Transcript - The Emotional Side of Marketing, with Brent Darnell
Audio: Welcome to AEC Marketing for Principals, brought to you by Smartegies, where we help design and construction firms navigate sales and leverage marketing to win more projects. Here are your hosts, Katie Cash and Judy Sparks.
Katie: Hi everyone, and welcome to the next episode of the AEC Marketing for Principals podcast. I'm your host Katie Cash. Today, I'm excited to bring to you the man that Engineering News-Records describes as a transforming construction individual who takes alpha males, we all know them, in our space, and tuns them into service focused leaders. I am talking about Brent Darnell. Many of you in our industry across the design and construction space have had the opportunity to listen to him speak at industry events. Maybe you've been through some of his seminars. Maybe you're part of his growing list of clients. But today, Brent is with us.
Katie: For those of you who might not know him, he is an international bestselling author. Again, he's the authority on emotion intelligence. So today, we thought we would bring Brent on the show and we would talk just about how emotional intelligence plays in today's sales and marketing world. Brent, welcome to the show. And again, thank you for your time today.
Brent Darnell: Thanks, Katie. It's good to be here. I don't get to talk enough about this particular subject with emotional intelligence. We mostly talk about relationships and teams, and projects, but there is a marketing side to ... I've created some courses and some materials on, "How do you tap into the emotional side of marketing?" Which is what you guys are all about, so this is a fun thing for me, to be able to talk about this because I don't normally get to talk about this a lot.
Katie: Well, I love that, and so I think it's a good partnership. Let's start at the beginning. Maybe, for our listeners, in your own words, Brent, maybe tell us, to you, what emotional intelligence is, and your philosophy towards how firms can embrace it for marketing.
Brent Darnell: Well, first of all, what it's not ... People have all these misconceptions about emotional intelligence, that I'm going to just make people be nice, or things like group hugs and singing Kumbaya. They think it's about this real touchy feely kind of stuff. That is so not what emotional intelligence is. Emotional intelligence, the way I define it is understanding and managing your own emotions, and understanding and managing the emotions of others for the best outcomes. Sometimes, that means being more assertive to get what you need. And then sometimes, that means being more empathetic and more compassionate. Knowing to do which thing to which person at which time is the magic. That's the kind of things we teach during our programs, is how to take those instances where you're connecting with other people or not, and then how to manage those emotional states to connect better, and get the results that you need.
Katie: I think you hit it on the nose right there. A lot of people do kind of just put it aside as just this touchy feely thing, or they immediately say, "I'm an introvert." Or, "I'm not a feeler."
Brent Darnell: [crosstalk 00:03:14].
Katie: "That doesn't apply to me." But it's right. It's equal parts self reflection and self awareness, understanding where you're sitting on your emotional journey, presently, situations in which you're facing, and then also understanding the emotional stature of others, and how you might be able to manage that situation better. What I always tell my clients when we're talking about sales and marketing is ... They always like to lead with these product features, on time, on budget, "I'm in this offices. I'm here, there, and the other." And I was like [crosstalk 00:03:45].
Brent Darnell: Always.
Katie: But those are just features. I don't care what industry you're in. Across the business to business world, if you're selling the most complex engineering solution to a very high brow, technically advanced, very sophisticated buyer or if you're a school contractor, all of these selection comittee members, all of these professional owners, they buy things emotionally.
Brent Darnell: Absolutely.
Katie: [crosstalk] believe that. I can't believe that at all. I'm really excited to dive into this new world of yours where you're marrying your emotional intelligence, understanding, and marketing, and also this culmination with leadership. I think you and I interact so much with the same type of clientele, these technically trained seller, doers that don't really have all the soft skills, that are trying to figure out how to navigate those waters and advance their brand, advance their company and their projects. [crosstalk 00:04:39].
Brent Darnell: I always talk about the neuroscience behind this, not only of emotional intelligence, because we're hardwired for emotions, but also, "Why do we buy stuff? What is the physiology behind purchasing decisions?" Purchasing decisions are not made in the thinking part of the brain. In fact, no decision is made in the thinking part of the brain. It has to do with your amygdala, the primitive brain, the lizard brain. I'll never forget. I was at a AGC conference and there was a panel discussion with two owners on the panel. It was Disney and MD Anderson Cancer Center. One of the questions was, "Well, how do you choose your designers and contractors?" And the audience was ready to write down whatever that was, "Oh, it's probably 3% margins. Or maybe it's whatever, project delivery [crosstalk 00:05:33]."
