Many people in sales have a saying “The circle of your business relationships can determine the revenue stream for your business.” In simple terms: Who you know can determine how much your business generates.
If you think about the direct correlation between your target customer base and the price of your products/services this statement makes perfect sense. A business can only charge a price that fits the income level of their customer. And you get to your true customer through relationships with people who know where your customer lives, plays and works.
Using this knowledge, let’s look at your current circle of business relationships. Many business owners do not remove themselves outside of their personal comfort zone to meet the “movers and shakers” in their city or industry. For many business owners, there is an invisible divide that prevents them from networking with major players. Take a moment and ask yourself if you fit in that category.
Have you reached out to the CEO of any major company in your city? Does the Mayor know you or know that your business exists? Are you interacting with people at networking events prior to, during and after the event?
Recently we had the honor of being awarded the 2015 National Veterans Business Outreach Center of the Year by the U. S. Small Business Administration. We are thrilled to be considered one of the top places in the nation for transitioning military, Veterans and their families to start and grow a small business. We were not even aware we were in the running. Our network nominated us without our knowledge. This is because our entire crew has a mission of building strong relationships with vendors, our community and competitors. From this, we have received many new inquiries, clients and potential donors.
Yes, in this article we do make it sound very simple. But the reality is that you must make an effort to continue to place yourself in a position to develop relationships that will help benefit your business. Attending seminars, networking events, and conferences that will have the people you need to meet is the first step. Engaging that network with sincere and thought provoking conversations and assistance is the next. Here are a few old fashioned power moves that never go out of style to get you started in tearing down the barriers that might keep you from reaching your customer:
First, give yourself a pep talk. Remember you are a small business owner. You are contributing the fabric of America and you are a part of something bigger than just you. It is small business owners like you, who are involved in your communities and hiring people that make the machine run well.
Second, prepare yourself for the meeting.
• Prior to attending the event, see if you can find the list of attendees and identify 4 – 6 people you would like to meet. Do a bit of research on those people via LinkedIn or the local business journal so you might have a few talking points to engage them. Be prepared to offer your services in the form of an educational event that is no cost to your clients. Every busy has this option. If you are an interior decorate, offer to give a free demonstration on branding an office to the personal style of another small business. If you are a promotional business, offer to give a free class on the proper cost of awards, sustainability and practical uses. Think about the top three things you wish people knew prior to engaging you – and make it a free class, webinar, video or write it in a blog.
• During the event, listen for comments that might lead you to mentioning the information you know about them. Be sincere, do not make this a forced. Bide your time. When the right moment presents itself, offer to give one of the classes you have already prepared. You can even make it sound as if you just came up with it or as if you have done them forever. You choose what makes sense for you at the time. But this is a great way to engage people after the fact with your business. Giving away free advice that to others has a true value will build strong relationships and help them become your cheerleaders.
• After the event, send a handwritten (no not a LinkedIn request or an email yet). A handwritten note, saying thank you for the discussion, mention a part of it and ask that person out for coffee or invite them to your store. Remind them of your offer of the class. Remember, you are building a relationship with a person that you believe is your customer or might bring your customer to you.
Third, celebrate the win. It takes courage to step outside of your comfort zone. We rarely have people congratulate us for the simple things. Take a minute to tell yourself you did well. No need to self examine that will come later. For now, a few “Hooahs” will do just fine.
Remove the invisible barriers that prevent you from developing relationships that can bring vital resources to your business. Make a determination that you will reach out to community and industry leaders to increase the awareness of your brand. Decide you will be the authority in your field. This simple power move on your part may help take your business to another level.
Darcella K Craven has over 20 years of experience in corporate, government, non profit and military organizations. She is currently the Executive Director of the Veterans Business Resource Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting Honorably Discharged Veterans, National Guard and Reservist and Active Duty personnel and their families with transitioning back into civilian life with starting and expanding businesses.
An Army Veteran, she holds a Masters of Arts in Management from Webster University and is currently pursuing her Doctors of Management focusing on impact of military experience on small business decision making. Darcella has been featured in numerous articles for her transition from the military and the welfare system to an accomplished business woman and is actively involved in many civic organizations.