The Relationship Development Process

Success in business starts with successful relationships. Because of this, the relationship development process is often the guide that is used to govern the marketing and business development roles in companies. As you look at these stages of the relationship development process note that marketing plays the pivotal role of effectively laying the foundation for relationships, while business development facilitates the initiation of those relationships.

The Relationship Development Process

Name Recognition – During the name recognition phase of the relationship development process a company or an individual goes from being an unknown, to being known. This foundation sets the groundwork for a relationship as others are at least aware that you or your company exists. Name recognition is one of the primary objectives of a strong marketing department and it often takes the form of advertising, promotions, mailers, and press. It is also handled in business development and sales when a new relationship starts. A common introduction when you meet someone new for the first time often builds name recognition: for example: “I’m John Adams with ABC company.” Note: I have found that if your company is an unknown, prior to initiating a new relationship, your chances of turning the relationship into a sale are reduced significantly.

Develop Understanding – During this part of the relationship development process, a company or individual goes from just being a name, to being recognized for how they fit into the world. This stage establishes a thorough understanding of your company, the services you provide, and how others see you in the industry. Most importantly, it is during this stage that others will learn how your company can be of benefit to another individual or company. This stage should be handled by marketing at the company level and business development at the relationship level. In marketing, this often takes the form of websites, brochures, newsletters, and articles. In business development, it often happens during conversation and should include how the individual fits into the corporate structure.

Interactive Communication – During this part of the relationship development process you must begin to engage at the human level. This is no longer about facts or information, it is about building a personal relationship. Because of this, business development should take the lead at this stage with minimal marketing support.

Solidify Relationship – Relationships are solidified when you engage in mutually beneficial action. When you call someone that you have solidified a relationship with, communication is easy and most of the time you will be able to quickly find direct and indirect topics of conversation. This stage should be headed by your business development staff in conjunction with your project management staff. Often, this is the point at which new work or projects are begun with your new client.

How are you doing?

Looking at this process, you can see the importance of both business development and marketing in the sales process. Take a moment to identify the areas that you need to strengthen in order to improve the effectiveness of your sales process. Is your marketing department truly laying a foundation with name recognition and developing understanding, or are they just producing glossy brochures? Is your business development staff regularly initiating interactive communication with important potential relationships, or have you yet to identify who is responsible for business development at your company? As you think about these questions, I hope you can see the steps you need to make to improve your sales process.

Networking Secrets a Father Taught His Son

The following is a guest post is contributed by Maria Rainier, who regularly writes on the topic of online college education.

My brother is a wildly successful person. He literally has thousands of business cards in this gigantic blue 3 ring binder he keeps with him at all times. Ask my brother do you know a good handyman, he says “I know several”; ask him if he knows a good Cardiologist he replies “of course, I know the best in the city”. Ask him if knows anybody to do anything, he always says yes. It seems his binder is almost like a magician’s magic hat. You ask it to produce something and presto, it appears. A few weeks ago when we got together for Mothers Day at moms I decided to inquire. I asked him, how did you have time to meet and talk to all these people? How do you know them? He said. “I met 99% of them through networking”. I have to admit I was shocked.

Not to worry. I learned networkers are made, not born.

Growing up, my brother kept to himself. In high school he was not what I would call outgoing. He was not very talkative for a boy and he was not by any means a natural born salesman. So I asked him, “How did you get so good at networking?” He didn’t hesitate and replied “Practice”. I was puzzled. I always thought you can either network or you can’t. You are either a networker or you’re not. So I asked him, “what do you mean, you where never really a people person, you have always kept to yourself, why this new networking you?” He said “dad taught me how to network, go ask him” and then he laughed. So I pressed on and asked my brother “what do you mean dad taught you?” He said dad taught him the 3 cardinal rules of networking when he was in college taking a business course. Now I thought this is getting ridiculous, the 3 cardinal rules and a business course, he has to be pulling my leg. Maybe this goes deeper and I better not dig further. But of course, I had to. My dad never taught me to network. I needed answers.

