Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Building a Professional Network of Contacts is not "Part-Time"

I am often amazed with how people think about "Networking". One sales person I know says he "hates" to network, but has to go out to conferences and trade shows because his boss thinks it is a good idea. He says he never meets anyone at these types of events.

Never?

I asked how he could never meet anyone who could be a client or refer a client. My belief is that ANYONE could at least refer business. So I asked him how aggressive he is at conferences, and he laughed. He views them as mini-vacations. He said he enjoys the golf, not having to be in the office, and it is nice to get away from the kids.

How could you golf at a conference and not make a contact or two?

My guess is that he meets plenty of qualified leads when he is forced to network, but he never really does any questioning and most likely does no follow up. While he might meet professional contacts, he is not really "networking", because that involves both effort and the realization that it is a full time commitment to build and cultivate a network.

To actually network, and have it be beneficial to your career, you need to be actively making new contacts and cultivating the relationship you have with existing contacts. Everyday you should be reaching out to ten people you already know. This can be done with a phone call, an email or a face-to-face meeting. No matter how busy you are, you can make the time to reach out to people with whom you have relationships.

In addition you should find ways to meet between five and ten new people every week. Than can be accomplished by attending one or two business functions in your community. Most of these events are breakfasts, lunches or cocktails....So quit claiming that you don't have time.

If you met five people a week for a whole year, that would be 260 new contacts. You will not actually have enough rapport with everyone to build a meaningful business relationship, so lets just assume that you connect with one third, and add them to your network. That would be 87 people who you now know in your business community that you did not know before. Make it a habit for three years and you have 260.

Your competitor will be falling behind every year because you know that networking is not just for the slow days.

Here is an article I wrote that I hope you enjoy:

http://www.lawmarketing.com/pages/articles.asp?Action=Article&ArticleID=144

My new book will come out in July 2005. "Some Assembly Required: How to Make, Keep and Grow Your Business Relationships". for more information, visit www.thomsinger.com.

Thom Singer

Monday, March 07, 2005

Have A Plan

Have A Plan


I am amazed how many people just allow their careers to just "happen". They do not know what success looks like, as they just do their job and hope for more money and better opportunities.

I believe that you must have a plan. If you were boarding an airplane that was flying from Los Angeles to Hawaii, would you want the pilot to know where he is going? The odds of landing safely in Honolulu would be much greater with a flight plan. Think about how much water there is in the Pacific Ocean, would you want to take the chance of just landing anywhere?

As children we all had aspirations of what we wanted to be when we grew up. I think the reality that we cannot all be firemen, nurses and superheros hit home in such a way that we stopped dreaming about where our life journey should lead. But if you do not know what success looks like, how would you know if you got there?

If you want to succeed in business development, you must have a goal of how much business and what kind of business you want to develop. To just go out and network accomplishes nothing (although it can be fun). It is turning the contacts you make into leads, and then converting the leads into real business that is important.

Create your plan, set your goals and take action to make them happen. Do not just be parked at the gate or blindly flying around.

Here is an article I wrote that you will enjoy:

http://www.pmforumna.org/pages/magazine.asp?Action=DrawArticle&ArticleID=43

Thom Singer

Find out more about my new book at www.thomsinger.com

Friday, March 04, 2005

Do Not Leave Early

I am always amazed at how many people who desire to be successful look for ways to come to work late and leave early. At 4 PM on a Friday afternoon it is shocking how many marketing and sales professionals have already headed home.

There is always some activity that you can complete. Time is such a precious comodity in our busy, busy society. To skip out early on Friday means that you have to make that time up the following week.

I used to work with a sales guy who was always gone on Friday. His performance showed it, too.

Use your work time productively. Focus on business development. Just do it.

Thom Singer

PS- Do you enjoy reading books? If yes, then I hope you will enjoy my book that will come out in July 2005. "Some Assembly Required" is a book on how to make, keep and grow business relationships. More info to follow at www.thomsinger.com.

Never Say Negative Things About Competitors

Never act so low on the food chain that you resort to telling your prospects about your competitors weaknesses. If those weaknesses are really a deal breaker, the prospect will find out for themselves. If it is a minor issue, you look like a fool. Always focus on your own company's competitive advantages, never talk about your competitors problems.

