The Business of Relationships
"How do I get more leads out of my network?"
That’s a question I get asked a lot these days.
Everyone has lists of contacts. Everyone has past clients. Some of them may need what you offer—right now. But how do you make the connection in a way doesn’t feel like you’re a door-to-door salesman? How do you get someone interested in having a meeting with you? (The quick answer is your answer to the same question: What gets you interested in meeting with someone who offers a product or service?)
Addressing this challenge is not as difficult as it may seem. In this newsletter I’ve laid out a very straightforward set of principles and strategies that will help you create new leads out of your network.
First, there are four principles that should guide you:
Do these laments sound familiar?
“I had three or four good discussions with a prospective client about doing some work with his company, and now he doesn’t return my phone calls or emails.”
“They have our proposal but I haven’t heard a thing back from them. I’ve called and left several messages but gotten no response.”
Advisors and other service providers are rarely satisfied with the level of responsiveness from the executives they are trying to sell to. But in the last few years the unresponsiveness seems to have grown into an epidemic. I’ve been a consultant for 32 years, and it’s the worst I’ve seen.
Why is this happening? And how should you react?
“The market has changed dramatically,” a senior partner at a major law firm recently told me. “I’m beginning to wonder if clients even want a trusted advisor anymore. Much of the time it just comes down to price. It’s discouraging.”
Another client of mine, a senior executive in a large global consulting firm, echoed this sentiment: “Selling cycles are much longer that they used to be. Procurement is usually involved, and they can be brutal at squeezing down the price. Sometimes, after you invest a great deal to educate the prospective client, they just decide to do it themselves.”
Since 2008, many business professionals are feeling pummeled by intense price competition and ever-harsher client demands. They are asking: Is becoming a client’s “trusted advisor” an antiquated aspiration in a world where clients seem mainly concerned with getting the lowest price? Is it still relevant when procurement routinely comes between you and your executive clients? Do relationships, in short, really matter anymore?
Not all questions are created equal. I recently wrote two short ebooks, distributed through my publisher John Wiley & Sons, which go into very specific detail about thoughtful questions you can use at every stage of the sales and client development process (Power Questions to Win the Sale and Power Questions to Build Clients for Life). Here are my reflections about "strong" and "weak" questions that you can use in your business development efforts.
Advice abounds on "asking good questions" during the sales process. I believe much of it is confusing or even misleading.
My clients and readers have enjoyed Power Questions, but have asked for more detailed guidance about the use of questions specifically in sales and business development. In response, I have just published a short ebook entitled Power Questions to Win the Sale. It's available in all ebook reader formats. My next few blogs are based on it.
Here are some examples of what I mean by misleading advice about asking questions:
How empathetic are you? Empathy is a fundamental quality of great trusted advisors, and it’s worth engaging in a moment of self-reflection to see if and how you can improve your empathy. Here are nine ways you can improve your empathy. In this post, I share the first five:
Does your organization have a client account planning process? If so, let me ask you some questions about it:
How do you broaden your client’s perception of your capabilities? This is a complex problem. Clients tend to pigeonhole their providers and put them in little boxes. Often, they are not even familiar with all of what you can offer.
Over the last several years, I’ve been assembling what I call “The Relationship Principles.” These are observations about powerful practices that will help you build a vibrant network of contacts, engage with others, and build trusted relationships with all of the key figures in your life. If you are interested in really implementing these principles, you should subscribe to my free 12 week course, "The Relationship Principles." Each week, for 12 weeks, you'll receive a detailed description of each principle and a set of action steps to help you put it into practice. If you'd like to get this free mini-course, click here to enroll.
To become a client’s trusted advisor, you must be viewed as a peer. In my last two posts I talked about the importance of demonstrating professional acumen and C-Suite behaviors. In this post I explain the importance of values alignment for a senior executive who is bringing someone into their inner circle.