As a CFM, you are likely doing more with fewer resources now more than ever. You probably don’t have time for everything on your to-do list, let alone answer unsolicited sales calls. You may even have your staff field such calls, ensuring that you’re not bogged down by them. However, it might be time to reconsider what you want and need from your external partners, and perhaps as important, what you can offer to them.
This article will focus on the idea that professional sales calls are not annoyances to be avoided. Rather, they could be opportunities to build long-term relationships, share needs, and understand the value of a product or service to increase both business and personal success.
A Change in Perspective
In 1999, I inherited a long, successful relationship with my company’s business insurance broker. He helped us add needed lines as we grew, waived us off coverages that were not relevant to our business, and reviewed troublesome insurance clauses in contracts. He provided competitive bids every 2-3 years to make sure we had the right carriers. Neither I, nor any of our senior management, had any interest in changing that relationship. Every carrier I met at conferences, or who called me through a reference from a colleague, or who cold-called me randomly was told, “Sorry, but I’m not interested.” And I wouldn’t hear from most of them again.
That was until I received a cold call from someone at an insurance brokerage who found our company in The Blue Book Building & Construction Network. When I informed him that we already had a broker, he asked if he could check in next year to see if anything had changed. Every year, he would call 3-4 months before my renewal, and I would tell him that things had not changed. During this annual call, we would discuss my company’s needs and how his brokerage could not only meet them, but also add services that we had never previously considered as a part of the insurance relationship – especially around safety best practices. We repeated this process for many years.
When our broker eventually retired, we were not happy with the recommended successor. As a result of those yearly check-ins with the other broker, we formed a long-term relationship that enabled his firm to implement a full risk management program at our company, not just a collection of insurance policies. His firm also used big data and artificial intelligence to identify risks most contractors would not find on their own. Not surprisingly, his is one of the first names I give as a reference to other contractors.
As a CFM, part of your role is to constantly survey the environment to ensure your company is following best practices and making the best decisions to improve efficiency and effectiveness. By not “taking the call,” I was limiting my perspective to what I already knew, rather than learning more about the alternatives available.
Building a Resource Network
CFMs already look to experts for best practices, as well as technologies that increase efficiency and profitability.
According to a recent article in Constructor, in the face of labor shortages, 84% “of responding firms outsource IT or a business function.”1 Also, a quick search of the keywords “referrals” and “providers” in recent conversations on CFMA’s Connection Café shows the wide range of areas in which CFMs are looking for external information and guidance. Topics of discussion include accounting, payroll, legal, staffing, general and health insurance, contracts, human resource policies, business coaching, outsourced IT, 401(k) administrators, online communications, and COVID-19. How are you coordinating the vast number of referrals you receive from friends, the Connection Café, conferences, and networking events?
Just as salespeople have long lived by their contact lists, CFMs should also build their own networks, starting with all of their referrals, calls, and contacts. Using your customer relationship management (CRM) software, tag the vendor contact by service type, and track your interactions. When you (or a colleague) need or want expert advice or information, turn to your provider list. Challenge yourself to build and use a personal resource library of industry specialists.