Three tips to get that net working

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So you are making connections in the firm to tap into the potential of its wider client base. What next? Unfortunately, some cannot see the wood for the trees when it comes to helping dig out more work for others. This may be down to issues of recognition and reward. But for many, it appears to be about having the confidence in colleagues and in their own ability to ‘do it’ well. Here are three straightforward tactics that can help your cross selling and referral efforts.

Assess quality and gauge potential  First, focus on the best. Identify well-established client relationships with a track record of good work and mutual respect. These will be the most ‘open doors’ for your efforts and the ones most likely to succeed. Be wary of relationships that are relatively new or where there have been recent operational/other issues (unless these have been resolved to the client’s unequivocal satisfaction). Then assess the capability to gain or do more work with the client. Here is where a well-rounded knowledge of the client’s business, issues, and plans – beyond the limitations of an area or specialisation – becomes crucial.

Build confidence in you  To some, introducing others to their prized clients appears risky. What if you mess up? Combat these natural insecurities by demonstrating your competence, showing them what you do, how well you do it and what you achieve for clients. Then reassure your referrer and involve them in as many stages of the client dialogue as they wish – meetings, asking for their advice, copying correspondence, sharing proposals for input etc. And, if you are successful, make sure you put opportunities their way.

Use the 3Ps   And then we come to the deed itself.  Asking for a referral becomes about using what you know in the 3Ps of Cross Selling

  • Make the Preface (e.g. “I noticed that the company is looking at…”)
  • Pose a relevant question (“Is that proving to be an issue?”; “Do you know if they have xxxx advisers?”); and finally
  • Propose an action (“I and my colleagues in xxxx have a lot experience in this area that could help, would you mind putting us in touch?”).

The 3Ps can be applied in a wide range of contexts. But wherever they are used, you have to stick to the golden rule: the client’s interests must always come first. Doing this, we maintain credibility by avoiding random attempts to sell other services of the firm that do not make a real contribution to the client’s lot.

James Newberry runs People Scope, a consultancy, interim, training and coaching firm working with lawyers, accountants and other specialists to help them operate successfully outside of their comfort zones. http://www.peoplescope.com.

Three tips to boost your internal network

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Traditionally, a lot of attention has been given to encouraging professionals at all levels to “get out there” and make contacts in the market place – and why not? – but with a lesser focus on the internal side of such activity. No doubt, many assume that this will happen anyway: but often it doesn’t….or at least not enough of the right stuff.

It has always been important to connect with colleagues in other departments or practices to generate more opportunities to do business with clients. This is even more the case now with renewed activity for mergers, acquisitions, team hires and the like, and firms getting bigger and more complex all the time. But whatever the situation, the whole firm has to add up to more than the sum of its parts to be successful. Here are three things that can help.

WHO do I need to know (more)?  Good internal networking is a planned approach. For some, the temptation can be to just launch themselves everywhere with everyone….quickly to run out of steam when nothing is immediately achieved. Decide where co-operation for your expertise and skill areas will bear most fruit and prioritise the individuals and teams that matter most. This is usually a long game, so stay positive and persevere if nothing instant occurs: and don’t be distracted by those who are most welcoming if they do not fit this bill, unless they are connected to those that do.

Let’s get visible!  From who, now focus on planning and doing the WHAT. You are undertaking an internal marketing campaign that should include as many relevant opportunities as possible to achieve exposure and face time – so stuff like:

  • Presentations: look for relevant slots (e.g. departmental or team meetings) to deliver short, punchy content – what I/we do, how we do it, who we do it with, what we can do together and offer you – or address relevant, topical issues for your audience and their clients.
  • Social gatherings: these could be informal or formal events, lunches (coffee/tea for those who are busy), one-to-ones etc.
  • Client marketing: take those topical issues above and volunteer content for the firm’s blog, newsletters, events, and other external promotional activity, making sure that your efforts are broadcast internally as well.

Give (as well as take)  Digging out new chances to serve clients of the firm through colleagues must not be a one-way street if you want to succeed. The two related essences of any good networking are reciprocity and trust: demonstrate that you are happy to share your knowledge and contacts so that others trust you with theirs. You will soon find out who shares this philosophy and are deserving of your efforts…..and who doesn’t.

James Newberry runs People Scope, a consultancy, interim, training and coaching firm working with lawyers, accountants and other specialists to help them operate successfully outside of their comfort zones. http://www.peoplescope.com.

Three ways to make more time for Business Development

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Tougher times have created a bigger impetus and desire for business development in many firms – both in the pro-active targeting of new clients and defensive hard yards to “protect what we’ve got”.  However, the ability of some professionals to re-frame and re-orientate their time and efforts from an overweening ‘production’ or fee-earning emphasis can still be lacking.

