I talk with a lot of people who get frustrated when things don’t happen immediately. They are so focused on the short-term and don’t have any trust for the process. You can try to force everyone to work on your schedule, but that will lead to burning a lot of bridges with potential clients and networking partners. Instead we should trust in the systems that we build and stop being so entitled.
I recently closed a project that was a result of a networking connection making an introduction. They had a meeting with one of their clients, and they were complaining about their website not doing enough for their business.
My first conversation with the client was back in July, and we signed paperwork at the end of September. That is not even that long of a sales cycle for a B2B company, but longer than some.
The person who made the introduction is one of the first people I met networking almost three years ago. They are in the business banking space (take that to all the networking naysayers who think they don’t want to meet any more bankers) and over the course of multiple years, we have built a relationship that allows us to make introductions to each other.
Some days when I am packing up to head home, I will think about what I accomplished that day, and it is easy to say that the day was a fail because I didn’t close a deal, or I didn’t have as many interactions with prospects as I would have liked. If I let myself think this way I would be miserable all the time.
Instead, I make sure to fill my days with efforts that will lead to business eventually and don’t worry about the short-term. In a recent post I talked about focusing on leading indicators and not results, you should read it if you haven’t because it is important to this concept.
That conversation with someone who does marketing, but hates doing websites? That will lead to referral business at some point in the future.
Attending the weekly networking meeting and scheduling coffees with my biggest referral partners? That will lead to conversations with new people that I don’t know.
Following up on the client that we just finished working with to see what they liked and what they didn’t? Will lead to upsell and referral opportunities.
These can be long play situations but are very important to a salesperson; it is harder to measure the short-term impact on them, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be doing them.
Some people counter this approach be telling their reps to only focus on immediately actionable behaviors; cold calling, cold emailing, door knocking.
There is a time and a place for those efforts, but they should be gap filling behaviors to make sure you are hitting the number of conversations required to be on track. How do you know how many conversations are needed? Great question, either your company has a path to success based on data from other successful reps, or you put in the work yourself.
If you are in a role that has a networking component to it, meeting once for coffee and thinking that you have earned all future referrals from that person is a mistake that a lot of people make, I know that I did when I was starting out.
The people you are networking with are busy selling their product and running their sales process. I can’t tell you how many people I met with one time and thought that I was good, then I would see them a few months later, and they would tell me, “Man, I had a client just the other day that I should have sent to you.”
It would be easy to be frustrated with this person for the missed opportunity, but the only person we can be mad at is ourselves. If we do a good job of nurturing that relationship and keeping them updated with a good referral, they should be listening for those subtle things in their conversations and making the introduction should be easy.
I keep a separate pipeline in my CRM for my key networking contacts, and I keep up with who had sent me a lead recently, when we caught up last, and anything else of note. That way if someone who is making introductions for me drops off I can reach out and find out if I dropped the ball or if something else is going on.
It is super important to be genuine in your networking efforts. I make email introductions every week to help everyone I know grow their networks. Hopefully, it leads to business, but sometimes it is just an email between two people who I think would get along.
All of this takes time and isn’t going to save you from having a bad month by itself, but you can build some behaviors around these long-term plays to make your life easier in the long run.
I used to struggle with this, a lot. When I worked at a big bank, they wanted us to ask for referrals in every conversation. I avoided this practice because for some of these clients I was just handling an address change. It felt ridiculous to launch into, “is there anyone you know that would enjoy levels of service like you received today?” (no joke, that was the script).
The other problem was that I didn’t see a lot of differentiating value from my company. In my opinion, that bank is just like all the other big banks; we were not doing anything above and beyond for our clients. This makes asking for referrals very difficult. Important side note, If you don’t think that what your company offers provides value, you need to go somewhere else.
Now, I wouldn’t work with a company if I didn’t think they did something of value for their clients. I want to walk into work knowing that we do something essential for our clients and are standing apart from the competition.
You might be thinking, “What the hell, John? Banks are important” You would be right, banks are important, but most of them are just fine going along with the status quo. When I was still in banking, one of the big brands was going to charge clients to have a debit card, at first management told us that this was a huge win and we would convert over a ton of new clients.
Less than two months later, when people hadn’t jumped ship from the offending institution, there were a couple of discussions about doing the same thing to grow revenue.
The moral of the story is two-fold: you should work for a company you can stand behind. The relationships you make are your own, people will refer to your business, but it is because of their relationship with you. You shouldn’t feel awkward asking for introductions or for people to work with you because you are confident that what you do brings value.
The other is that just because something doesn’t get you an immediate lead or have a short term payoff doesn’t mean that it should be removed from your sales process.