Written by Martin Wise, founder and CEO of RelPro

…and the opportunity (necessity) to build trust with your clients and prospects during and after COVID-19 through industry, company, and executive research

In order to be successful in life, you have to build solid relationships and earn trust. In business, without trust, companies tend to fail and business development professionals flounder.

Earning trust cannot only earn you success in your career, it also can help your sales numbers soar. Trust enables you to build a more intimate relationship with your clients, which in turn will help you better recommend products and services they will need to succeed. Trust enables you to be seen less as a vendor, and more as a partner.

There are so many ways for business development professionals to earn trust – and none of them need to resemble the “I’m watching you” and lie-detector methods used by Robert De Niro in Meet the Parents! Trust among business professionals is built on a foundation of understanding your client or prospect’s situation, needs, and priorities – and that means doing your research.

In my experience, seeing a situation from multiple angles and “putting yourself in your client or prospect’s shoes” helps prepare you for a professional business conversation. This means having researched and developed an educated point of view from these three perspectives:

  1. The industry
  2. The company
  3. The executive(s) you are meeting

This is exactly why RelPro, with our time-saving integrated intelligence on 7 million companies and their decision-makers, has recently launched a partnership with Vertical IQ and their actionable Industry Intelligence for sales and marketing professionals on more than 500 unique industries, as well as economic/industry reports for 325 cities across the U.S.

Helping our customers be heroes in front of their prospects and clients

In this COVID-19 world, the RelPro + Vertical IQ partnership seems especially timely, enabling us to help our mutual customers. In times when so many financial and professional services business developers and relationship managers find themselves talking to clients who they (or their colleagues) may not have spoken with in a long time, our integrated solution gives them the insights they need to relate, resonate, and be remembered.

Similarly, it is critical for these professionals to have the data and insights to reach SMB owners and executives who may never have been in greater need of professional advice. This is a time when bankers and advisors can shine and be heroes  … or they can flop and blow the opportunity if they are not prepared and don’t tailor the conversation to the executive’s industry, corporate, and personal situation.

When I founded RelPro 11 years ago, we started by suggesting to financial advisors that RelPro could help increase their understanding of both clients and prospects. The feedback we received was “there’s nothing you can tell me about my clients that I don’t already know,” and that’s in part why we started to focus more on sales and business development professionals looking to find new leads and contacts.

But so much has changed now – even if you did know everything about your client and their needs at the start of 2020, you probably don’t any more! You will want to be reaching out to them to catch up. So it doesn’t matter whether you are calling a client or a prospect these days – pre-call research is critical to turn that COVID-19 outreach into a successful encounter that will establish or build trust that can last a lifetime.

Here’s how NOT to do it!

Here’s how one advisor (who I don’t rely on) reached out to me recently: “Just wanted to check in and see if there is anything we can assist with given the markets, etc. As you can imagine, we have been on tons of calls with our strategists, trading desks, and managers. Happy to share our thoughts or anything else we might be able to assist with.”

“…Been on tons of calls”!! Hardly a qualification for a deep meaningful conversation – I’ve been on lots of calls too! And not much there that indicates any appreciation for who I am or what I am juggling as CEO of a growing business.

Come to think of it, I don’t think this advisor ever asked me about my company. Imagine how much more I would think of him (or trust him) if he acknowledged that I ran a software business, indicated even some rudimentary sense of what running a software business involved, and shared with me perspectives on how other clients with software businesses were faring. Doing your research before a business interaction is critical to building trust.

Pre-call research doesn’t have to take a long time

RelPro and Vertical IQ are two platforms with the same philosophy: to help business development professionals, particularly in financial services and professional services, build informed and trusted relationships with company executives based on accurate insights. The gathering of this valuable research and intelligence is even quicker now with the seamless integration of the two platforms.

It doesn’t matter whether you are researching a company in RelPro and want to find perspectives on the industry (Vertical IQ intelligence on that industry is literally one click away), or if you are researching an industry in Vertical IQ and want to find more companies and executives to call in that industry within your local area (RelPro’s search covering 7 million companies is also one click away).

I sometimes think calling it “research” is misleading because it makes it sound like it will take a long time – but have no fear, pre-call research is not like doing a PhD, folks!!

A good case in point: I was having a call with a professional services prospect earlier this week, and 10 minutes before the call, I learned an additional partner would be joining the call who would apparently be “an important influencer.” I typed her name into RelPro and quickly learned her responsibilities and other trade associations she was involved with that gave me some immediate “common denominators” that I could use to introduce the conversation and start engaging with her (building credibility and trust). The research literally took three minutes, and it made a huge difference to how the call went.

With integrated intelligence from RelPro and Vertical-IQ, the research can be quick and enjoyable and will lay the foundation for a trust-building conversation. You may be surprised to discover that doing this research also is stimulating, opening your eyes to other leads and possibilities that you can pursue beyond the client or prospect at hand.

Staying informed: Client research on the run

Pre-call research isn’t a “one and done.” In the weeks and months to come, there will be numerous changes and developments affecting industries, companies, and executives. The RelPro-Vertical IQ partnership is there to help you too.

RelPro Alerts enable you to stay up-to-date with companies and executives you are interested in (clients and prospects), and Vertical IQ is providing valuable perspectives on industry developments with dynamic updates including their COVID-19 monitoring page.

Never let a good crisis go to waste

It’s hard to see anything good in this crisis right now (although Mother Nature and the environment are enjoying being able to catch their breath, and the moon looks so much closer these days now that the atmosphere is clearer). But one positive for commercial bankers, business bankers, and other professionals serving small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) is that there is a need to call them NOW to check-in on them. And over the weeks and months to come, there will be needs and opportunities to call AGAIN and serve them because they have real and pressing needs for your help like never before.

So there IS some good that can come out of this dire time – your clients need you now, and your prospects need you too (some of them are much more available than they ever were now that they are not traveling all the time). This is a great time to be building trust and laying the foundations to build your business in the “beyond COVID-19” era.

>> Watch our free joint RelPro-Vertical IQ webinar. Martin Wise from RelPro and Bobby Martin from Vertical IQ discuss how to stay relevant by combining Industry Intelligence with Company and Contact Intelligence.

Martin Wise headshot

About Martin Wise

Martin Wise, founder and CEO of RelPro, is a gray-haired entrepreneur loving building a company that helps business development professionals in financial and professional services. He is a Brit who came to New York City 22 years ago for a 2-year assignment with Merrill Lynch. Martin enjoys tennis, golf, cycling, and the Jersey Shore.