I was a shy child. Most people find it hard to believe when they meet me now. Yet when we moved to Carmel, IN in 1979 I went an entire semester at Clay Junior High without making a single friend. I walked a circuit from my locker to the restroom to the bookstore in a continuous loop during lunch, lest anyone pick up on my unfortunate situation. I was sad. I was lonely. I was hungry.
As the following summer ended and eighth grade loomed large, I told my mom that I didn’t want to go back to school. She said something that caused a dam of tears to break loose: “I think what you need is a friend.” What followed was a conversation that resulted in a game plan that basically changed my life.
Mom knew I was an introvert and task oriented. She challenged me to introduce myself to ONE person each day. She encouraged me to do it first thing in the morning so I wouldn’t have to worry about it. “Once you do this you can be done. You don’t have to speak to anyone else the whole day.”
I could do that. It was quantifiable. It was fast. It was doable. I liked that. It turns out I would only have to do this one time, because the first girl I introduced myself to was Betsy Myers, who was in my choir. We made plans to see a movie together that weekend and after that, I was no longer spending fifth period hungry. Soon her friends became my friends and we all remain close after 35+ years. In fact, my daughter is named Betsy. Pretty cool, huh?
I’ve used my mom’s “quantifiable and realistic” approach to many things since then and it applies very much to business development. We know we should be working consistently on growing our network, having meetings and connecting others – yet it is easy for this to fall by the wayside when production and client service compete for our attention.
Life is all about choices. Time is a finite thing and it is all too easy to throw our hands up in the air and say we don’t have time for business development. But you know that’s not the right answer. You’re smarter than that. The key is to develop a plan. A cadence of business development that you do EVERY day. Consistency is key. Treat your business development activities with the same importance as client work. Because every client you have was once a prospect that you developed.
What does this look like? You don’t have to use a fancy, expensive CRM platform. I use an excel spreadsheet. The process will be different for every person, but currently this is what I do EVERY DAY:
1 – Add 3 new names to my CRM/excel spreadsheet
2 – Send 3 personalized messages to targeted prospects on LinkedIn.
3 – Reach out to set up 3 meetings
4 – Write thank you notes/e-mails to anyone I met with the previous day and update notes regarding these meetings
5 – Send 3 people something that will make them smile and has nothing to do with my business. This can be cyber introducing people who you believe could help each other, sending a link for a book you know someone would enjoy (or just send the book!) etc.
6 – Keep my eyes open for networking events that look promising and GO TO THEM
Does it sound daunting? Once you start doing it you will only be spending about 2 hours/day.
Soon it will become a habitual way of thinking and it won’t take as long. The reality of business development is that you can always do more. This can cause stress. Having a plan such as this will help you “turn off” business development when it’s time to address a client or HR issue. It will free you from that nagging pressure that you should be doing more because you will have documentation that proves you have addressed business development for the day.
If you are just starting out, you may not enjoy doing these things so try to do them first thing in the morning. “Eat the Frog” early. Your day will go so much better knowing you have done these things. The very things that will allow your business to have a future.
And on those days when nothing went right, you lost a big client, your spouse is angry, and you are scared about making payroll – you will be able to look at your spreadsheet and shut that dragon down. Because you will KNOW you are making a consistent effort for yourself and for everyone you come into contact with. People who do this with regularity are uncommon.
Consistent effort of this kind will yield results. These results will bring such satisfaction that what once was a painful task you had to force yourself to do – will soon be something that comes naturally. It will change the way you see people and the world around you. It will also create in you a spirit of generosity that others will want to be around. You will be known as a connecter. An influencer.
Mari Sandifer | Director of Marketing & Business Development
Mari joined Rektio as Director of Marketing and Business Development in 2020 after spending over 25 years in corporate finance and 3 years as a business owner. She holds a BS degree in Marketing and an MBA in Finance from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. Her CPA license is inactive (and morbidly obese).
Connect with Mari on LinkedIn