What The Networking Seminar Speakers Said
post # 111 — June 19, 2006 — a Client Relations post
Last week I attended a local professional networking event here in Kansas City. The speakers kept talking about how they focus on relationship management (‘the romance’). The real estate guy has built a $40 million business of 8 agents mainly on referrals. He said he sends out postcards twice a month, then letters at day 52 and 75, etc. and continues to follow up, and up, and up relentlessly. It seems to work for him. (Personally I’d be quite annoyed to get all that stuff when I didn’t need it.)
The financial services guy boasted that he ‘focuses on the relationship’ and then turns the account over to the ‘technical staff.’ He says he has a staff of 3 and can focus more on his own networking goals –for example, aiming to get on at least 3 non-profit boards this year–mainly to expand his client base. He challenged the rest of us to leverage our own value this way – the old ‘delegate everything you can’.
But why on earth would I think I have a ‘relationship’ with a financial services professional who defers the technical expertise to someone else? To me, this isn’t a relationship, this is sales. I want to think that I am getting the value directly from the person I interact with–my lawyer, accountant share their expertise with me.
So why does this approach seem to work so well for those in real estate and financial services who are so sales-driven? Do you think people feel the ‘relationship’ they provide (the face time, if you will) is as good as actual expertise?
Eileen, I think both sides are correct. The speakers are correct in saying that their approach can be made to “work” to build a business. You are correct in saying that what they describe can hardly be described as ‘relationship-building.’
There’s nothing morally wrong with “sales” and nothing morally wrong with making money through generating and serving a large number of transactions. As I was at pains to argue in my article, many clients are looking for transactions and are not shopping for a professional with whom they can build a long-term relationship. For such clients, the old, familiar “sales by volume of activity” approach works remarkably well, as your speakers illustrated and claimed – you get turned down often, but the numbers work out.
What IS misleading is to call this relationship building and romance. And, it is dangerous to take this approach if you want to have a repuation for being nurturing, caring, focused, customized and in it for the long haul.
As you reported, anyone who tried that approach on you would leave a distinct impression of a KIND of professional provider. Maybe one you want, maybe not. But the core message is this: none of us can have it both ways: we can’t credibly expect to obtain a reputation of being interested in romance if we visibly engage in ‘love em and leave em’ tactics.
Either approach can be made to work. The hypocricy of the middle path will be exposed.
Bill Sherman said:
“I want to think that I am getting the value directly from the person I interact with—my lawyer, accountant share their expertise with me.”
When you minimize a service provider’s ability to leverage their value, then really, they can only increase their revenue by charging more per hour of their time.
For those of us who love personal attention and long-term relationships with service providers, we have to recognize the value connected to that level of relational intimacy.
As David suggests, both volume sales and relational sales can work, but they’re very different approaches.
posted on June 19, 2006