If your business is like mine, where a handshake is required to close a deal, you know that building and nurturing 1-to-1 relationships is the biggest key to success—without those relationships, you (and I) simply don’t have a business.
One of the most important tools we have in our company is a list of our Top 100 Relationships. Everyone on our team knows who those 100 people are (not just their company names, but the name of each individual), and recognizes the value and opportunities our relationship with each of them affords us. Maintaining personal, genuine, 1-to-1 relationships with the people on this list reinforces the success of our business in a variety of ways.
Finding your top 100
If you sit down and systematically identify the people who’ve proven to be valuable in the past—and who may be valuable in the future—you might be surprised at how quickly these folks will turn up.
Here’s a handy little checklist we use to identify our Top 100—anyone who falls into one of the following categories belongs on the list.
- Individuals who are currently paying you money. Your list of current clients is a great place to start. These people are presently benefiting from your business and are paying you cold hard cash for your products or services.
- Individuals who have paid you in the past. Never mind why they aren’t buying something from you now—at some point in the past they found value in their relationship with you. They may become a client again (when the time is right), or even refer other clients to your company.
- Potential clients who haven’t closed yet. These people have expressed an interest in a possible relationship with you because some aspect about your business is attractive to them. They may prove to be a perfect fit, or maybe they aren’t quite right—regardless, keep them on the list!
- Potential clients who have gone silent. The deal never closed, and these people have stopped communicating. However, these folks once had an interest in a possible relationship with your business. There could be any number of reasons for their silence, but keep them on your radar—you never know when they might be ready to re-engage.
- Everyone who has ever referred business to you. These people believe in your business enough to put their own reputation on the line. They know your company intimately enough to refer business that comes to fruition—clients who are the right fit. Maintain a healthy relationship with these people and they will continue to send business your way.
- People who’ve referred business that didn’t materialize. They still staked their reputation on you. Even if past referrals didn’t work out, future referrals just might. Keep them close!
- Well-connected professionals you know. They know the people you don’t know and want to know (see number 8). They can be the difference between just wishing you had a reason to become aquatinted with a particular person, and actually shaking that person’s hand.
- Well-connected professionals you would like to know. These people are well known in your industry or professional community and can help grow your network exponentially. You likely know of these people, but haven’t yet been properly introduced.
- Well-connected people in your personal life. There are people who you might not know just through your personal social circle who could turn into valuable professional connections later down the road. Think of folks who might be in your hobby groups, frequent the same restaurants, or those friends of friends that you’ve never been fully introduced to.
- Anyone who wants to see your business be successful. Finally, and perhaps the least obvious, are the people who benefit peripherally from your business wins. You can list your mother if you want, but I’m thinking more along the lines of your CPA or business attorney. Cast a wide net as you make this list—there are lots of people whose success is tied in some way to yours.
You have your top 100… now what?
Once you have assembled this list of names, take steps to purposefully nurture and maintain these relationships. Learn who these individuals are: not just their names but their personalities, their likes and dislikes, what keeps them up at night. Think about how you came to know these people—identify the avenues that led you to one another and take the necessary steps to keep those avenues clear. Then demonstrate that you know and care about them with systematic, disciplined, scheduled outreach.
Having this master list at the ready will help you stay organized and keep everyone on your team informed about the status of your relationships.
You may be thinking, “I don’t know anywhere near 100 people.” But if you think carefully (using the suggestions I’ve shared with you here), you’ll discover that you have more relationships than you realize, so building a Top 100 isn’t as lofty an undertaking as it seems.
And if you find yourself struggling with any of these steps, give us a call.