Kevin Bryant, Director of Client Partnership, BDI

QUICK SHOT: How to Develop Real Relationships without AI

Read these business tips… written without ChatGPT!

By Kevin Bryant, Director of Client Partnership

For many business professionals, new advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) like ChatGPT can feel threatening. Will their jobs disappear? Will human connection become obsolete? I don’t think so, and here’s why…

After decades of developing new business relationships for agencies and organizations, I realize my experiences could be relatable to all generations. In this world of technology, artificial intelligence (AI) and mass media, I hope the following communications insights might be especially meaningful to Gen Z, as well as other generations of professionals.

First Impressions

I guess you could call me a veteran “cold caller.” That means actually dialing at the right time or walking into a reception area and asking for a moment with a decision maker. Both continue to get my heart racing, but over the years, the process proves two things: First, anyone who answers – can. Second, no matter the response – nobody dies.

Some may think cold calling is a rude way to develop business relationships, however, industry professionals constantly encounter new offerings, services and opportunities. These introductions are what make change or progress happen. Mature professionals expect to be contacted out of the blue. Still, there are just seconds to communicate your most important point while respecting your audience’s time and attention.

The “Lobby Introduction” still takes place. Can you imagine interrupting someone? In today’s remote and virtual work environments, it’s a surprise to get a personal and in-person request to talk with someone in business development. It’s a gamble of both your time and resources to fly, drive and walk in.

On the other hand, people know that if you are in-person, there must be an urgency and direct connection. They get dozens of email solicitations, so a call to the front desk today is unique.

Cold Calling in 3 Easy Steps

With a call, the moments can be precious. Even more, you’ll meet some awesome people. Here are three tips for developing business relationships that I’ve found make these interactions a positive experience for all involved.

1. First, bring them something (of value). A gift alongside your collateral provides connectivity. It’s hard to be mad at someone giving you chocolate cookies (but make them good ones). As I reach out and visit BDI’s prospective client partners, I make it a point to always bring something with me, whether it’s a freshly baked pie, delicious cookies or another treat… because who doesn’t love to feel special?

2. Second, your eyes and smile must let them know you’re there for their benefit. If you’ve done your homework, you are bringing them a solution – live it.

3. Third, clearly identify yourself and your purpose with confidence. No regrets or “Sorry for bothering you.” Immediately convey that you know their interests, make a good impression, politely thank them for their time and offer to follow up. Shocking, isn’t it? But they won’t forget you, like the other 20 emails in their inbox. (Oh, and mints help.)

This concept of a cold call works for anyone in business or donor development. Take a chance. Go see someone in person. Whether it’s at their desk or a knock on their office door, remember: We’re not in the Matrix yet. Sharing that cookie, breaking bread together, enjoying a real cup of coffee… These are powerful interactions that help build community. They make us vulnerable but more likable, because we’re human.

Bottom line, I’ve seen millions of dollars exchanged over a handshake, a smile, the right first impression. I’ve heard it dozens of times: “Kevin walked in with a pie and everything changed.”

Zoomers & Boomers wanna Zoom

I realize a cold call may sound archaic, so these next tips for developing business relationships will take us into the digital age. We all appreciate the convenience, economy and casual style of an Internet meeting. Heads Up, Boomers, this section’s for you!

Having just experienced the latest Sony Virtual Reality Headset myself, where I dangled over chomping dinosaurs in High Definition, I can see why becoming an Avatar is helpful. Being able to hit the disconnect button and quickly be gone can sure be handy.

In a world where our Outlook calendars rule our time, our meetings don’t linger much. We sign off and we’re gone. It becomes harder to build relationships.

Although you’ve scheduled just 30 minutes to meet, the first few moments can be crucial for connecting. Again, we’re back to time, respect and impact. Lost minutes, even seconds, can break the flow and momentum.

A solution? Know your technology and train for it. How many times have we waited for everyone to connect?

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when connecting online:

1. Make sure microphones are unmuted and cameras are on.

2. Sit (or stand) with good posture, your profile framed and please, please never have the camera view pointed up your nostrils.

3. Take your meeting in a well-lit area. A ring light for video calls can help in a darker space.

4. Use the right screen sharing options, and practice sharing with multiple users and screens.

5. Check your audio settings before joining a call, which can make or break a video presentation.

6. Use the right background and never have a meeting in your bedroom (or use a virtual background so they don’t know).

When developing business relationships, it’s the simple (yet tech-savvy) practices that create the right impressions, giving you more time to focus on the real exchange. Your ideas will be clearer when your screen settings are not convoluted with images of your family or vacation.

Now, I know there are some readers right now who have known me over the years and are thinking “LOL! Mr. Smooth wasn’t so.”

For decades, I’ve crashed more systems, danced through many cable and input discussions with the IT department, all while repeating “technology is our friend.” It can be, especially as we look to the future, including steps to integrate artificial intelligence (AI) tools and ChatGPT to speed up our processes.

But remember, humans are important. People have value. Start on time, but take a moment to linger and show them your heart. Bring value, and most of all, be real.

  • Kevin Bryant

    Kevin Bryant, Director of Client Partnership

    Internationally recognized as an ECHO and ADDY Award winning creative talent, Kevin is a fundraising veteran with clients including; The North American Mission Board, Salvation Army, American Red Cross, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Precept and Guidepost Ministries, and Samaritan’s Purse. Having worked on both the agency and client side, he’s dedicated to building a bridge between the two to make programs and partnerships successful.

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