The Circle of 60 and the Power of Relationship Building
Denise Logan

Previously, I was a guest of Katie Mulligan on ACG’s Middle Market Growth Conversations podcast. The following is an excerpt from our discussion. I highly recommend giving it a listen! Who will your 60 be?

Margaret Mead, the renowned anthropologist, was one to ask, “What were the first signs of civilization?”

Was it when they discovered weapons?

Was it when they discovered clay pots?

Was it when they discovered how to make cave drawings?

It turns out it’s none of those! The first sign of civilization was when they discovered a skeleton with a fractured leg bone that had healed. Mead went on to explain that an animal in the wild will die when it breaks its leg because it’s unable to get food and water or escape from predators. So, finding a human with a repaired leg bone meant that there were other humans around who cared for and sustained that person.

Friends, think of the implication of this: Human care and connection are the first sign of civilization. As humans, we thrive on connection, collaboration, and relationships.

Unfortunately, in the financial services, M&A, legal and accounting industries in which we all play, we’ve developed this really distorted view of how to build relationships. Have you ever noticed that we approach “relationship building” like a transactional event based on a business card exchange?

“I’ll give you my card, you give me your card and then we’ll both put them into our CRMs and send each other periodic emails neither of us will read.”

We try to fill our databases with as many names as possible, just so we can say “we have opportunities” or “relationships” that came from the networking event or golf tournament. But that misses the point.

It’s the R in our CRMs that truly matters…and yet, somehow, we’ve forgotten that.

It’s crucial (and much more financially lucrative) that we view the people that we’re interacting with as relationships, not just contacts. Dunbar’s Number tells us that a human being can manage a maximum of 150 stable relationships. Sure, there are power networkers and salespeople that manage far more than that, but I would argue that it’s impossible to cultivate truly valuable relationships beyond the 150-person mark. And what’s more – how valuable are all those names in your CRM if you don’t actually know anyone?

So, what’s the ideal number? 60 is my starting point.

OK – Take a deep breath. For most of you, the suggestion of cutting your CRM probably fills you with panic.

“BUT, we have 100,000 prospects in our CRM! What if we miss out on an opportunity?”

We know that the 80/20 rule tells us that just 20% of our activity will account for 80% of our results. If you really peel back the layers, I think we would find that in our industry, that percentage might even be closer to 90/10. It’s fear of the unknown that keeps us from fostering the right types of relationships that can serve us and our businesses better.

The math behind 60 relationships is simple:

If you have one deeply connecting conversation with a person every business day over the course of a month, you’ll have about 20 deeply connecting conversations. If you do that every month for three months, you have created new relationships with exactly 60 people.

So, after the first quarter you’ve gotten to know your 60 people better.  And, they know YOU better, too.

The next quarter, you should start over and reconnect with those same 60 people.

Check-in. Care. Collaborate. Form a deep, connected relationship.

In quarter three? Talk to the same 60. Quarter four? You guessed it, the same 60. By the end of the year, you will have real, meaningful relationships with the 60 most important connections that will drive value for you and your business. The trick is, you have to be genuine in your desire to create the relationship. Otherwise, this all falls apart.  Choose your top 60 and be overt about it. Tell the person what you’re doing and WHY. Ask if they’re willing to invest in a deeper relationship with you? Are they willing to commit to this quarter by quarter, an hour at a time, to build something meaningful? You’ll find that most people are starving for this kind of connection.

Think you don’t have time for meaningful relationships? Then start with 12, one per week for Q1 and see if you don’t want to make more time for these. It will transform your business and how you feel about the work you’re doing. Most importantly, it will transform the quality and depth of the relationships you have with the people you’re doing it with. Not convinced you can sustain a meaningful business with fewer real relationships? Don’t worry – you’ll still have plenty of time to spam people from your CRM and have meaningless 15 minute “get to know you” Zoom calls driven by our own sense of FOMO.

Are you one of the precious people in MY Circle of 60?  Would you like to be?

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