Katie: It's relationship. It's 100% relationship, right?
Brent Darnell: They said, "Well ... " They looked at each other and then they looked back out, and they said, "It's just a feeling we get during the interview process." That was it. That was their whole criteria. Everybody was like, "What? What does that mean? How do you create a feeling to this?" But the cool thing about it is, if you've ever read the book, Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman ... He's a psychologist that won the Nobel prize for economics, and he studied the neuroscience behind why people buy stuff. But what he found out was that the cognitive part of your brain doesn't kick in until you've already made the decision. You will justify that decision with some numbers or some objective sort of criteria, but the decision is made in the emotional part of the brain.
Brent Darnell: We always use this example, "What if you looked at a photograph of a smiling baby, what if you're looking at that photograph right now, what would your reaction be? Probably you're going to smile. You're going to connect with that in some way and it's automatic." That's tapping into the limbic part of your brain, the emotional part of your brain. That feeling is your subconscious. It's the limbic system. You automatically react to that. Let's just try this ... This is the other part of your brain, the system two brain, the conscious thinking part of your brain. Solve this equation in your head right now. 578 times 634, what is that? Well, what happens is your brain starts trying to solve that problem and it burns a lot of glucose.
Brent Darnell: As it turns out, our brains are very, very lazy and it doesn't like to burn a lot of glucose. In fact, my guess is that anybody listening to this have already given up on trying to solve 578 [crosstalk] 634 because it's not life or death. You don't have to come up with an answer, so your brain just says, "You know what? I'm not going to do that. That's not important for me." But the smiling baby is automatic. That's how we come up with how your brain reacts to certain stimuli that's given to it. That's the system one versus system two, system one being the unconscious, the emotional part. System two is the thinking part. What Kahneman found is all decisions are made in the system two, the subconscious, the limbic system. Everything, which has ... Think about it, that has no language, and it has no math. It has no numbers.
Katie: Yeah. In our industry, whenever we're coaching architects, engineers or contractors, for that opportunity with MD Anderson or with Disney, we lead with ... The number one emotion, the feeling we want that audience to come away is trust. I want them to feel like they can trust you with this project no matter the complexity, no matter how tight the deadline is. Or if you are servicing it remote or you're going to be right there down the street, we just want them to come across as being trustworthy because we find that when we're interviewing owners and asking them, "What do they want to feel?" That's the leading emotion that we find for them in buying professional services. I don't know if you've found that to be [crosstalk] the ones?
Brent Darnell: I think that's very true. I think any positive emotional state that you can get them in whether that's creating some humor and laughter, or just connecting with them as human beings in some way ... And that's easy to do with things like cancer centers. If you have some cancer survivors, you can talk about what's important to them, which [crosstalk] emotionally to them. I don't know why technical people don't get that because they continually give them statistics and resume, and [crosstalk 00:09:37].
Katie: Oh, yeah. We love the data. [crosstalk] data.
Brent Darnell: [crosstalk] logistic. Well, it's easy. It's cut and dry. It's not out of your comfort zone. Let me give you another example we use. What's your brand of mayonnaise? If you don't like mayonnaise, what's your brand of peanut butter?
Katie: I hate mayonnaise. Ew, it's so gross.
Brent Darnell: What's your brand of peanut butter then? You got that brand, right?
Katie: I do, yeah.
Brent Darnell: You probably go in and buy that brand. Do you look at price ever?
Katie: I never look at the ... Only thing I look at the price is if it's one of those buy one get on free things [crosstalk 00:10:13].
Brent Darnell: Okay, maybe so. But if you saw your brand of ... What's your brand of peanut butter?
Katie: Peter Pan Natural.
Brent Darnell: Peter Pan Natura, and right next to it, there was something called Billy's Peanut Butter for 50 cents cheaper, would you buy it?
Katie: No, I don't think so.
Brent Darnell: Probably not because you have an emotional connection to that brand. Maybe you grew up with that brand, or you found that brand later in your life and you loved it so much, and you love that beautiful peanut butter and jelly sandwich that you can make [crosstalk 00:10:40]. Right? You have this emotional attachment to that brand and price becomes a lot of less relevant. But the other thing those selection committees want is an ease of decision. They don't want to-
Katie: Justify it.
Brent Darnell: ... have to think too much about it. So, if you can make their decision easy by saying, "Wow, these guys are so awesome. They're seamless. They work together well. They read each other's thoughts. They read our thoughts. They connect with us." It's an easy decision for them to make.
