If you’re involved with business development, you know of certain places where you can find opportunities. You also know there are certain activities which have proven to bring you new business. So you go to those places and repeat those activities consistently. Over time, this may become disappointingly dull or the value of your time spent doing the same things may be questionable.
What if you could expand your opportunities by expanding your interest in what’s going on all around you? Can you bring valuable, creative energy and solutions to people unexpectedly?
Can you tell me about this?
Asking the right questions, often of perfect strangers, leads to opportunities. How many stories have you heard about a seemingly random, happenstance meeting that led to something great? I’ve heard hundreds of such firsthand experiences and have a few of my own to share. I’m sure you do too.
Many years ago, I was curious about a sign I drove past that I hadn’t noticed before. I made a u-turn and pulled up to the building. I inquired about what the company did (thinking at first it was a bakery) and learned it was an industrial manufacturer of niche papermaking equipment. I got the President’s card from the receptionist and never made direct contact. I put his email address into my newsletter list and that was that. A full nine years later, I got a call out of the blue from the guy, and his company became one of my best clients for several years.
Did You Know…?
One day I was drinking a certain brand of tea in the office, and it dawned on me to call the brand’s headquarters in Connecticut. I got the VP of Marketing on the phone and told him about qualitative market research which he happened to be interested in. That serendipitous phone call led to millions in revenue for the company I worked at. I duplicated this tactic and landed business with a major coffee maker brand – Keurig – when it was first entering the commercial market. I have similar stories.
The big secret is that you can create chance meetings and opportune moments intentionally. Make it your intent to bring value to people by learning what they need and pointing them in the right direction to obtain it. This is done by asking questions, but you need to find the people to ask. Where are they? Everywhere – grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, churches, chambers of commerce, construction sites, town offices, BNI groups, coffee shops, hotel lobbies… you get the idea. Just go to these places armed with curiosity, approachability and ideas.
Creative Solutions Nuke Objections
There’s tremendous value in expanding your local presence beyond your traditional home turf. I did this early in my career by making a tiny mom & pop print shop in the North Country a significant competitor in Southern NH and Northern MA. This was unheard of at the time. Due to high demand, logistics and shipping costs, most commercial printers only competed regionally. But I found a way to do business successfully from a long distance. I became the territory rep of my small, faraway company and confidently dispatched objections about distance, turnaround time and logistics.
We didn’t have our own trucks and couriers like other printers, but we had a bus route passing near our shop. Most bus companies gladly accept parcel and freight business, and they run most routes several times a day. Did you know that? We did, and Concord Trailways became my local service equalizer for years! As a result, I more than tripled the company’s revenue by bringing business from the populated south to the rural and sleepy White Mountains region where we had our presses.
Value Driven Field Work
It’s easy enough to show up at places where opportunities may be found but simply asking questions of strangers can be awkward. However, if you have a valuable idea to offer, it’s just you trying to help with whatever situation you observe someone in.
Whatever your expertise, if you make a “cold call” in person or inquire from a stranger about a potential opportunity, be prepared to offer real, expert advice, and be objective about it. If you get back to the person with something of additional value, you’ll likely form a relationship. Create, build and maintain those relationships and more referrals will come your way.