SouthStar Capital prides itself on the relationships it has created over the years with referral partners. We have noticed that there are often two types of relationships that evolve. The first is someone that occasionally sends a client here and there to us as a trusted resource and those that make SouthStar Capital a part of their company resources. My question is which do you want to be?
To be an effective at networking, you should constantly be strengthening your relationships with referral sources. The best way to go about this, of course, depends on each individual referral source and what he or she responds to.
So while there isn’t one “best” way to solidify your connection with your client, you can take a number of actions to build good will and credibility in those relationships. Here, I offer my top 10 examples that should give you some ideas of how to use SouthStar Capital and get you off on the right foot solidifying loyal clients. This list isn’t exhaustive, so please feel free to add your own actions to it.
1. Arrange a one-to-one meeting. Setting up a meeting between your team and clients with SouthStar Capital goes a long way to strengthening the clients understanding and expectations of what we can provide. Meeting a referral source in person is an excellent opportunity to learn more about his or her business and interests. Plus you get to see in person examples of how we can help your clients first hand. Not to mention that you can set up this meeting in your office which solidifies the relationship between you and your client making them appreciate the help you are giving them. If you prepare questions in advance so that the conversation flows smoothly, you will also see better results. Be ready to give an update on your business and to ask lots of questions about your client’s interests.
After we’ve met at least once, you may also consider inviting your clients to participate in some type of recreational activity, such as a golf outing, fishing trip, tailgating, or happy hour. This can be a good opportunity to let your client see a different side of you in an informal setting. This reassures them that you have their best interest at heart. Making them even more dependent on your for your business even though you are introducing them to ours. Take banking referral partners for instance. Setting up this type of arrangement gives your client a means to grow their business outside of your ability and keeps their checking accounts, credit cards, savings, and investments all with you. We are only providing the working capital for them to grow their business to a level that will eventually meet your criteria. In return, they can turn a rejection into a strong client with more opportunities down the line.
2. Send a thank-you card. At SouthStar Capital we pride ourselves with handwritten thank-you cards to our clients. This makes a great impression, especially in this age of electronic communication. In that card we can also mention you and your company by name again reaffirming your relationship. If you write a personalized note that mentions what you’re thanking your referral source for then again both relationships are strengthened and a team mentality begins. Often this results in great referrals from your clients back to you of other business owners that could use your help. If you’d rather send something online, SendOutCards.com is a useful resource.
3. Send a gift. Like a thank-you card, a gift — however small or inexpensive — can help build visibility and credibility with your clients. We can work together and send each other’s marketing materials and give away in the same package. Try to find out what his or her likes are (such as favorite foods, hobbies, etc.), and send a gift that is personalized.
4. Call a referral source. An occasional, casual phone call is a good way to keep our relationship strong — when you take care to call or respond to our calls we can better understand what types of clients you are looking for. Perhaps you are a part time CFO. You may want to focus on recycling companies and companies with strong equipment needs. By having conversations on a regular base with our team we can better understand what a good client for you looks like. In turn helping you to establish more clients as well as, helping us get someone that knows our process and how we work in the office. It’s also a good idea to have a piece of news or some tidbit of information to pass along that will benefit or interest your clients. It helps in the closing process and shaping our funding solutions around their needs and desires.
I personally love to add hobbies that the client loves or information about their families. This way you know more information about them and trigger points that will help you break down some of the walls that they may have up. For example I had a client the other day that loved Steelers Football. Letting you know that helps you have a topic of discussion to help break the ice.
5. Display a source’s brochure. Doing a bit of sales work on behalf of our referral sources can not only enhance your relationship with the client but also advertise to other clients a resource they needed. If you have a public area for your business, offer to place our materials where your clients can read them.
6. Extend an invitation. SouthStar Account Executives are always out networking. We would love to invite you to our sources of networking and other networking events. We can even work an event with you, introducing people we run into to other business people you know creates an opportunity to meet others in your target market. It may also provide new business opportunities for us both. Of course it also helps us strengthen our relationship and understanding of each others products and services.
7. Nominate them for an award. Watch for these types of opportunities. Local service and civic organizations often present annual awards recognizing contributions to a particular cause, and local periodicals often sponsor awards contests for business people. Find out which groups and interests your referral source is involved in and check to see if there is a form of recognition associated with them. Then we can nominate each other creating more resources for establishing each other as experts in our fields.
8. Include a source in your newsletter. Even a brief mention of SouthStar Capital in your newsletter can pay dividends down the road, including the opportunity for us to reciprocate the favor in our own newsletter.
9. Arrange a speaking engagement. Let us help each other get in front of a group that would be interested in our business or area of expertise. Local chapters of service organizations, such as Rotary and Kiwanis, are always looking for good speakers. If you belong to a group that invites people to speak, use your contacts to help your source make the rounds among various chapters.
10. Turn the table. Let help each other find other referral sources we might find useful. It’s often a wonderful way to build your relationship. By us helping to build each other’s centers of influence we are increasing our business, and helping to create a debt of gratitude that will encourage these referral sources to send us back even more referrals.