Angela Meyer was interviewed on "Litigation Radio' part of the Legal Talk Network sponsored by the American Bar Association. Click here to listen to the podcast.
Join Angela Meyer as she discusses her business development philosophy with sales expert, Mo Bunnell. Click here for the complete podcast.
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I remember very early on in my graduate training at university, when I was in awe of my professor’s ability to answer every question I had, I said to him “how do you know that?”. He turned and said, “Angela, I cannot give you thirty years of knowledge in five minutes”. Remembering this, and now that I have some time on my hands to do things that stretch me, I decided to start writing about all I learned over the past 30 years of consulting and business development to hopefully provide you with some insight.
Even though I have never taken a marketing course in my life, I have been doing business development for a significant part of my career. It wasn’t something that I raised my hand and said, “I want to do sales!”. I was one of those who thought the word “sales” was reserved for a special type of person -not me. I was a highly trained engineer in a consulting firm. Because I was smart and could do the work, I truly believed that only completing project assignments and doing an excellent, and efficient, job for the client would lead to more interactions and the work would flow in. Well, that is a part of the metric, but not all.
I wasn’t trained in business. I never liked doing sales – and even now, 30 years later, I don’t see myself as a salesperson. But sales (or business development) has been part of my job for almost as long as I can remember. For those of you that provide a service, even if you define yourself as a scientist, doctor, engineer, attorney – part of your work will always involve selling yourself. So I want you to think about it this way- if I am not a salesperson, then who am I?
There are many great books out there on business development (send me a message and I can share my favorites). One theme that is consistent in all of them – it is much harder, and less successful to do a “cold call” than a “warm call”. And I couldn’t agree more.
I have been fortunate in my career to meet many people. I am sure you do as well. But I always tell the people that I coach that even if you make what you think may be a great connection, you may not be able to cultivate that relationship – and that is OK. Not every relationship will be successful and not everyone will want to be in your network or work with you.
One thing business development coaches will always teach – what is your elevator speech- if given the opportunity to quickly and succinctly tell someone what you do – what would you say? It’s the stuff that could possibly turn a few minutes of interaction into a long-term relationship. But it something you need to think about carefully – what is interesting and different about your profession that may get someone to say “that’s cool” and “tell me more”.
People believe that when you are in a business development role that sales must come easy and you don’t make mistakes in relationships – but that isn’t the case. Business development is a craft, much like any other skill you have to learn – it takes patience, time, and lots of practice. It’s easy to talk about business development wins – no one wants to talk about the failures – but how else will you learn except discussing what didn’t go right and how to correct it.
How do you know that you are contacting your business clients on a needed basis and not being a nuisance? This is one question that people ask a lot. It’s tough to say because it really depends on the individual you are reaching out to.
Many sales training's tell you it takes 8-10 “touches” before someone will remember you – meetings, calls, emails, etc. It can be a bit daunting for sure to anyone that is trying to grow their contact base in the hopes of getting them as clients.
If your profession involves getting clients in the door of your company, then you must spend time networking and meeting people to assess whether they might be a potential client for your firm. But how do you know if they are the right client? That is a question I get asked a lot about in my coaching work.
Today’s tip is about getting ready for a big fall push – and let’s make a mid-summer correction about your thinking toward doing business development.
People that join a professional services firm think about (1) their profession and (2) about servicing the client – they do not think about marketing. So, as you ramp up for the fall push, think about this – do one thing to push your business development efforts -just one and make it a routine.
Many times people will ask me, how much can I give away before the client needs to pay for it. I think if this is happening to you, you need to look at the relationship you have with that contact. If this contact is a potential new client and someone you might not know very well, you may consider doing a small “freebie” to show them that you have the chops to do the work and solve their problem. But if you do this, you may also remember that phrase “give someone an inch, and they will take a mile”. Don’t let anyone take you for a ride or take you for granted.
In a recent post on Linked-in by Darl Champion, he talked about how most clients can’t distinguish between good and great work product but that the quality of the service delivered has a lot to do about the quality of the work product. I think all of us hope we provide a quality product to our clients. However, many clients don’t compare one consultant to the other based on their work product, but they do compare them on their experience and their responsiveness. That is why I believe a good consultant is always one step ahead of the competitor by their knowledge – they just know more – and I am not speaking necessarily about their trained skill area.
I look back on my life and think about how we kept in touch when I was younger – typically by writing letters or through the rotary or push button princess phone (those who know me know all about that). However, when I speak with my son, who is in his mid twenties, it is text and Instagram and other split second opportunities. How times have changed. But bottom line, whether it was in the 1970s or the 2020’s the meaning is still the same – you have to keep in touch to be remembered.