Recently some people left a firm to start their own company. Their entire marketing plan appeared to be bad mouthing the company they left and the inabilities/inexperience of those who still work there. The problem is that they seem to have nothing positive to say about their new company. Many never thought they were very seasoned business people when they worked at their old company, but now it is clear that they have no clue about business development, marketing and building long-term relationships in the community.

They sent emails to former clients warning them that the local office of the old could be closed down because they have left. They bragged about how they were the ones who did all the work and had all the knowledge. They claimed the reason they left was to better serve the clients from their own firm, where they would not have the head-aches of a big corporation. A few clients moved their business, but most took a "wait and see" approach. The longer they waited, the more they saw that the old company is doing just fine, and that the rest of the staff is experienced and delightful to work with. Many clients laughed about those that left.... stating that those who left must have giant egos.

I have learned over the years that people who leave to join competitors rarely bring as much business with them as they think they will. Unless you are very good at building and cultivating professional relationships, it is not as easy to bring a book of business with you. The problem is that most people have inflated opinions of themselves, so they think the clients LOVE them. The reality is the client probably likes you just fine, but they know they could like your replacement too.

Now these individuals are getting desperate, as they are not bringing in enough business to pay their bills. They are having a harder time getting their company started, and they are starting to hound their old clients. The good news for the former employer is that they are just hurting themselves. The other day one of them forwarded an news article about the old company to a list of contacts. He went so far as to highlight the negative parts in red, and tell the clients that they should move their business. Well this tactic backfired, as most who recieved the email felt that this was just bad business, and proclaimed they would not be associating with these people in the future. Now that proved to the former employer that the company was better off with all of them GONE. The sad part is that nobody would want to work with them again, or refer them to anyone. ... EVER. In a nitch industry, their actions could be career limiting if their own company fails.

Before you go negative, verbally or in writing, remember that your comments will get back to those people you disparaged. Additionally, remember that savvy business people see you as shallow and weak if all you can do is point out your competitors weakness. Other weak people who like gossip might enjoy this tactic, but that can only take you so far. Plus, these shallow people will switch again when a third competitor fills their head with stories about you. If your strengths do not warrant the focus of your sales pitch, you need a new job.

I hope these people all find the joy and fulfillment in their new venture that they were seeking. I am, however, amazed at how they have behaved. I am embarrassed for them. The demeanor of superiority they have taken with the situation is disturbing. In a competitive business you win some and lose some. I can't figure out how they expect to win in the long term if they can alienate so many former co-worker, clients, prospects and other VIP's in town.

When cultivating a professional network of contacts you must remember that treating EVERYONE with respect is important. I had one person tell me "If they can turn on those that they worked closely with, I distrust how they would treat me if our business relationship hit a tough patch." Amen.

There are two ways to leave a company....with class and grace....and the other way.

Remember....every action you take effects how you are viewed by others....good and bad. Here is a link to the best article I have ever read on the subject of branding yourself. It is from a 1997 Fast Company Magazine.

http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/10/brandyou.html


Thom Singer

Thursday, March 03, 2005

We CAN learn from politicians

What We Can Learn From Bush and Kerry


With 2004 Presidential Campaign now behind us, the nation is still divided on many issues. Republicans and Democrats alike are picking up the pieces from a bitter contest. Regardless of your political affiliation, marketing, sales and business development professionals can learn a lot from these professional politicians.

Know What Success Looks Like

In a political race, those in charge know exactly what success looks like: VICTORY. Too often in our companies we forget why we spend so much time and money on marketing, sales and business development. In our efforts, we should remain focused on the victory of winning the new business. Spending hours completing an RFP or wining and dining potential new clients takes a lot of time and money. Often those chasing the business pay too much attention to the process and not enough on the desired result. Giving the client a trendy brochure or presenting a high tech PowerPoint means nothing if you are the runner up for the business. We should always remain aware of what we are trying to accomplish. Winning the election, or winning a new client, is what really matters.

