I was talking with a client, Jessica, last year in a coaching session who shared with me one of her “aha” moments. This particular discovery pertained to how to describe to prospective clients what she does. Jessica is a white-collar partner at a large international law firm who works with companies that face complex white-collar issues.
She was practicing her “land and expand” approach by meeting additional colleagues of her main contacts at existing clients. In a conversation with a large Silicon Valley client, a colleague of Jessica’s main contact asked, “Jessica, do you mind if I run a problem by you?”
Before Jessica could reply, Jessica’s contact said to her colleague, “Kathryn, that is exactly what Jessica is here for; to make any of your problems her problems.”
It was Fall of 2016; I was staring at my computer screen for at least a half hour for the fourth day in a row. I was stuck trying to come up with the perfect article to add to my new blog on my website. I had never created a blog before, nor had I written an article that would be shared with a large audience. It was only logical to think that the article had to be perfect.
It took me four months to post that first article, and it was far from perfect.
I had a recent conversation with a new client who was licking his wounds after losing an opportunity and we tried to break down the reasons why he might have lost it. It was a proposal for a significant amount of work, and he thought his prospective client was on board. It was just a matter of receiving the green light and getting started. He followed up the week after he submitted the proposal. No word back. He then followed up three more times in a two-week period. Crickets.
It was 10 years ago when I walked out of a client meeting embarrassed, angry, and frustrated. I had just met with one of my most important target clients and brought along a colleague. This colleague happened to be our national practice group leader and a partner at the firm for more than 20 years. He was visiting from out of town to meet with some of the West Coast target clients. The result of this one client meeting I set up – we not only turned the client off but never heard back from him again.
The Lake Tahoe region is a resort area that relies on Mother Nature to deliver snow during the winter to help businesses thrive in one of the busiest times of the year – the Christmas holiday season.
This past November, Lake Tahoe experienced one of the warmest and driest months that I can remember. It was wonderful for mt. biking and other summertime activities, but it spelled disaster for local businesses that rely on visitors to book their ski vacations during the last 2 weeks of December.
The mountains were brown going into the first week of December until the dismal outlook started to change. Snow arrived. And then more came. One storm after another. When we reached the end of December, Lake Tahoe recorded a record month of snowfall – more than 16 feet in less than four weeks! Local businesses breathed a sigh of relief while residents went into hiding to avoid the mass crowds. Another successful holiday season after all.
As we approach the end of the year, it is a great time to reflect on how the year went and what we want to accomplish in the coming year – professionally and personally.
Normally, this is the time when gyms start to salivate for all those people who want to launch the new year with the intention of getting back in shape. With the ongoing pandemic, I question how many people are joining gyms, and instead, are buying Peloton bikes or other stationary equipment for their home gyms.
In today’s market where most businesses seem to be running at full throttle, the thought of reaching out to contacts without a specific reason is often neglected.
The classic rationale for not reaching out to one’s network comes with many excuses.
“I don’t have time this week.”
“I don’t want to bother them.”
“They are probably too busy to talk.”
“I don’t know what to say without coming across too salesy.”
I get it. Smart professionals can come up with “justified” reasons to not reach out to their network. Here is the problem with that rationale; this type of mindset can shift from a temporary way of thinking to a more permanent habit. That permanent habit will often lead to an anemic pipeline which leads to flat or decreased monthly revenue.
In the professional services world, the inclination to tell rather than ask tends to be the norm in many conversations led by experts trying to win business from prospective clients. It is an automatic mode of communication for many subject matter experts (SMEs).
It seems logical. They want to be the person with all the answers, yet often before they understand the client's needs and problems.
Photo by Matteo Vistocco
It was not even 90 days after I started working for Deloitte’s West Coast forensic accounting team when I attended their national sales retreat in Phoenix, AZ. There were hundreds of talented business development professionals from all of Deloitte’s practices areas doing what they do best, networking. I was sitting next to one of the top revenue-generators in the consulting practice at the awards dinner who had just left the stage after receiving acknowledgment for his promotion to the Director level. An honor that is hard to earn as a non-practicing professional at Deloitte. I congratulated him and asked what he did to reach that level. His answer was simple. “I spent the first year focusing most of my time and energy building relationships internally at the firm.”
I have been enjoying a loving relationship with my wife, Aja, for more than 6 years now. I would like to attribute that to being the perfect husband, but she often reminds me that we have a great relationship despite my bad habits that she must deal with. The most egregious habit is not listening to her. I always find this one hard to believe since it is such an important part of my profession, however, Aja reminds me that it would be nice if I actively listened to her as well as I do with my clients.