We’re well into the fourth quarter of 2020 and a lot of people are diving into business planning activities for the coming year. A huge part of business planning revolves around maintaining meaningful connections with your past clients and sphere, but there’s one big hurdle that stops people from doing this regularly: The 30- or 45-minute conversation that disrupts the flow of your workday. 

When agents open themselves up to lengthy conversations with folks in their sphere, they miss out on other critical tasks for the day and fail to reach everyone else they had intended to contact that day. 

Frustrated, those agents started asking themselves, “How the heck am I supposed to have conversations with 50, 75, or 100 people when I get stuck on one phone call for nearly an hour? It’s not possible!” True, hour-long phone calls aren’t feasible, but let’s explore some ways that you can better manage time spent talking with past clients. If you’re contacting your sphere and are aware that a particular person tends to chat up a storm, follow these two simple tips: 

1. Always enter the phone call with a plan. For example, let’s say I’m calling Uncle Jim, who just got back from a nice vacation. I want to know about how it went, and I want to let him know that I’m thinking about him and I care about what’s going on in his life. So, I’m going to lead the conversation with, “Hey Uncle Jim, it’s Clint. I just wanted to call and ask how your vacation went.” Voila—a purpose has been established. 

2. Have a secondary obligation to force an endpoint. Plan your call such that you will have a hard stopping point that can’t be avoided (e.g., an upcoming meeting). That way, you’re being sincere when you say, “I’ve got to let you go right now, but it’s been a pleasure catching up with you!” If you’re like me, you’re not good at making up excuses when it comes to getting off the phone, so instead, offer legit reasons; call people 10 to 15 minutes before your next commitment. 

“The only thing that matters is whether you bring intention and a clear plan to each conversation you have.”

Here’s another thing to consider: Your approach for maintaining meaningful contact with your sphere doesn’t have to look like another agent’s approach. The point of staying in touch isn’t to prioritize conformity and be overly mechanical; the point is to earn referrals by putting other people’s needs first. Choose a method for staying in touch that is truer to your personal nature because that’s how you’ll achieve consistency. 

For example, one agent in our office loves hosting dinners. Every Tuesday night, he invites 10 or so people over to his house to enjoy a meal and chat. Typically, not all 10 show up, but that’s alright. About every fourth week, he invites the same group over so that there’s never the same group in back-to-back weeks. Another idea is to simply integrate these conversations into your pre-existing interests; another agent in our office is a horse enthusiast, and unsurprisingly, a majority of his sphere is an overlap from the equestrian events he routinely attends. 

Lastly, you could integrate these conversations into family activities. Another agent in our office has kids who are fiercely competitive in soccer, so she either invites people to their matches, tournaments, and practices, or she creates connections with people who are there supporting their own kids. 

Here’s the bottom line: Don’t let the fear of a few long conversations keep you from maintaining meaningful relationships with your sphere. There’s no single “right way” to stay in touch—the only thing that matters is whether you bring intention and a clear plan to each conversation you have. I encourage you to be a little creative and find a way that works for you

As always, if you have any questions or comments about this topic, please call or email me. I’d be more than happy to talk with you about best practices.

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