From IQ to EQ: The 70/30 Rule to Building Relationships

A company once asked me to train their employees in the art of selling a good idea. This need for training stemmed from the fact that their employees came up with many great ideas; however, only a few of them were developed into sellable products and services.

The reason was that the employees only focused on the idea in their presentations and not on the people whose backing they needed to realize the idea. Quite simply, they had not thought about the fact that the idea, which they considered amazing and revolutionizing, needed to be viewed the same way they did by the executive management, who had the power to approve or reject the idea. Hence, many good ideas did not pass the introduction phase.

This prompted me to develop the 70/30 rule, which, in all its simplicity, is about reminding people that if they need backing for an idea or project, they must put 30 percent of their effort into creating a personal and trusting relationship with their contacts.

Every time you attend a meeting, a reception, a job interview, an investment meeting, etc., people look at you subjectively, and they think about their current and future relationship with you. Are they open to spending their valuable time and resources on you? People size up each other. The question is, if you know what they are looking for.

Relationships are formed based on these:

  • Your personality brought about by your EQ (your EQ manages mutual trust and chemistry between you and others)
  • Your current power base (your existing network)
  • Your current and future skills (your potential)
  • Identifying what the other person can get out of the relationship (it’s not all about you)

The big question is whether you inspire confidence in others. Their trust depends on what they know about you and your life. What personal history are you willing to share? What questions do you ask to help others open up to you and talk about what lies in their hearts?

You can measure the strength of a relationship by the number of times you and the other person have come to an agreement and the number of personal stories you have shared with each other, and how familiar you have become and will remain with each other over time.

Be personal—not private

Do you want to test the 70/30 rule on your life? When I need to familiarize people and build trust with them, I refrain from talking about my MBA, directorships, and the like. I tell people that I am married to Brian (they usually laugh about it because it is not every day that you hear of a Soulaima married to a Brian). I tell people that I have children and that I live in one of the old neighborhoods in Copenhagen. It somehow makes people think I am pretty down-to-earth, and it breaks any barriers. Most people have heard about or have been to my neighborhood and have questions about what it is like to live there.

I also talk about the causes I am passionate about and how I help people through my work. Based on my experience, people are preoccupied more with who I am than with what I have to sell.

Once they are convinced that I am a “good” person, they go far in their quest to understand my business and recommend me to others. Show people who you are and what you stand for more than what your credentials are or what you can “sell” them.

I do not share private stories that could make some people uncomfortable. What story do you tell? Most people talk about the weather, mumble about their names, or talk more rather than ask; and such conversations are not memorable and will soon be forgotten.

Your “small talk” does not have to be unimportant.

The purpose of allocating 30 percent of a meeting on personal concerns is to build trust, which enhances people’s impression of your professionalism. Therefore, you should use the time you spend with someone efficiently—and you do not do that by exchanging some chitchat about the weather.

Before you meet a person, research a little bit about him or her; find out what kind of person he or she is. Do you have anything in common? You can easily get a lot of information about him or her by searching the Internet—this is just a small effort, but it pays off many times over. Now you are more likely to be remembered, to be recommended, and to become someone people would like to meet again and again.

Do you inspire confidence or mistrust? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do my colleagues consider me trustworthy? Explain why yes or no.
  • Place your relationships on a model (such as the one below) and assess them on a scale of 0–100 (100 = high on mutual trust). Whom and how many do you believe you have a strong, trusting relationship with?


“From IQ to EQ” is an article series edited from Soulaima Gourani’s article New Trends in Human Resources – From IQ to EQ. The original copy of the article can be found here.

Soulaima Gourani is a Danish speaker, author, board member and special adviser to ministers, task forces, goverment think tanks and demanding private companies. She was also one of the speakers of Nordic Business Forum 2014. More about Soulaima at

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