Millions of people embark on professional careers as CPAs, engineers, insurance agents, financial advisers, bankers, lawyers, and corporate managers only to discover that being technically proficient is just one element of being successful. Few receive any formal training in selling their services and themselves. For most, developing business is a sink-or-swim proposition.
Although most communication in the workplace will take place in an indirect manner via technology, the occasions when strong, direct communication and interpersonal skills are necessary will become increasingly important. Most executives in the business world are more accustomed to, and demand, direct communication. The technological and communication gap that exists between young professionals and their superiors and clients is very pronounced. This gap represents an incredible opportunity. Young professionals who bridge this gap, focus on building relationships with people of all ages, and hone their direct communication skills — basic rainmaking skills — will surpass their peers and will dominate their fields.
Relationships are the core element of any business. Those who possess strong relationship have a huge competitive advantage over those who do not. The better you become at developing and maintaining relationships, the more successful you will become.
How to Build Relationships
No cookie-cutter approach exists for building relationships. Each relationship is unique to the two people involved. However, two basic principles apply to developing relationships — visibility and credibility.
First, you need to become aware OF and become aware TO the person with whom you want to build the relationship. You need to become visible. This can be accomplished through attending business and social events, serving on boards, developing blogs, becoming involved in your community, speaking at seminars, publishing articles, or providing great service to existing firm clients.
Picking the proper forum for increasing your visibility also is important. If you sell a specialized product or service, go to the place where people who buy that product or service congregate. Conrad Hilton, founder of one of the largest hotel organizations in the world, said: “If you want to launch big ships, you have to go where the water is deep.” Find the place where the water is deepest for you. Industry associations are a great venue for marketing. Everyone has a similar interest. If you sell hospital beds, attend association meetings of hospitals, nursing homes, and personal care homes. If you specialize in estate planning, go to places where wealthy people are likely to be — country clubs, stock brokerage operations, banks. Developing a relationship with a banker or stockbroker who can refer business to you makes sense. Think about your market and go to it. Don’t wait for it to come to you.
Talk to your existing customers and find out what activities and meetings they attend. Are they members of a service organization like the Rotary Club or Kiwanis? Are they members of a country club? Do they belong to a lodge? Ask them what publications they read. Submitting an article to that publication may be an option. Do they get information from the Internet? Creating a blog may be an option. Your goal is to find the forums in which you can become more visible to the people with whom you want to develop a relationship.
How to Develop Credibility
The second key step in developing relationships is to develop credibility. You must be reliable and trustworthy. If you tell someone you will do something, you better do it and do it on time. Keeping promises is essential. For many people, credibility is the most difficult aspect of developing and maintaining relationships. For some, meeting people and developing an instant rapport is second nature. They seem to be born with it. But when it comes to delivering the goods, they fall apart. Following through on promises and commitments takes organization, hard work, and discipline. Many people won’t put the time and effort into it. As a result, the relationship eventually deteriorates.
You have to pace yourself and know your limitations. Self-assessment is one of the most difficult things we have to do, but it is critical. Over-promising leads only to problems or failure. You probably know people who join every organization and volunteer for high-profile tasks to increase their visibility. Inevitably they fail because of over-commitment or burnout. In the end, all they achieved was a high-profile failure. The people they were trying to impress watch them fail and are left to clean up the mess. Why would anyone who witnessed that sort of result want to do business with these failures? As you begin your rainmaking, don’t spread yourself too thin. Concentrate on doing a few things really well. You want to impress people and build credibility. In time, after performing a task very well, you can move on to a different position in the organization or you can resign. Remember; always leave an organization or project on a high note with people impressed with your abilities. As the old axiom in the theater goes, “Leave them wanting more.”
If you increase your visibility and develop credibility, you will be able to develop the relationships that will serve you well for years.
Rainmaking 101: How to Grow Your Client Base & Maximize Your Income provides readers with very practical tips for developing visibility and credibility. Examples include:
• Remembering names: People often forget a person’s name within seconds of being introduced. After you are introduced to a person, repeat his name. Simply say something like, “It is nice to meet you, Mr. Brown.” Repeating the name forces you to listen carefully to the name, and saying the name out loud reinforces the name in your memory.
• Make the most of events: To improve your networking skills, study the guest list before attending an event. You can identify people you know and refresh your memory with their names. You can also identify people that you want to meet at the event.
• Distinguish yourself: In an age of electronic messaging, go “old school” and write a personal note acknowledging a promotion or a significant event. People tend to remember and keep personal notes longer than emails.
• Good Manners: Learn the basics of table etiquette. For example, when someone asks you to pass the salt or pepper, you are supposed to pass both.
• Become memorable: Most people place their name tags on the left side of their chest. However; when they reach with their right hand to shake someone’s hand, the left side of their body turns away from the person and the name tag disappears. Develop a habit of placing your name tag on your right side. When you shake hands, it will be directly in front of the person, and it will help that person remember your name.
Young professionals who perfect subtle skills such as these will gain the visibility and credibility necessary to build strong business relationships.
Patrick Kelly has practised law for more than 20 years and is listed in The Best Lawyers in America. During his career, Kelly has served as general counsel to a governor, was elected at a young age to the management committee of a large, U.S. regional law firm, and served as managing partner of one of the firm’s largest offices. For more on his book visit www.rainmaking101.net.