I asked my brother if he would mind sharing with me how a quiet shy kid can turn into a networking expert. He quickly snapped, “I am no expert, but I can hold my own” “I told you sis, practice” I said “I know all that, but tell me exactly how you do it”. He said it would take him an hour and a half to teach me the 3 cardinal rules of networking dad taught to him and I should call him one night this week. I reluctantly agreed.

Get it from the source.

The next evening I called him and I said “OK so what are the 3 cardinal rules to networking?” he replied, “Do you have a pen?” I said, “Yes” and like it had been rehearsed and practiced dozens of times, he recited these cardinal rules to me: “Practice, Practice, Practice”. I said “c’mon now, I really want to know”. He said “OK”. He went on to tell me for over an hour that knowing people from all walks of life was essential to being successful. He told me that you did not have to make friends or even have anything in common, just that you were to create real business relationships. He said “this is the first cardinal rule, build solid relationships”. He further explained that he was taught by our dad to let the other person talk about their business and magically, in some metaphysical way, they would remember you and what you do through your silence. This was rule two. He then went on to tell me that common sense, when a networking opportunity presents itself, was the 3rd and final rule. He explained that carefully presenting your services when appropriate and only when appropriate, was key crucial to networking.  He told me that sometimes it took him two or three meetings to form a working relationship or even say a word about what he did. He was careful to point out not to pressure or rush a contact into a relationship, and better to stay low key and not seem desperate. He said that part of the common sense in cardinal rule three was to act like you don’t need the contact, but that you want it. He said this was a fine line and it took practice. He finished by telling me that no one wants to buy from, or do business with a desperate person. People want to buy from and do business with a successful person, so act like a successful person and you will never have a problem networking.

My First Triathlon

I knew very little about triathlons this past November when I added the words “complete a triathlon” to my list of goals for the 2010. I knew that triathlons are considered an “individual” sport and that they push your personal limits as you compete in three sports back to back. What I didn’t know was that to reach my goal of completing a tri I would need a great group of friends.

I never have enjoyed running since a knee injury in junior high, so the idea of training for the run portion of the tri seemed next to impossible. It had been over a decade since I had even run a mile when this past December when I received a call from someone I barely knew inviting me to join him and another friend running on Tuesday and Friday mornings. (My loving wife tipped him off that I needed to get running in order to reach my goal) The next day I ran a painful 2.6 miles. Since that day in December we have been running together twice a week and surprisingly, while it has been hard, I have enjoyed it more than I ever thought possible.

A triathlon will always teach you something

I have been told by many triathletes that a Triathlon will always teach you something. It taught me about the unique paradox of life: that in order to succeed as an individual you must first succeed as a friend. In life you need true friends, the type that will call and give you a hard time if you didn’t run just because it was raining and cold.

Business is no different, if you are simply inward focused you may do fine for awhile. You might even make it for a couple of years as you push (or pull) yourself up with your own strength, but eventually you will burn out and find a loneliness where relationships should have been all along, helping you along the path of life.

If I am convinced of anything it is this: that we were designed for relationships. It is not simply a want, it is a need. How are you doing, are you focused on helping others succeed and in doing so allowing them to help you as well, or are you taking on life all by yourself?

To those that dragged me along

I simply can’t say thanks enough to my running friends Matthew Hatley and Jason Vandorsten, to my biking friends Ron Klabunde, Ken White, Brian James, and Marty Smith, and to my loving wife Mary who encouraged me every step of the way. It is because of all of you that I was able to reach my goal for the year. Thank you all, it is truly great to have you as friends.

Construction Marketing Ideas

Construction Marketing IdeasThis past week I received a copy of Mark Buckshon’s new book Construction Marketing Ideas and I must say that I am impressed. It provides a comprehensive overview of not simply the basics of marketing, but truly how to leverage marketing to bring work in the door. Since I am a sucker for stories I have especially enjoyed the stories from others in the industry that have faced so many of the same problems that we all face and have found unique ways to solve those problems.

I definitely agree with Mark on the role of associations in building an effective marketing program:

Association marketing:  Your untapped gold mine

After attending a Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMSP) annual Build Business convention in Denver, Colorado, our family visited a small working gold mine. The miner, after years of low gold prices, had discovered a way to survive by selling site visits to tourists.  With gold prices soaring, the actual mining operation is now thriving.  Nevertheless, the tourist revenue continues to create an exceptionally profitable business. However, the miner doesn’t need to dress the place up as a tourist site; it is a working mine, after all.