Katie: Absolutely. You always want to make it easy on the owner to pick you. You don't want to give them any insights to make them have to go before their board and justify why they wanted to hire you, right?
Brent Darnell: Right, exactly.
Katie: I do want to talk ... Switching gears just a little bit, but you started to touch on it in other words, but let's talk about the resting engineer face.
Brent Darnell: Okay, yes.
Katie: That's a term that I've seen you use before. I've heard about it. I'm married to an engineer, so I ...
Brent Darnell: Oh. Bless your heart.
Katie: ... can relate to it, but let's talk a little bit about that and your expertise. How do you get those leaders that you're working with comfortable and get them in a positive emotional state so when they are in front of owners, that that resonates, and it starts to build that emotional rapport together?
Brent Darnell: Well, it becomes ... What's about is first impression, "How are people perceiving you?" And with resting engineer face, which is what many people have in this industry, as you know, the first impression, always get people look at an resting engineer face and say, "What do you think about this person?" And they'll say things like, "Well, they look bored. They look disinterested."
Katie: [crosstalk 00:12:36].
Brent Darnell: "They don't like me. They're serious. They're angry." You fill in all these blanks with sort of a neutral face. But a little bit of a smile ... We call it the Buddha smile, just a little bit of a smile changes that perception utterly and completely. The perception of a little bit of a smile is, "This person is approachable. They're friendly. I can trust them." So, we talk a lot about those first impressions. Here's the other really bizarre thing in terms of some latest research in neuroscience is people with neutral faces like that have lower empathy because what they found was when they did these experiments showing people different emotional states, the muscles in their face started to be engaged to match that emotional state that's in the photograph, which informed their brain what that emotional state was.
Katie: Because people naturally mirror each other, right?
Brent Darnell: Yes.
Katie: They talk about that in terms of not just your face, but just general body language.
Brent Darnell: Exactly. We have mirror neurons that light up that matches that emotional state that the other person's in. So, if you have that neutral face, you're going to be less adept at knowing what that emotional state is because your facial muscles aren't informing your brain, what that emotional state is. Now, that's pretty cool to think about, isn't it? Think about people with Botox.
Katie: That's wild.
Brent Darnell: They can't move those muscles, so they're going to be less empathetic than somebody who can't.
Katie: It's definitely something to ponder.
Brent Darnell: Yes. Think about that in terms of reading a selection committee. You got to read them. It's an interaction. It's not a performance. If they start looking bored or checking their phones or watches, or moving around a little bit, you got to react to that. You got to recognize that. It takes a lot of empathy to connect with those selection committees.
Katie: When you're working with your clients or you're leading some of these industry groups like CMAA, or you mentioned earlier, ACG, how do you help them understand, "What is empathy?" And how to tap into that?
Brent Darnell: Well, at first, it becomes more of a cognitive thing, like examples of empathy and trying to listen better. You kind of start out and a cognitive way. There's even a book called Unmasking the Face by a guy named Paul Ekman. He actually tells you which muscles are engaged that show you what different emotions are. Well, for engineers, that's kind of cool, nerdy kind of stuff. They can look at the muscles that are engaged and say, "That's an angry face. That's a puzzled face. That's a really happy face."
Katie: A resting engineer face.
Brent Darnell: A resting engineer face, that's right. So, we start more in a cognitive way. I'll tell you a real quick exercise we use a lot. When you get home from work, sit your spouse down and ask them to tell you about their day. You can't offer any suggestions. You can't solve any problems for them. You can't tell them what they should've done. All you have to do is try to figure out what they were feeling during those different points in their day. And then tell them that, "Boy, that must've made you feel angry." Or, "That must've made you feel really happy about that." And then they can verify that you're getting the right emotional stuff.
Katie: In our industry of problem solvers, architects, engineers, contractors all the same, I imagine that that's a very hard ...
Brent Darnell: So difficult.
Katie: ... exercise to put them through, to try not to solve something. Especially if they see one of their loved ones struggling or having a hard day, or somebody putting them down, I imagine that's a very ... Practicing great restraint on some of them.
Brent Darnell: It is.
Katie: But I do think that's great advice. I also tell a lot of our clients when it comes to marketing tactics, one of the most emotionally intelligent things that firms can do as a brand is to practice social listening, and to take constant pulse of how the audiences are engaging with their social media posts, engaging with their website, what they're saying about them in the news and in the media because it gives you a true understanding of what your clients, what your partners, even some of your employees for that matter, are truly saying about you, and what they value from you. And it gives you some insight into how they're feeling, how they're thinking about things. I think that's great insight that brands can use.
