Photo by Ola Dapo
My wife and I recently volunteered at a coaches retreat for the NorCal High School Mt Bike Race league where 65 coaches attended a long weekend event full of educational and fun activities. There was a staff of 15 people working together to make sure the participants left feeling fulfilled. To accomplish this, we all had to step it up, be 100% committed and work together. We could have easily taken the “wing it” approach at the risk of the retreat coming across as an amateur event. Thankfully, the director of the league told the staff on the first day to “keep it tight.” She essentially meant that she had confidence in all our abilities but didn’t want us to get complacent. We needed to all step up to provide the best possible experience for the participants.
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio
As a parent, I often catch myself telling my kids “No.” A word that is hard to avoid when teaching them wrong from right. It is no wonder they already loathe the word as young kids and will voice their “opinion” quickly.
Looking back, I realize that I never liked hearing this word either. Whether it was when I was a toddler (“No, you can’t have dessert before dinner”), a teenager (“No, you can’t stay out past midnight”), or even a husband (“No, you can’t play golf this weekend”), it was not and still not something I like to hear.
No one likes rejection, which is why so many professionals avoid business development. They would rather avoid disappointment by doing very little, if any, outreach to their prospects.
Throughout my career, the months of September and October have been my two favorite months to connect with my contacts. School is back in session. Most everyone has returned from vacation, and folks are more readily available to meet. Additionally, people are eager to meet in person while the weather is still nice and Covid is somewhat behind us.
Having said that, many professionals are busy. Almost too busy to dedicate any meaningful time to business development. Ironically, this is the best time to connect with your network. Your confidence is high. You have more to talk about. Most importantly, you are not “reaching” for any new work in your conversations which could come across as desperate to your contacts.
August is one of the more challenging months to connect with your contacts due to the vacation time. It is also the perfect month to revisit your contact list and clean it up.
How often do you spend time reevaluating who you should be targeting, the last time you reached out to them, and what you know about them? In the busy months, it is easy to overlook the important contacts. This often leads to many of them slipping through the cracks.
Out of sight, out of mind!
Now is the perfect time to reset your network. If you don’t already have a business development tool to list your important contacts where you can rank them, record the date of your last outreach, and make notes of the small yet important details about them, take some time to create that document now. I have a proprietary pipeline management tool called the Relationship Tracker that does this. I would be happy to send you a copy if you would like one.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.