How to avoid cold calling
Four simple networking tips can help you reach your business development targets with ease, advises Douglas McPherson
Let me let you into a secret: nobody likes to cold call. Some people can do it, some people understand why it is one of the most effective BD tools, but nobody actually enjoys it – and that includes sales professionals just as much as solicitors.
Yet as a solicitor, you need to be meeting new people as frequently as possible if you are to build a professional network that will sustain any sort of pipeline. However, if cold calling isn’t the route to those new people, what can you do? Well, here are four different things to help you begin new conversations and circumvent the need for cold calling.
Know who you want to meet
When was the last time you took five minutes to shortlist some new targets by name?
There must be businesses or individuals in your local area, or in the sectors in which you specialise, that you’d really like to work for, or, in the case of potential referrer relationships, work alongside. Putting those names on a piece of paper will immediately give you something to focus on and make the next three steps much easier to implement.
It will also make it more likely that you will achieve the results you want because you will be pursuing real targets rather than paying lip service to targeting anonymous woolly generalisations like SMEs, owner-managed businesses, or high-net-worth individuals.
Warm them up electronically
Once you have you named targets, get them on to your firm’s marketing database. The first stage of the BD cycle is to make sure the target is used to seeing your firm’s name and to start recognising the quality and practicality of your communications.
Make sure that your marketing people are making a concerted effort to engage with your targets via social media and make sure your targets are regularly being invited to relevant social and formal events.
Utilise your current network
The ultimate way to avoid cold calling is to broker warm introductions to your targets via a mutual contact. Not only is this an easier way to facilitate an introduction for both parties, but it is also, given the source of the introduction, much more likely to work at the first time of asking.
There are two very easy ways to generate new introductions:
Run your target’s name through LinkedIn. As long as you’re keeping your network up to date you will immediately be able to spot where you have a shared connection and, depending on the type of relationship you have with that contact, you can ask them to introduce you; or
- You can ‘engineer serendipity’. If you have a think about the company your target is likely to keep, you can start to guess who within your network is likely to know them. From there, bring up their name when you see them next and ask if they wouldn’t mind making an introduction.
More preparation ahead of conferences, industry meetings, and networking events can help. If you are asking to see the attendee list before arrival, you can pick out the people on your target list. And if you maintain a dialogue with the organisers, you can drop them an email to ask if they’d be good enough to introduce you to targets on the day. Given the huge amount of choice when it comes to events, the organiser should be more than happy to do this one small favour in return for your continued patronage.
Talk to your colleagues
Your last source of potential introductions is arguably the most underused by law firms of every shape and size – your colleagues.
Who in your firm has a personal link to your targets? It may be they have done some work for them in a different practice area, or went to school with them. It may be that they live just down the road.
Let your colleagues know of your interest in a specific target. Drop their names into conversation, send an email around the firm to ask if there’s a connection, share your targets lists via your heads of department or when in BD meetings.
In one recent case it came down to the fact that one of the associate’s junior colleagues played football with the target every Sunday. This was of particular interest because the source of the introduction was a ‘Wanted’ style poster in the one place everyone in the firm went regularly: the kitchen.
Douglas McPherson is a director at 10 ½ Boots