Brent Darnell: Absolutely. I think once you get this idea of, "How are people perceiving us?" You can do and inventory of everything in your office, all your social media, your website, "Does our website have a bunch of buildings on it?" I know architects' website always have empty buildings and I think, "Where are the people? Why don't you show some people using your building?" And they go, "No, people have mess up the shot." They're like parasites or something. They mess up [crosstalk 00:17:45].
Katie: That's a whole nother level of photo release. We don't want to [inaudible 00:17:48].
Brent Darnell: What are you conveying? Are you conveying, "We're technically excellent." Well, you and 30 other companies that they could choose from. Are you trying to connect with them in some way? Again, it's all about those initial impressions. One real easy thing to do that I tell companies all the time, trade phones and check each other's outgoing message.
Katie: Oh, that's a good idea.
Brent Darnell: Most of them are horrible. They're either a number and I don't know if it's a person, so I may have dialed the wrong number. So, I'll always call those back and get the same number.
Katie: Hang up and call again.
Brent Darnell: Make your outgoing message really connecting, and stand up and smile, and move around while you're saying it. Don't do a boring, horrible outgoing message because that's a lot of people's first impression of who you are and how you're connecting with that person. And then this may sound really weird and strange, but I understand that there's been some studies that emojis actually created more a connection than just words. So, if you're going to make kind of a funny thing, especially if it's sort of sarcastic, make sure you put a real funny emoji on there, or it could be misconstrued.
Katie: Are you finding that more and more companies in the design and construction space, those that we would have typically categorized as being very buttoned up, very professional, very technical, more traditional in their communication for sure, have loosened the tie a little bit and have embraced exclamation marks and emojis?
Brent Darnell: [crosstalk 00:21:46]. I work with a 90 year old company ...
Brent Darnell: ... in Salt Lake City, and they were pretty stuffy and stodgy to begin with. They have transformed who they are as a company and many individuals. When we first walked into that place, it felt kind of like a morgue, nice and nicely appointed, but really stuffy, and really boring. Now, when you walk in, there's energy and there's people that greet you. There's all this relationship stuff going to everywhere around you. They even changed the tagline. They redid their whole branding, and their tagline now is, "Making life better." This is from a 90 year old company. They saw the need. They said, "We are a little stuffy and stodgy."
Brent Darnell: I think most people saw them as, "Man, you are great builders. You're ethically beyond reproach. You're really technically awesome. We don't like you very much. You're kind of boring and we never hear from you between projects." And they said, "We got to change that. That's starting to impact our business." They saw the need. We worked there. We literally trained everybody in the company. It was a four year process, doing that.
Katie: Oh my goodness. That just made me think of a question for you. We see time and time again in our industry, really, how culture within the firm can drive a business. It can drive it into the ground [inaudible] can help it flourish. It really hinges on that brand living. You mentioned that that company just rebranded and adopted a new tagline, but it wasn't just a tagline. It was more than just a marketing campaign. They changed their office. The whole culture of the organization, it sounds like, has transformed. Any tips for our listeners on how leaders or firms can truly drive cultural change and how they can tap into emotional intelligence, both be self aware of what that culture looks like today internally and where they're trying to get to?
Brent Darnell: First of all, it takes time, especially if you're really working ... Changing people's hearts and changing how they interact with other human beings. Our programs are a year long. It takes a long time to create those shifts and changes in people, but it has to be deliberate. You have to put resources into that. I recommend you start with top management, take everybody through that, that kind of training that shifts that culture for the top managers. And then you have to train everyone. We train from the CEO down to the concrete foreman level.
Katie: When you say train, what does that look like?
Brent Darnell: It's a year long process where we measure their emotional intelligence. We measure their physical peak performance and wellbeing, then we create development plans, and have lots of followup and coaching, and meet every six to eight weeks and go through courses like relationship skills and communication skills, and stress management and time management, and marketing and safety. It's kind of an a la carte thing of what you think is the most prevalent courses and topics for your company and where you want to be. But we reinforce that learning throughout that whole year, and then we reevaluate at the end and see what's changed. We also have online courses through CMAA, which reinforces that learning and that culture, and that process as well.
Katie: I'm curious. We'll protect the names of the innocent, but could you maybe describe maybe one of those standout examples of a particular individual that you've worked with through this program, where they came in at, and then maybe where they graduated from? What was the most [inaudible] that you've ever-
Brent Darnell: I had a guy. He's a 50 year old general superintendent, was removed from a project. The owner hated him.
