‘The depth of our relationships is our only defence against the tyranny of competitor brands’
This quote was shared with us recently by a veteran consultant over coffee. It prompted us to consider what is at the heart of successful businesses.
As a team with deep experience across the legal, banking and software industries, it is clear to us that products and services will become increasingly homogeneous in an ever automating world. Differentiation is harder than ever before, but differentiating through your relationship with the client remains a key opportunity. This is most true when high value products or services requires an element of trust. Gaining trust requires a strong relationship. And having a better relationship with the client equates to a competitive advantage. All other things being equal, you are more likely to win and increase your revenue. If you can repeat this pattern successfully, or better still, build it into your way of working, you will generate strong repeatable revenue and immense value.
As a team, we have been studying relationships and networks for years. Understanding how the best cultivate strong and valuable networks led us to create BeeCastle. BeeCastle is a global SaaS software product that distills and democratises the structure, tools and approaches of the best relationship managers we know into a single integrated system.
Our mission is to deliver better relationships, happier clients and more revenue through relationship intelligence and insights.
We’ve learnt from the best! The most skilled relationship managers across consulting, legal, investment banking, government engagement and people involved in complex, high value sales usually do some or all of the following…
Based on these insights, BeeCastle is built on a platform that enables any team, anywhere to follow the practices of these industry leaders. Remember, what is measured, can be managed and improved.
Let’s deal with each of these.
The best relationship managers are acutely aware who is in their team’s network. As a team, they ruthlessly segment their most important clients and map the influence of key people, internally and as a referral source.
However, most organisations manage an ‘ocean’ of relationships. Each key partner has their own set of networks, siloed and disconnected from their colleagues. If there are records, they are not prioritised and team members do not know which clients are critical and how a relationship is going.
At BeeCastle we enable organisations to create a single view of their total network, enforce a segmentation approach and map influence within accounts. We help companies do this through intelligent suggestions based on role and previous engagement.
The best relationship managers have a system – they record touch-points and key insights for their priority network members. When was the last time I spoke to this person? What are they interested in? This includes a rigour around note-taking – everyone in the team always has context from the last discussion at hand. Incredibly, this is still often managed through very manual excel spreadsheets!
However, most organisations do not have the time to maintain accurate records. Even if they use CRM, they hold only basic contact details and ‘opportunities/matters’. There is little information on the ‘why’. This reduces the motivation to use the CRM and there is no structured approach to outreach as the team has no simple way to gauge ‘how is the relationship going?’.
At BeeCastle… we remove manual effort by automatically processing your email, call and meeting interactions. Using a ‘human first’ design approach, we capture notes and feedback with one-click knowing you spend most of your time in email or with clients. This, combined with your customer feedback, creates a full 360º view of your relationships.
The best relationship managers have a cultural expectation that leaders will allocate time reconnecting with influential people or building new connections. This is measured (usually through the same spreadsheets) and rewarded, along with ‘sales’/pitch activities. With strong records and a structured picture of their network, they can coordinate action effectively. New opportunities are a direct result of that effort, rather than luck.
However, most organisations are constantly focused on ‘what’s in front of them’, their latest opportunity, matter or project. Their meetings and time are reactive and focused only on sales pipelines and current projects. They have no data, measurement or incentive related to the most impactful BD activity – engaging with their broader network, especially when they are not actively working with them. Referrals and opportunities are serendipitous, not seen as the product of a concerted effort.
At BeeCastle we use sophisticated data analytics to score the quality and depth of your relationships with every individual contact and company in your portfolio. This allows teams to measure relationship building activity and answer the question – how engaged are we with our key network?
The best relationship managers know time is limited. So these expert operators are very deliberate and proactive about who in their network they engage with. They have specific ‘recipes’ for the team for how often and in what way to engage with decision makers or referrers at critical companies. They know the difference between a ‘contact’ and a ‘relationship’ – and consciously decide who to build relationships with and how to build them.
However, most organisations rely purely on their teams intuition. Proactive relationship building is an expectation, but no-one coordinates what activities will bring the biggest bang for their buck. Relationship managers connect with those they are closest with or run into. As humans, we also gravitate to ‘PLM’s’ (people like me) as our unconscious bias kicks in (more about this in a later blog). This results in critical relationships slipping through the cracks and opportunities being lost.
At BeeCastle our intelligent algorithms, informed by your companies company’s ‘recipe’, provide coordinated suggestions to your whole team about who they should reach out to and how they should do it. Within their limited time, relationship managers know what outreach will have the greatest impact. This is tracked, ensuring people are recognised for their efforts.
Combining these efforts will unleash the power of your organisations network – unlocking new opportunities with little additional effort. Get in touch today if you would like to learn more about BeeCastle or you want to talk shop about our favourite topic – great business 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: