Relational AI


By Don Yoakum

Artificial intelligence is all the buzz these days in tech.  Yet, local professionals have been practicing relational AI for decades.  You see, one type of service is usually a trigger event for another—a great predictor of what will happen next. 

When a home is being painted, replacing the carpet often follows. Then there is roughly a 25% chance that it is being prepared to go on the market for sale. So, for the painter, flooring professional and Realtor there is a beautiful opportunity to introduce their client to each other and ensure they are appropriately served. Financial planners often precede estate planning with an attorney or a CPA to mitigate taxes. Engaging a Divorce Attorney is usually a precursor to a property sale and perhaps one or two home purchases. 

When I coach a professional on networking, I ask them to consider the services their ideal customer would engage just before their own. This thought process leads us to the professionals with whom they should be networked and with whom they may practice relational AI. When these professionals establish relationships and trust with each other, it can mean professional introductions and convenience for their client. Going from one like-kind professional to another, assuming the professionals have done a good job matching themselves with each other and similarly performing their service. 

In the service of clients, I see two primary types, relational and transactional. Relational tend to view their clients as an individual and often know them personally.  It can be subtle, but my barista at Starbucks asks and knows me by name.  Whereas at McDonalds, I am a number.  Relational service professionals tend to add value through their personalized communication. They are often adding value because they have a deeper understanding of their clients’ needs. They ask great questions.  For example, a painter may ask what has prompted the homeowner to paint their property. They may then better cater their work to the client’s needs and connect them with other professionals they may need. A transactional agent tends to get the job done as efficiently as possible. If you’re looking to build Relational AI, be sure you are aligned with the former. 

How may you determine if a professional you are considering aligning with is relational or transactional? Start by asking a few key questions. For example, to whom do you refer the most clients, and from what professional do you receive the most referrals? You’ll find this to be an easy question for relational professionals. Not so much for transactional. In fact, it is common for transactional professionals to work mostly consumer-direct, often through advertising and marketing. Generally, you will not find relational professionals to be among the low-price leaders. However, they may provide a greater value to their customer base by adding value to customers that would appreciate the additional care, attention, and connections. Therefore, you may determine a professional’s orientation based on who they align with, their pricing, and if the delivery of their service is process-driven or personalized.

Finally, you are likely to find relational professionals more interested in masterminding best practices. In fact, I find the most successful local networks also act as a mastermind of sorts. After all, extraordinary service usually comes down to a few simple things; asking great questions, understanding your client’s needs, and exceeding their expectations. Find professionals doing that, and you are well on your way to Relational AI. 

Don Yoakum is a Professional Networking Coach at or may be reached at