Katie: The owner of the firm or the owner [crosstalk 00:25:59].
Brent Darnell: No. The owner of the-
Katie: So, the client.
Brent Darnell: On the client of the project ...
Katie: Gotcha. Okay. That's a big deal."
Brent Darnell: ... said, "This guy needs to leave. He was fired from that job and even his team didn't want to work with him, even his internal project team ... That he was difficult to work with. We looked at his emotional profile. He had the alpha profile which is high assertiveness and lower empathy. He was totally devastated. The first time I met him, he looked like just a whipped pup and I just said, "[Gabriel 00:26:34], what's up, man?" And he said, "Well, I don't understand this because don't these people know that I push them so hard and I demand so much because I want them to be the best. I love them. I want them to the best, and I want our projects to be the most successful." And I said, "No, I don't think they know that. I don't think they understand that."
Brent Darnell: So, we worked on things like empathy and social responsibility, and being more of a team player, and working on understanding others, and motivating them in a different way. That's when I told him, I said, "Gabriel, you're a smart guy. You're a really good builder. This is just a different set of skills. That's all this is." So, he worked on it really hard. And six months into the program, they put him on another job with a very difficult client to see how he was doing because they thought he was doing better. And he was because he had really worked hard on his empathy and being more of team person, and understanding others and connecting with them instead of driving so hard. This difficult client had a construction management firm that managed Gabriel's company, which was a contractor. They created so much trust. Gabriel created so much trust with this owner's rep that they fired the construction management company and worked directly them, the contractor.
Brent Darnell: Fast forward another four months, 10 months after we started this process, they promoted Gabriel to the operations manager for all of Mexico for this company.
Katie: Oh my [crosstalk 00:28:02].
Brent Darnell: He made amazing shifts and changes in a very short period of time. One thing that happened personally, which was very funny, he called me about five or six months in and he said, "I'm know you're not a counselor or anything, but could you help me with this?" And I said, "Well, if it has to do with your emotional profile, yeah, absolutely." He said, "Well, our niece just moved in with us, and she is a pain in the butt. We hate her [crosstalk 00:28:26]. She's trying to tell us how to run our lives, and she's moved in with us. We don't like her. It's a big problem."
Brent Darnell: I said, "Well, Gabriel, what's happening with her? Why did she move in? He said, "Well, she lost her job. She got a divorce. She didn't have a job. She didn't have a spouse, so she couldn't afford the place she was staying. That's why she moved in with us." And I said, "Gabriel, how do you think she's feeling?" This was a Skype call. His eyes got really big and he said, "She feels bad about herself, doesn't she?" I said, "Remember when we first talked?" He said, "Yeah." I said, "So, what are you going to do?" And he goes, "I'm going to get a family meeting. We're going to tell her that we love her and that we welcome her, and that we're glad she's here. And we're going to support her." They did that and he called me back about six weeks, maybe two months, later and said, "Cood news. She totally changed. She's nice to live with now. She got a job. She's dating somebody ...
Katie: All good [crosstalk 00:29:35].
Brent Darnell: ... and she's looking for her own place to live."
Katie: That's great.
Brent Darnell: Isn't that cool? This guy really got it. When his empathy kicked in ... He understood the real problem and that's what I tell people, "You can't solve a problem if you don't know what it is."
Katie: I think that's a great example of, "Yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks if even the most grumpiest superintendent can harness some empathy and find ways to connect with folks." I love that. Let's stay on the personnel track. I know as well as a lot of other people in our space, right now, firms aren't always just looking for the next project. They've got a healthy backlog. They're really looking for the next employee to bring on board because they need more people to do the work. From a recruiting strategy standpoint, I'm curious what advice you give principals that are fighting to attract and even retaining their top talent because there's a lot of poaching going on right now because there's a very shallow pool of well educated, high performing architects, engineers, and contractors in our space. So, lean into us a little bit on what that looks like from your perspective.
Brent Darnell: People don't leave companies. They leave people. If you've got some people that are a little bit toxic or even neutral as opposed to another company that has these people that are just awesome people, and they connect well and they manage people in a really positive, good way, you're toast. That has to be deliberate. You have to train those people that what they're doing day to day has consequences. I've talked to companies where the turnover in one department at one leader is huge. It's like, "Why do you think that is?" It's that guy. It's that woman. It's that person who is causing those people to leave. That has everything to do with your emotional intelligence and how you connect with other human beings. But here's the other thing ... I always tell this story. I call it the Tale of Two Offices because you have to create an office, a space, where when people walk in, they say, "Wow, I want to work here."
