How to Builds Relationships Online - and Keep Them Warm


Steve Glaveski

As COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc on the working world, the nature of how we do things continues to change. 

With travel limited, and with a growing number of organizations embracing fully remote or hybrid setups, traditional face-to-face business and relationship development opportunities are dwindling.

But this can give lawyers, who take the time to embrace online relationship development techniques, the upper hand.

Here are just eight ways you can develop relationships and keep them warm, online.

1. Automate Follow-ups

First and foremost, it is imperative that you either automate your follow-ups, or generate follow-up reminders. 

Most lawyers follow up on an informal, ad-hoc basis, and with other billing clients taking priority, following up is seen as a nice-to-have that lawyers simply don’t have the time for. But it can be all the difference when it comes to building and maintaining relationships that convert into billable work. For example, 95 percent of converted leads are reached by the sixth follow up attempt, but 44 percent of people give up after just one attempt.

You can use tools such as Asana or Trello to generate reminders (more on this here), as well legal-specific CRMs such as NEXL (which, by the way, doesn’t require data entry).

For more on automating your follow-ups, check out this article

2. Provide Value

It’s one thing to reach out with an email or a phone call and say, “hey, how’s it going?”. It’s another to provide value, and become or stay a trusted advisor. For example, if your firm recently published a whitepaper on the implications of blockchain technology on FMCG companies, and you have several clients in this space, then sharing the whitepaper, along with a few tidbits from it in the email, can go a long way.

For example:

Hi Sam

Hope you’ve been doing well.

We just published our ‘Blockchain and the Future of FMCG’ whitepaper.

Interestingly, the whitepaper finds that blockchain applications can help FMCGs:

  • Decrease carbon emissions
  • Increase consumer trust
  • Increase revenues

You can download the whitepaper here. 

Let me know if you have any thoughts on this, or questions.


3. Newsletter

Building upon #2, instead of or in addition to sending personalized messages to your clients or prospects, you can create and send a weekly, fortnightly, or monthly email newsletter.

The newsletter can collate recent articles and whitepapers as well as some insights or introductory thoughts from yourself. This brands you as a trusted thought leader in the space, and in the event that your client or prospect needs the kind of services you provide, who do you think they will reach out to?

This might sound like a lot of work, but with the help of a virtual assistant or in-house administrative function, all you’d need to do is write up a few introductory thoughts. Curating the content, maintaining the database, and sending the email can all be done by somebody else, with large parts of the process automated. 

Popular tools in this space include Mailchimp, Campaign Monitor, and Active Campaign.

4. Share News

If you are aware of recent regulatory announcements or news that impacts your customers, you might also reach out with some implications for their business, and how your firm can help.

For example, GDPR was a hot-button issue that organizations the world over needed support in better understanding and navigating. Being first past the post in these instances in terms of communications can often be the difference between picking such low-hanging-fruit, or watching others do the same. 

For example:

Hi Sam

As you may have read, GDPR is coming into effect on May 25, 2018.

GDPR presents a number of new obligations for your company, including:

  • Obligation A
  • Obligation B
  • Obligation C

The EU GDPR sets a maximum fine of €20 million (about £18 million) or 4% of annual global turnover – whichever is greater – for infringements.

If you have any questions about this, and what you need to do to comply, feel free to give me a call on XXX or let me know when you’re free to discuss.


5. Shared Instant Message Channels

The uptick in IM platforms such as Slack and in particular, Microsoft Teams, since the pandemic graced our work lives has been nothing short of astronomical. 

But aside from providing employees a forum on which they can share cat videos and all manner of gifs, Slack and Microsoft Teams now offer the ability to set up shared channels with clients and prospects. This is a great, low touch way to stay in touch with people and keep relationships warm.

For example, Slack recently launched Slack Connect - essentially shared channels, which they assert decreases the deal cycle time by a factor of four.

In addition to Slack and Teams, you might want to consider setting up Whatsapp groups with clients and prospects, where you can stay in touch in a more informal manner. The informal nature of WhatsApp alone helps to make your relationship with people more human and more of a friendship, and as such, more likely to lead to billable work. 

6. Share Interesting Tidbits

It is estimated that more than 50% of sales are made because of friendship. Building rapport with someone has always been integral to the business development process, and knowing a) someone’s interests, and b) sharing content or tidbits related to said interests, can help build rapport.

This is why getting to actually know your clients and prospects on a more personal level - what their interests are, whether they have kids and how old they are, and so on - can help you tailor the type of content you share.

For example, if I know that one of my highest value clients, or a potential high value prospect, is a huge Phoenix Suns fan, and the Suns just happen to be making a rare run in the NBA Playoffs, that’s an obvious trigger to reach out with some Suns talk.

For example:

Hi Sam

How good is this run that the Suns are making? Devin Booker’s performance in Game 4 was unbelievable!


7. Online Fireside Chat or Panel

A great way to build relationships is to help people build their own personal brand, and make them look good.

You can do this by hosting online fireside chats that are open to the public, and distributed by your firm.

For example, if your client or a prospect you’ve been pursuing, is knowledgeable about the FMCG world, you might host an online panel or fireside chat on ‘The Future of FMCG’ and invite them to participate. 

You could do this via Zoom, Clubhouse, Facebook Live, or even a company-branded podcast, and promote and sell tickets via a tool like Eventbrite.

8. Direct Mail and e-Gifts

The more you know about your client or prospect, the more you can send them small gifts that really land. Direct mail is not dead, and it can be a huge differentiator when it comes to the world of B2B business development. 

Examples of such gifts include:

  • A desk plant with an uplifting note.
  • Tickets to a relevant conference
  • A fitness wearable, perhaps with a cheeky note that says “we’ll keep your business in shape”.

Knowing your client or prospect’s birthday, and combining this with a follow-up trigger (per #1) can set you up to send the perfect gift at the perfect time.

Final Thoughts

Relationships are at the heart of business development, and in a digital world, learning how to take relationship development beyond the golf course, restaurant, or bar, is crucial to winning new business. 


Want to teach your lawyers how to fish? Visit for tailored training modules on business development for law firms. Want us to fish for you? Get in touch with me. 🎣

about the author

Steve Glaveski is the CEO and Co-Founder of Collective Campus which he established to help companies and their employees to create a more meaningful impact in the world in an age of rapid change and increasing uncertainty. Steve also founded Lemonade Stand - a children's entrepreneurship program, author of Wiley book, Employee to Entrepreneur: How to Earn Your Freedom and do Work That Matters, Harvard Business Review contributor, author of the Innovation Manager's Handbook vol 1 and 2, host of the Future Squared podcast, and keynote speaker. He previously founded HOTDESK, an office sharing platform and has worked for the likes of Westpac, Dun & Bradstreet, the Victorian Auditor General's Office, Ernst & Young, KPMG and Macquarie Bank. Follow him at @steveglaveski