Leveraging CRM To Build Lasting Business Relationships

6 min read
May 8, 2024

“People want to know you as a person… and I think it makes it more likely that they will want to buy from you."

On a recent episode of the RevOps Champions podcast, we interviewed Sean Johnson, founder and CEO of Madison, a company that helps professional services firms market themselves.

Sean offers insight into the vital role of authentic, long-term relationship building in consulting and professional services firms, and shares his strategies for cultivating those relationships.

Relationships Over Transactions

“At the end of the day they're buying from Sean, they're buying from Brendon. If you're Deloitte and you have that brand, it's different, but for boutique firms, they're buying from you.“

When you sell a product or service, it’s easy to fall into the trap of communicating from a transactional standpoint. But putting the short-term transactional goal before building relationships will hinder your business growth in the long run.

Sean explained the benefits of relational-based communications:

“I'm investing in relationships… I’m serving you and adding value with every interaction because I trust that you will come to think of me as a domain expert in an area that might be relevant to you at some point – I'm going to stay top of mind and do it in a way that's respectful. And I'm going to trust that when that window emerges, you're going to raise your hand.

By being consistent and continuing to show up for you in ways that add value every time, I'll be the first person you think of.”

True differentiation doesn’t come from the services you offer, but how the services are presented and integrated with real client needs.

Sean advocates for "moving the free line," suggesting that firms freely share valuable insights and practical knowledge that can immediately benefit their audience.

This approach not only establishes credibility but also builds a level of trust that transforms contacts into clients. By generously sharing expertise, firms can attract and engage their ideal audience more effectively, creating a cycle of goodwill and sustained business growth.

Many companies are afraid to use this approach; they worry that if they “give away the playbook,” competitors will steal their insights.

In reality, however, 90% of the services they offer are the same as their competitors; it’s the final 10% that differentiates them from the rest.

Even if 80% of your audience are DIYers, eventually, if they know someone who isn’t a DIYer and has the same issue, they’ll say ‘Call those guys, they’re the experts.’

How To Differentiate Your Business From The Competition

“Today's interactions are an investment in next year's revenue target.”

How can you use the “10%” – the part of your business that makes it unique – to differentiate yourself from the competition?

1. Create differentiation

The first thing to do is show how you are different from the competition.

For example, there may be thousands of firms that provide transfer pricing services. Stand out by showing what makes you special - your secret sauce.

This means niching down and using communications to show how you are the best in the world at your service. Maybe you are the best at transfer pricing for the healthcare industry; you possess skills and knowledge specific to this niche that make you stand out above the competition.

2. Convey your values

Each time you post on LinkedIn, send an email, or talk on the phone, do it in a way that conveys your values. Why do you do what you do? What dent do you want to make in the world?

3. Share your beliefs about the specific “world” your client base operates in

If you specialize in transfer pricing in the healthcare industry, what are your beliefs about what approach works best in this world? It may be different than what works in the tech industry or the financial services industry. Showcase your knowledge of what approach works best and why.

4. Give company communications a personal touch

Personal touches that showcase your individuality, or the personality of your company, can enhance client relationships and set small firms apart from larger competitors.

Clients don’t see you as XYZ company, they see you as Sean or Brendon or Amy.

Strategies For Building Lasting Relationships

In addition to differentiating your company, you also want to differentiate yourself as an individual. These tactics help build relationships and keep you top-of-mind.

Don’t be afraid to give away the playbook

As mentioned earlier, companies need to adopt a commodity mindset. If 90% of what you offer is the same as your competition, share it freely. You are building trust and authority, and showing that you value helping others.

Help your contacts get to know you

There are many ways you can differentiate yourself that help build a personal connection with your audience. Be open about personal interests, hobbies, or family. Share things that are unique about you as a person.

By doing this you transform how someone thinks of you: instead of being a financial advisor, you become Sarah the financial advisor who enjoys skiing or Joe the financial advisor who loves to travel.

Set weekly touchpoint goals

Start with personal communications

Personal communications will always be the primary vehicle to build and maintain relationships. But if you have a contact list of 300 or 500, it can feel overwhelming.

Break down your contacts into a manageable system. For example, reach out to 5 people per day, 4 days a week.

Scalable communications

Next, scale your relationships with vehicles like LinkedIn.

Be disciplined and consistent about sharing knowledge on LinkedIn – you are passively putting your face in front of each of your connections each time you post, and your touchpoints scale immediately.

Newsletters are another great touchpoint. Sean shared an example with us:

“We sent out a newsletter and instead of having it come from the company, it was from Jordan, one of our managing directors.

It was in plain text and sent from his email. Each one contained three or four links to stuff that was interesting that other people had written within his domain of expertise, along with a couple of sentences of commentary on why he thought they were so interesting.

That's a scalable activity. He had his little newsletter list of maybe 100 people, but it was the right 100 people. And this was a way to add value for them.”

Increasing Efficiency by Leveraging CRM

It’s not uncommon to see two similarly sized firms - same headcount, same financial and technical resources - growing at vastly different rates.

So how does one scale more quickly than the other?

By effectively leveraging their technology.

When a buying window surfaces – perhaps somebody changes jobs, makes a strategic hire, or makes an acquisition – it can represent a business opportunity for any company.

But not every company realizes it, and fewer yet have a process to capitalize on it.

The companies that scale more quickly have figured out how – in a systematic, coordinated way – to organize people within a company or team to detect and seize those opportunities.

Sean explained that scaling is dependent on people, processes, and technology. And although many of these companies may have the same people and the same tools, they may not be leveraging these tools – or leveraging them to the same degree – as their competition.

What differentiates the firms that scale more quickly and efficiently is 1) the presence of a CRM, and 2) fully leveraging it.


When the right CRM is implemented, it eliminates data silos and creates visibility across company departments. Having the ability to track pertinent customer information opens up automation opportunities, such as:

  • Triggering events off custom fields
  • Setting reminders for customer contacts (birthday, book release, etc.)
  • Managing touch points to reduce overwhelm
  • Scheduling social posts to increase touchpoints
  • Sending newsletter emails that foster trust and connection


Sean shared an example of how to leverage a CRM to generate additional revenue.

If you have multiple service lines but no software connecting those lines, their data is siloed: they're not even aware of what the other groups do.

How could an effective CRM change that?

Let’s say you have a partner who is selling one particular offering to a CFO.

If you are leveraging your CRM, you will have it configured to track data and create engagement reports across company product lines.

These reports not only identify what questions this partner should be asking the CFO, but also what statements to listen for that signal the client may be a candidate for additional services that your company offers.

The Power Of Relationship Building

Sean has repeatedly witnessed the powerful impact of relationship building.

“If I show up each day to serve my audience in ways that are respectful and thoughtful and genuinely useful, it will work. You have to be patient; you have to commit to the process and stick with it over a long period of time.

You become addicted to it when you start to see it working. You start to see not just your business goals changing, but having meaningful decades-long relationships with the people that you're trying to serve.

It becomes self-reinforcing. And it makes you want to do more of it.”

Transactional networking doesn’t pay off in today’s market. If you are focused on the transaction, you’re going to churn through your network quickly and have a perpetual need to find new prospects.

If you grow your network with purpose and patience instead, you’ll transform casual contacts into loyal clients over time.