Brent Darnell: These are both true stories. I walked into this office. It's a gray place, no windows, no artwork on the walls. It's a horrible crappy couch with a coffee table that's kind of beat up and the receptionist doesn't even look up. And then finally, she looks up and says, "Can I help you?" Sort of exasperated. And I said, "Yeah, I'm here to see John." "Well, have a seat. He'll be out in a minute." So, it's like, "Okay, thank you." So then John comes out and we walk down a hall, a gray, windowless, horrible hallway. And then we go to a conference room. Again, windowless horrible place with [successories] on the wall like, "There's no I in team." And stuff like that. And then he says, "You want some coffee?" And I say, "Yeah, I would love some coffee." He goes, "Well, it's in the kitchen. Go get it."
Brent Darnell: So, I walk down the hall and I go in the kitchen, and there's the styrofoam cups and a thing full of plastic stirrers. And there's two canisters. You know the two canisters I'm talking about. The creamer, quote ... I'm putting that in air quotes, and the sugar. I pour this coffee into the styrofoam cup, and I put the creamer in and it clumps up ...
Katie: Oh [crosstalk]
Brent Darnell: .... because the coffee's cold. I can't even stir it in, so I finally dump it in the garbage. I walk back to the room and we start our meeting. Well, that's the first office. Now, the second office, this was a company in Finland. I walk in. The first thing I notice, there's beautiful music playing. The receptionist comes from behind the desk and says, "You must be Mr. Darnell. We are so happy to have you here today. Please have a seat." I sit down in this beautifully appointed little entry area. And on the table are picture books, like coffee table books, of all their projects. Beautiful photos and it's just amazing. I'm looking through that. And she says, ["Jan'll] be here in a minute." Finally, a guy comes out. And by the way, there's original artwork on the walls. There's colors and textures. Actually, they told me that they go to local artists, like galleries and stuff, and get them to put them on the walls and they sell them for them. So, they have all this original artwork all over the office.
Brent Darnell: We walk down the office. Everybody I come into contact with says hello, "Hi, welcome. How are you doing today?" Sort of like the Ritz Carlton model, "If you make eye contact with a guest, you got to greet them in some way and say something to them." Then we walk in. We sit down in this beautiful conference room, nice music playing, beautiful artwork on the walls, lots of windows because it's Finland and it gets dark in the wintertime. Gorgeous place. He said, "Do you want some coffee?" I said yes, so he called somebody. About three minutes later, in walks two interns with these silver trays. On one silver tray, is a silver coffee pot with a silver creamer with real cream and a silver sugar bowl with sugar cubes in it.
Katie: Well, aren't they fancy?
Brent Darnell: I know, and branded cups and silver spoons. And so I fix my coffee ... And this is beautiful rich, Scandinavian coffee and I'm [inaudible 00:35:17]. On the second tray, is a bunch on petit fours and cookies, and cakes and things. He says, "Please, help yourself." So, I'm taking a little petit four, drinking my wonderful coffee in a branded cup, and he says, "How's your trip? What have you done?" I said, "Well, I just got here." And he goes, "Oh, you got to go to the opera house. I'll get you some tickets tonight because we redid the renovation for that. It's a gorgeous place. You got to see it. I recommend the Sibelius Museum. You got to go there." He's laying out the whole itinerary for the couple of days that I'm there.
Brent Darnell: We talk about the trip and Finland and Helsinki, and all this beautiful stuff. Then about 15 minutes into that, he says ... Then we start the meeting. So, it's like, " Which company would you rather work with and for?" It's kind of a no brainer. Again, it's creating a positive emotional experience instead of a transaction.
Katie: I can't imagine that it's just because the Finnish people are just lovely people. But some of it, it sounds a little too good to be true. Those two examples are some extreme.
Brent Darnell: They're both totally true.
Katie: I believe you.
Brent Darnell: By the way, Finnish people are pretty stoic and kind of resting engineer face. They just understand the importance of creating an impression.
Katie: In my experience, when I traveled over there, I just found them all to be very, very welcoming. Whenever I'd go into any restaurant or any shop, very helpful. But on the street, it wasn't ... It's not like when I'm driving around downtown Atlanta and let somebody in front of me. You wave them in and they wave back. I didn't get that kind of call and response up there. But I am curious, what kind of information you might be able to share to our listeners as it relates to firms that have embraced this EQI mantra, if you will, and how those healthier firms that are more emotionally intelligent and have some thoughtful leadership in positions, and they training and they have these modules available, how does that relate to their profits or to their market share? This is all about business, so how does it really play into that side of things.