Discovering untapped resources

From a marketing perspective, associations have similarities to the gold mine.  They can seem expensive, and while you can sometimes find nuggets on the surface, the best value is deep within your  participation.  However, unlike the mine, which (even if it can continue for decades) is a depleting resource, effective association participation results in increasing advantages until you hit the mother load of consistent, repeating opportunities.

It took me a long time to appreciate why associations are so valuable for marketing, and my research suggests that many people give up before they achieve success.  A senior SMPS member said the association struggles with people who join, then quit after a year or two.  “This turnover is disturbing, because the real value in membership comes with time and the networking and leads developed over the years,” he said.

A wealth of leads

When leveraged actively and consistently associations can provide a wealth of new project leads. More importantly for me has been that my involvement in great associations (such as the Society for Marketing Professional Services) have yielded true friendships. It is an amazing thing to enjoy going to work every day to achieve success with true friends.

Construction Marketing Ideas

If you haven’t already done so let me encourage you to pick up a copy of Construction Marketing Ideas by Mark Buckshon.

I don’t like networking events

I don’t really like networking events. To be honest, I have been struggling with this over the past several months because no matter what I do it seems that networking has become, and is becoming, a bigger part of my life. I write about networking, speak about networking, coach others on networking, I founded a massively successful commercial network, I have even been a conference keynote speaker presenting on the topic of networking! So how is it then do I not like networking events?

I’m normal. That’s right; most people do not like attending networking events. According to Susan RoAne (Author of Face to Face) 93% of people self identify themselves as “shy,” and networking events are not a happy place for a shy person to be. I have finally come to the conclusion that the reason I have been successful speaking, writing, and building networks is that so many people struggle with the same things I struggled with. I had to work hard to figure out how to succeed at networking by building great friendships (something that anyone can do even without attending networking events). As a result it is really easy for me to explain to other people how to succeed at networking, because I have struggled with the same things.

You are an expert

One amazing thing about life is that our successes are the greatest in areas where we struggle the most. I have read a lot about networking and have come to realize that many of the “experts” are wrong. When I hear someone using “elevator pitch” and “networking” in the same sentence I run (if you are in sales you don’t need to run, these are great sales tools, they are just NOT networking tools). If networking hadn’t been so hard for me, I never would have understood why these things don’t make sense.

Your Turn

What are the areas of your life that you struggled with for years? Did you have to learn management, leadership, or graphics through the school of hard knocks? If so you are probably more of an expert than you ever imagined. If you are open to sharing, there millions of people that need to hear and learn from you, not from someone that was a “natural.” You many never be able to (or desire to) connect with millions, but can you start this week by sharing some of what you have learned with at least one person.

Networking: Make certain you are heard

tree_fallingWhen I first started networking I clearly remember referring ten potential clients to a friend in my network. Several weeks later I received a phone call from him thanking me for one of the referrals, it hadn’t turned into a job, but he really appreciated that I was thinking of him. As we spoke I asked him about how things were going with the other nine referrals… he had no idea what I was talking about. As we spoke it turned out that two had become clients, a couple he was still waiting to hear back from, and a handful he had never heard from. I had learned my lesson: the people you are networking with need to know when you help them, and it is your responsibility to communicate it.

Do you make a sound?
We’ve all heard the saying “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” We can ask the same question as it relates to networking.

The foundation for networking is helping other people, but if others don’t know that you are helping them, you are failing to be heard.

Make Some Noise
Two easy options to be heard include:

  1. Send your contact an e-mail with a note about the referral. It is easy to start with a statement like “I just wanted to let you know that you may receive a phone call from…”
  2. Call the person you referred, everyone likes receiving a call about a potential lead.

Remember that your objective is to build mutually beneficial relationships. If you were curious, here is the answer to if a tree falling in the forest makes a sound.

Sled Hill Champions

I have been sledding more in the past three weeks than in the past three years. My excuse: two boys ages six and five and three feet of snow around Washington DC.

