Many of you know that I spent the last twenty years as a Bank Manager. As the years progressed, my role changed tremendously and brought me out of my comfort zone. When I first started my role, I was expected to manage my branch, manage and train personnel, build relationships with the clients that came into our branches, as well as networking. During the last ten years, the financial industry changed due to technology, and instead of seeing clients come into the branches, they were now using online services. As this change occurred, I never thought I would be in the position I am now, working with a company that stays abreast of new technology and is so reliant on it for internal use and for client use.
My role as a bank manager forced me to network outside of the branch, and handle all of the business development. This was the one time in my career I had to get out of my comfort zone and start driving clients into the branch. At that time, I remember being scared and uncomfortable talking to people outside of the branch. Like anything else, once you get used to networking and know what questions to ask, it all becomes second nature. Looking back, this experience truly prepared me for my current role. Today, I help bring on new clients and make sure current clients stay happy. Those of you who have interacted with me during the last 10 years, know that today, I can talk to the wall and that I don’t meet a stranger.
So the question is – when you’re faced with having to go out and build relationships, what do you do?
- First, you want to get involved in a couple of organizations within your community. A good place to start is with an organization like the Frederick Chamber of Commerce. You can attend several events throughout the year, some exclusive to members only, and meet new people in the business community. If you really want to know what is going on within your community, then get on a committee, serve your community through volunteer opportunities, and build deeper relationships by going through a nine-month course called “Leadership of Frederick County”.
There are several groups you can join for networking purposes, but you want to build relationships so you can trust the people in your referral circle. The other two groups I would highly suggest joining are a BNI (Business Network International) group and the Rotary Club. Both organizations work with business owners and are highly connected in the Frederick Community.
- Once you start meeting people within your community how do you narrow down who would be a great client for you? Think about the type of client or business you are looking to go after. When you go to a Speed Networking event, for example, you do not want to go around the room and talk with everyone just to exchange business cards. Focus on meeting two to three people in that room so you can hold a deeper conversation and really get to know that person. Sometimes there will be a list of who is attending that event, if you don’t get it before, you typically will after. Next, you want to follow up with the people you meet through email within 24 hours of the event. Let them know it was a pleasure meeting them, then try to schedule a one-on-one by offering to take them out for coffee so you can learn more about their business. You never want to SELL your business at this point. It is all in how you can help them! Once they trust you and see you are willing to be a good referral source, they will want to help you grow your business.
- Let us talk about profiling a client that would be a good fit for your business, whether you have met them at a networking event for the first time or a cold call. The first thing you want to do is go to their website. Find out the history of the business (i.e. is it a family-run business, how long they’ve been in business, what position the person you met holds, who are the board of directors (if they have one), how many employees they have).
- Next, go to LinkedIn, their Facebook page, and/or research that industry so you know as much as you can before you talk with them again. If you want to know the company’s revenue, go to this website.
- Reach out….. after profiling the business, place a call asking to speak with them. While talking with him, mention something about their business that you researched. I can tell you that they will know you did research on their business and be impressed. During this call, try to set up an appointment to meet with them. If you get rejected, that is okay. Send them an email or a handwritten note thanking them for their time and ask if it is okay to check back with them in three months. Persistence is the key, and you want to keep in front of them enough that they will remember you but not too much to be obnoxious.
- Lastly, make sure you have a good online presence for your business. This is key as they will most likely be researching you, too
In closing, the most important thing you need to remember is, be true to yourself and be genuine. Build those relationships around you so you have a good referral source for others you are connected with as well. People will remember how you helped them, and the reward will come back to you in time. Be Patient!