By Matthew Ferrara, renowned Philosopher & Speaker
Remember the days when you kept a few business cards of influential people in your wallet or purse? Perhaps they were friends, advisors, peers so important to your career, you never wanted to be without their information handy. Today you store hundreds of these contacts in your smartphone, but it’s still the same: What’s in your database are your keys to success.
Most of us have a database, filled to overflowing with everyone and anyone we’ve met over the years. If you were to scroll through that list today, you might be surprised to find you recognize only a small percentage of the records. Much like social media accounts, we’ve collected more than we’ve connected with in a meaningful way. Perhaps it’s time for a little housekeeping.
A well curated database should focus on the people who are most influential to your success. The people you’d take a call from at 2am in the morning; or could rely on to answer your email in the same day. Are you developing a list worth more than any other data you could download? If not, start by reducing it to a group of relationships that matter most. Move everything else into a separate address book.
As a salesperson, your sphere of influence is the heart of your business. Every system, tool and technique at your disposal should be aimed at strengthening relationships with this core group of connections. Every part of your growth strategy should start from your clean database of key people: The clients who work with you repeatedly. The friends who refer you regularly. The peers who help you solve problems and delight clients reliably. Only a painstakingly-nurtured database makes this kind of difference in your success.
High performing individuals know the difference between quality and noise. You get noise every day – filtering through dozens of half-baked emails that make it impossible to connect with a real person – when you would have been better off a quality conversation with one past client. It’s not volume, but deepness that matters in a database. Your database should help you recall what’s important to each individual: The depth of their lives, the context of their needs, the details of their last transaction, and their hopes and dreams.
In so many ways, a well-appointed database fuels your prospecting performance. How to reach them is just the beginning: What to say, and why, matters. Whatever the tool – an email, a call, an online ad – your database drives decisions around content and message. The higher the quality, the better the results of every engagement. Strong data goes beyond purchase history: it’s a matter of personal history. It helps you stay connected so strongly, you’re beyond the reaches of any competitor.
A deep database is a powerful asset; it helps build business today. It’s also something to sell in the future. When the time comes for an exit strategy, selling your business will depend upon the value in your database. Potential buyers of your database – a new agent, a growing team – won’t want a mere address book. They will pay for insights, reflections and recommendations on how to transfer your relationships to them. Any artificial intelligence could tell salespeople how to call your people, for a few pennies per contact. But your well-maintained database filled with stories – your human intelligence – will be a priceless ticket to retirement.
If you doubt how important your database is, consider this story: In 2010, the creator of Star Trek Gene Roddenberry’s rolodex sold at auction for about $1200. It contained contact cards for William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and others from the now-famous series. And yet it didn’t do very well at auction because it was just a list of disconnected phone numbers. Nowadays people can connect directly with Shatner and Takei in an instant: They can forge their own relationships for free. A database of contact information is meaningless.
And yet if Shatner were to write a book about those relationships, fans would spend millions to get a copy. A book is just another kind of deep database – one in which context matters more than contacts – chapters more than the index. So, consider your database today. Is it full of clean, deep and high-quality content about the people you consider most important to your business? If so, you’re well on your way to taking your career where few have gone before.