Brent Darnell: Well, I can't tell you that the company we work with in Salt Lake, I think they were losing market share. There were a couple of young up-and-comer companies that were taking existing clients even away from them. I think they started winning more work. I'll give you a quick example of that. Well, I got two examples of that, that this work won them hundreds of millions of dollars worth of work. The first one was, they were going after doTERRA, their corporate headquarters and some manufacturing facilities. They make essential oils. They're very conscious about environment and health and wellbeing.
Katie: I have a diffuse on my desk. I know exactly what you're talking about. Absolutely.
Brent Darnell: Okay, there you go. [crosstalk 00:38:19]. They were third on the price, so they brought in the top three to do presentations. I think they actually said this to me, "We're not going to win this job anyway, so we're going to do the Brent Darnell crap."
Katie: Oh my goodness. The crap.
Brent Darnell: I think is what they were [crosstalk 00:38:37]. "Yeah, that touchy feely crap. We're going to try that because we're not going to get it anyway because we're third." They went in and it was about ... They're a multilevel marketing company, so it's about owning your own company. Well, this company we worked with is an employee-owned company. They use this mantra of, "We own it." That was their whole thing throughout the process, is, "We own it. We own the responsibility. We're passionate builders. We see your passion for essential oils, and health and well being. Let us marry that passion and we're going to build you something that everybody's going to be just wowed about." They got the job.
Katie: That's awesome. When they moved forward with the next project, did they still use your crap or was that just a [crosstalk 00:39:21]?
Brent Darnell: No. They did use the crap. In fact ...
Brent Darnell: ... this one guy ... It was the CEO, was in the office of the provost of a big college. They had just bid a job, and the company we worked with came in first on the first bid. But it was over budget, so they took the top two bidders and rebid it. Well, on the second bid, my company came in second. This other company won the second bid. They thought that was really unfair. Somebody talked about writing a really strongly worded letter to how unfair that was be and that we should [crosstalk 00:40:02].
Katie: They're going to protest it.
Brent Darnell: Yeah. The one guy, total alpha male that totally changed who he was, one of the top leaders, said, "Wait a minute, guys. Let's take the high road here. Let's write them a letter saying how much we love them and respect them, and love our relationship with them." And they were going like, "Who are you? What alien form came down and took John, and left you in his place?" So, they did that. The next time the CEO was in the office of the provost, he handed them a roll of drawings. And he said, "What's this?" He said, "Well, this is the first of 10 dormitories we're going to build." He said, "We want you to just build it. Build that first one. IOf you do a good job, we'll give you the other nine."
Katie: Oh, that's awesome. Just for taking the high road and just being like, "No, we'll get ours in due turn."
Brent Darnell: Exactly.
Katie: It's funny. In working with a lot of firms across the design and construction space, one of the things that I feel like our clients often forget is what that customer experience looks and feels like on the owner's side. They're so focused on getting those design documents done. They're so focused on getting the dorm built, if you will, but they forget about what that user experience looks like. In talking with you today, what's standing out in my mind is those firms that are out there that haven't really put place a high value on being intuitive and being intentional, rather, with their customer experience journey. They have to make it a very good argument in that interview or through the proposal process that it's going to be a pleasant experience.
Katie: If they're not, and they come across with resting engineer face, and that idea of, "We're not going to get it. I'm going to protest if you don't hire me." Whatever that might be, they kind of get put in the corner where they can really only compete based on fee.
Brent Darnell: Exactly.
Katie: And they wind up only being able to be the low cost provider because why do you want to pay a premium and know it's going to be a terrible experience.
Brent Darnell: Exactly.
Katie: Why would you do that?
Brent Darnell: The other thing is, look at the jobs you have right now with the clients you have right now. Are you creating a positive emotional experience or are you creating an adversarial, argumentative, conflict ridden way of working? What are you creating right now that's going to create the next five or six projects. I don't think we do a really good job of that because when we're in the trenches and we're fighting, and we pull out contracts and we have issues that come up, we're fighting because we think that's what we're supposed to do. I'm not saying give away the farm and don't make any money. I'm saying, if your relationship is great, those kind of conflicts that come up can work themselves out in a much better way. The more you do that, the more you're creating that emotional experience which will cause them to choose you for the next project.
