Archive for the 'Time Management' Category

Who Should Send Meeting Follow-up E-mails and Letters?

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

Of we have sent your clients introductory letters and emails to get meetings.  We have reminded the clients that you will see them in meeting confirmation letters and e-mails.  Once you have held meeting, someone must send a follow-up letter.  An earlier post described how to prepare follow-up e-mails and letters. Who on your team should send them?

After a team from a professional firm has a sales meeting with a client, someone often asks who should send follow-up e-mails to whom.  Sometimes that follow-up note is the last communication you have with a member of the client team before the company decides whom to hire.  You want that last communication to be powerful.

Of course, every member of the team can send a note to every person on the client team.  But that isn’t always best.  If the teams are large, the client may feel overwhelmed.  Key members of the client team may also pay more attention to one well drafted follow-up note than to a flurry of paper which will inevitably included many redundancies.

There is no answer to that is right for every occasion, but here are some things to consider when assigning follow-up responsibilities:

  • Identify relationships you want to build.  Usually, you want the senior person on the client team to feel close to the client partner or other senior person your team.  So, too, with technical experts from both organizations.  If there is an engagement manager on your team, you want the client’s engagement manager to feel that this is someone he wants to work with.  In short, the members of your team should each, at the very least, send a follow-up note their counterparts in the client organization.
  • Respond to concerns and questions with authority.  If a member of the client team has expressed concern or raised a question, she should get a response from the person on your team most suited to address that concern.  If it is a technical question, your technical person should follow-up.  If it is a question about the commitment of the firm, the senior person on your team should follow-up.
  • Maintain and reinforce personal relationships.  Anyone on your team who has a business or personal relationship that predates the meeting with a member of the client team should send a personal note to that person afterwards.
  • Don’t leave anyone out.  Every member of the client team should get a follow-up note from at least one person on yours.

Don’t let a competitor have the last word.  Send those follow-up letters and emails.

Ten Found Minutes

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

What would you do with ten found minutes during your work day?  If your answer isn’t an activity that will help you get business, try again.  What business development activity would you do with ten found minutes?

In practice you probably answer this question several times a week.  You finish a task ten minutes before you are scheduled to call a client.  A colleague is late for a meeting.  You arrive early at a client site.  A meeting finishes early.  What do you do at moments like these?

A rainmaker almost certainly calls a member of her network or sends one a quick email.  She can do this, because she knows who she wants to reach out to and she recognizes the found time as an opportunity to do so.  She has built the calling habit over the years.

Most people don’t have this habit, so the found minutes get spent on responding to an internal email or something else that won’t help them develop business.

If you want to develop the habit, try the following:  Take twenty minutes once a week, preferably on Friday afternoon, Sunday or early Monday, and review your contact list.   Make a new list of people you will try to reach that week.  Just twenty minutes.  Then when you find ten unexpected minutes in your calendar, reach for the list.

For the Want of a Contact List

Monday, March 9th, 2009

I am coaching a woman named Lisa, who doesn’t add names to her contact list regularly and hasn’t for years.  She hasn’t pulled all the names of her contacts together into her Outlook program from old client files, old employer directories, the shoebox of business cards she keeps and elsewhere.

This means she doesn’t have phone numbers and email addresses of her contacts handy.  Because she doesn’t have them handy, she misses opportunities to contact the people she knows.  She isn’t developing a rainmaker’s call discipline.

Lacking call discipline, she isn’t rekindling old or developing new relationships.  That results in insufficient lead flow, and, of course, without enough leads, she doesn’t win as much business as she wants to.

If this goes on, she won’t get promoted to partner and will eventually be asked to leave the firm.  And all for the want of a contact list!

A good contact list is the fundamental tool for getting business.  Without one, you will never be a rainmaker.

Finding Time for Business Development #5: The Power of the Positive

Monday, January 12th, 2009

At the stage in a career when professionals are expected to start developing business, they usually have anywhere from three to eight years of experience and, in many ways, are the backbones of their firms.

Partners toss them client work as it comes in, knowing that they will catch it and get it done right. They help with the recruitment and training of junior professionals and with an array of administrative duties.

Some of these tasks can be alluring. A senior partner at a firm informed me that one promising young professional we are coaching was spending a lot of time on the firm’s knowledge management effort. “In the short run, he’ll get a lot of thanks for all he’s doing in that area, but it won’t count for much when he comes up for partner,” the man cautioned. “To make partner he will have to have demonstrated that he can bring in business.”

But what is a young professional to do when the head of his practice asks him to work on knowledge management or some other worthy effort? Promising young professionals have advanced quickly in their firms by saying yes when asked to do things. It goes against their instincts to say no.

