Stay in Touch
In my last article, Time to Work the Room, I highlighted the importance of getting out of the “work cave” and starting to mingle with business contacts in person again. The Covid lockdown is behind us, yet it is easy to remain stuck in the complacent state of the armchair consultant/lawyer. Connecting with people in person is one of the most effective ways to meet new contacts and further develop existing relationships.
“Once I meet these new contacts, how do I stay in touch with them, and how often?”
I hear these questions on a regular basis, and they are legitimate questions. Everyone wants to effectively grow a relationship without coming across too aggressive. They don’t want to appear too desperate or pushy so they err on the side of caution and rarely reach out. This often results in a relationship that goes cold.
Out of sight, out of mind!
Time to Work the Room
t seems like it was just yesterday when we were in Covid lockdown confined to our work caves and forced to master virtual meetings. For many who don’t like in-person meetings, this was the perfect excuse to remain in their protective bubble. For those who understand the importance of face-to-face meetings and networking events, this was a challenging time. The ability to meet new people, and strengthen existing relationships was severely handicapped.
The good news is that these challenging times are becoming a dot in the rearview mirror. Firms are holding in-person retreats again. Organizations are hosting conferences. Individuals are reconnecting with their network in person.
Believe in Yourself
Last night I watched the most recent episode of Ted Lasso (Apple TV series about an American coach of an English Premier League soccer team) and got choked up by a speech he made to his team after another devastating loss. The team not only lost their 8th straight game but lost their star player. The team was in a tailspin and his speech hit the core of what matters most in any sport – believing in yourself that you can make an impact in helping the team win.
The team thought that after acquiring the best player in the league earlier in the season, they would automatically rise to the top of the standings. They soon realized that this was not the case. The star player did his part, but the rest of the players became complacent and too reliant on their star to help them win. The opposing teams soon learned that they only needed to shut down the star player to beat them. This is a classic scenario that we often see in other team sports where the star cannot guarantee success alone. He or she needs support from their teammates. Everyone needs to step up and perform at their best for them to win.
Sink or Swim
Photo by Daniel Torobekov
“Sink or swim.” An apropos quote for most Californians who are weathering a record-breaking winter. The coastal areas are dealing with mudslides, the agricultural regions are flooding, and the mountains are getting buried in snow.
I know. Many of you who have heard Californians complain for years about drought may want to say, “cry me an atmospheric river”, yet there is something to be said about being prepared for the unexpected. It doesn’t take much for Mother Nature to surprise us and get the upper hand.
In business, we can often experience feast or famine. When the going is good, there is nothing better but when new business dries up, there is nothing worse. When business slows to a trickle, the tendency is to shift into scramble mode and reach out to contacts who have not heard from us in a while. Trying to book last-minute business development meetings can be an uphill battle. Clients are busy and have full calendars weeks in advance.
Visualize What You Want
As I approach this weekend’s World Cup Men’s Giant Slalom and Slalom ski race at our local ski resort, Palisades Tahoe (formerly known as Squaw Valley), I get excited about watching some of the world’s fastest skiers carve down the mountain course with such fluid precision. I watched many of them yesterday practicing on the course and marveled at how powerful, fast, and relaxed they were. As a lifelong skier myself, I could appreciate how these guys perform at a level way above any of us mortals.
Like any pro athlete, these skiers have a natural gift, drive, and dedication to the sport that allows them to compete at the top level. They have trained their minds to get out of the way and allow their bodies to take over as they barrel down a technical course at unbelievable speed.
Timing IS Everything
I was talking to a client recently who was pleased to report that he had several proposals out and he was anxious to land some of them soon. He asked me how often he should follow up with the prospective clients to find out if they had made a decision.
“What is the rush?” I asked.
“I want to win the work!” He replied.
“Did you ask the clients when they were going to select the provider?” I asked.
“Well, no, but I assumed they were going to make a decision sooner than this.” He answered.
“Ahhh, so you are making their agenda your agenda. What if their timing changed and they just haven’t gotten around to tell you?" I asked.
He got my point. The excitement to close the deal clouded his better judgment to give his clients space and allow them to get back to him when they were ready. Too often, professionals get antsy about the lag time in hearing back from clients on proposals that have been sent out. I call this “proposal anxiety.” The dreaded waiting game. This is especially painful when you only have one or two opportunities in the pipeline.
A Time For ChANGE
We are at the start of a new year which is the common time to make a change. Gym membership applications skyrocket, healthier eating picks up, and ambitious goals are set. The problem with many of these resolutions is that they don’t last.
According to the IHSRA (International Health, Racquet, & Sportsclub Association), 50% of new gym memberships get canceled within the first 6 months. I would venture to guess that many of the members who don’t cancel in the first 6 months stop going and are too lazy to cancel.
Don't Forget About the Low-Hanging Fruit
It is safe to say that one of the most difficult parts of business development is investing the time, energy, and effort to develop a relationship from scratch to the point where that person trusts you and is willing to give you a shot. It usually requires a strong dose of patience and persistence.
Case in point: When I was the National Sales leader for a consulting firm prior to starting my own practice, I asked my top three performers a very simple question. “What is the average time it takes to build a relationship from the first time they meet you to the time they give you your first matter?”
How Are You Showing Your Gratitude?
Do you remember the days when hand-written cards were more of the norm than the exception? Client desks were decorated with cards that would remain visible for many days if not weeks. Gifts would show up that had a personal touch that put a smile on the client's face.
It seems like in today’s hectic business world where no one seems to have any free time, professionals have become complacent when it comes to showing gratitude toward their business contacts. Hand-written cards are perceived to take too long and are easily replaced with a digital card produced by the firm, or a simple email that would quickly disappear in the Inbox.
Photo by Karolina Grabowska
Now that I have caught your attention in the subject header, we can talk about one of the most important parts of building a successful business – communication.
Often, deals go sideways, relationships fall apart, and pipelines dry up due to poor communication. There are so many components of communication that affect business – communicating early and often in an engagement, staying in touch with important contacts in between engagements, and active listening are just a few. One I want to shine a light on today is responding to an important business contact (often a client or colleague) in a timely manner. A simple and quick acknowledgment of their message seems so basic and intuitive yet is often delayed or overlooked.