Written by: Brian R. Johnson
Professionals in the role of Business Development (BD) that are also juggling a family, a hobby (or two), upkeep on a house, etc. are forced to approach BD differently than they may have in their 20’s. If we truly want to, we can do a lunch, evening event, golf outing every day of the week. Not only can this be detrimental to a person’s health, it will also take its toll on the family life. That said, these events are required in the job that we do and if balanced accordingly can be extremely fun and valuable.
It’s unlikely that we need another lunch date or another drinking buddy, if this is the case, you might do some self-reflection and you may fall in the category of “professional lunch-er” or “professional happy hour-er”. We all know that person that is at every single event, and yet we have no idea what their business does or when we may need their services.
Here are some events that work for me to get the most mileage out of my time and dollars. With any of these events, you should have some goals and specific targets, and self-evaluate your performance at the end.
Conferences/Large Networking Events – These are great events to get a number of touchpoint’s in a couple of hours, but first you have to go out of your way to talk to the right people, they might also need to be reminded that they talk to you (the follow-up).
Initial conversation – There is going to be mainly small talk, a little bit about their business and what they do for the business. Within this conversation, it is almost guaranteed that there will be some negativity towards something (how busy they are, the crazy people they work with, etc) this needs to be picked up on and used in your follow up. It can be difficult to dive into the details of what you do, but you should be able to slip in a 20 second overview. Keep the conversation positive on your end.
The follow up – Perhaps it is later in the evening or the following morning, a follow up must happen. I have found that asking if you can get together at a later date to discuss business is usually best, assuming they say yes, this puts some accountability on them to reply to your later email with proposed dates.
The Lunch Appointment – So often times it can feel awkward to talk business or feel too much like a car salesman. However, if a client accepted your lunch request, they expect to talk some business and are likely interested in what your business can provide. It is a failed effort if your lunch date walks away from the meeting without a clear understanding of what you do, how you can help them, or who they can introduce you too (you are now a professional lunch-er). Listen to their needs and tee yourself up with appropriate questions, you don’t want to waste time offering a list of services that are of no value to your guest
Golf Outings/Banquets/Dinner Events/Hobby’s – Here is a great opportunity to reach out to a number of clients to invite them to your event. Think about events that directly relate to that client, either personally or professionally. This should be done over the phone. People are generally appreciative that you thought of them, so don’t feel bad if they decline. If they do decline, you can now discuss what else is going on with their business or ask if they are able to get together for a different event. Consider this a touch-point. The downfall to these events is they can be very long (6 plus hours for golf outings) consider this when making your invites.
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for what you want or let your prospective client know about your business goals. Naturally people want to help others and that person will feel empowered if they can facilitate an introduction, give you intel, or best of all hire your firm.
Brian R. Johnson has extensive experience working in business development and has done so for many years. Brian works at Farris Engineering in Omaha, Nebraska.