The KLT principle, succinctly stated, is that people do business with those they know, like and trust. This principle is far and away the most effective key to achieving success in the world of business. Whether you are trained in economics, management, marketing, supply chains, information technology, finance or accounting (or chemistry, physics, art or music), you need to embrace KLT.
Your coworkers will do business with you if they know, like and trust you. So will your boss. So will potential employers. So will your clients. So will your suppliers.
I was talking about relationship marketing with a student. He disagreed with my advice on KLT. Instead, he argued that his ability to land a job was dependent solely on merit. If he is great at what he does, employers will beat a path to his door. So will coworkers. So will clients.
Depending on merit is 100% out of sync with skills needed today by young professionals. Merit is focused on me, me, me. After all, “merit starts with me.” It is self-centered instead of others-centered.
Yes, people need to know that you are capable or masterful in terms of how you deliver services and products. In that regard, you might as well strive to be the very best at what you do. But that alone will not bring you more business and high regards from others. No, that is reserved for those whom they like and trust.
I know, we business professors should have told you this before. I’m not aware that we teach this anywhere in the B-school curriculum.
It is a cold, hard world out there. No one will give you anything just because you are deserving. They will, however, be giving if they like and trust you. Being liked and trusted by others is the only thing that will warm up that cold, hard world.
So how did I benefit from learning this? It was a process.
I recall receiving a graded paper as part of the course Income Theory taught by Professor Floyd Beams at Virginia Tech. I had poured my heart and soul (and so much content) into that paper only to receive a grade other than that coveted A. I whined to a friend that Beams had failed to see the merit of my ideas, and that I really deserved the grade of A. My friend read my paper only to agree with the professor. My friend said that including more content in a paper isn’t better if it detracts from making a clear argument. He said that the organization and packaging of the paper matters a great deal, perhaps more than its meritorious ideas. Years later, I understand that I should have been trying to get the reader (Professor Beams) to like and trust my writing and finished papers. I’ve never forgotten that lesson.
Fast forward to when I was teaching accounting at Bowling Green State University in the mid and late 1990s. I had finally concluded that emphasizing my merit as a teacher wasn’t getting me the kind of student and faculty acceptance of my teaching as I had desired. I read research that unliked teachers cause students to learn less, not more. Being arbitrary and unfair leads to student feelings of betrayal. And students don’t learn well when they feel betrayed. So I started working on creating an environment in my classes where students would like the experience and trust that I had their best interests at heart. They could feel safe and at home. And it worked. Enrollment in my classes sharply increased. I became the professor of choice for student who wanted to learn. And that, dear readers, is the primary criterion for success as a teacher.
Dwelling on your own merit is a dead end. For effective relationships that lead to business success, you should embrace the KLT theory.
by David Albrecht, Ph.D.