of friends you have, and it’s not whether or not you’re in a committed relationship,” says Waldinger, “…it’s the quality of your close relationships that matters.”
This data speaks to the fundamental need humans have for meaningful connection. It speaks to the power of productive interpersonal relationships. For our sales lives, it helps quantify the impact of effective relationship building – with customers as well as members of our sales team. The cause and effect here is pretty straight forward: Positive relationships drive happiness. People tend to stay where they are happy. We are all acutely aware of the high cost of replacing top performing sales professionals or existing customers. In addition, if the relationship itself provides benefits and rewards to all parties, it inherently decreases the weight of other considerations like price and compensation.
What are the implications for us as sales leaders? For one, the data implies pretty good job security for those of us in the sales profession. CRMs and other sales support technology play an important role in increasing efficiencies and supplementing our personal engagement, but the interpersonal relationship between rep and customer is the foundation of everything. In the face of this overwhelming data, it behooves us to not only acknowledge the importance of relationships, but to ensure we have the skills, processes and tools in place to facilitate their cultivation on internal and external fronts across the sales team.