The 4 steps to organising your network of contacts

March 2, 2020 • 8 min read

‘We try to control the chaos. Structure, focus and data allow us to get more from our relationship building’

BeeCastle, our relationship management and analytics platform, helps organisations build better external relationships. The product was inspired by many experts and, in part 1 of this 4-part series The Secrets of the Best Relationship Managers’, we will draw from the experience of an executive-level investment banker, along with other clients, to explore a topic that the best relationship managers are obsessed over:

How structuring, segmenting and collecting data about your organisations’ network makes you more effective and unlocks more opportunities.

1. Map your key relationships

Start by getting organised. Don’t underestimate this step; it will be tough! Business relationships grow, change and there are lots of them. The foundation of a structured relationship strategy is to identify what critical relationships you have in your network. Typically, most service organisations think of this as having a record of all paying clients in your billing/CRM system or a giant spreadsheet.

Does that accurately reflect all the external work your team does? Does it represent all the relationships your organisation depends on? The most likely answer is no. Even if it was yes, how can you use those relationships for maximum benefit to your organisation? Our most successful clients are able to categorise their network into the profiles below, and they know the value of strong connections with individuals or teams in each category:

  • Referrers – You may not work with these people regularly, however they have a vast reach and have proven willing to ‘spread the word’. Trust, a personal connection, and some old fashioned ‘quid-pro-quo’ go a long way.
  • Partners – Critical to expanding your reach through a new channel. It’s hard building new business – having a network of organisations who proactively bring you relevant leads makes it easier and more scalable.
  • Vertical leaders and influencers – Important stakeholders can make (through sponsorship) or break (through resistance) your most important initiatives. They are often regulators, government and industry bodies or can be key leaders within the industry who have significant sway.
  • Previous ‘cold’ opportunities – Potential clients who previously didn’t translate to work. Circumstances change. New opportunities arise and referrers can be nurtured – but only if you have a relationship.
  • Suppliers, investors and many other external relationships

All are critical to growth and sustainable revenue. All must be managed to mitigate risk. A plan to make the most of that opportunity requires your team to record and centralise that record of your whole organisations network.

With BeeCastle you will create portfolio’s for all the companies and organisations you interact with, – creating specific groups that represent their role as a client, partner, investor or referrer. To stay current, BeeCastle automatically suggests contacts to add based on recent activity ensuring all the relationships you manage (not just clients) are recorded.

2. Prioritise and segment

Your organisation’s network will likely look vast and complicated. It is impossible to build deep, trust-based relationships with everyone. You must prioritise.

Many firms are reactive in prioritising their relationship building – time and effort is based on who is the loudest. Or whoever you most recently ran into. Or whatever the latest opportunity is.

However, the most effective organisations we work with proactively bucket the organisations they work with into ‘importance’ categories. Who is most critical for your organisation’s growth, either as clients, referrers or partners? The criteria are always unique to the organisation but the practice itself is common and very effective.

Take the example of one of our consulting clients who have consciously assigned their contacts into 4 ‘rings’ of influence. They establish different engagement ‘recipes’ for each of those rings. They expect and measure deeper, regular in person connections with the highest importance organisations, while less important organisations involve a lighter touch outbound engagement.

With BeeCastle you will categorise all your organisations based on importance – Platinum, Gold, Silver or Bronze. BeeCastle uses this information to keep you and your team focused on the relationships that matter, prioritising suggestions for key clients, customising scoring based on importance, and structuring analytics to focus on how you are doing with your critical relationships.

Taking this initial step with BeeCastle often results in a “Aha!” moment for the CEO and senior executives of a company who tell us they can finally see an overall picture of all their client relationships. This this “birds eye” view gives management teams the information and ability to make the right decisions about what next actions to take and allocation of resources.

3. Map influence within your key clients

Let’s assume you have mapped your client network in BeeCastle and gained an understanding of who your most important clients or organisations are from a relationship point of view. That’s a great start!

However, you likely have more than one or two contacts within those organisations. They have different roles. Importantly, they have differing impact on you achieving your goals. It’s not enough to have a up to date contact list with a record of last contact — you must understand:

  • Are they the decision maker for your purpose, the person whose final endorsement is required?
  • Are they senior influencers who can unlock opportunities without direct decision making?
  • Are they team members that act as champions and enablers who are critical to getting work done?

Successful commercial law firms we work with often navigate large corporate clients. They have multiple members of their team engaging with multiple contacts, all with differing influence. Consciously categorising their contacts by influence within an organisation enables them to:

  1. Build specific norms and plans around messaging, content, and cadences to each level of the account; and
  2. Measure and track engagement across the different levels so that you know you are not missing opportunities or letting key relationships slip.

Failing to approach clients this way often results in ‘the forgotten client’. Your teams on the ground are regularly in contact with their working teams. You assume that means you are in good standing and top of mind. However, you aren’t engaged with their decision makers or executives. Other competitors have been more systematic with keeping in touch. Humans are reciprocal beings and have strong recency bias. As such, you miss that next pitch, that new growth opportunity or get displaced as the trusted advisor.

As I am sure you can image there is a huge number of data that is generated from these and needs to be analysed.

With BeeCastle we do the maths for you. We intelligently help you to map your contacts within organisations based on their role and influence – senior influencer, decision maker or team members. You will use our advanced analytics on your history and cadence across the 3 levels and suggestions when we believe some targeted engagement will help prevent ‘the forgotten client’.

4. Understand your history

Our most organised investment banking clients liken relationship management to playing music: while improvisation is great, you want to ensure you are playing the right notes with the right people at the right time across the right ranges (or levels). No matter how well you know musical theory (or in this case: your networks structure), it is hard to know what note to play next without an understanding of what has been played in the past. Extending that to relationship management, it is difficult to understand what the status of a relationship is and what is the next best move without a deep and accurate picture of your organisations prior interactions with that person or organisation.

Our most disciplined clients actively record every interaction their firm has with a key contact — whether it be a call, lunch or event. In the past this has been highly manual but is incredibly powerful. This data, combined with network structuring, allows them to be more intelligent about relationship management and to make data driven decisions.

With BeeCastle the highly manual effort is removed as all your calls, meetings and emails with contacts are recorded automatically. You receive a single clear picture of your relationship history without any significant overhead. This data is used by BeeCastle to score relationship depth and identify what the next note or action should be.

In summary the best relationship managers organise and manage their networks by:

  1. mapping key relationships
  2. prioritising and segmenting their network
  3. mapping influence within key clients
  4. and understanding interaction history

BeeCastle helps by encoding this process and knowledge into a single product so organisations build and maintain better relationships.

This article is part of a series on the Secrets of the Best Relationship Managers. In the series, we will share our journey and dive deeper into each of the following articles:

  • The secrets of the best relationship managers part 2: how visibility and relationship records are critical to relationship management (coming soon)
  • The secrets of the best relationship managers part 3: how measuring and building a habit of proactive outreach will lead to more revenue (coming soon)
  • The secrets of the best relationship managers part 4: how coordinating and prioritising how you engage your network creates opportunities (coming soon)

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