I believe that at this point in their careers professionals need to say no, selectively. Doing so is a step in their progression from working for partners to being one. If you have to develop business like a partner to become one, then, logically, you have to behave like a partner in your dedication to business development, and successful partners don’t let administrative duties stand in the way of their rainmaking. Nor can you.

Here is the real question as I see it: When partners don’t yet see you as a peer and still treat you like an associate, how can you get them to allow you the freedom you will need to develop more work for the firm? Note that this is a how question, not a should-I question.

The one thing that will make a “no” to a partner’s request for your time acceptable is a prior commitment to something more important for the firm. Few things are more important than developing an account or market. A positive effort to do one of these things will often trump the partner’s request. But only if the following conditions apply:

  1. You have a clear idea of what you are trying to do and it makes sense to someone senior in the firm.
  2. You have a plan. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but it must show a sensible approach to the effort and make it clear that execution will require time.
  3. You demonstrate that you really will do something by taking initial actions, preferably ones that require you to be out in the market. If, for example, you have delivered a speech and visited two clients to talk about a subject, your claim to need time for rainmaking will be far more credible than if you have done nothing.
  4. On the basis of the plan and your actions you get at least an informal approval from someone senior to devote time to the effort. This person becomes what a Chicagoan calls your “clout.”

In short, make it clear that you are really doing something positive and important for the firm and you may find that you earn the right to say “no.”

Finding Time for Business Development #4: Getting Help from Your Administrative Assistant

Monday, December 15th, 2008

In previous posts, Seven Things to Remember About a Senior Executive’s Secretary and Getting Help from Executives’ Assistants, I described how to get help from a client’s administrative assistant. In simple terms, I described how to develop a relationship with her that benefits her boss, her and you.

Some rainmakers delegate this responsibility to their own assistants, and so obtain several benefits. First and foremost, it frees up their own time for other marketing and sales activities. Second, it allows a peer-to-peer relationship between the assistants, which is often stronger than one you can create. Third, it results in a higher and better use their time. Many will recognize this and take pride in the contribution they are making.

As one executive recruiter who has started up several new offices for his firm puts it, “The assistant is fifty percent of your productivity. I am a little disorganized and chaotic, so I need an assistant who is organized and disciplined. I expect her to develop a relationship with the assistants of my key contacts, even though they never meet.”

If you choose to try this approach:

  • Review the two posts with her. (There is more on developing relationships with admins in Chapter 7 of my book, Rain Making-2nd Edition.)
  • Help her practice by role playing several calls with her. Do it over the phone, sitting in different rooms. First, have her play the role of the client’s assistant, while you demonstrate how you would obtain her help in scheduling a meeting with her (fictitious) boss. Then, you play the client’s assistant and let her practice on you several times.
  • Select some low risk targets in the market you sell to and have her try what she has learned with them.
  • Give her some targets and goals and get her started.
  • Give her a small budget for an occasional lunch with the clients’ assistants or to buy them flowers on special occasions.
  • When you come back from a meeting she scheduled for you, always let her know how it went. Always do this. She needs the information and it is also a courtesy to a valued team member whom you want to keep motivated. And if a meeting results in a win, make sure she participates in the celebration.

Making Time for Business Development # 3: Keep Your Eye on the Prize

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

Aspiring rainmakers struggle to find time for business development. It is by far the most frequently mentioned barrier to success. I have suggested several ways to deal with it in earlier posts. Here is another.

Most people agree that if something is important enough to them, they will usually find the time for it. And they always find time for the truly urgent. It follows, then, that business development, at least the long-term relationship building and lead generation part of it, doesn’t seem sufficiently urgent and important to make it into their schedules.

In one sense they are right. If you don’t call any old clients or other network contacts today, disaster won’t strike. Your life will go on just as usual, with you working diligently on your clients’ urgent matters. The same will be true, if you make no calls tomorrow.

But if this lapse persists, month after month, the cumulative impact is huge. You won’t develop a referral network and without the network, you get no leads. Without leads, you have no sales opportunities of your own.

At this juncture, you must ask yourself, so what? More specifically, five years from today (or three or two—select your own horizon), if you have no lead flow and aren’t generating any work of your own, what are the consequences and do those consequences mean enough to you to get you to find time for business development now? If so, you need to keep those consequences in front of you now. Every day. Where they can compete with the other urgent demands that cry for your attention.

Joshua is an executive recruiter, a self-effacing, quiet man with a strong sense of service. His clients love him. And he worked so doggedly for them, he had no time for client development. When asked so what, he said that if he didn’t generate business, he wouldn’t have the financial resources he will need to pay for his four children’s education and other needs. We took the picture of his children down from the shelf behind his desk and put it next to his phone. He is making his calls and has the largest number of leads he has ever had.

