I don’t know about you, but I don’t love hiring other people to help me run my business.
It’s not that I have anything against other people (except for maybe this guy), it’s just that I find it hard to feel in control when I don’t touch everything along the way.
And so for the first 10 years or so of my life as a solo professional, and with the exception of things that I simply am not capable of doing for myself (e.g., graphic design, legal services, dental work), I pretty much did everything.
Recently, however, life has become more complicated.
Because in the last couple of years, I’ve begun selling products and running webinars and longer format programs. Now, instead of receiving a dozen or so checks each month from individual clients, I receive that plus all kinds of payments from all kinds of people in all kinds of ways.
A nice problem to have perhaps, but a problem nonetheless.
My once tidy company bank statement, which for years was no more complicated than my personal one, is now filled with all kinds of confusing merchant account charges, baffling bank fees and miscellaneous, unaccounted for deposits.
And so last week, after spending two hours trying to make sense of it all (I may as well have been looking at your EKG), I decided to hire a bookkeeper.
But I don’t know any bookkeepers. So I did what I always do: I used LinkedIn Answers to tap my colossal network of wonderful people (or is it my wonderful network of colossal people?) for their input. In all, I sent my request to about 80 friends and colleagues.
Sure enough, within just a few hours, I received seven or eight really good bookkeeper recommendations. (Thank you, colossally wonderfully people.)
And that’s where our story (finally) gets interesting.
Because over the next two days, here’s what else happened:
- One of the people I asked, invited me to be interviewed on her blog.
- One of the people I asked (a client), called to request a meeting for a new project.
- Two of the people I asked, registered for my webinar next week.
So is this a ringing endorsement of LinkedIn? No, at least not in particular.
It’s a ringing endorsement of staying in touch with the people you know. And whether you do that via LinkedIn, Facebook, e-mail, phone calls, handwritten notes, the occasional cup of coffee or some combination of these and other things, it’s the staying in touch that matters.
Two additional things I’d like you to notice:
- The four people mentioned above weren’t being “marketed to.” At all. I just asked for a bookkeeper recommendation, without the slightest whiff of anything else.
But for whatever reason, on that particular day, my proactive contact (and the fact that we already had a relationship) triggered something in each of them. Something which turned out to be beneficial to me.
So insight #1 is that just keeping in touch – for whatever reason and in whatever way – leads to good things. As long as you keep your relationships alive in some quasi-systematic way (it need not be perfect), you’re in business.
- I couldn’t have predicted, before the fact, who would react and how.
These were all people who knew and trusted me already, of course. That’s what having a relationship is about. But if you had shown me the list of 80 people three days ago, I wouldn’t have singled these four out.
That’s big. It’s big because the concept of the “hot lead” implies that you know (or can guess) who’s hot. And you may be right, sometimes.
But there are plenty of other people who would also interview you, refer you, hire you, etc. … if only you appeared in their brain at the moment they had a particular need.
And since you can’t predict whose brain and at what moment, targeted outreach with a particular offer only goes so far.
If, on the other hand, you commit to staying in touch with everyone you know, regularly and forever, you don’t need to discern “lead hotness” before the fact. Do it long enough and, when the time is right, they’ll come to you for whatever it is they need.
Here’s the bottom line. If you know other humans, you’re sitting atop a goldmine of future business. But if you don’t find a way to stay top of mind, most of it will forever remain untapped.