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The importance of semi-private information in relationship-driven industries

October 6, 2021

Business comes down to relationships, to people, especially in service-driven sectors such as legal, wealth management or real estate. This statement may be far from iluminating to many, yet it is barely put into practice in an appropriate fashion

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How do they do it? You may have come across this individual who will enter a meeting with no deck, just some data points memorized, will spend good two thirds speaking about non-business related issues with the client, yet will leave the meeting room with a client handshake and a closed deal.

Business comes down to relationships, to people, especially in service-driven sectors such as legal, wealth management or real estate. This statement may be far from iluminating to many, yet it is barely put into practice in an appropriate fashion:

  • Many executives continue to enter client meetings like sharks after a weakened humpback whale.
  • 30+ page-decks or memos are immediately shoved into the clients' brain expecting them to remember the over 1,000 unnecessary datapoints over market insights.

The above can cause the client to lose interest or feel intimidated. The truth is success is highly driven by the ability to build trust and know your clients, with semi-private information playing a key role in the process.

Okay, but What is Semi-private Information?

Throughout the course of our business development efforts, we become aware of different nuggets of information surrounding our clients. These could be divided in three types:

  • Public or commercially relevant data: readily available information, whether professional or personal. Includes any datapoint appearing in news, LinkedIn, Twitter and other public sources, as well as other corporate data such as points of contact, number of employees, org charts, etc. Despite everyone having access, not everybody makes use of it. Ensure you do your appropriate research before a client meeting in order to use all available information to your benefit.
  • Private or confidential information: it's generally highly sensitive information regarding a client's business plans that could have an impact on market valuation. It should therefore only be accessed by those directly involved in the deal or execution of the service, and should be securely stored in databases which limit access to specific personnel.
  • Semi-private information: we refer to that greyish area which includes personal, temporary, non-commercial or business-related which isn't readily available on public sources. This can include a pet’s name, home town, allergies, golf handicap, favorite color, anxieties, perspectives on company financials, culture, recruiting, etc. It's information which, while it may not be strictly confidential, you will never feel confortable sharing it on your company's CRM. For example, let's put ourselves in the shoes of a wealth manager that just happens to learn that a client just got a facelift. It may not be very ethical sharing that information with the rest of employees, but keeping it in mind can be key to know what (or not) to bring up in certain scenarios.

Why is Semi-private Information Key for Client Management?

Winning business can go beyond technical expertise, especially in service-driven sectors, with the differentiating factor being the ability to network and build trust:

  • Competition is fierce: professionals swim in a tank of sharks. They are all highly qualified, with outstanding backgrounds and big firm names over their shoulders.
  • Your client is “uneducated”: those who hire a lawyer, banker or consultant assume the professional is an expert and have little margin to analyze and compare expertise from a technical standpoint. From a potential client’s perspective, you are assumed to be good.

You need to work towards finding commonalities as two human beings; ask what your client appreciates in life (sports, family, crypto) regardless of whether it relates to your field of expertise. It will help build a sense of connection and trust. It will also help your client to open up, share even more vital information, and increase the chances of a successful outcome.

Remember business comes down to people and being able to make a connection with the person sitting at the other side of the table. But this can be a lengthy process if you want that trust to be truly genuine, so don't dispare!

Build A Trusting Relationship With Clients To Increase your Chances of Success

You cannot ignore the importance of trust. Building great client relationships involves building trust first.

The key takeaway is to show your clients that you view them as people first by smartly using the semi-private information you have collected and to establish a foundation of trust. Communicate frequently, demonstrate your skills, and always put your clients first.

Once you have built trusting business relationships, maintain their trust by listening to your clients and trusting your instincts. Before long, you’ll see your career take off towards the next level of success.

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