Katie: Absolutely. In our industry, so often, marketing materials and presentations just in general conversations with leaders as well as just staff levels, we hear firms all the time, really wanting to lead with another feature. They always like to tout the data, "We have 85% client retention." Or whatever that might be. I always counter that and be like, "Well, that's great. But if you don't have repeat clients, you're doing something wrong."
Brent Darnell: Exactly.
Katie: "That's kind of table sticks going to me, so let's talk a little bit more about this. I want to talk about my job I have right now before you try to sell me on this long term relationship. Let's date for a minute. Let's see if we can even think alike." It's really funny. Since I have you today and I'm trying to be an emerging leader within our agency here at Smartegies, I'm really trying to create a team that can be very complimentary of each other and collaborative, and work well together. And I know one of your strengths and one of your training modules is really about how to produce high performance teams around this idea of leveraging emotional intelligence in this team environment. So, I'd like for you to share a little bit of what that looks like and maybe some success stories you've had in that realm.
Brent Darnell: Well, you can have a group of people that are just working together and even working toward the same goal, which isn't really the same as a team. I think a team comes into play when there's mutual accountability for the outcome of whatever that is, your work environment, a particular project. Everybody's invested, everybody says, "Yes. If something goes wrong, I'm responsible for that." That's what, I think, pulls people together as a team. But if you want to get to high performing team, that's where, I think, the emotional part and the human connection part comes into play. If you get everybody support and caring about everybody else's personal and professional goals in what they want to achieve either on that project or even beyond, that's when you get people really performing at high level.
Brent Darnell: We have a thing. It's called Connect where we talk about creating these high performing teams. The first thing we tell people to do is do a two week with as many people on that project team as you can get from the owner side, facilities maintenance, trade partners, contractors, designers. Two weeks with each other. And they go, "Oh, that's crazy. Two weeks, that's insane."
Katie: Yeah, that is [crosstalk 00:45:44].
Brent Darnell: "Who's going to pay for it? [crosstalk 00:45:47]. The objections start before I even get the words out of my mouth, but there's a reason I say that, because I did these management programs. It was five weeks spread throughout the year. And so during the first week, everybody's kind of getting to know each other and it's difficult. It's dicey. They're really timid and they're not connecting. The magic started happening middle of the second week. That's when everyone came together as a team. That's when everyone let their guards down and trusted each other. That's when the magic really happened.
Brent Darnell: I think there's something to that because it was really consistent. Middle of the second week, that's when they came together as a team. It's not hard data. It's not like some kind of research project, but I can tell you from experience, it takes that long to get people connecting with each other. And I'd say, "Okay, if you can't do two weeks, do a week. If you can't do a week, do a long weekend. If you can't do a long weekend, do half days on the first month of the project. Get everybody in a room, and get everybody doing some exercises and talking to each other, and sharing their lives with each other, and sharing their hopes and dreams, and fears, and things that they're struggling with on this project and in their personal lives. And you're going to create team that bonds, that trusts each other, that loves each other, that would take a bullet for each other."
Katie: I think that's really true. Once you have that group accountability mentality ... I've seen it time and time again, people who ... It's not their proposal, but they are staying till midnight, till 1:00 in the morning, so their coworker's not there by themselves because they want to make sure that that person succeeds. They don't want them to be stranded by themselves. There's great power in that. There's friendship in that, but also, I think, better productivity. I think there's probably [crosstalk 00:47:54].
Brent Darnell: Every metric is better.
Katie: Employees. Yeah, all really great. Well, Brent, I really appreciate your time with us today. Lots of really helpful dialogue, lots of great tips, some great stories. I think that we're going to get #restingngineeringface trending over there. But if anybody listening to the podcast today wants to know more about you, your firm, and your services, what should they do?
Brent Darnell: Probably just Brentdarnell.com. I'm coming out with a fourth edition of my book, The People Profit Connection, which talks about the emotional intelligence for the industry. The subtitle is How to Transform the Future of Construction by Focusing on people.
Katie: Love that, love that.
Brent Darnell: I'm now putting the final touches on an audio book. It's a paperback. It's a e-book and it'll be an audiobook very soon.
Katie: Well, congratulations on that. I know that there's a large audience out there that can benefit from your insights and recommendations for that. I appreciate your time. And everybody out there listening, you can reach Brent Darnell at Brentdarnell.com. That's B-R-E-N-T-D-A-R-N-E-L-L.com. Brent, thanks again. Have a great afternoon. Everybody else, have a great week.
Brent Darnell: Thanks, Katie. I appreciate it.
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