Feb. 19, 2022

Kevin Clem on the Importance of Creating Connections and Building Relationships

Kevin Clem on the Importance of Creating Connections and Building Relationships

Kevin Clem shares his charm and personality while discussing the biggest business development lessons he’s learned over the years. Learn about the three ways to build and develop a new relationship, how to impress a prospect by doing your homework,...

Kevin Clem shares his charm and personality while discussing the biggest business development lessons he’s learned over the years. Learn about the three ways to build and develop a new relationship, how to impress a prospect by doing your homework, and why it’s okay to make the ask.


Mo asks Kevin Clem: When was the moment you realized growth is great and you wanted to focus on business development?

  • Kevin has been doing business development for 20 years, but he didn’t always call it that.
  • Kevin realized that he had a knack for business development after a repeat client said to him that they keep coming back to work with him, but they never felt sold. Eventually, the CEO offered to make that a formal role.
  • Sales became a natural progression of Kevin’s career. Business development is an extension of helping clients solve their problems, and making connections with people allowed Kevin to transition into a more client-focused role.
  • Finding ways to form the connection with a client is crucial. Connections are how relationships grow, and when relationships grow, revenue follows.
  • Some of the connection effort is organic, but there is a lot of research involved. Kevin will always look for a point of connection that goes beyond the business transactional relationship. There is a goldmine of information on LinkedIn that you can bring up when it makes sense.
  • The foundation of all good relationships is connection where you have alignment with someone or can build on their relationship with other people.
  • Peppering in the details as your talking about what they are working on is the key to not coming in too strongly. It’s not about manipulating, it’s about organically connecting on some shared experience.
  • Business development is like interviewing. It shouldn’t feel weird that you are doing a little homework on the other person.
  • Thoughtful follow up questions on the other person’s written content is great.


Mo asks Kevin Clem: What is your personal definition of business development?

  • Simply put, making connections and solving problems. It’s always about how you can solve a problem, whether or not there is a direct transaction involved.
  • When you solve someone’s problem, either directly or through your network, they will probably come to you first to solve a similar problem in the future.
  • Kevin is always listening for an issue that his organization may be able to help with, but he’s also looking for third party connections and resources that may help as well.
  • There is always some aspect of a prospect’s experience that you can use as a hook to follow up.
  • One of the best pieces of advice that Kevin received was to either make an introduction, bring an insight, or give an invitation to something else.
  • Don’t assume that a conversation that doesn’t result in a closed deal is a loss. Business development is about playing the game, and if you can help a person solve their problem, they will probably come to you in the future.
  • A successful meeting is when you add value, and a really successful meeting is when you book another meeting.


Mo asks Kevin Clem: What’s your favorite science, step, or story from the GrowBIG Training or the Snowball System?

  • Kevin discovered the Snowball System from the podcast after being referred to it by the CEO of HBR Consulting.
  • The Most Important Things is one of the key principles that Kevin has embraced. He and his team have made the idea of the top three things as a guiding framework for how they operate.
  • Raving fans and assessing the level of the relationship with each client is another big strategy.
  • There is power in language. Just by entering the GrowBIG world and embracing the terminology, Kevin and his team have changed the way they think about business development and growth.
  • Take a page out of your creative marketing playbook and come out with a theme for your internal program to get your team to buy in.
  • Kevin’s team has tried a number of different incentives to get the team excited. They found that recognition and reward among high achievers is a good base to start with, combined with accountability. Create and celebrate short-term wins to spotlight things that are going well and to build momentum.
  • Celebrating the small wins is an important piece of creating progress. Doing what you can do today is what leads to the championship.


Mo asks Kevin Clem: Tell us a business development story that you are really proud of.

  • Kevin tells the story of a completely cold lead that turned into a full-fledged prospect after five years of near silence.
  • By helping the prospect without asking for anything in return at the beginning, Kevin kicked off a relationship where when the timing was right, the client asked for him to sell him on working with him.
  • Of the four parts of the relationship building process, the listen and learn stage is one of the most important. Kevin brought his prospect into a round table conversation that showed how HBR has worked with other clients in the past, and that created the curiosity that led to the sale.
  • When you build enough curiosity and do the process the right way, the client is pulling you towards taking the next step instead of you pushing them.
  • The best result you can get in professional services is a warm referral. If your client is willing to do that, that shows a huge amount of trust.


Mo asks Kevin Clem: If you could record a business development focused video and send it back to your past self, what would it be?

  • One of the biggest lessons that Kevin has learned in his career is that people want to connect and it’s okay to make the big ask.
  • If you’ve built the relationship, it’s okay to ask about working together. In many cases, your clients are looking for people that can help solve their problems. They might say no, and that’s okay, but if they say yes, you have an opportunity to work with someone sooner than you would otherwise.
  • How you ask matters. Make it clear that working together is a way for the other person to win.
  • Selling is an act of service. Some of the greatest leaders in the history of humanity were servant leaders.
  • Know your prospect’s goals, and make your ask by referencing what they are trying to achieve.



Mentioned in this Episode:






“Most Wackiest Kind of a Year” video – tinyurl.com/ClemWacky