Recently, I was in a discussion group with some clients and other consultants. The subject was relationship development. One person commented that they are seeing decreased incoming calls to their consultancy. Another said that they seem to be getting calls from “tire kickers”—people who will never buy their sponsorships or services. My laptop was open and one person asked why my calendar is so full (I place all my appointments, color-coded by type, into my Outlook calendar).
I replied that that I take meetings with anyone who reaches out—that I think it is all about relationships. For some, it is a phone call. For others (depending on the market), it is a face-to-face meeting. I operate from the premise that I have been blessed with great mentors over the years. I have also been blessed with a thriving consulting business. I am lucky enough to be considered a thought leader in our industry. As a result, I believe that I have an obligation to give back, help others, and share what I can.
Each week, I spend between eight and ten hours on phone calls or face-to-face meetings with charities, non-profits, sport organizations, small- to medium-sized businesses, municipalities, students, people seeking work, people seeking staff, schools, service clubs, and so on. This is all non-billable time. Many are looking for some quick advice or insights and have reached out through this TMC or our website, or already have engaged with me and are reaching out through direct email.
The other large group is people reaching out to determine if they can engage or hire us. In each case, I meet with the “prospects” to determine their needs. Sometimes, we are the solution and they hire us. Many times, we are not the solution, or at least, not at this time. They may not have the budget to hire us, or are looking for sponsorship sales services versus our services. In those cases, I provide my advice and insights, and then direct them elsewhere—to competitors or sales agencies as applicable. For others, I direct them to professional development conferences such as the WSC or my book Reality Check – Straight Talk about Sponsorship Marketing, which are far less expensive than the $375 an hour it costs to hire us!
Most members of the discussion group looked like deer in the headlights when I said this. They commented that it was a waste of time. I beg to differ. By doing what I do, I achieve two specific goals. One is my opportunity to give back, help people, organizations, and the sector grow and develop. Second, those contacts pan out. It may not be that organization that hires us at that time, but down the road, that individual may work for an organization that can afford to engage us. Or perhaps, six months or two years down the line, the timing becomes right for that organization to reach out again to engage us. What I do know is that our “sales funnel” is full. We have more business than we can deliver on, and thus, can be selective about the work we choose to do. I would say those eight to ten hours a week are well invested. If I look at that as a marketing investment, it has paid off in spades! Not everyone thinks as I do, but my advice is to take those calls. You never know where your next paycheque might be coming from. It is building the relationships and earning the trust of others that secures your success over the long term, not selling product and “closing” the low hanging fruit.
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