In this, the second in our series of blogs, we’re going to continue to explore the different types of relationship managers that exist in firms. People are very sensitive about their contacts and particularly about their Outlook data. It’s not as simple as “they don’t want to share their contacts” or that they feel that they’re “my contacts” only, it’s more complex than that.

It’s really about wanting to be in control. Technology has moved on so quickly when it comes to personal productivity devices such as mobiles, smart phones, tablets etc. that it’s hard to keep up. They all interact with each other in different ways, and often do unexpected things. If you introduce in to the mix a centralised CRM system that’s pushing and pulling contact data in and across environments and platforms it just adds further fuel to the fire.

So we’ve got to be calm in how we deal with users’ concerns. We’ve got to demonstrate that technology can be their friend and that participating in CRM doesn’t mean that you’re losing control or that you’re going to be overwhelmed with emails or messages or tickets.

So whilst I’ve used an animal anecdote to illustrate the different types of behaviours, it pays to take time to understand the behaviours and the motivations so that you’ve got a clear answer to any perfectly reasonable questions that your users might have. You have to get out of your cubicle or your office and get some “face-time” with your users.

“The Vulture”

The “vulture” is, as the name might sound, out to steal other peoples’ contacts. Now in reality no-one necessarily goes out of their way to deliberately steal contacts but the sheer volume of contacts that they have and the fact that seemingly no-one else in their department has any relationships with any of their contacts or clients is how they can be identified. The behaviour of the “vulture” is often driven by a wariness of not being able to control the communications being sent to their contacts and by a concern that others in their department may not behave as responsibly with their contacts as they would like.

The key to winning over the “vulture” is identifying specific contacts where there are already multiple points of contact within the firm and demonstrating that in fact others know their contacts already. Real transparency in terms of the process by which contacts can be nominated on to marketing lists is also important so that they feel that they always have the option to remove their contacts if they wish.

“The Beaver”

The “beaver” is possibly one of the most rigorous and hard working of your relationship professionals. However there are issues. The most significant of which is that they can often be so focused on one particular objective when it comes to client relationship management that they can lose focus on the principle benefit of having good business relationships – growing the business. The emphasis is so much on the building of the relationships that the follow up actions are not always planned out. Quite literally the “means” are often mistaken for the “end” itself.

The “beaver” needs to be focused on next actions and targets. So for example, it’s not just about who they know, but what they intend to do with that relationship. Reports that focus on tasks, follow up and return on investment are vital, as is getting greater granularity about the amount of effort going into practice development. This could be achieved by potentially changing time recording practices to allow BD time to be recorded against each client and not just against one job for all clients.

“The Bee”

The “bee” is of course the hardest working when it comes to the management of their relationships. However unlike the beaver who works with a single objective in mind, the bee thinks more about the good of the firm as a whole. They recognise that their role is part of a bigger picture and are fundamentally bought into CRM.

Often however they might lose sight of their own personal value for the sake of the greater good, so it’s extremely important for the “bee” to be constantly reminded of the value of the contacts that they hold and the activities that they are recording.

“Bees” can develop into significant breadwinners for the firm and therefore it is our responsibility to make sure that CRM becomes the honey for that bread and they see technology as their friend when it comes to business development activity.

Rising to the Relationship Management Challenge

Whatever the profile of your firm in terms of how you manage and share relationships, it is certainly the case that you will have a mixture of those that are bought into CRM and those that are not. In my experience it’s very difficult to persuade those that are fundamentally against the idea of sharing contacts to change their minds, unless you’re prepared to invest significant one to one time with them.

However as more and more professionals are given tangible business development targets that need to be measured and the effort put into achieving them needs to be justified, there is increasingly a compelling reason for why they would want to at least “hear you out”.

I’m not suggesting you train up to become a lion tamer, or a bird catcher even, but using your CRM system simply as a firm wide address book is not going to be enough if your professional users want to demonstrate their value to the firm in terms of the business that they generate and the value of their network.

As I’ve discussed before in my blogs about Social Media and reporting, the world is changing and the way in which technology can help us manage our professional relationships is really changing.

So those that don’t keep up and get on the same level playing field as their peers and competitors might find themselves looking like another animal – dinosaurs, and we all know what happened to them.