Everyone we come in contact with can either help us achieve our goals, or create obstacles. The outcome is dependent on how we engage with them. When we are looking to grow our business, we interact with many people in many different roles. How we see them informs how we choose to deal with them. If we are wrong, we can hurt our growth.
Everyone we meet is not a prospect. There, I said it. Moreover, it is really dangerous to assume that everyone is a potential customer. When we believe that everyone we encounter is a possible client, we approach them from that direction. We decide our communication structure based on that belief. The problem with this belief is that most of the people we meet are not potential customers. So, we are instantly alienating people instead of attracting them.
The truth is that no one likes being treated like a “kill.” We are better off not even thinking about our business when we interact with people. That way we are more interested in finding out who they are than we are in telling them about our product or service. It is that curiosity that will help us build relationships.
Consider it this way — throughout our travels we will meet all sorts of people. Some will be colleagues. Others will be referral sources and resources for our connections. Others still will be conduits to our prospective clients. And, of course, some will become clients. That array of possibilities speaks to the value of leading with curiosity and respect.
The more advocates we have in our business, the easier it will be to grow. When you call to speak with a prospect or stop by to see a prospect, everyone you encounter can either help you or hurt you. The gatekeeper can be one of your greatest supporters or they can keep you from getting in to see the prospect. The receptionist can patch you through or keep you out.
The people you meet at networking events can become great resources for you and your business or they can simply be people you meet. The beauty is that you get to choose the result because you choose how you interact.
Let’s break it down.
When you are networking, you can choose how you approach people. When you decide to be curious about the people you meet you are out of sales brain. That’s good! Being curious allows you to be fully present. You will be listening and learning. You will be determining who you want to continue to build relationships with. And you will be someone other people want to get to know.
What you won’t be doing is selling. You won’t be telling other people about your product or service. You won’t be trying to gain a client. And, you won’t be disregarding people you think aren’t prospective clients.
When you attend networking events looking for clients, you dismiss anyone you think doesn’t look like a prospective client. And when you do that, you miss out on discovering resources and referral partners. It’s a very shortsighted strategy. Remember, you need a variety of connections in your business community in order to be successful.
When you reach out to a person or company to make a connection you are probably not going to speak with the decision maker first. Most likely you will have to go through a receptionist, assistant, or connection. How you interact with them will have a direct impact on your ability to get to the right person.
Their job is to ensure the people they support are not interrupted unnecessarily. You aren’t the only person seeking a conversation. If the gatekeeper let everyone in, the decision maker would never get anything done.
Decide to engage with the initial contact with respect for their responsibilities and workload. Too often salespeople take this blocking personally. However, it has nothing to do with the salesperson. It has to do with the responsibilities the receptionist/assistant/connection has in their role. When salespeople realize they can actually help these folks become allies and advocates, the whole conversation changes. You need that gatekeeper in your corner. So, figure out how you can first be in their corner. How can you help them? Stop seeing them as an adversary. Take the time to build a relationship with them. That’s how you will gain access to the decision maker.
Wherever you go you are building a reputation. It’s your decision whether that reputation is good or bad. Whenever you interact with people they are creating a view of you and your company. They are deciding whether you are someone they want in their world or not. Realizing you need as many advocates as possible can help you decide how you will interact with everyone. Build the best reputation you can. That reputation should be one of problem solver, helper, giver. The more you show up as someone who is more interested in helping others than in gaining business, the more attractive you will be. And the more business you will gain.
Everyone is not a potential client. Potential clients are not the only people worth speaking to. Other people can directly impact your ability to grow your business. Remembering these things will help frame how you engage as you venture out on your business building journey. Seek to gain advocates. It’s the best way to avoid gaining adversaries.
About the author: Diane Helbig is a leadership and business development advisor helping business owners around the world. She is the author of Lemonade Stand Selling, Expert Insights, and Succeed Without ‘Selling,’ as well as the host of the “Accelerate Your Business Growth” podcast. For more information, visit www.seizethisday.co.