In my previous post I put forward the idea that attending networking events to find and connect with new prospective clients was largely a waste of time. In this post I’m going to explore four alternatives that in my experience are much more effective.
Flair Sales Life-Cycle
Before I do that let me just put these alternatives in their proper place in the sales life-cycle. As you can see sales is made up of 3 distinct collections of activities (plus a foundation level not shown). What we are talking about in this post are activities that fall into the “Capture” phase and should not be confused with the “Conversion” phase which is far more challenging and can last anywhere from a few hours (I wish!) to months or even years.
I have reinforced this premise because we sometimes forget that meeting and making contact with new prospects is actually the easy bit – “Conversion” and “Cultivation” are significantly harder and need to be approached with more organisation, process and control than the “Capture” phase requires.
That said I am going to explore four alternative approaches to attending networking events. It is important to accept that not all approaches will suit all readers and some are more effective with certain target groups than others so you will need to experiment to find out what works best for you.
First let’s look at LinkedIn which is my favourite SM capture method; in fact last year just over 10% of my revenues came from this source and this year I think it will be closer to 25%.
I use the groups as the ideal way of finding and then connecting with potential prospects. By joining the right groups you can instantly be exposed to large numbers of people who are close to your Ideal Client Profile (ICP) and then you can invite people to connect just based on being in the same group. I did some work on this last summer and found that I got a 30% uplift on acceptances if I was also active in the discussions at the same time as inviting people to connect. Just a thought.
I also use the advanced search facility (I should say I have paid for the LinkedIn upgrade to get more facilities – well worth it I reckon) to identify good ICP matches then invite them to connect.
Don’t forget that if you’re going to use LinkedIn in this very proactive way you must make sure that your profile is in very good shape. More on this in the Summary below.
Twitter is less effective for me but I accept that this is probably not true for others. I generally work with lawyers most of whom have not succumbed to the Twitter bug yet but I do find it a useful way of connecting with Exposers such as editors and showcase administrators (see below).
The big thing with SM is that you can do it from the comfort of your own living room whilst drinking tea and watching Corrie (said he trying to appear a man of the people) which is especially useful if you either can’t spare the time to meet other people face to face or just don’t like doing it.
Let me be very clear here: I am not talking about doing a speech at a seminar in front of people who are already on your database with the aim of educating them on one topic or another. Last year Showcasing was the source of about 15% of my revenues. It takes very little time and is largely free so why wouldn’t you give it a go?
A Showcase has three objectives: -
- To educate, enlighten, entertain and engage the audience.
- To reinforce in their minds your depth of knowledge and that you’re a thought-leader.
- To capture their contact details.
The last point is the thing that makes a talk into a Showcase: it is designed from the start to capture contact details. If I get less than 60% of the audience’s contact details at a Showcase event I consider it a failure.
It is important to remember that if you fail to achieve the first two objectives you probably won’t manage the third. It is all about adding value to your audience above everything else.
My advice to all my clients is to have at least one Showcase which they can confidently deliver either as a panel speaker (usually in about 15-20 minutes) or as a key-note speaker (between 50 to 60 minutes). You can use the same speech but limit your panel speech to 2 or 3 main points and avoid using PowerPoint.
One more thing: you can also Showcase in written form in published articles and the like; exactly the same rules apply. I don’t like it as much as speaking and it has never been as effective but it’s an alternative for those who don’t like speaking in public.
Proactive Referral Systems
Dan Sullivan, the daddy of all business coaches, once said “all the money you need is in the pockets of the people you know and the pockets of the people they know” – ain’t that the truth Dan. About 70% of my business comes from referrals and I track each and every one on my CRM system. From this I can split them into two: Bluebirds which are completely unexpected but are very welcome and Pros where I have influenced their arrival in some way.
At the heart of any referral system there has to be a good offering delivered well. Strangely enough it doesn’t have to be great, as we shall see, but it does have to be worthy of the price people are paying for it.
The thing that makes the most difference is the way you interface with your clients. In Flair we call these things Sili features (small items, large impact) and they have an enormous effect on your clients. Provided they make your clients feel special (not just a name in a database); appreciated (not taken for granted) and understood (we listen and respond accordingly) then you are probably on the right tracks.
Paddi Lund the Australian dentist and referral guru (that’s right I said dentist – check him out here) makes referrals a condition of being one of his patients. Now I’m not suggesting you take it to those lengths but I do suggest you make it clear to your clients that you are looking for referrals and just what type of people you would like to be introduced to. Noel and Les of Index Fund Advisers actually print what their ideal client looks like on their business cards turning them into referral cards. Very cool there boys!
When you combine Sili features with a good value offering, run the whole thing thru a CRM system (I’m a Microsoft Dynamics man myself) for maximum efficiency and make it clear you would welcome and appreciate referrals you can not only expect a significant number of Proactive referrals but also in increase in Bluebirds too.
Now, if you provide a product or service that is similar to your competitor’s any kind of direct approach is likely to be a waste of time, money and effort. In fact I’d rather attend networking events than do this which should tell you what I think about direct marketing.
That said if you have something that is unique, useful, cheap, low-risk and above all easy to engage with that’s a different kettle of fish altogether. In Flair these are called Latch-key offerings and they are designed to be just that: door openers.
I will post on Latch-keys at some future point since they are far too intricate for me to be able to cover them properly in this post but I will say that when you are searching for them explore the minor niggles your clients have. Look for the irritants that they put up with but if you had a remedy you would get their attention.
I always have one or two latch-keys available to me at any one time and another in development. The sad part is that if you find something that works eventually the competition will copy it – whilst flattery is the highest form of compliment it can also be a royal pain in the butt sometimes!
Anyhow, once you have a decent latch-key at your disposal previously ineffective Capture methods such as cold-calling (not for me but feel free); buying lists of names and direct marketing to them or hiring a lead generation company can all be revisited. The difference is having a decent latch-key to promote instead of your regular revenue offerings.
So whilst we accept that the real business of new business takes place in “Conversion” (I’ll post on this in the future too) there are a wide number of alternatives to attending networking events that will help you find and connect with prospective new clients.
My advice would be to do the following without delay: -
- Get your LinkedIn profile up to scratch, join the right groups and get connecting. We have a free briefing document on how to do this. If you would like a copy drop me an email and I will send it over.
- Build a Showcase you can deliver in panel and keynote forms and get some gigs lined up.
- Sort out a few Sili’s and start asking for referrals – take control of the process.
- Identify, build and market a decent latch-key.
Do all of these things and you’ll never have to suffer one of those frightful networking events ever again except, perhaps, as a speaker.
As usual I would welcome your comments, support, criticism and suggestions (warning: I cannot guarantee all my readers are over 18!).
Good luck and good hunting.