When it comes to generating new business, it's going to be those who are not only proactive but also proficient at building relationships with individuals and companies. How do you prepare for the initial conversation? What's the best way to earn trust and show the value you bring? Beginning this process - and doing it well - is easier said than done.
No matter your track record, you still need to prove yourself. While there is a lot of competition, there is a need for the services you are offering. Someone will provide it, but who it does so often depends on your reputation followed by the first impression you make. Here are some basic ways you can approach new relationships.
1 - Don't be too serious
You are offering them and option, not an ultimatum. Letting prospective clients know they don't have to say yes or no immediately is a great first step. From there, they better know you are going to show them what you can provide without having to sign on any dotted lines. Even going so far as to letting them know they can decide to change or walk away in the near future is fine. This shows you are both confident in what you can do, but also understand they need to be able to manage their freedom to decide the direction the relationship goes.
You also shouldn't force them into sharing their exact needs right away. Not many are looking to show their insecurities as a business right away, and you should respect the vulnerability it takes to form a strong relationship. Your best clients probably won't click with you immediately, and that's perfectly fine. This relationship is like any other where growing together will take you a lot further than focusing on solving every problem right away. Don't make too many promises right away and watch out for clients who present as if they may become solely dependent on you.
2 - Do your research on the past before talking about the future
This can be as simple as a quick home page search of their about section and some quick incognito viewing on LinkedIn. These two things can show you the age of the company, number of employees, clientele they serve, and how they started. You may even want to take a quick look at their social media to see what their day to day operations and goals look like.
From there, you'll be able to ask better leading questions when it comes to who's, what's, where's, and exactly why's of their company. You can also give a subtle leading idea of a direction they could move that shows you are already in the mindset of providing services based on the company they are. If you do this without knowing exactly the climate of the enterprise is it will be obvious, and they won't feel there is any personal interest coming from you. On the other hand, showing concern, confidence, and transparency can create a bond among most small business owners. Remember, many people come to these potential clients offering services, so they are likely to turn most everyone down, but if they feel like they've found someone who is like them they are much more liable to do business with you.
3 - Start with common connections and move towards the future
If you are young and looking to drum up business, looking to your peers, alumni from your alma mater, or even back to high school mates is a great place to start. There is an intrinsic trust people have with those they share even the smallest bit of similar history with. Drawing on these mutual experiences already makes both sides feel like they're far past step one. Consider talking about how far you've already come from where you were and then talk about two years from now. Ask where they've seen their biggest growth? Then ask where they see themselves going in the near future - two years and five years down the road, with their business and their family. Then, you can both discuss how you can help each other get those places.
Having the confidence to open doors is important but getting those who are on the other side to invite you in takes more than knowledge. You have to prove you're good company. Conversely, if you feel uncomfortable about the relationship you should feel free to turn away. No business can be better than bad business. Invest your time, resources, and employees wisely.
Wednesday, we'll look into what you can do after the professional relationship moves past the beginning and turns into a mutual path to success.