The other day, when talking to a new small business owner client of mine, I asked her what method she used to prospect. She reported that she’d tapped out her network so had been mostly been sending out cold emails to people she didn’t know and she also did a lot of cold calling.
As soon as I heard that, I stopped her in her tracks.
If you’re still doing this, I’ll ask you to stop right now, too!
Cold calling/emailing no longer works.
Well, it puts people off because they already know you’re trying to “sell” them. And everyone is fed up with those kind of “used car salesmen” tactics (remember Herb Tarlek from the T.V. show WKRP in Cincinnati?).
Because there is no relationship with you (yet).
In addition, everyone is super busy, and the corporate decision maker you’re going after probably has a at least one gate-keeper who’ll head you off at the pass.
Which means, you’ll put out a lot of wasted time and effort to see minimal, if no return.
Put yourself in their shoes
You might have already been there as a corporate executive. If a consultant came out of the blue and asked you if you’d be interested in their services, how would that make you feel?
Uncomfortable at best, right? And with all the time pressures you’re under, you can easily either find the delete button or get off the call asap.
Warming up prospects the right way
As a consultant, coach or other expert who has exited corporate and is now a small business owner, you likely already have a pretty good built-in network. These are the people who are your warm-to-hot leads. Some will become clients. Some will refer you to others. Either way, the amount of business you can get from simply letting others know what you do can be quite amazing!
For instance, one of my clients is soaring as a consultant in her first year. She made the determination that she was going to contact and build her client base (at least initially) around people she had hired over the years both to work for her as employees but also for consulting gigs as well. Many of these people are now buyers, influencers and connectors for her. She’s had great success with this strategic approach!
You see, it’s not just about networking itself. It’s about strategy.
Here are a few quick tips on how to keep all your proactive networking “warm”:
1. Use due diligence before you start. Don’t know the person you’re reaching out to? Research your prospect and plan out thoughtful emails (or LinkedIn communications) that demonstrate you’ve read their LinkedIn Profile or website. Make the content relevant to why you’re reaching out. Find an interesting “hook” and context that will intrigue decision-makers and cause them to open your email.
2. Get crystal clear about your Unique Value Proposition. DON’T do any prospecting until you can quickly and concisely articulate what you do/offer, and the value you bring. This is a NON-NEGOTIABLE MUST-DO, whether you’re trying to gain new business or referrals. Ensure you Unique Value Proposition statement aligns with their biggest challenge or priority (or what you anticipate it would be) and highlight what is DIFFERENT and unique about you and your services.
3. Be strategic about networking. Yes, networking is one of the oldest and truest methods of getting the word around, but you need to have a strategy behind it. It’s not just about the how and why you do it. It’s about targeting the right audience that’s aligned with your business goals. And remember that it’s not all about getting new business, but getting introduced to potential partners and other strategic alliance opportunities.
4. Always follow up. Be diligent and thorough here. Set a schedule to follow up with prospects who don’t respond right away as well as to those who do. Keep track of the outcome of these conversations and be sure to stay in “no-pressure/obligation” mode when moving prospects forward to discovery meetings. Remember, not all prospects will jump at the chance to work with you right away, but if you cultivate a relationship by intermittently sending them thought leadership materials and staying in touch, you’ll ensure you’ll stay front-of-mind for when they do need you.
Above all, keep your approach simple and straightforward. Always be gracious and thank your connections for their time.
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© Kim Chernecki
Kim is President and Founder of Freedom Street Inc., a global training and coaching company that helps high-performing consultants, coaches and other experts land lucrative corporate contracts. She is the creator of the Land Corporate Clients Fast-Track System, and is a top-rated performance executive, facilitator, coach, advisor, speaker and strategist. A 25-year entrepreneur, Kim has consulted with executives from 100+ leading North American and Fortune 1000 companies and has, herself, started up and helped grow 8 businesses and business divisions. Kim is also the Founder of the Trailblazer Forum, a Toronto-based, 3x/yearly live event that brings entrepreneurs together for powerful business-building opportunities. Visit us at www.freedomstreetinc.com.