Risk & Business Magazine General Insurance Services Magazine | Page 21

WHO ARE YOUR ALLIES? BY: JOHN RUHLIN, AUTHOR & PRESIDENT, THE RUHLIN GROUP Assistants make especially powerful advocates. They’re most likely to remember reps who send gifts or add thoughtful touches to their interactions, and they’re willing to reciprocate by getting proposals in front of decision- makers. Internal allies can also spot the right openings and say, “Now that you’ve wrapped up that project, do you want to spend a couple of minutes talking about company X?” That will be far more effective than sending the CEO 10 emails or calling every other week. To make these connections, use the following guidelines to establish relationships with key influencers: 1. TREAT THEM WITH RESPECT. When building relationships, many entrepreneurs talk down to everyone except the head decision-maker, and that’s a big mistake. Employees in junior or administrative positions are far from insignificant, and treating the boss’ team badly all but guarantees that your deal will fall through. Give gifts to event planners, administrators and other support staff at the same caliber as you would executives. They’ll appreciate it more than their bosses will (because these gifts are totally unexpected), and they’ll often want to reciprocate by helping “When building relationships, many entrepreneurs talk down to everyone except the head decision-maker, and that’s a big mistake.” you get your proposal through. Don’t overlook the people who surround your target prospect; they hold more power than you realize. 2. DEVELOP THE RELATIONSHIP. It’s not enough to send assistants nice gifts every once in awhile. Be helpful, with no strings attached. Help them in their job searches, or offer to be a connector when they’re looking for new opportunities. I always oblige when clients’ assistants ask for recommendations. These people frequently act as bridges to the decision- makers in their next jobs as well. I was once wooing an NBA team head for a potentially massive account. As part of my regular interactions with his assistant, I sent her a quality knife set as a gift. She spoke so highly of my company after receiving it that, seven months later, she opened the door to six other divisions within the team, and we landed a six-figure deal as a result. 3. APPRECIATE DECISION-MAKERS’ FAMILIES. We all have someone in our personal lives who influences our opinions. So, establish relationships with other people’s personal influencers. I like to send a special subscription gift, such as a custom leather tote bag or handmade cutlery, to my clients’ spouses. They’re always touched that I thought of them, and that goodwill deepens my company’s relationship with the client. Surprising people with gifts isn’t just a feel-good strategy - it’s sound business advice. When an assistant or spouse receives an unexpected present from a company, he or she develops a sense of loyalty to that brand. These people talk it up to the decision-maker and foster a positive association going into sales talks or negotiations. So, in the end, CEOs may make the final decisions, but successful relationships begin with their inner circles. + John Ruhlin is the founder of Ruhlin Group. John’s company is trusted by the leaders of fast-growing companies to develop relationship-building strategies and VIP gifting programs to increase referrals and strengthen retention with their most important clients, employees, and prospects. His book, GIFTOLOGY: The Art and Science of Using Gifts to Cut Through the Noise, Increase Referrals, and Strengthen Retention, was released in June, 2016. Visit ruhlingroup.com 21