Holding pattern, treading water, rabbit in the headlights – call it what you will, but change has to happen for these individuals.  Here are three areas of exploration to help answer the question: “What should I be doing?”…and a free resource to help you generate ideas for implementation.

Plan your approach.  Rather than bluff (and often worthless) exhortations to “get out there and sell”, a simple taking stock and priority-making is the most useful start-point for productive activity.  This should focus on the three trusty planning precepts:

  • Where Are You Now? (the current revenue/work position, constituents and health of your contact base, areas of strength, market-focused activities etc.)
  • Where Do You Want To Be? (set targets for contact and business-generation, client type, internal/external mix etc.)
  • How Will You Get There? (make a short-term action and achievement plan, with time frames, assistance/support required etc.).

A smart and varied mix.  Part of your action plan should involve a range of marketing and business development activities focused on the key areas for development (e.g. external business sectors, key internal personnel).

At this stage, many professionals can have a quite narrow definition of what constitutes productive activity: basically lunch/entertainment and networking events. Whilst these are very useful, they are not the full story. From observation of best practice, we have totted up over 50 other (mostly external) contact marketing activities that work. If you would like to receive a free copy of this encyclopaedia, email eureka@peoplescope.com.

Small chunks to make big ones.  Proper planning and implementation is about realism and the avoidance of feast or famine.  The latter can be typified by professionals who embark upon a furious campaign of business development activity that grinds to a halt the moment they become in any way “busy” with doing work.

What is usually required comprises a drip-feed of activities that does not, in itself, require large amounts of time but that adds up to a significant whole, so that even “busy” professionals can maintain it.

These are the so-called 1 per cents that sports coaches often tout as the main difference between success and failure.

James Newberry runs People Scope, a consultancy, interim, training and coaching firm working with lawyers, accountants and other specialists to help them operate successfully outside of their comfort zones. http://www.peoplescope.com.

Three tips for getting more referrals

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Life is nearly always tougher when it comes to landing new clients. Trying to do more business with or through existing ones makes much more sense, potentially, because taking risks with new suppliers is still tricky for a fair number of buyers. So why are so many professionals so meek when it comes to asking for referrals?

Well, some people just don’t ‘get it’. What they don’t get is that they can and indeed should be asking their contacts for introductions to others who they can help. Others associate ‘it’ with the conduct of networking and other outgoing business development pursuits – from which they habitually run a mile. Both attitudes are business-limiting. So here are three tips to help make the most of your referral opportunities.

Recognise the potential. “Who could I possibly ask?” are the first words on some lips, as if the universe of potential referrers was but a small table of reluctant speed-daters. Just tot up who you know!  When you analyse it, the potential number of referrers for most professionals is often extremely large consisting of:

  • existing clients – both specialist (e.g. members of the legal team, Finance Directors) and in other disciplines (Sales, Marketing, HR etc.)
  • similar contacts who we have worked for (but may not be currently)
  • a bewildering array of third parties (e.g. intermediaries, other professional providers, relevant people in associations and other industry/sector entities).

Of course, not all of them are going to be ‘live’ referrers so..

…Select the best.   Prioritisation of referrers is a matter of applied common sense. So here’s an applied common sense quiz. In our selection:

  • Should we focus on a) new clients/contacts or b) those with whom we have an established track record?
  • Do we give priority to a) clients who are happy with us and/or the service we provide or b) those who have a gripe or for whom the last transaction did not go so well?
  • Finally, should we direct our efforts to a) those who are well connected both within and without their organisations or b) the work equivalents of Billy or Bertha No Mates?

When to ask.  When and in what circumstances to pop the dreaded question? Make it easy by doing it:

  • At the end of a meeting, the business having been successfully concluded.
  • Over lunch or coffee making best use of informality.
  • At a post-transaction or relationship review meeting using, as a platform, the wider discussion about the client’s current/planned business activities.

Of course, how the question is popped is another matter….

James Newberry runs People Scope, a consultancy, interim, training and coaching firm working with lawyers, accountants and other specialists to help them operate successfully outside of their comfort zones. http://www.peoplescope.com.

Three tips for keeping in touch

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Thanks to social media, everybody is “in touch” these days….aren’t they? Well, sort of.

Certainly there is now a burgeoning mass of communication – but it is conducted largely in one-way, remote broadcast mode. It is no substitute for meaningful dialogue and actual contact: this remains the best way to keep front-of-mind with clients and prospects so that business has a real chance to flow. So what to do – once you’ve “done” lunch or entertainment? Here are three ideas to help you keep properly engaged.

Get out there!  It is difficult enough to uproot many professionals from their offices to visit clients. But, if this can be done, why not go a step further and get them to spend this time on the shop floor, experiencing what it is really like to be at the sharp end of the business?  It is a point of policy for many service-orientated businesses that senior managers do this on a regular basis.  Asking to go along for the day with them could prove an especially powerful relationship and knowledge-building pursuit.

