Sandeep Sood

Building Prospect Relationships in the Age of COVID

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Relationships are the foundation of consulting businesses, but COVID-19 has introduced new challenges in the form of social distancing and travel restrictions. Where we once could fly out to a prospect and meet over lunch, we now must build connections through email, phone calls, and videoconferencing.

Here at Kunai, we recognized that doing things the old way, minus face-to-face meetings, simply wasn’t enough. We asked ourselves what we could do to increase connection remotely and achieve the personal touch that’s lost when a proposal is sent over e-mail instead of handed off in person. The result was something completely new: Kunai’s relationship pages.

How Our Relationship Pages Work

After a promising conversation with a prospect, we create a hidden, personal page on our website just for them. This personal page becomes the hub for our relationship with this person—a digital replacement for the face-to-face meetings we would have had under different circumstances.

We then email the prospect to tell them about the page and mention that we’ve included a custom portrait and some useful materials. The result has been phenomenal. With the help of these pages, initial conversations quickly turn into leads, and leads into projects. Even when things don’t work out, we often end up staying in touch and building friendships—something that only used to happen after a plane flight.

Your Business Can Do It, Too

If you run a relationship-based business and you’re struggling to connect with prospects during COVID-19, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to bring your relationships online:

1. Automate Page Creation and Management

Using a no-code tool like Webflow, set up a template for your pages. This makes it easy to quickly plug in images, documents, and details about your conversations and project updates.

This page should not be publicly accessible from your main website. Instead, send the prospect an email with a unique URL to their hidden personal page.

Pro tip: At first, our personal page URLs were created using a prospect’s first and last name. For privacy and security reasons, we later switched to a numbered format

2. Personalize Collateral Materials

So the relationship page immediately feels familiar, our illustrator creates and posts a digital portrait based on the prospect’s LinkedIn photo. We also include the prospective company’s logo and a portrait of the Kunai representative they spoke with.

While the page and illustration are nifty on their own, there also must be useful materials and content for the relationship page to have tangible business value. We always make sure to include our brochure, a summary of our conversation, an animation about what Kunai does, and any documents—like case studies or proposals—that were mentioned on the call. Spend time working on your assets like case studies, brochures, and informational videos to ensure your prospects have something helpful to look at once they’re there.

3. Hire a Great Illustrator

Custom digital portraits are the personal touch that really make a difference here, so it’s important to get them right. Equally important is the need for an illustrator who can turn portraits around soon after a call with a prospect wraps up. Use freelance sites like Fiverr or Upwork to identify illustrators in your budget, and review their portfolios to narrow down those whose styles you like.

To ensure high quality, it’s best to offer a few illustrators a paid, timed test project to inform your hiring decision. Require candidates to create a digital portrait from a provided photo in one hour. The provided picture should be a good one, but not too good; most people’s LinkedIn and social media photos aren’t high-resolution, and many are a little blurry. Make sure your test project reflects the kind of image quality your artist can expect to work with if hired.

4. Use Pages As a Relationship Platform, Not a Substitute

The benefits of these pages at Kunai so far have been incredible. We’ve got a 100% open-rate on our prospecting emails. That’s not a typo. People really want to see their portrait, and once they see their page, they usually stick around and explore the rest of our site as well.

However, it’s important to remember that these pages are a home for your relationship, not a replacement for it. Building genuine connections is about more than custom illustrations and personal web pages. Though those things demonstrate the kind of individualized attention clients receive, these initial investments are no substitute for long-term personalized attention and relationship building.

Relationship building in the age of COVID-19 has its hurdles, but innovative consultancies aren’t known for shying away from a challenge. As social distancing creates new cultural norms for the way we do business, making meaningful connections will be left to those who creatively adapt.