PracticeAccounting FirmsWhen pals pay

When pals pay

Tackle the delicate subject of selling to your network of friends

It used to be that leveraging relationships to win new work was frowned upon.
We’ve all been subjected to the “do you mind if I ask what kind of pension
provision you have?” question from a friend of a friend (probably now ex-friend)
who kindly passed on your contact details.

The approach is not warmly received and the memory lives on when we are asked
to open our own little black book of friends and contacts for the purpose of
winning work.

Of course, these days we’re all digital. Adding all your ex-colleagues, old
college pals and business associates to your LinkedIn network and watching the
numbers grow as it unearths people you’d forgotten all about or didn’t know how
to get in touch with, is one thing. Using those relationships to win more work
is quite another.

How do you develop your ability to initiate and develop strong relationships
so that you are able to remain in constant contact and introduce them to new
services as and when appropriate?

Trust is key, both personal and professional trust. The first step is to be
natural and not try to imitate other people. If you are not yourself, people
will see you as not being authentic and trust will be lost.

The nature of a network of relationships is that they run two ways. Before
you start to think about what products you can sell to the people in your
network, think about what you can do for them rather than what they can do for
you. Can you help them in any way by connecting them with someone who could be
useful to them or sharing information they didn’t know?

To do this, you will need to understand their needs. For any relationship to
develop there must be mutual understanding between the parties. Asking questions
and really listening to what the other party has to say is important. Let the
answers inform your further questions and show your interest, whether the
conversation takes place on the phone, by email or in person.

Crucially, don’t sell. Let people know what you are doing and show enthusias
m for what you do (we are often judged more on our commit­ment than what we
actually do). If you have identified a genuine need where you think your firm’s
services could make a difference, keep your pitch short. Express it naturally
and focus on the benefits it will bring. Make sure you follow-up within 48
hours.

Whatever the outcome, stay in touch. Send them an article, tell them what you
are doing or just ask them how they are. We are moving towards the Christmas
drinks season and there will be myriad opportunities to catch-up with friends
and colleagues. Try not to leave it a year before you catch-up with them again.

Jack Downton is the managing director of The Influence Business

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