In August I wrote an article entitled “Getting in Front of Decision Makers” where I talked about the three primary conversations that help us generate business. As a reminder, they are:
1) Discovery/Enrollment Conversations — These conversations are for when someone has expressed a need and wants to explore working with you. If you missed this article, I detail how to do this effectively. (Hint—pitching your services isn’t it!)
2) Strategic Alliance Conversations — There are many types of Strategic Alliance Conversations (six primary ones for professional coaches), and all involve collaborating with other professionals to grow and bring each other business.
3) Center of Influence Interviews — This is one of my favorites because Center of Influence (COI) Interviews are geared toward gaining knowledge that can help you craft your services or garnering research to use in thought leadership and credibility marketing, such as articles, blogs, talks/webinars, white papers, and more. In the article, I offer specific approaches for the three distinct types of COI Interviews you can do.
I got many enthusiastic responses to the article, AND I also got many people who said “Well, what do I do when I have someone in my network who knows and loves me but isn’t really a fit for any of those three conversations?” GREAT question!
Although there are many ways you could connect with those folks in your network, if you want them to really be engaged with you and have you top of mind when they either have a need themselves or know someone who does, the key is to be in meaningful dialogue with them.
When I started my business in 2000, I prided myself on having lunch or coffee with someone every single day for the first 90 days. And guess what, it didn’t lead to much because at the time, I didn’t know how to enter into meaningful dialogue about the work I was doing. I know all too well how easy it is to get together with old colleagues, clients, and college buddies and have an absolutely delightful conversation yet barely talk, in a meaningful way, about the work I was doing. In fact, it was a heck of a lot easier not to. It felt so awkward to slide in the “So here’s what I’m doing these days,” especially when someone wasn’t asking me about it. Another frequent angle is turning your catch-up into a pitch for your services, which tends to land as flat as a pancake. So, what do you do instead?!
First of all, I would ask yourself if this is someone who could be a good candidate for the COI interview, which gets you into meaningful dialogue about the work you are doing without a pitch in sight. But if that doesn’t feel right, I would bring intention and structure to your “catch-up” to make sure you make it meaningful, for both of you. Here are some ways to do that:
- At the beginning of your catch-up, let them know that you are so excited to talk with them and hear about what’s happening in their life and work.
- Set the stage, since it’s easy to roll into a conversation and then difficult or awkward to redirect it. Start off by asking them if there is anything they want to get out of your time together. AND be prepared to share your intention, too.
- Hint: Your intention should show your passion and enthusiasm for what you are up to in your life and work, so they are curious about it and want to know more.
- You also may have other intentions like identifying folks for COI interviews or asking for their help in some way. If you have regular catch-ups with this person, you may search for another intention so that the conversation has more richness and dimension.
- Curiosity begets curiosity. Ask them questions that you hope they will ask you back. It’s common for people to piggyback off your questions and ask you the same questions in return, so this is a great practice in life as well as work! And it’s something you want to do at networking events and any place you are in conversation.
- How is your work going? Tell me about something you’re excited about at work these days.
- What are some big things you are up to this year?
- Is there anything I can do to support or help you?
- If someone shows little or no curiosity about your work, tread lightly and lead with questions.
- Is it ok if I share what I’m excited about right now?
- Would you be interested in hearing about some of the big things I’m up to right now?
- Do I have your permission to follow up with you about getting an intro to your friend at Microsoft?
- When they ask you questions, make sure your enthusiasm and passion show. Instead of telling them the bits and bytes about what you are doing, first share the juicy parts like how fun/exciting/fulfilling it is to help [your ideal client] with [their biggest challenges] and why it is so rewarding. People care more (and remember more) about your passion for your work and the transformations you facilitate than your programs or offers.
- If you see a next step, make sure you name it before your time together is adjourned and follow up with them within two days if possible.
The main reason we network is so that when a need arises we remain top of mind. But also remember that these catch-ups can be fun and energizing when you bring intention to them. Every conversation I have has value even if it doesn’t directly lead to a business opportunity. This belief is part of why it is easeful for me to make catch-ups a priority! And consistency in engaging the key people in your network really helps fuel your business and keeps those referrals coming.
Don’t assume that people in your network remember who you work with and what you do if they haven’t connected with you in a long time. The best networkers know how to be useful and helpful to their network and make a point of connecting with them in meaningful ways on an ongoing basis. That doesn’t require catch-up conversations every few months, though. It’s about finding ways to meaningfully connect with people in between these catch-ups so they remember you when an opportunity arises.
What do you do to stay in meaningful dialogue with your network? What are some best practices you employ? I’d love to hear from you!