Day-to-day business is – especially at the end of the year – an intense affair. Besides the work on the mandate, the investment in the cultivation of (business) relationships is often neglected. Of course, this is not ideal for business development. This article is a guide to effective contact management for service providers.
It is undisputed that maintaining business relationships is important in business development of "professional services". The following remarks may seem trivial in parts. They correspond to common sense and are part of good manners. Nevertheless, the appropriate cultivation of contacts cannot be taken for granted. So read this text with ease – it is worth going over these points every now and then.
Like any personal relationship, business relationships require continuous nurturing.
A relationship remains healthy and vibrant when both people get something from each other – when they can benefit from the partnership. Continuous communication provides the basis for such a business relationship. In the medium term, such contacts bring many advantages. Well-maintained relationships ensure more loyalty and are thus a valuable marketing tactic. They are worth the investment.
It is impossible to have weekly or monthly conversations with all the contacts in your CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system. Therefore, you should focus on the important contacts. Show your best clients, partners or other key contacts that you are interested in their business. Let them know that you are there for them and are accessible. You should make such contacts a routine!
As a lawyer, for example, it is advisable to check with existing clients at sensible intervals after the conclusion of an important mandate to see how it has been implemented. It is interesting to see how the answer to a legal question has worked out in practice, how the contract that has been drafted is working out, or how the company that was supported in its foundation is growing.
Too long intervals between individual contacts or only very irregular calls can signal a lack of interest. Of course, the frequency of contact must also be proportionate. So it all depends on the mix.
Don't ignore your LinkedIn contacts when reaching out! If implemented correctly, a social media strategy is a great way to make new contacts on a regular basis.
You can find out how LinkedIn can support you in your acquisition in our article on LinkedIn acquisition.
This is important: Don't just get in touch when you need something from your contact! This does not look authentic. In the worst case, your contact may even feel taken advantage of.
Business relationships, like all other relationships, only survive in the long term through reciprocity. Both sides should be able to benefit from this relationship.
To increase the chances of getting something, you should think about how you can help your business contacts. What can you offer to add value?
This support does not necessarily have to be related to your professional activity. So even as a lawyer, it doesn't always have to be legal advice that you can offer – after all, that's what you want to get paid for. Maybe you have a good connection in your network who you can put in touch with one of your key contacts. Or you may have access to valuable information that could be important for your business partners.
Another important element of relationship management is to ask clients about their satisfaction with the service they receive. Such open communication and dealing with possible criticism are fundamental elements of any partnership. Active questioning shows genuine interest and promotes exchange. Such a conversation can reveal opportunities for improvement. It reveals possible gaps in the counselling and one gets to know possible hidden needs of the client. This has the following effects:
We have seen: Maintaining contacts requires empathy and personal exchange. To deepen valuable contacts, it is a good idea to use technology such as email marketing. Emails are widely used in business and offer various advantages:
Emails can also be used well for lead generation (e.g. as a structured newsletter). They are therefore also suitable for making new contacts and building relationships. For example, you can use a newsletter to enable interested people to learn about you and your services on a regular basis. Newsletters are regular emails with which you can provide interesting information to the registered persons. A great advantage of automated mailings is the possibility of evaluation. You get to know your subscribers and can personalise their interests. Based on the click behaviour, you can assign who is interested in what. Various systems offer the possibility to automate the sending of such emails and thus keep the effort low (e.g. Mailerlite).
Establishing contact via email should not remain the only way of making contact. Emails are suitable for taking the first steps towards each other and also for keeping the contact in an orderly dance step through regular intermediate steps.
Are emails too impersonal? They can be, but they shouldn't be! Even if an email is sent as a newsletter, it can still be individual. Under no circumstances should too much generalised or unimportant content be sent to your contacts. The content of emails should therefore be tailored to the interests of the registered contacts. For example, interest groups for individual topics can be created among the recipients and the mailings coordinated with them.
The content should be interesting and targeted for the intended contact.
Other possibilities for personalisation exist – but they cannot be implemented everywhere or make sense. Here are a few ideas:
An 80/20 rule can be used to determine the content of the emails. 80% of the emails sent should be "educational emails". These are mailings that provide recipients with useful information and valuable content without asking for anything in return. This type of email is highly appreciated by the recipients. The other 20% of the emails sent may be "offer emails". Offer emails are used for sales purposes and are intended to motivate recipients to take an action after receiving them, e.g. to use a service or take another next step. Such emails should only be sent after an added value has been created for the recipient (e.g. educational emails). The emails should only be sent to people who might actually be interested.
In addition to contact by email, other technologies can also be considered. However, the intensity of the relationship and the background of the contact should be taken into account. How have you communicated with each other so far? If you have known a business contact for a long time or know him or her very well, you can go for the more personal method of telephone calls or arrange personal meetings. Perhaps there is even a business contact who appreciates being contacted by letter? There are certainly many ways to successfully maintain engagement with business contacts. It is important to choose a variant that is tailored to the contact himself and does not underpin your professionalism.
Contacting people by email is very well established in building and maintaining business relationships. An email is quickly written and also quickly sent. Nevertheless, it is considered sufficiently serious. At the cocktail bar, as in communication, it's all about a good mix.
Building relationships requires trust and credibility. Therefore, information and education are an important basis for building professional business relationships.
Information includes making your expertise clearly visible to the public. By publishing expert information in magazines, blogs, social media and other platforms, your expertise and your company will be more visible to your contacts. To make a name for yourself as an expert, a certain depth of content is necessary. However, this gives potential contacts the opportunity to learn a lot about you, your experience and your company. This level of visibility and expertise increases trust and credibility – the basis of any healthy relationship.
Business relationships, like all relationships, require regular contact and reciprocity. Each side should be able to benefit from the contact. If you only get in touch when you want something from your contact, it will look inauthentic. By establishing contact, you should also pass on content that is interesting for your counterpart. Think about how you could help the business contact. Actively asking for feedback is a very good way to increase satisfaction in the business relationship and to strengthen the relationship.
There are different ways of making contact for maintaining business relationships or establishing new contacts. It is important to choose a serious variant that is tailored to the contact. One established method is to contact someone by email, which is low in cost and effort but appears sufficiently serious. If you make contact by email, you should observe certain principles in order to successfully establish or maintain business relationships. For example, most emails should be aimed at providing interesting content and information for the contact. At most every fifth email should contain offers of one's own services as the main content. However, contact by email should not be the only way of establishing contact.
Building relationships requires trust and credibility. To build more new business relationships, choose a way to make your expertise public, for example with blog posts, professional articles or social media posts. This will create incentives that will make you more attractive and make your counterpart want to stay in touch with you.