A Case Study in Relationship Marketing
Who should listen: Anyone interested in learning lessons about creating loyal clients and strategic partnerships from relationship marketing experts.
Key idea: People want to work with people they like.
Action item: Have a conversation with each person in your database until you have profiles that include information about their families, occupations, recreational activities, dreams, and aspirations.
Like so many sales professionals, Steve Guilfoile and Shane Shafer started out in insurance learning by trial and error. As Steve shared, they began by knocking on doors along dirt roads in rural communities, and, while it was the worst way to do sales, it was the greatest way to learn.
After meeting people, learning about their lives, and embedding themselves within the community, Steve and Shane eventually figured out that it’s much easier to empower relationships and to add value first and then ask for something in return, rather than first try to sell someone something.
Today, they strive to develop intimate, interpersonal relationships as a way of developing strategic partnerships with other companies. You can try to differentiate yourself on product or price, and you’ll win some business, but as Steve clearly states, what will never be trumped is the friendships you have with your clients.
Start by bringing value to the table
What if the intent of your first phone call to a new prospective business client wasn’t to push your product but was to learn about their business to discover whether you or someone you know could become a new client for them? What if, as Steve suggests, your goal was to become their best salesperson?
What would happen?
If you repeatedly provide value, they will feel so indebted to you that they’d be happy to reciprocate. Continue to provide value—even if it is to buy their kids’ Girl Scout cookies, sponsor their kids’ baseball team, or attend their charity event—and that give and take will create a lifelong relationship. As Steve notes, buying a box of cookies from their kids’ is the least he can do to repay his clients for the time and trust they have given him.
So how do you become the person who can deliver value?
One of the easiest ways it to become a “connector.”
Become the person who knows everyone else. Get out into the community, participate in what’s going on, and talk to everyone. Network with the intent of finding out what other people do, what they need, and what their pain points are. Offer to help, and if you can’t, then introduce them to others who can.
By becoming a connector, by putting people together, you become invaluable to both parties because you are the common thread. Do this often enough, and you’ll become the go-to person in the community who knows everyone. You’ll be the hub of valuable relationships, and reciprocity (i.e., leads!) will be the coin of the realm.
Here’s the bottom line: as Steve observes, no one ever closed a deal by watching videos on their phone. You never know who someone may know and where meeting them may lead, so you need to be out there.
Become a professional friend-maker
In a business culture where relationships are at the core of your marketing strategy and where you’re working to the benefit of both parties, you want to do business with friends, friends of friends, or people who will become your friends. You want to work with people you like. Yes, you can work with people you’re not especially authentic with; people do that all the time. But those folks will not become lifelong clients, advocates, or raving fans.
As their interview progresses, you’ll hear Steve and Shane talk about being professional friend-makers. Of course, you want to connect with clients over business, but you can connect casually through your relationship as well. It doesn’t have to be forced—a quick text to say “How’s it going?” or to send something funny is normal between friends. Go ahead and talk politics if that’s your thing, share a joke, go to lunch or a ball game . . . you’ll find out soon enough whether you’re going to click with someone or not.
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