By: Robin Hensley
Executive Coach, Raising the Bar
Building a system for staying in touch with clients and prospects is an important part of working your business development plan. Systems that make staying in touch automatic and as effortless as possible help you maintain momentum over time. I am often asked about the best ways to do that. In my experience, a plan that incorporates both scheduled and spontaneous connections produces the best results. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Market wisdom says that it takes a minimum of seven contacts for your efforts to be taken seriously. When you are making your plan, build in a minimum of seven connecting points that can be initiated throughout the year. Keep your brand in mind when making your choices so that all your planned connections consistently communicate what you stand for in your practice and in your relationships with your ideal clients, prospective clients and community. Planned connections can include:
- Holiday and special occasion cards. Birthday and holiday cards are an excellent way to stay in touch. Choose holidays that set you apart and won’t get lost in the crush like Thanksgiving, for example. Always hand sign your cards and include a personal message. (For more tips on Thanksgiving cards, see my October “Message from Robin”.)
- Firm newsletter/updates. Tap into your firm’s resources by sending their newsletters and updates to your client list. Keep your distribution list confidential by emailing your message to yourself with a bcc (blind carbon copy) to your client list. Time your mail outs to arrive during normal business hours for maximum impact.
- “Off the clock” lunch one or more times a year. Call or email to arrange to get together. Decide in advance how many of these you will do a month and stick to your schedule. Review your notes on your client before you meet. Familiarizing yourself with your client’s kid’s names, favorite sports team, recent vacations, hobbies and interests will build connection and personalize the experience for your client. One final tip on networking get-togethers you initiate--be sure you reach for the check!
- Thank-you notes: Save time by keeping thank you cards with you. Pre-stamp and address a card before a meeting or lunch, jot down your message in the car after your meeting and drop it in the mail right away. Clients will be amazed by the speed and thoughtfulness of your follow-up, especially if you hosted the get together.
- Client satisfaction surveys. Check in with your clients regularly to see what they think about working with you and your firm. Surveys can be formal, elaborate and conducted by an outside service or informal and designed to build on your existing relationship with your client.
- In-house programs. Schedule a complimentary program on a topic of interest to clients and prospects. Make it an annual event that you and your firm become known for.
- Take your show on the road. Bring your program to your client’s site. Make it a breakfast or lunch program to add to its appeal.
- Review your client notes on a regular schedule to identify something you can follow-up about with your client.
Spontaneous connections include:
- Pass along articles or news you find on topics of interest to your client like fine wines, fly-fishing, opera, golf or art, for example. Add a personal note to increase connection.
- Invite clients to public programs where you are the speaker or the topic is one that your client would find beneficial.
- Invite your client to co-author an article or present jointly at an industry conference.
Your contact plan will have more teeth if you take time to write it down. Now is the perfect time to get started on planning for success in 2010. If you would like a copy of the Raising the Bar Contact Planner to help you get started email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Robin Hensley is a business development coach specializing in coaching CPAs and attorneys who are at the top of their game to maximize their rainmaking skills. Robin was on the audit and consulting staffs with Ernst & Young for five years and was with the Atlanta law firms of Kilpatrick Stockton and Swift, Currie, McGhee & Hiers in both marketing and business development roles for more than six years. She served on the Northside Hospital board for 10 years and currently sits on the board of directors of Superior Uniform Group, a NASDAQ company where she chairs the audit committee. Robin also serves on the advisory board of Atlanta Legal Aid Society and is an honorary lifetime member of the board of the Atlanta City Unit of the American Cancer Society. Named by Atlanta Business Chronicle as one of "Atlanta's Top 20 Self-made Women," Robin’s record as a business development coach has been featured in numerous publications including the Atlanta Business Chronicle, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The Daily Report. She is also the Exclusive Executive Coach for Atlanta’s Business to Business magazine. Her newest book, Raising the Bar: Legendary Rainmakers Share Their Business Development Secrets, was published earlier this year.