Come and tell us like it is  “We’re all so focused on assignments and delivering to deadlines that we rarely give ourselves the chance to look wider”.  For professionals this can mean understanding what it is like to be in the client’s shoes.  One walk for this particular talk is to get good clients to come and speak with the team about what it is like to be on the receiving end of your things.  The results can be very productive: like the startling revelation that a one page board report is all that is required, rather than the 100 page ‘whopper’ which regularly hits their desk!

Matchmaking for bench marking  This is about applying a bit of lateral thinking: looking beyond the narrowness of transactions at the key professional/technical or business processes that underpin the operations of client organisations.  Clever professionals are always on the look-out for clients in these important areas who display excellence and those who are experiencing issues or problems.  Why?  Because if they are non-competing, one party can learn from the other – and as the matchmaker for this bench marking exercise you are positioned strongly as a trusted professional for both parties.

James Newberry runs People Scope, a consultancy, interim, training and coaching firm working with lawyers, accountants and other specialists to help them operate successfully outside of their comfort zones. http://www.peoplescope.com.

 

Three ways to use the proper power of persuasion

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“I don’t need to persuade anyone.  The quality of what I do is self-evident”

So runs the mantra for a number of professional specialists we have met. Somehow, the world (which includes clients and prospects who may not be able to experience the intangibility of what they offer) will see the light. Of course, most often they don’t.

Either this, or they associate persuasion with a stereotypical vision of the “pushy” sales man or woman – and may then try to “sell” by talking endlessly about themselves or their firm. Neither attitude works or is representative of the proper power of persuasion. This is an art that can be learnt, and which has some underlying basic principles: here are three of them.

Give before you get  A tough one this, in that it involves unravelling years of conditioning for those who have had it drummed into them that hours and minutes are ALWAYS TO BE CHARGED FOR. Most people want to return a favour, so if you give them something they will usually want to give something back. We have heard many variations on this theme when trying to attract new clients. “For the trial piece of work, deliberately, we gave them more than we were paid for; they recognised it, liked our attitude, and they are now a significant and very profitable client 10 years on!”.

Three more Ps  This is about Positive Peer Pressure. Those who do business with the public sector see the power of this one. Some people (in fact, many professionals) are better convinced to do something if others are seen doing it. The more local authorities that you work or have worked for, the more powerful appears your case. And in the private sector, if the firm’s name is associated with successful industry authorities (e.g. market leaders), then you can get a double whammy.

Seek out common ground  People do more business with those they feel they like. A large part of such liking is about the amount of common ground that is established between them. Successful professionals know this: which is why golf, cricket, rugby, football etc. are such common pursuits. Sadly, many do not venture outside of these, their own obvious likes. Successful networkers know that it is possible to establish common ground with just about anyone. But it needs this realisation and then practice to achieve.

James Newberry runs People Scope, a consultancy, training and coaching firm working with lawyers, accountants and other technical specialists to help them operate successfully outside of their comfort zones. http://www.peoplescope.com.

Three tips to keep your pipeline flowing

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 How many initial contacts do you need to gain one new client?

When asked, the answers of many professionals are often hopelessly optimistic. And they wonder why their Business Development efforts aren’t amounting to much. The fact is that moving prospects in our target markets from initial contact to converted client is usually a lengthy process with several stages, where at any point, we can be screened out: hence, the analogy for the process as a pipeline. In most professional environments, this attrition means that initial contact numbers usually have to be significantly higher than a few (dozen).

Here are three things to address the “pipeline peril” and make it a safer, more productive bet.

Keep your tap on  It isn’t just the length of the pipeline that is important; it is the speed of migration down it. It can take YEARS for some business contacts to result in a trading relationship. The long game approach required to be successful at this sits ill with the short-term, ‘fees, fees, and fees’ focus of many professional lives.

“We are very busy so no-one’s doing any selling at the moment”

Turn off the tap that keeps your contacts flowing and you risk future famine. This requires a contact strategy to maintain profile with potential clients. Do you or your professionals have one?

Count, plan and monitor  How many business development professionals know the number of contacts they have in their pipeline and at which stage they are at with any conviction? In our experience, these experts are few and far between. Because they don’t recognise the dynamics of the pipeline or perhaps take it seriously, they cannot begin to control its flows. Assessing where you are is the first step to deciding what should be done (plan) and doing it (see below), plus then monitoring to ensure that sufficient new client work is being delivered at the other end.

You cannot be serious! …and sure enough, too many of us are not when it comes to planning and doing it. Do we schedule time for business development activity as carefully and in as much detail as the professional work that is done? Most professionals’ Outlook diaries are full of transactional actions and deadlines. But BD ones??!

James Newberry runs People Scope, a consultancy, training and coaching firm working with lawyers, accountants and other technical specialists to help them operate successfully outside of their comfort zones. http://www.peoplescope.com.