Developing a system is easier than you think.
Prialto manages the relationships for numerous executives, and has the unique opportunity to observe them at work. Surprisingly, when they initially engage with us, many executives confess to having the nagging feeling that they often drop the ball on developing and maintaining relationships.
Below are proven tactics we’ve observed for relationship building.
They are simple and don’t require you to push beyond your comfort zone.
1) Get a system
Many executives fail to use a single system to manage their contacts. They rely on a combination of Outlook, Google, or a spreadsheet (don't do it!). These systems lack a way to retain key data.
The failure to centralize data makes all the compiled data hard to retrieve.
We are big believers in social CRM, and we use Salesforce as the engine around which we manage all else. You need not equivocate long on which tool. The key is how it is used. We like Salesforce, but we slim it way down and eliminate many distracting fields. Using a virtual administrative assistant to organize and manage your CRM data is the key to simplicity for most executives. Complexity is the enemy of adaptation, and without adaptation you have an unused tool instead of a powerful solution.
2) Be memorable
If you want to build meaningful business relationships, it is important to be memorable to your contacts. You need to make sure your contacts think of you regularly. Several simple tactics that a virtual administrative assistant will use to brand you include:
- Email signature: Your email is the most valuable branding tool you have. Take one line in your signature and put a short message (less than 100 characters) describing what you do and the value you deliver to others.
- Develop a focused theme: Think of the two or three topics that most interest you – current events, celebrity chefs, backup IT support – it does not matter what the topics are nor, necessarily, that they all relate directly to your profession. Make sure people know your interests. This is your calling card, the reason people will call you and think of you when they can make an introduction.
3) Stay top-of-mind
It is important to constantly ping contacts in your network. You need to meet contacts regularly for them to remember you, which a virtual administrative assistant will make happen for you via calendar management. We leverage CRM systems to do this in two ways:
- Tactful Email updates: With a little personalization of your mass emails, you can get 25%+ response rates from your network. The topics are less important than the structure – keep them under 4 sentences, and make sure the content is valuable so that your network does not view you as a spammer.
- Share articles: Many people share articles via Twitter and LinkedIn. It is much more valuable to email relevant articles to contacts. We recommend leveraging tags in your CRM to build lists of people with similar interests. You can also set up news alerts for individual, high value contacts around the interests you know they have.
4) Find excuses
Building relationships is all about finding excuses to connect. Here are some that every virtual administrative assistant at Prialto finds helpful:
- Market visits: When we visit a market, we quickly pull a list of contacts in that market and call / email them about our visit. We prioritize this list by value and next contact date, two key fields in our CRM
- Always reply to email announcements: When others blast you, they want to hear from you. We always take a few seconds to respond with a note and jot this into our CRM, to remember that they reached out to us
- Send a book: When we speak with someone and they show an interest in a book we discussed, we often send a copy of the book the next day. After this, they never forget us
5) Help others and they will help you
You always hear this advice and, it is true. When you make introductions and referrals for your contacts, they often help you in return. However, we recommend going one step further and tracking these referrals in your system to remember how much social currency you have built up with a contact.
6) Build personal, not just business, relationships
We can’t overstate the value of getting to know a contact personally. Several best practices we have observed include:
- Remember the personal: We always make an effort to find something in common with a contact. From the LSU fan we call after each big game to the guy who loves to talk about his ranch, we always note these tidbits in our CRM.
- Ask about them: When you send a mass email and someone responds with some encouraging words, don’t just say thanks, ask how they are doing. You will be surprised at what you learn.
- Embrace Awkward Conversations: They provide a shared experience.