Monday, November 07, 2005

lunch...with a side of building your business

thought it might be helpful to outline something i've been doing over the last couple of months. maybe it might give you some ideas in how to approach referral partners.

ya see, i have 10 bosses...soon to be 11 as of january 1...and all of them are straight up business folks, not wireheads. of course, they don't need to be...that's what they have me and my group for.

well, it came up that none of them really had a good, solid handle on what it is our group can do for clients. and the suggestion was that we have some kind of something to better acquaint all of them with our services. and so we decided on a monthly one hour lunch meeting.

now, i have to admit that, at first...i was pretty resistant to the idea. and that was because past efforts like this were met with either total apathy, or an overwhelming desire to discuss internal support issues, not our external consulting efforts.

and it dawned on me that the problem with the past sessions lay not with my audience, but with me...and more specifically, my approach to them. i had thought they needed to get to know tech, which was totally wrong. instead, they need to know how to recognize some basics signs that their client needs some tech assistance, so that they know when to bring in the specialist, which is me.

so i changed my approach, mainly by setting some ground rules for myself...and the difference has been like night and day.

here are the rules i set:

  • no hardware or software that's right...a totally naked presentation. it helps keep my direct connection with them intact, and keeps us on the topic at hand, which is discussing business referrals, not oohing and aahing over gee-whizzo gizmos or doodads. i consider this the single most important change i made.
  • no jargon it's my firm opinion that if you can't find a plain-language analogy to describe an absolutely necessary technical idea or term, then don't use the idea or term, because it's too technical.
  • no acronyms either acronyms are simply a shorthand cheat people use to mask boring content, and do nothing but cause immediate mental disconnection. instead, say the whole phrase to which the acronym is referring. it will keep your content honest, and also spur you to stay concise.
  • absolutely clear objective every session...i remind everyone, even if they have been to previous meetings, what our objective is: to give them the information about what to look for, or what they might hear a client say, that would indicate that client needs technology services that we can provide.
  • be concise...stay on time i tend to speak in bullet-points at these meetings, in easily digestible thought blocks, and am sure to not waste time. belaboring a point doesn't do anything but either bore your audience, or make them think you are talking down to them.
i also make sure to have a set of collateral to give each and every person at every one of these monthly meetings, which includes:
  • brochure mockup which is representative of one that would go out to clients.
  • referral strategies guide which outlines different situations that are prime opportunities for the type of service being discussed. for internal use only...think of this as the playbook.
and most importantly...
  • referral card also called the dance card, this is nothing more than a 4x5 card with space for the referrer's name, and several spaces to list up to 5 referrals. even just 1 solid referral per card is a success.
of course...we order lunch.

while everyone else eats, i discuss the topic and review the collateral for about a half hour or so. since they are busy eating, it helps keep extraneous interruptions and questions to a minimum. that helps me get all the way through the material, and then the last half hour remains open for questions and comments.

i began the entire series by starting with small business server, and am now following that with typical value-added services, like windows mobile, small business accounting, and so on.

so far, in just 2 months, we have generated a dozen referrals this way.

how's that for building some business?

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