Gone are the days when prospecting was limited to dialing for dollars. With the ability to reach hundreds of ideal prospects everyday through social media, everyone in sales (which should be everyone in your organization), should be engaging in these prospecting activities.
You may already be doing some of them, but not considering them "prospecting." That mindset shift is important, because it will change how you view these activities and propel you to be more intentional.
Remember that our most valuable and scarcest resource is time. So the more thoughtful you are about how you invest this resource, the greater the return on investment (ROI) you will enjoy.
Being intentional about where you network will determine if you have a successful experience. There are five steps you can take to find your perfect networking community, and it starts with being strategic.
Your networking community should reflect who you want to work with, including the levels you target, the industries you serve, and the products/services you provide.
As someone who serves the C-level market, my primary networking communities are the Entrepreneurs Organization, Women Presidents Organization, Cadre, and local Chamber events that specifically educate CEOs. I'm also a presenter coach for the DC region's largest investor/pitch quarterly event, ConnectPreneur.
These communities serve who I serve, attract other service providers that serve who I serve, and their events also appeal to my clients, so I can provide additional value by inviting them as my guests. I view my engagement with these communities as personal growth opportunities and business development (BD) activity.
Speaking Opportunities (Paid/Unpaid)
Everyone is an expert in something, and we all can contribute at conferences, lunches, etc. While it feels great to be asked to speak, not every invitation should be a yes. Speaking engagements take time to prepare, deliver, and follow up. They consume time that we can otherwise invest in other activities.
Before accepting, determine:
- How much time do you need to invest to prepare? Is it a new topic, or can you re-purpose existing materials?
- How well does the topic align with your brand/what you offer in the marketplace?
- What is the track record for the event? What is its turnout?
- Who attends? Is it your exact target audience?
- What will you get in return? In addition to a speaking fee, do you get access to the list? A copy of the video?
- What are your parameters for free speaking? Do you have a certain number of pro-bono events you accept? Nonprofits? Local groups? I speak for local close friends and I support local women's entrepreneurship initiatives for no charge.
- What are your non-negotiable travel conditions? I insist on first-class travel so that I can be fully productive during my flight time and well-rested when I arrive.
Speaking should be a definite BD strategy, but for it to be effective, be intentional in your opportunities.
Writing regularly for a publication that specifically targets your ideal customer is a great way to build relationships. To land a major publication requires many incremental steps, including personal blogging and writing for smaller publications.
Writing for a large publication is a time-intensive, serious commitment. You essentially integrate another part-time job into your full-time schedule. This is why it's essential to pick your platform wisely. Also, check editorial guidelines regarding content ownership once you publish.
Writing a Book
It's never been easier to write a book. Many people are intimidated by the writing and publishing process, and they allow fear of the unknown to hold them back. They also believe they must know everything, and that their book has to be perfect to go to press. Both of these fallacies interfere with creating the world's most effective BD tool.
Hosting Your Own Event
Hosting your own event:
- Establishes you as an expert
- Provides you a captive audience, so you can communicate your messaging to hand-selected prospects
- Distinguishes you from those who consider themselves your competition
This is obviously a big investment, and can be gamble if not done well. However, when you've clearly defined your objectives, your target attendee, and how it fits into a larger BD strategy, it can generate a large payoff.
"Un-networking expert" Derek Coburn has perfected the art of connecting with customers and prospects through innovative events. In his best-selling book, Networking Is Not Working, he outlines several strategies leaders can apply to creatively build new relationships.
Prospecting and BD: All Day, Everyday
Everything we do in business today is a prospecting activity, and we should view it as such because our time is so limited. The more intentional we are about how, where, why, and with whom we're investing our time, the more we will discover revenue and growth opportunities, and build lasting relationships in the process.