It was just in the past year that my boys graduated from our neighborhood sled hill to the ‘big kids’ sled hill just a couple of miles from our home. With the new sled hill comes more speed, more risk, and the ultimate goal of making it down the hill with enough momentum to make it up a small dirt mound to sled down a second hill for another drop off into a frozen creek bed.

After one of the recent snow storms I found myself standing at the top of the big kids’ hill with 40 or so other parents as Evan (my six year old) worked to maintain his momentum and make it down the second hill. It truly is amazing to see the persistence of a little boy who is focused on reaching a goal. It was exciting to see him try new things, shifting his weight, looking for the perfect line, and learning to steer. After what seemed like forever it all started to come together… the perfect run. After giving him pointers and watching him for so long I was beyond excited as he started up the dirt mound, I just started yelling “GO EVAN! GO EVAN!” As he crested the second half of the hill I raised my arms as if our team was somehow the newly crowned sled hill champions. I was letting out a final “YES!” just in time to see the top of a tree at the bottom of the hill shake from the impact of Evan running into it.

Been there

I’ve been there before. More than once I have been so focused on a goal that I have lost sight of what happens next. I somehow think that if I just reach this one goal everything else will just come together. Instead as I have grown up I have begun to realize that life is the goal. Sometimes to achieve true success we have to look outside of this day’s, week’s, or even year’s goals and remember what is really important. For me I have come to realize that my personal successes pale in comparison to relationships, laughter and friendship. It isn’t that our goals are bad; rather it is that we need to look at them in light of true success. When we do this we will find that the journey to reaching our goals is much more enjoyable, and the success once we are there will be that much sweeter.

9 Tough Networking Questions

This past week I had the privilege of hosting a training session for David M. Schwarz Architects in Washington DC. After the presentation I offered to answer any and every question about networking that they could throw at me over the following weeks. Needless to say they asked some great questions that I am certain you can relate to:

Q:
When I first moved to DC (almost five years ago now) I was meeting a lot of really great people at all the events that I went to (I had more “spare time” in those days). I lost touch with many of those people as the years have passed, but for many of them, I remember their stories and still have their business cards. Is there a tactful way in which I could contact them now, or is it better to let it be?

A:
There are two foundation stones for a relationship 1) knowing that someone else exists (name recognition) and 2) understanding how they fit into the world around you (develop understanding). If your goal is to expand your relationships then the best place to start is always with people that already know (or have known) you. The goal isn’t to necessarily have lunch with everyone you meet five years ago, but rather to keep these two foundational stones in place. That is one of the goals of this blog, but I also send articles out every once in awhile to people I have met previously. By doing this I am keeping a foundation for our relationship in place, and it is rewarding when I see someone after 5 years and we can “pick up where we left off” because these foundation stones for our relationship are still in place.

Q:
If I walk into an event not knowing anyone, and all people there are already chatting, can I walk up to a small group of people who are already having a conversation and just say hello without coming across as being disruptive/rude? [This is a follow-up to the “I Don’t Know Anyone Survival Basics”]

A.
Look for an excuse to break into the conversation. Do you know the company someone works for? Is anyone wearing a pin on their jacket indicating an Alumni or other affiliation? To “break in” engage one individual in the group with a simple question. Once you are accepted into the group (a split will develop as people open their shoulders to accept you) engage the rest of the group preferably by making a comment on the topic they were previously discussing before you entered.

Q:
If I slip into a conversation like the one mentioned above, and find the subject matter to be from somewhere outside my plane of existence, how long should I just listen without  having anything to add to the conversation? For instance, I often find myself amid conversations about television shows, pop culture icons, or sports. These are all things which I know very little about (and generally also don’t have a whole lot of interest in knowing about).

A:
Never “slip away.” If you want to get out of a conversation have an excuse ready. I often carry around a drink only 25% full, and then if needed one more sip and I need to get a refill “excuse me as I get a refill.” Better yet, is someone else just as bored with the conversation? Invite them to join you or simply split the conversation by asking them a direct question.

