It was a $10,000 conversation, but that’s not what I earned from it. That’s what it cost me. And I’m glad of it.
This conversation over coffee took place in 1999, just after I’d jumped from a marketing job with a Big Four accounting firm, to start my own business. The meeting was with a business coach I’ll call “Judy,” as part of an initial consultation.
I’d told Judy that I wanted to build a practice working with professional services firms. But I’d been offered a contract to do PR work for a wood-stove manufacturer, quite outside my area of interest. Just starting out, even with a good cushion of savings, the $10,000 contract looked pretty amazing to me. And I’d grown up in a house that relied on a wood-stove for heat, so I knew the product.
Judy gently probed around that. Did I really want to step so far off my business plan and area of expertise, to focus on a consumer product? Wouldn’t the time I spent pushing wood-stoves be time I wouldn’t be building my profile with professional firms?
Clients are more likely to do business with you if they know, like and trust you. And while it’s easy to become “known” to a potential client, and be sure they “know” what you can do for them, getting them to trust you is a huge issue.
I find that once I’ve delivered successfully for a client, that trust level is high – but at the start of the relationship, we’re both feeling our way.
One way to build trust, even before you meet a prospect, is by showing yourself to be like them. This is because if you build commonality with them, they’re more likely to believe that you can help them solve their problem.
Consider three scenarios:
• So you’re at a networking meeting, and you meet a potential client named Farooz. He’s got so much potential for you (professionally, of course) that you’re just dying to work with him. You’re the solution to a lot of problems Farooz is facing. And Farooz is equally smitten by you (professionally, of course). So next morning, he plugs your name into LinkedIn to find out if you really have the credibility you presented last night. Now ask yourself: Would Farooz be impressed with what he finds on your profile?
• Or, let’s say that Farooz was talking with one of his colleagues, and mentions some of his business issues. His colleague says that you were able to help her out on some of her issues, and that he really should give you a call. Farooz plugs your name into LinkedIn to find out about you…
• Or, this time Farooz reads an article you’ve written, hears you give a speech, or hears you interviewed on his favorite business podcast. He wants to know more, and wants to be informed about you before he picks up the phone. So once again…
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