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Prospecting, Sales, Marketing – oh my! It can all feel quite overwhelming and frustrating at times, can't it? Recently, I spoke with an acquaintance who has been in the job market for over a year. I noticed a pattern in John's marketing of himself that I've seen in many business owners as well. John is a great connector and has no problem selling his skills to prospective employers. The problem is that he works for weeks, sometimes months, on just one opportunity, putting all of his proverbial eggs in one basket.  He connects, he connects some more to the same person – and then he waits – and waits. Valuable time is wasted as John waits and hopes and does nothing to create the next connection.

Whether you are selling yourself for an employment opportunity or selling a product or service, make sure you cast a wide net. Remember that a long courtship is normal in the world of sales and, no matter how stunning your prospect believes you are, they may decline your invitation to take the plunge. So you want to have many prospects in your marketing funnel. You also want to have many relationships at various stages of development.

Let's talk about a few simple ways to find people and develop relationships with them.  Not every person you meet will become a paying customer, but we thrive on all sorts of relationships in life and business. Build rapport and enjoy the experience; you never know where it will lead! Let's look at some simple ways to connect and build rapport naturally. Remember - persistence, consistency and organization are the keys to success.

Call in to my podcast today, Monday, April 4th between 2-3pm ET,  for an "Ask the Coach" opportunity if you'd like to discuss your marketing and prospecting challenges!

- Review past successes. Where and how have you found prospects in the past? Make a list of your customers/clients and note where they came from. This tracking is important , so keeping your records in Excel or an online CRM is a good idea.  If you see a trend, capitalize on it. Create a plan to market in that arena and recreate your success.

- Identify the social media platforms where your ideal client is most likely to hang out. If you find that having a presence on multiple social media platforms is overwhelming then have an all-out presence on the one site where you will meet your prospects. For me, LinkedIn is a powerful 'boardroom' and I have a lot of success making virtual appointments through this venue.  Remember that Social Media is similar to good old-fashioned networking. You walk into the room, join a conversation, shake a few hands and re-connect with the people you find most interesting. It really is that simple.

- When was the last time you asked clients for referrals? Do you have a referral program in place? How about an affiliate program? Don't forget to remind friends and family of who your perfect client is. Of course your friends support you, but they can't always have you in mind when they meet new people.

- Do some face-to-face networking at meetings and events where you will learn something. If you're interested in the topic, you will be more engaged and energetic. The inclination to stay behind the computer can be too great now that we don't have to leave the office to connect to the outside world. So push yourself to at least one event a week – more if you can.

- See who your social media friends and peers are connected to and ask for introductions to their connections. This is also a great way to gather 'recommendations' on LinkedIn. 

- Offer to be a guest on podcasts and to write guest posts on blogs. Not only can you connect with tons of people but you might find a powerful connection in the podcaster/blogger. I've become good friends with a number of my podcast guests; this is a powerful opportunity. Remember to have a giveaway ready if your host allows.

- Notice who retweets you on Twitter and who comments on your status updates on Facebook. If someone retweets you, thank them and build a relationship with them…you've got a captive audience there!

Now, here's where most people miss the boat – follow up!  How often have you met someone and felt the connection, yet failed to follow up after the initial meeting? Well, you're not alone. Create a 'system' for follow up. Follow a process and carve out time on a weekly basis to take the next step with each of your connections. Here are some examples of staying in touch with the people you meet in person. You'll want to create a series of steps that take place over a long period of time, not just one feeble attempt at re-connecting.

- Send a handwritten note (yes, you heard me right) telling the person how much you enjoyed meeting them.  If you schedule a designated time each week to do your follow up, it won't feel like a burden.

- Send an email with your e-brochure or other information attached and request theirs in return.

- Extend an invitation to re-connect via phone or in person. Don't give up on this one until you get a clear message that the individual isn't interested. People are busy and new relationships can often take a back seat.

- Ship a small sample of your product or extend an invitation to experience your service – whatever your give away is. Pose it as a gift, people like feeling special.

- Consider what you can do for the individual. Do you know someone who would be a great contact for them? Offer an introduction or to meet with the trio for coffee or lunch.

- Forward articles or other resources that you believe they may find interesting and helpful.

- Continue to stay in touch via email, phone and in person if appropriate. Don't let the relationship go stale.

- Send a 'thinking of you' note or email. If you experience something that reminds you of that person in some way, let them know. Just a short correspondence offering a few nice words or a good laugh goes a long way.

- Ask if you may add them to your mailing list and sign up for theirs as a way to stay current with one another.

How do you create new connections – and how do you stay in touch and develop the relationship? Share your tips and secrets here!

Last updated: Apr 4, 2011

MARLA TABAKA

Marla Tabaka is a small-business advisor who helps entrepreneurs around the globe grow their businesses well into the millions. She has over 25 years of experience in corporate and start-up ventures and speaks widely on combining strategic and creative thinking for optimum success and happiness.




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