Monday, October 6, 2014

Making Strangers into Client Bedfellows

One of the most difficult tasks in business development is the challenge of starting a brand new relationship with a total stranger. Figuring out who you’d like to talk to is easy. But figuring out how to get their attention and talk to you is quite another thing. This is often a major stumbling point and a mental obstacle that can inhibit business development progress.

A Crack with One Whack?

In developing relationships, it’s helpful to adopt the mindset that you are not going to ‘break the ice’ in the first attempt. Instead, it’s more like chipping away at the ice over time using small but substantive gifts of information, resources, insights and connections as your ice picks. The trick is to present relevant, timely and valuable offers that position you as a true resource and selfless giver.

While we all would like to make one call to a prospective company, crack the ice and get a meeting, it rarely happens. Studies show that it takes multiple approaches to generate interest or build a sense of reciprocal obligation in your prospect. Many professionals quit the process after only one or two outreaches. Yet, it can take as many as eight to ten approaches before you generate a serious discussion. That’s without providing value in your approach. Add relevant, timely and valuable offers to your outreach and the number of initiatives to get a response falls dramatically. But it’s still more than one or two.
I like to follow a rule that’s something similar to carpenter’s advice, ‘measure twice, cut once’. Provide value twice before testing for reception to your services. For most business people, two gifts can usually get someone on the phone. But don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t. It can take numerous outreaches to generate an initial discussion.

Added Value Marketing

What types of value can you provide? Here’s a list of some ways in which you can provide value and generate interest in a conversation with you.

  • Offer to co-author an article or interview the person for an article you write
  • Provide audits or checklists of risk avoidance issues
  • Send informative articles, client alerts or white papers (these are best if customized to the particular needs of the business or its industry)
  • Introduce to people in your network of connections
  • Provide information of competitors and alternative providers
  • Conduct proprietary research and analysis and provide executive summaries of the findings
  • Provide executive summaries of industry trends and the likely trajectories of those trends
  • Provide potential business leads
  • Use the target company’s products or services and provide testimonials of the quality

Researching the company and thinking creatively about their needs, risks and objectives can reveal additional ways to provide value. Focus on the companies and contacts in which would be the best fit with your services. The develop a strong understanding of the business, write out a plan to provide value to that business and set out a schedule on your calendar to deliver on your value creation plan. This process, done consistently with appropriate targets, will generate new work from strangers.

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