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How to find better-fit clients with smart networking and follow up

“Sales is developing relationships with people, so that when they have a need that you can solve, they come to you to solve it. That’s sales.”

This non-threatening, easy definition of sales came from a podcast aimed at freelance writers – an interview between Kevin Rogers, a direct-response copywriter and writing coach, and Casey Stanton, a marketing coach for multimillion-dollar companies.

I’m a CPA with a writing business and discovered that marketing my writing business is a lot like marketing an accounting or bookkeeping firm. In this article, I’ll share Stanton’s ideas on networking and how they can be used by the Firm of the Future community.

Stanton’s definition changes the dynamic of selling into the simple act of forming relationships. Relationships are the basis of our businesses. They keep our clients coming back year after year. Without those relationships, they might look down the street for a cheaper option.

Networking in person is best

Stanton recommends attending industry events as a way to connect with prospects. For example, a bookkeeper that works with contractors might seek out meetings of local construction trade groups.

Determine a desired outcome for the event

Before you go to an event, Stanton recommends thinking about what you want to get out of it. What will give you a good ROI? Do you just want the education? Do you want to establish relationships with key people in that industry and introduce yourself as a resource?

Do your homework before you go

He also suggests finding out who else will be attending and doing some background research on them. Check out their profile on LinkedIn or Facebook and try to find something you have in common or something interesting about them. Yes, it does sound a bit like stalking, but then when you meet them at the event, you can have a conversation about something deeper than where you live and what you do.

Remember, the point of the initial conversation isn’t to make a sale, but to begin a relationship. You’re just trying to see if you like this person and if you might want to do business with them.

Make a group dinner reservation

When Stanton attends events out of town, he’ll find two or three restaurants near the venue and set up a dinner reservation for seven or so at each of them. Then, as he meets people, he mentions that he has reservations at a couple of restaurants, and asks if they would they like to join him for dinner. I’ve done something like this when I attend a writing conference in Florida every October. Some of my deepest relationships with other writers were established at those dinners.

Take notes

After meeting someone new, Stanton recommends jotting down a few notes, or using the voice memo app on your phone to record a few basic facts. This improves your follow up. Your goal isn’t a sale at this point, but to establish a relationship with someone that you might do business with some time in the future.

Follow up is key

It’s rare to make a sale on the first contact. Studies show it may take eight contacts to make a sale. So, if you don’t follow up, you’re leaving a lot of money on the table. Few people bother to follow up, so doing so will set you apart from the competition.

Here are some great ways to follow up:

  1. Begin by creating a follow-up process. Add the contact info to a CRM such as Method, which you can get in the App Store, and set up regular times to follow up. Stanton suggests following up at these intervals after the event: three days, six days, twelve days, 18 days and 25 days. On those days, send an email or make a call. Do this first thing in the morning to make sure you do it.
  2. Send appropriate holiday gifts.
  3. Send a business book you recently read, with a note pointing to passages that you find useful or relevant to your prospect.
  4. The receipt trick: if you go to a bar or coffee house, get a copy of the receipt and write a short note on the back: “Hi Joe – I was thinking of you, and had a beer/burger/coffee. Hope you are doing well!” Sign it and mail it to them.

As the late Jim Rohn said, “The fortune is in the follow up. Don’t leave that fortune on the table!”

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