Q:
I usually try to plan ahead to avoid this, but I often find myself in an outfit that has no pockets. I generally feel like it would be better not to carry a stack of business cards around in my hand. Would you agree?

A:
It is official, I have been stumped. I can’t remember the last pair of dress pants I bought that didn’t have pockets. Given that you are carrying a purse (or “man bag” for any guys that have found pants without pockets) I would recommend purchasing a business card holder in your purse. Perhaps someone more qualified on this topic can make a better recommendation in the comments section.

Q:
As a young woman, I am fairly attune to who is safe to give my contact information out to, and to whom it is questionable. If I have been giving cards out at an event and then encounter someone to which I would rather not give my business card to, do you have any advice on the best way to decline?

A:
Great question! The key is to bring a relatively limited supply of cards and only hand them out to people you really want to connect with. If you are uncomfortable with someone when they hand you a card simply tell them that “I didn’t bring a lot of cards tonight but I can follow-up with you, thanks.” Another note here is that if this happens often make certain that your cards don’t contain personal information such as your cell phone number. Main business phone numbers are acceptable and expected on business cards.

Q:
My name is unusual. I know this can be good or bad. Will it be insulting for me to write a phonetic spelling on my card when I give it to someone? I feel as though, similar to the days of sending out my resume, people are less likely to call someone if they know they are going to “butcher” the pronunciation of their name.

A:
I am a firm believer in making nametags and business cards easy for others to read, but giving someone the phonetic spelling is probably going too far. Instead of Timothy M. Klabunde, MBA on my cards they simply say Tim Klabunde. You have several options with a unique name, of which my favorite is using a “short” for your professional relationships. For example, if your name is Rhiannon you could use Ann on your cards and nametag. As an added benefit you’ll always know where you stand when someone calls you as your friends will still call you your preferred name.

Q:
Similarly, if I get a business card from someone else, can I write a phonetic spelling or notes on it, or is that considered rude as well? I know in Japanese culture defacing a business card is somewhat likened to a direct personal insult.

A:
Yes, it is perfectly acceptable to use the back of the business card to add notes or other information. Unless you have told them you will follow-up on something however it is not acceptable to do so while you are still talking to them.

Q:
In your talk you mentioned the importance of being able to recommend others. This is easy once you know a few people worth recommending, but what if you are just starting out? If someone keeps sending contacts my way and I don’t know anyone that I can recommend to help them with what they do, they might quickly decide that I’m not useful enough to be on their “hot list”.

A:
It is easy to recommend people on your hotlist because they typically start as people you have worked with previously and they are people you enjoy and respect. If you don’t feel that you can recommend anyone, and thus don’t yet have a hotlist, start by working on developing friends in your industry. Get involved on a committee at a local association, invite someone out for coffee, but generally speaking actively seek out new relationships.

Q:
Last year our firm celebrated its 30th anniversary. There were a lot of people a our celebration, but I chose not to talk to very many people for fear that I would say something to the effect of, “So how do you know our firm?” and the answer would be, “I’m David’s brother” or other special honored guest or relative. I don’t mean to be ignorant, but there is some information in my office that just doesn’t reach everyone’s experience. Although I know that I can not avoid being in a situation where I might be expected to know more than I do, my question to you is: was I right or wrong in this particular instance to save my company the embarrassment of me asking questions that clients might expect me to know the answer to?

A:
Nametags. As of today Scott Ginsberg has worn a nametag for the past 3,376 days (not kidding check him out here http://www.hellomynameisscott.com). Scott is a well known author and speaker on approachability, the one thing that has stuck with me after reading many of his articles is that name tags are not intended to help the person wearing them; their entire purpose is to help the other people you meet. (aka: you already know your name) You and many others at the same venue were experiencing a relationship barrier that could have been easily fixed with some simple Avery nametags. Next time have some fun and be the first person to put on a nametag, I guarantee you’d be one of the most popular people at the event because I’m certain you were not the only person that felt that way.

