My business is relatively new and until six months ago I hadn’t sold anything before (unless you count the success of a short-lived jam-making empire when I was 15*), so it’s interesting when people ask me how I get new clients, and how we identify who we want to work with.
*I blame rural living unreservedly.
Well the answer is, there’s no point in working for businesses or people you don’t believe in – so why not start by seeking out the ones you really love? Business development is, of course, a mixture of reactive and proactive activity but when it comes to pro-active, I think Wisdom London is pretty good. But we can all be a little reticent about building a new relationship from scratch. We say speculative does not have to be scary. Approach it as an exciting adventure. Here’s how:
1. Start with the ‘ideal world’ scenario
Which organisations, institutions, brand, people would you like to work for? Why them? What is it about them that makes them so attractive to you? Note – this is nothing to do with what you think they will spend! This is all about passion for what they do, and spotting where you fit into that. Which leads us to…
2. Seek out the common ground (round 1)
Comparing notes. The most basic of techniques used by kids and adults globally – business is no exception. Common ground is our best friend here. At a corporate or cultural level, what does your business and the other (let’s call them “the speculee”) have in common? From the banal (same street) to the ethical (support the same charitable cause) it all counts.
3. Do your research
Now find out some more about them – and challenge all that you think you know. Laziness shows. Use different information sources, be current: What is happening to that organization, right now? Talk to people, see what they know about your chosen one, and if they don’t know much, that’s information too (maybe in time, you can help the speculee with that). Ask what people think of the organization in question. Ask why that is. Because before you make your approach you need to…
4. Have some bright ideas
There’s very little point in making a speculative approach to the client of your dreams and simply giving them a shopping list of what you can do. It will not fire their imagination. But to approach them and bring with you an idea, hypothetical or otherwise, of what you could do for them and how it could work is value-adding. And you need to start adding value from the go-get. Don’t be shy (or mean) with your creativity – even the most far-fetched of ideas can have legs – because it’s simply showing what you have to offer in the best possible way: Creativity, energy, passion, a grasp of the concept of possibility. All wrapped up in an idea.
Now, here comes Groundhog Day…
5. Seek out the common ground (round 2)
So you know what you have in common organizationally. What about the actual people you could connect with? Think some more about common ground, on a personal level. Do you know anyone in the organization, past or present? Do you have clients, suppliers or collaborators in common? Here’s where social media comes into its own: The beauty of social media is that we can access a ready stream of data on a given organization or individual, that’s generally on a pretty human level (and if it’s not, they’re not doing it right! another area you may be able to help with…) so should give you – over time – a feel for how they work, what they are passionate about and what’s important in their lives (and by that I mean their human lives).
And then tailor your approach meaningfully, based on what you now know.
There are a million and one ways that you can make the first move, but as with dating, one maxim applies: Be yourself.
If you are excited by the speculee’s business or product – say so. If you liked (or didn’t like) they way they did something – say so. If you don’t understand why they are not in a particular market – ask. You get the idea…be interested, curious, involved. The idea here is to connect, exchange ideas, interact, draw them into your world, respond, make them aware that you exist. A few ways to do it (that work!):
- Comment on their blog, ask questions
- Blog about them – use them as an example to illustrate a point, or even as an open letter
- If you do that, make them aware of it through other channels too
- Connect via Twitter / FB – follow, comment, direct relevant information to them
- Strike up a debate, ascertain commonalities (or otherwise) in your viewpoints
- Bring them good ideas, suggestions, information that may interest them….in other words, value
Most of all, be brave. Don’t just aspire to work with a brand, do your most to put the right conditions in place for it to happen. Accept that it will be a slow burn, that the relationship must grow first, and that your services may not be right at this exact time. And also know when to give up – a few places you don’t want to be are flogging the proverbial dead horse or erm, cyberstalking.
Happy speculating – one of the joys of doing business. You never know where you’ll end up.
Kate Spiers is the founder of Wisdom London. She is passionate about joining up the dots, meeting amazing people and building sustainable business relationships that are based on common ground and mutual value. She is less passionate about jam these days, though. Other fish to fry.