Patrick is a healthcare consultant with abundant charm. He can make an exchange on the weather feel valuable. People like talking with him and he with them. As certainly as chickens produce eggs, if he talks with people, he will generate leads. But he wasn’t making his calls. He has no children and so no looming tuition expenses. So, why should he make calls? Patrick answered that he is sick of doing projects for other people in the firm. As much as he likes these people, he wants control of his own destiny. He wants to answer directly to his own clients. He has printed out the following message: Lead flow means control of my own destiny. He has pasted it above the monitor of his computer where he will see it often. We will now see if his call volume goes up.

To make time for business development, you must be clear about its importance and its urgency. If you don’t make your calls, so what?

Making Time for Business Development #2 – Two-for-One Marketing

Thursday, November 1st, 2007

Back in June I promised to post ideas on finding the time for business development, and haven’t done so. Things slowed down for us this summer, so I wasn’t pressed for time, myself. The time subject just didn’t seem interesting.

Summer is over, and, for now at least, the economy chugs along at a good clip. Once again my clients are struggling to get their client work done, and, once again, putting business development calls and meetings at the rear of the train. Many professionals are afraid to do any marketing for fear that the client called might want to hire them, when they have too little time to do it.

They forget that calls made today are unlikely to turn up business today, and will preserve relationships that you will need when the economy turns (see The Lead Glut and It’s Consequences). So, now both you and I are ready to talk, once again, about making time for business development.

Logically, there are a limited number of ways to find time in an overloaded schedule. You can: 1) replace some other activity (sleep, comes to mind, though some of you readers might not find that suggestion funny), 2) increase your efficiency somewhere, and so, free up time for business development, or 3) you alter something else you are doing so that you derive business development value from it, too. We call this Two-for-One marketing. I will address Two-for-Ones today.

In the first group of professionals that I ever coached, Jim had the most difficulty finding time for business development calls and meetings. He had taken on a workload that would have broken someone else’s back. During one coaching session he said he would be unable to make any calls the following week. He would be meeting with clients in Boston all day on Monday, in Detroit on Tuesday, in Milwaukee on Wednesday and in Memphis on Thursday and Friday. He would be in meetings or at airports most of the day.

I have a rule that I shared with him of not letting a day pass without doing something, no matter how small, to further my efforts to develop business. Jim agreed to try this approach. On his return, he told of how at each client site, he had dropped by the office of a person he knew but was not scheduled to meet. He would stick his head into the contact’s office and say, “I’m here to meet with x and just wanted to say hello.” This led to a brief conversation without taking much extra time. In most cases he arrive a little early at the client’s offices and took ten minutes before the meeting started to look up the additional person.

By Wednesday Jim already had a pay-off. The extra person he visited in Milwaukee gave him a modest lead, which had the potential to convert into something big.

James McKinsey, the founder of McKinsey & Company, believed in Two-for-Ones. According to his biography, he encouraged all of the firm’s consultants to have lunches with prospective clients. The consultants would be having lunch anyway, so why not get some additional value from it?

Other Two-for-Ones that I have seen people use are:

  • Talking with seatmates on airplanes
  • Making calls on cell phones while commuting
  • Going to a sporting or cultural outing that you would go to anyway and taking a client with you

Making Time for Business Development #1

Monday, June 18th, 2007

I have an image in my mind of a dinner plate heaped revoltingly full of all kinds of food. There’s pickled herring and taco chips, a combination my mother actually served to guests once. There’s spaghetti in marinara sauce with anchovies, an egg roll, cherry pie, creamed spinach, oysters and chocolate sauce. There’s blue berry yogurt, cheese whiz, acorn squash, pork loin and peanut brittle. Avocado, crab cake, pigs-in-blankets and plum pudding. I am seated, staring at this mess, and a waiter is standing beside me with a serving dish filled with bananas, steak tartar, juju bees, liver pâté and a green substance that they used to serve in school, and which I still can’t identify, all smothered in redeye gravy. The waiter is saying, “Would you like some more, sir?”

This image comes to me, whenever someone says that he can’t do any business development, because his plate is too full, already. How I loath the full-plate metaphor!

So, I will make you a deal. From time to time I will provide you with ideas for addressing the time problem. Of course, none of them will solve it; it’s the kind of thing you can only chip away at. But, if you use them, they will help. In return, you will eliminate the full-plate metaphor from your repertoire or, at least not use it in my presence. Deal?

My first suggestion came from a consultant whose career streaked upwards to a partnership in his firm. “At the beginning of every year,” he told me, “I look at what I am spending my time on. I try to identify things that I won’t be doing by the end of the year and that will free up about ten per cent of my time, which I can then apply to a higher and better use. I then work at unloading those things. Some of them take a few months and some of them the better part of the year. But I get rid of them.” That’s how he made time for business development.

Think for a few minutes on this simple idea. This is the kind of thing that successful careers are built on. It is such good advice that it’s worth unloading two or three full plates from your vocabulary.