Years ago, when I was a diplomat, I learned the art of cultivation. The process of building confidence, and beyond that, building trust. Patient and proper cultivation could ease discomfort, and even suspicion. It could lessen resistance, eventually leading to cooperative efforts. Over time, good things came from the patient workings of finding commonalities, and focusing on what the other side valued.
Business is no different. For your firm, a proper client cultivation program could lead to securing more who fit the profile of an ideal client. A client (existing or past) who trusts you AND may possibly have referrals for you won’t necessarily think about referring you if you aren’t “top of mind” or on her “radar”. But if your cultivation of her is sincere and regular, it’s more likely that she will funnel new clients to you whenever she meets someone who may need your services.
These are three things I focus on when cultivating potential and existing clients for new business and referrals:
- In your own mind, make it entirely about discovering the other person (i.e. your client). The little things that matter to the other person counts. Not what you hope to achieve, but what matters to them sets a tone of authentic interest in them, whereby they start to feel that you have their best interests at heart, even where you benefit from providing a service to them.
- Track what they are interested in. Have a mechanism or process for capturing such information.
- Act on the things that matter to them.
Take a look at this “cultivation card” I created for a wealth management firm. It’s a quick and easy means of getting to really know what matters to your client. I recommend that you avoid surveys and such, which are painfully tedious. Worse, they can be highly impersonal, even cold. Remember: you’re looking for commonalities for an event that can bring clients together, and demonstrate to them that you are interested in something they value beyond your services.