Making Connections

Kansas City’s Accelerent helps businesses grow through relational networking.

Story by Kalsey McCall

If Ross Passatino understands the importance of anything when it comes to business, it’s the significance of who you know.

As regional president of Accelerent in Kansas City, Passatino has made a living connecting businesses to one another in order to foster authentic business networks and grow revenues in an organic, relational manner.

At its most basic level, Accelerent is a business development system—a method for companies to gain faster, more powerful and more personal introductions to other companies with whom they wish to be connected.

“For middle market companies, decisions are being made at the ownership level,” says Passatino. “Many of these companies are locally owned, privately held, family businesses.  When it comes to how these companies will spend money, having a relationship with someone at the ownership level is crucial. That’s where we come in.”

Former NFL quarterback and ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski, one of the speakers Accelerent has brought in.

According to Passatino, owners at mid-market-level companies are inundated with requests to purchase things almost daily. Therefore, he says, cold calling has become an ineffective method of selling and garnering business.

“Cold callers lack access to the decision makers at this level,” says Passatino. “This is a major problem in the world of business-to-business sales. What we do is give companies more access to ownership-level decision makers.”

Accelerent, which was launched by Troy Peple in Washington D.C. currently has six markets throughout the United States, including Baltimore, Indianapolis, Phoenix and Nashville. The company has made its home in the healthy Kansas City market for the last six years and has increased its roster to 58 member companies—more than in any of its other markets.

Using a “chamber of commerce-style” model, Accelerent hosts various events and meetings monthly, which foster networking relationships between local companies. And because Accelerent works on referrals for membership and membership is exclusive in category, members feel comfortable talking openly about growing their businesses because they are not in competition with other Accelerent members.

But perhaps what makes Accelerent unlike any other networking engine in the marketplace today is its extensive database, which Passatino regards as the company’s golden ticket.

“We have a database that houses more than 30,000 connections within our group,” Passatino says. “It’s a game-changer.”

Here’s how it works: Members attend regular small group meetings (Accelerent hosts 15-20 per month) and form organic relationships amongst themselves. Each company gives Accelerent a prospect list of companies they think they are a good fit to do business with. Then, Accelerent crosschecks its database to see what relationships already exist within the group in order to make a referral possible.

“We make it possible for companies to land meetings with decision-makers that they otherwise would not have a personal connection to at all through the simple method of a referral to a mutual friend—a member of Accelerent,” Passatino says. “There’s something magical that happens with that level of accountability, and people almost always respond because there’s a trust there that is missing in the world of sales.”

The result, says Passatino, is that Accelerent companies gain more connections to the people they want to reach, allowing them to book more meetings with executive-level decision makers and ultimately gain more accounts and more revenue for their own companies.

Each company has a team of people who participate in Accelerent programming, which ranges from executive round table luncheons to producer connection meetings to perhaps Accelerent’s most well-known avenue—its nine breakfasts hosted annually at Overland Parks’ Ritz Charles. During these breakfasts, Accelerent brings in national-level guest speakers and members are encouraged to bring guests, who register by email prior to the event. Contact information from the guests is put in the Accelerent database, growing the network of connections exponentially each year.

“It’s fun to see companies get better and better at this type of networking behavior,” Passatino says. “Through time, they begin to see that growing business is a team sport.”