"*Article originally published on CityBizList"

Here we go Again. Who else feels an ill-defined tinge of malaise this time of year? For me, it’s not without some guilt. There’s much to appreciate; if you have faith (however experienced), health, family and friends, what’s missing? Yet a new year looms. Last year’s business successes are zeroed out, your performance is measured anew. As we face climbing into the wheel again, I suspect what haunts our thoughts is whether our work is purposeful, whether we’re making a difference. Our mood beggars whether much matters beyond meeting our “numbers” one more year. This malaise complicates the themes of recent columns on perfecting your elevator speech and nailing your shtick. Surely there’s more to building a business relationship than telling a story with clarity so you can make the sale. So how does what you sell relate to what really matters to you?

Beyond the Sale. A recent conversation got me reflecting on the interrelationship between how I sell and what I love. Most of us have a passion for what we do, if you don’t, you’ve got a different challenge than the one I’m struggling with. I’m trying to understand how my passion for what I do relates to how my business relationships actually work. And before you flee, the person who got me thinking about this interrelationship was the leading sales performance executive for one of the country’s largest banks, successfully driving growth for a national sales team managing over 5,000 clients and $30B in loans. Metrics driven, surely, but evidently it was purposefully so.

Ponder This. Isn’t it our hope to work increasingly with those who value what we do and less with those who see us as fungible cogs in their wheel? Numbers matter but so does having the right business relationships. Ask yourself which clients you’re most likely to retain over time; which ones are willing to give you honest feedback on how you’re doing, partnering to improve what you do; which ones connect you with like-minded prospects; which are the ones you enjoy working with when the day’s done. Now ask yourself which clients are most likely a flight risk; which unceasingly complain, constantly re-trade, are the least profitable for you, create the most distractions from what is really valuable. Which group would you rather shrink, and which grow? Now the ringer from my recent conversation: do you think your sales pitch might have something to do with who ends up as your client?

Into the Wheel Again. How about adding to the perennial chestnuts of “exercise more, make time for family and friends, drink less,” the resolution of meaningfully connecting with the right clients, partners and prospects? My recent conversation got me thinking in this vein. She had some suggestions for how such connections can be purposefully made. If what she believes worked for one of the market leaders, might it work for the rest of us? Our conversation was certainly pleasant, yet its uncharted nature made me uncomfortable; it forced me to explore how to connect other than in superficially predictable ways. What I learned might make you uncomfortable too, but that’s for the first ReSET of the New Year. Soon enough we all climb back into the wheel to start the New Year, though what I learned is we do get to choose which wheel. Enjoy your family and friends these next few days.

With more than 25 years’ experience in law and business, Newt Fowler, a partner in Womble Carlyle’s business practice, advises many investors, entrepreneurs and technology companies, guiding them through all aspects of business planning, financing transactions, technology commercialization and M&A. He chairs the Board of TEDCO and serves on the Boards of the Economic Alliance of Baltimore, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Chesapeake.