Talk To Someone Different Or New!
I suppose it’s human nature to invest our professional time in the people with whom we have the closest relationships. Yet, in business and sales, spending our time with the same people–either within our company, professional community, and most importantly, in our customers can be severely limiting.
Mythology would have it, that sales people are constantly meeting new people and developing relationships–but most of my experience indicates this is largely not true. If it were, we wouldn’t see the constant flood of articles and best practice saying “Prospect!”
The reality, is we tend to go back to the same people we’ve always dealt with, trying to find new deals, trying to sell more. But it’s critical for us to aggressively cultivate and develop new relationships:
1. When we work deals, we tend to talk to the people most interested in talking to us, or those with whom we’ve past relationships. I’m always amazed at the number of deal reviews I participate in, where the sales person is dealing with one or two people — their friends/buddies, when we know other people have to be involved. Sometimes, it’s like pulling teeth to get them to think about who those other people are, why are they involved, how do we get to them, what do we talk to them about. Too many sales people are unwilling to identify and meet with everyone involved in the decision-making process, instead entrusting their fate to the one or two people they’ve always dealt with.
2. If we want to extend our share and penetration of an account, we have to aggressively extend our relationships. We have to explore parts of the organization we’ve never dealt with before, developing new relationships. Our current customers may be helpful in introducing us–but often their own relationships and knowledge of the organization is fairly limited–particularly as you look at large, global organizations.
3. If we want to extend our share and penetration of our territories, we have to meet new people at companies who currently don’t do business with us. We have to develop relationships, nurture them over time to find and grow new opportunities.
4. Often, our success depends on our network outside the company, with partners. We have to constantly extend the relationships to people in partner organizations, finding out how we can help each other, collaborating when we can.
5. If we want to grow into new geographies or markets, we have to extend our relationships, identifying new companies, and people who have problems we solve in those new areas. We have to figure out, through these relationships, what it takes to create value and win in those spaces.
6. If we want to innovate, to discover new ideas, new things, to develop new products, practices, we seldom do that by talking to only to each other. Over time, we what we learn this way becomes very limited. We may look at our competition, but again, over time that’s limited and we end up in a following/copying mode–which is a sure fire way to low performance.
Looking at our customers, talking to them is a great way–but as mentioned before, we can’t just be talking to the same individuals all the time, we have to extend our reach.
Dealing with the usual suspects, whether they are within our company, our customers, competitors, communities, or markets limits our growth and condemns us to be prisoners of our experiences.
Reaching into non-traditional areas, meeting different people in different industries, is a terrific way to innovate. What might be old, tried and true in one industry, is innovation in another industry.
For example, I sit on the board of an entertainment company, focused on films, video’s, albums, and concerts in Hip-Hop and Rap (Yo, I’m down with it!). I also am involved in companies in the motorsports/powersports/extremesports industries. Yes, I meet really interesting/cool people, I attend some unbelievable events and races, and see fascinating companies/business models. My ego drives me to thinking that I’m “cool” if only by association with truly cool/amazing people.
But the thing I really get out of it is fresh, new ideas. The people I meet in those areas think completely differently than most of the people I meet in the high technology corporate world (whether it’s start ups or the biggest established firms.) The people I meet in my “other life,” approach innovation, think of the customer in different ways, solve problems in ways my “corporate” clients wouldn’t think of. These relationships enable me to bring new/innovative ideas to my corporate clients (By the way, the reverse is true, as well.)
If we want to move forward, reaching our goals, growing and innovating, we have to meet new and different people.
If we want to win the deal, we have to extend our engagement to everyone involved in the deal.
If we want to dominate our accounts, we have to extend our relationships and engagement to more people in the account.
If we want to dominate our territories, we have to extend our relationships to companies and people we’ve never met.
If we want to grow as individuals and organizations, we have to reach outside our traditional relationships, meeting new and different people, learning from them.
We can’t do it casually, we have to do it purposefully. With each new relationship, we have to do our homework, researching and understanding them, figuring out what value we can create, and determining what we’d like to learn.
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