Strategic relationships – how much thought do you give them as a business? Your team needs to be good at building and growing strategic relationships for your business to grow and flourish, particularly in Professional & Financial Services, where success is very much based on your people.
Furthermore, as we’ve all had to shift towards more virtual working, building and growing strategic relationships needs to be far more focused and intentional than before, as people aren’t seeing others they used to see regularly, either at the office or at external events.
With increased seniority, it’s strategic relationships that help make things happen internally, build increased loyalty with current clients and bring in new clients. Therefore, it’s worth getting even the more junior members of your company used to the concept of focusing on relationship building as a part of their role, so it’s not so challenging later on. Some people have a natural flair for it, but many don’t.
Who does your team needs to be good at building and growing strategic relationships with and why?
Who your team members work with each day means some kind of relationship happens by the nature of interaction (this is not to say they can’t be improved – read more here about dealing with professional relationship challenges). Therefore, the real challenge is to get people to spend time building relationships out of this immediate circle.
Benefits of this include:
- More productive working with other functions/departments where there needs to be interaction.
- The chance to develop joint propositions for clients.
- The opportunity to cross-sell different services to clients which increases profitability, involves a client more in your company and creates the opportunity to service them better leading to increased loyalty and hopefully referrals.
Clients and prospective clients are obvious ones but beyond this are other business contacts, including referrers.
Ultimately managing these relationships strategically is likely to lead to:
- more work
- a better reputation
- increased profitability.
How to get your team to build them effectively – a suggested simple framework
- Time – encourage your team to make developing and maintaining strategic relationships a part of their working week. If time isn’t allocated, other tasks will always come first and it will get put off or won’t happen at all.
- Consider ‘who’ – focus them on thinking about the objectives they need to achieve and which relationships would help them achieve those objectives, from both a career and role perspective.
- Interactions – it’s essential your team think about ‘being human’ with those they want to build relationships with. Overly focusing on their objectives when engaging with people won’t help them do this. Also, to think about the variety of ways relationships can be built – yes the coffees and lunches, but also the staying in touch more generally, being helpful, sending interesting information; some creativity is required.
- System – to support the strategy and plan, a system is needed for noting outcomes and reminders for next interaction. This could be software (CRM or similar) or it could be as simple as diary reminders. If there isn’t a companywide system then individuals need to come up with a way that works for them.
This is a long-term strategy that needs to become a regular ‘habit’ in people’s working lives. Relationships take time to build so there needs to be regular engagement to make sure this happens.
It also needs to be acknowledged that it will be far easier with some than others due to personal chemistry. By emphasising the benefits to individuals for both their career and the company, as well as supporting them to have a framework, this will increase the likelihood of action being taken.
If you want to discuss how I can help you embed this thinking and the practical skills to make it happen, please contact me.