The remark was greeted with warm agreement. Yet, the irony was that most of the CEOs would likely say the same about any of their big company service suppliers. Including the one the speaker represented.

The problem is the yawning gulf between most big company professionals and their entrepreneurial customers and partners. Whilst corporates believe they are ‘relationship building’ the impact on the actual relationship is minimal.

Professionals create ‘rapport’. Entrepreneurs crave value.

The truth is that most big company people have no personal experience of running a small, fast-growth business. They find it hard to step into their clients’ shoes. Rapport is established but real empathy is lacking. It’s then too easy for the professional to default to ‘product’ having never established what the customer really wants.

And it gets worse. Their brains are just wired differently. Big company thinking attracts and rewards those comfortable in their data-driven, cerebral cortex, ‘think’ mode. Fast-paced entrepreneurial environments attract those far more likely to operate in an intuitive, ‘feel’ or limbic mode. Private business makes choices on gut instinct. Professionals make choices empirically. It’s a major handicap in forming powerful relationships.

The solution to these challenges is actually pretty easy. It is all about creating awareness and enhancing both the human intelligence capabilities and strategic insight of the professional. Helping them to really understand and fully engage the person they are talking to.

The result can be startling. As one banker observed “The client had rejected meetings over and over again. Using this new approach we got him talking about what he really wanted to talk about. We had the meeting on Monday. On Friday we got a £5m mandate!”

The rapport lie is a huge problem facing all big companies ambitious to build share in the mid market. And its’ about to get a whole lost worse. Fast-moving, converging markets mean that in 5 years’ time most ‘relationship managers’ will be talking about products that are not even on their radar today. And in that world those who win the relationship battle will win the war.