Your database is the most powerful tool you have in both your personal and your professional life. Both the size and the quality matter. You will want to take time to segment your database into three tiers: A – contacts who are actively engaged with you and exchange referrals with you; B – contacts who you share a mutual like and respect; C – contacts who you know, and have little in common with now, but you should stay connected for future opportunities to collaborate.
Determine how you will spend time and communicate with each tier. You want to spend the most time with your Tier A contacts. These are the people to schedule meals with and make time for phone calls to. For quality assurance, keep score of how many referrals you exchange with your Tier A. Keep the love alive in your relationship by sending them notecards and articles of interest. Stay in front of them at all times. You don’t want them to give your competitors an opportunity to move in on your turf.
Your Tier B contacts you want to keep in touch with at least monthly. You want to seek out ways to move them up into your Tier A contacts. This can be done several ways. The first is to be influential. Consistently invite them to join you at a networking event whether it is your referral group, a chamber mixer or other business event. Be sure to introduce them to professionals you know at these events, make your guest feel special. Be classy, pay their admission to the event in advance. Lastly, look for a way to send them a referral.
Some businesses are harder than others to refer to simply because they are so niche, or because it is so different from your line of business and the kind of contacts you have in your database. If this is the case, you may need to put some effort into nurturing the relationship. For example, if someone you know owns a tutoring business and you don’t have kids who need tutoring, perhaps you can call someone you know with children and ask them for help. The phone call should go something like this
“Jane, it’s Mary. I’m trying to help a friend of mine and I’m really racking my brain on this one…. I’m hoping you might be able to help me, help her. See, my friend Debra owns this fantastic tutoring business. She matches tutors up to children who need some help whether it is in math, reading, or even music! Debra has sent me a few good clients lately and I really want to help return the favor. Since you have children, I thought I’d see if you overheard any of your children’s friends complaining of struggling in school, or their parents expressing concern? Is there an upcoming school event she might attend?”
Your Tier C contacts should be kept in touch with monthly or quarterly. For this group, your eNewsletter can be enough. If you see an upcoming event that may be of interest to someone in this tier, be a good friend and forward them the details with a short note: “Saw this and thought you may have an interest.” For example, if a Tier C contact is in direct sales for a nutrition product line and you see a health related event coming up, share the details so he/she may participate. These simple gestures of goodwill and positive support will raise your influence with these contacts. They will remember you when an opportunity to send business your way comes up.
Be the Mayor of your database. Be the first person your clients and contacts call when they need a referral to someone. The resulting reciprocal referrals will keep you in business for years to come.