Identify Your Spokespersons

If you watched any of the election coverage on the cable news networks, almost hourly you would see spokespersons for the candidates. These people are not just random volunteers, but rather they are paid experts on specific policy topics and they have all completed extensive media training. But companies regularly send any executive to give a speech or talk to the media. We should always be sure that we are presenting a professional and experienced image to our local business community. Make sure that you send the right partner or executive to speak at a business event, depending on their area of expertise. Never allow someone to give a speech who is not comfortable in front of an audience. While some people are naturally gifted at giving presentations, most businesspeople could benefit from presentation skills training or from participating in a Toastmasters club. Finally, it should be the policy in your firm that nobody speaks to the media who is not approved to do so, and all executives should go through a media training class.

Stay On Message

Each day in a political campaign the team is issued a set of “Talking Points”. These spell out what the message of the campaign is for that day. When giving speeches, the candidate and their representatives all deliver the same thoughts, policies, and ideas. They work hard not to be moved “off message” by their opponent or the press. Few companies have consistent messages that are understood and verbalized by all the employees in the organization. Different individuals tend to put out their own version of what the company does and where it has expertise. This can be confusing to the business community, and allows competitors to define your image. While your firm will not have daily “Talking Points”, you should annually create a list of important issues that your whole team will consistently reiterating to clients and prospects. If you are painting the positive picture of what your agency is about, nobody else can do it for you.

Testimonials

No matter which candidate you supported for the White House, most people in America agree that George W. Bush scored many points with the electorate because of the speeches given at the Republican National Convention by Arnold Schwartzenegger and Rudy Guliani. These popular, moderate republicans stood before a national television audience and spoke about why they supported the President’s re-election. Having others who are well known and respected sing your praises is one of the most effective tools in marketing. While the “Governator” may not be available to tout the strengths of your agency, you probably have some successful and locally recognizable clients who would be happy to serve as a reference, appear in an ad, or make calls on your behalf to prospective new clients. Being affiliated with those who are respected will help give you more credibility.

The advantage a political campaign manager has over a salesperson is that a campaign has a beginning, middle and an end. Your job kept going after the election ended (I hope!). You must constantly be providing value to your agency and always proving yourself to your constituency (your boss or bosses). However, following some of these examples of the political arena and helping in the efforts to win new business will constantly set you up for “re-election” within your current firm, or “higher office” with another company.

Thom Singer

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

People Do Business With People They Know and Like

March 2, 2005

So what is all this about "networking" and why is it important to a business person. Many people think that if you do a great job, the business will come to you. "If you build it, they will come" (to quote Field of Dreams). I once knew a law firm who bragged that they were the best kept secret in the legal world. That is just plain stupid. If people do not know about you, then they cannot invite you to be on the short list for their business.

Having a network of professional contacts is import to everyone regardless of what industry they work. Your contacts can not only refer you business, directly give you work, or tell you about bigger employment opportunities. People who have large networks rarely are out of work.

Yet for some reason, many people think that cultivating relationships is either not important or that they do not have time. The truth is you can't afford not to focus on business relationships.

My friend is currently writing a book on this subject. He spent over three years working as the business development manager in a large law firm. The legal business is currently changing. Many lawyers used to view their profession as a calling (like the priesthood), and ran the firms like exclusive country clubs. However, they are now realizing that law firms are a business, and successful business focus on sales. Yes, law firms are actually realizing that the "S" word (sales) is not beneith them. Where they used to rely on a few "Rain Makers" who were naturally skilled at networking and business development, they are now spending big money to train all their attorneys on the importance this topic.

If law firms realize that that everyone in the organization should be developing business, and training their lawyers on the subject, you would think other companies would already have it figured out. The sad news is that while everyone instinctively realizes that it is important, they simply do not do anything about it.

What about you. Regardless of your job title, do you think about the importance of building a network that can refer business to your company? Why not? New business is job security. And if it is not, your competitor would love to employ someone who is the go to person in your idustry.

Here is an article I wrote that I hope you will like:
http://www.pmforumna.org/pages/magazine.asp?Action=DrawArticle&ArticleID=114&MagazineID=12

Thom Singer