Warming Up a COLD Contact

I greatly dislike making cold calls, so several years ago I decided that I was going to change my approach to calling someone I didn’t don’t know: I decide to start “warming-up” calls before I made them. For years now I have successfully implemented a simple three step process to warming up a cold contact when other traditional methods such as referrals and introductions are not readily available. The process takes time, but when followed completely, I have found that it increases my success seven to eight times more than making a cold contact. I hope you find it helpful:

Step one: Name Recognition
I initiate name recognition by sending out two post cards exactly one week apart to the person I want to contact. Note two things here; one is that I always know the name of an individual I want to speak with before I start this process (not simply a company name), the second is that the information I send them is memorable. Oftentimes this will be done to a group of people I want to connect with to minimize effort. This first step provides me with name recognition, and the excuse to implement step two.

Step two: Develop Understanding
One week after I send out the second post card I call the individual to tell them who I am and to ask one simple question. It sounds something like this: “Hi, I am Tim Klabunde from Gordon. You should have received two post cards from me recently and I was wondering if I could send you some more information about what I referenced in my post cards.” Of the hundreds of times I have made this call I have only been told “no” once.

Note a couple of things that make this step successful: First it is an excessively short conversation, in other words I am very respectful of their time. Second, I never leave a voice message; I keep calling back at different times of the day if I miss them until I get through. Third, I fully expect that many of the people that receive my step two packet will discard it, but I have ensured through the phone call that they will at least look at it before they throw it away and remember it.

Step three: Initiate the Relationship
Step three is simply a warm follow-up call one week after I send out the additional information. By this point I have developed name recognition and they understand who I am and how I fit into their world. When I call, I reference our last conversation and information I have sent so they recognize who I am. With this foundation I initiate a conversation and relationship. Setting up lunch or a meeting becomes easy because a foundation has been laid for our relationship over the past month.

Building Relationships
Remember when you are working a cold contact that most people fail because they call someone else for personal gain, rather than laying a foundation for a mutually beneficial relationship. Instead of focusing on your personal objectives consider helping your new friend to reach their objectives. The result will be a relationship based on trust and and an individual that wants to help you succeed.

Web 2.0: Marketing by Providing Value

As I noted in a previous post on Web 2.0, marketing on the “new” web is about providing value to prospective customers. I was recently able to connect with Kwame Kuadey of Gift Card Rescue to discuss his web 2.0 strategy.  What I found is that, regardless of your industry, the basic principles of web 2.0 apply.

Kwame began marketing Gift Card Rescue through traditional means: he set-up a website, initiated a branding campaign, and “put a stake in the world wide web’s ground.” What he learned was that the old theory of ‘build it and they will come’ is only partially true. In an effort to increase traffic to Gift Card Rescue’s website he began a blog, Gift Card Blogger. Instead of focusing on his company and what he wanted, he instead decided to provide relevant and important information on gift cards. That’s right, he started providing value to potential customers instead of just his services of buying and selling gift cards without the risk of fraud.

Providing Value Builds Success
Today, over 35% of Gift Card Rescue’s traffic comes directly through his blog, and he believes that a large majority of his other hits are a result of the increased traffic, resulting in better search ratings, due to his blog. In addition, through his blogging and writings Kwame has positioned himself as a leading expert in the gift card industry, a move that will pay public relations rewards many times over throughout the busy holiday seasons.

What you can learn from Gift Card Rescue
Regardless of if you are in marketing in a professional services company, a construction company, or a non-for-profit, you can look at the Gift Card Rescue model and learn three things that will help you to be successful in the Web 2.0 marketing world:

  1. You must begin by developing a strong website, brand, and an easy to navigate web presence.
  2. You need to provide value to your potential customers: You can do this through posting white papers, starting a blog, sending out weekly tips, or just explain the best way to engage a firm that provides your type of product or service. Remember, DO NOT SELL, rather provide relevant and helpful information.
  3. Leverage the value that you are developing and sharing through your website, blog, or network to establish yourself, your company, and/or your product as the best in the field.

Success in a Web 2.0 world
Success in Web 2.0 strategy, be it on LinkedIn, blogging, or as part of an online community such as Civil Engineering Central, must be defined differently than in traditional marketing. For me it is the relationships that I have made as a result of this blog, for others it is public relations, and still for others it is increased name recognition. What is important is that you identify your objectives and then focus your Web 2.0 presence to meet those objectives.