Building Relationships: Q&A With VGM Membership Account Manager, Shelby Graveman

Published in Member Communities on June 15, 2021

Shelby GravemanDeveloping your business isn't just about the bottom line. It's also about creating and maintaining relationships with your customers, partners, and employees. We recently chatted with Shelby Graveman, VGM membership account manager, about her take on the importance of building relationships with customers and how that can positively impact business development.

What value do you see in building relationships with our customers at VGM - VGM members, vendors, coworkers, etc.?

Our business here at VGM was truly built on the long-lasting relationships we foster with our customers, both members and vendor partners. That aspect of our culture has carried on year-to-year, and that's what sets us apart from other companies. People want to do business with people they not only like, but trust.

Shelby Quote 1

But the relationships we continue to build internally are equally as important as those with our customers. It's important for us to be educated in various areas specific to our service offerings within VGM and in our industry in general. Several Associates come from previous industry experience, bring a lot to the table, and share this expertise with our internal teams. Our greatest asset at VGM is our people, and the knowledge we pass onto each other makes us stronger.

Shelby Quote 2

How can you build relationships outside of ordinary business-related meetings?

We are unique in the sense that we've had the ability to hold in-person meetings and events with our members in addition to phone or video calls through RingCentral or Microsoft Teams. However, connecting on LinkedIn is also a great way to stay relevant and keep up- both with coworkers near and far, and also our members. What are they doing? How are they doing? We go to LinkedIn to hear from others just like they go there to hear from us.

How can building relationships enhance business development? Do you have an example?

Just as important as getting connected, is staying connected. When we foster these relationships with our customers or vendor partners, we see a lot of things happen. Some stay with their companies for as long as possible, but what happens when opportunity knocks for them elsewhere? We have seen reps with vendors switch companies, employees with our members leave and start their own DMEs, etc.

I remember one day I logged in to LinkedIn and saw that I had a message from someone who used to be employed by one of our members. He left that company and joined a new DME, and through LinkedIn we obtained emails and they ended up signing as a member. I don't know how many times paths have changed for people, and because they have been able to speak to their experience with VGM, we were able to bring them on board - even while they embarked on their new path within the industry.

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The same thing occurs internally - sometimes employees may leave and down the road go to work for a company we conducted business with. And I think that's great! Getting connected, staying connected, and maintaining a positive relationship regardless is key.

How do you utilize LinkedIn to network and build relationships?

I use LinkedIn to further showcase what we are doing here at VGM. In my role, it's important to know a little bit about everything that VGM does and to educate our current members and prospective ones as well. There is absolutely something for every DME company here, no matter their specialty.

I have also used LinkedIn to share some of my life outside of VGM, such as my job coaching dance team, etc. Offering a behind-the-scenes look into your life can humanize you even more to your customers. I was lucky to be part of a LinkedIn presentation here at VGM, where myself and two other employees collaborated and presented to VGM leaders on the importance of using LinkedIn in the workplace. We were asked about a year later to present it again to a larger audience, and that was really impactful. We may not be experts, but we are superusers and have had great experiences conducting ourselves on LinkedIn, connecting with clients, and showcasing all of the wonderful things we do at VGM.

Do you get to know members on a more personal level through LinkedIn?

To me, LinkedIn is like the modern-day business card. Whenever I am introduced to new vendors, employees who belong to one of our members, new employees at VGM, I head out to LinkedIn and follow them. When members, vendors, and other employees at VGM seek me out on LinkedIn as well, it makes me feel important, as if I made an impact in our time of engagement; I make it a point to do the same. The immediate personal level I find with LinkedIn is that face-to-face. I remember names better when they are attached to a familiar face I have met in person, or a photo if I have one, so this definitely helps me remember more on that end as well.

What could members learn from your utilization to enhance their own LinkedIn presence?

I think that first and foremost, sharing what your company is doing is extremely important. However, creating your own content is equally as important. I do my part to make a personal touch on the things that I share and connect it back to what I do and how it can help our current or future members. I am extremely passionate about LinkedIn, and I love seeing what our members and vendor partners are doing. Having this type of presence KEEPS YOUR RELEVANT, and that is a key point here.

What is the importance of building your own credibility online to enhance business development?

Trust. I said it earlier, but it's worth repeating: People prefer to do business with people that they like and trust. At VGM, we pride ourselves on being a trusted resource to our members and vendor partners, as well as other industry leaders. Showcasing our own knowledge helps people take a deeper dive with our company and either engage in services that they didn't use before, or become a member and join the VGM family.

What are some key associations you'd suggest members belong to so that they can experience more networking opportunities and get new contacts?

Belonging to VGM comes to mind. Members get full access to the experts we have internally and other divisional contacts as well. Being part of your local DME state association is hugely valuable. When it comes to the state-wide battles with reimbursements, updates with payers in the area, or whatever the case may be, who better to network and bounce ideas off of than other DMEs located in the same geographical region? And of course, coming to events like Medtrade and Heartland is also helpful. We certainly look forward to Heartland in 2021 - and hopefully seeing a lot of new faces.

In our business, our customers become friends and remain our friends even if they no longer have a business affiliation with VGM at some point. And that's okay. Business is business, but having long-lasting relationships with people is important for now and the future. One question I have gotten a lot is "What about Facebook?" The answer is yes. I am connected with some of our customers on Facebook, but the important part is to remember where the relationship started. Remember that they are a customer and be cognizant that they will see fully into whatever you share on Facebook - whether you have been connected and are friends with this person for one year or 20 years. In our business, you can definitely have both, but you must have the best interest of the company at heart at all times.

Q2 PlaybookThis article was originally featured in the VGM Playbook: Growing Your Business in Today's Environment. To read the rest of the article, download your copy of the playbook today!


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