How will you become great at building business relationships that lead to closing deals? Practice, practice, practice. The only way you can be a skilled relationship architect is if you know the tools needed to build good relationships, and then practice. Football teams practice for five days to prepare for one game. Bands practice every day for hours upon hours to be ready to play their weekend gig. So why, in everyday life, do people just fly by the seat of their pants? And they do, every single day.
How many people can honestly say they enter a business meeting fully and absolutely prepared? Being prepared means:
- Having thought through what to say, and what will be said by others.
- Anticipating questions that will be asked, and the appropriate responses.
- Spending time thinking about all the participants; i.e. what they are about and what their agenda is – and how it compares to your own.
If you actually prepare this way, then you are special, and are most likely already successful, or at the very least, on your way.
If you prepare as I’ve described, you’ll definitely be successful. What I’m telling you is, “Do it.” Have an idea of what you’re going to say to somebody before you meet them. Know a little bit about them prior to the meeting. Create a system to capture and maintain information and profiles on companies and the individuals who work there. Compile all information possible before you first speak to someone. This is powerful. It will give you an edge in every meeting you attend. Here’s a little story to give you some proof that a little preparation goes a long way.
A few years ago, I was on a plane getting ready to meet with a company called Renegade Nation. Renegade Nation is Steven Van Zandt’s company. Little Steven from Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. Also know as Silvio, from The Sopranos series. We were meeting to convince them that we should be their marketing arm, and help utilize their brand to create revenue generating extensions. At that time, it was a little outside of our realm because it’s the music business, and we were born and bred in the sports industry. Although, sports is entertainment, and music is entertainment, so there are clearly synergies; however, the reality at that time was that we were sports guys.
Because music was a little outside of our wheelhouse, I asked the staff to really beef up the background information in the profiles that were put together prior to meeting with potential clients. I wanted to get in there and really connect with this guy. Think about it – when you’re talking to people and you have something in common, it’s clearly easier to converse. So, I was on the plane reading the profile and really trying to digest as much information as possible. Unfortunately, my head is not a computer and there’s only so much that I can absorb. So, what I usually do is pull out three tidbits. Three little things that potentially connect me with the person I’m speaking with. I have a solid understanding of the whole, but it’s helpful to have focus on a few specific facts.
As I surveyed the profile, I noticed that one of his right hand guys, John, happened to produce, Love in an Elevator, by Aerosmith. Aerosmith is a Boston band, and for some reason, I thought, “Maybe there’s a connection, and I can use this in the meeting…I’m from Boston and…I’ll probably never meet this guy John…” but, it stuck in my brain. There were a couple of other tidbits as well.
But let’s fast forward –
We get to the meeting. I’m sitting down with Stevie and I’m pitching him, and he’s into me. He’s getting me. He’s calling me the “Moneyman.” He’s kind of crazy and larger than life, like most athletes and entertainers (in a good way, ultra creative and expressive). I become more comfortable because I know how to deal with athletes and owners, and I am now viewing Stevie in the same way. I’m giving him the whole spiel, and I’m bringing him to the river of dreams, and he’s grabbing the bucket getting ready to pick it up, and he’s excited, when all of the sudden, John walks by, and Stevie calls out, “John, John come here! Meet the Moneyman!”
So John comes over and Stevie says, “Hey, this is John so-and-so.” And I respond, “John so-and-so…that name sounds familiar… Hmmm… Hey, you’re the dude who produced, Love In An Elevator.” And Stevie almost dropped dead on the floor. And he said, “How do you know that?” My answer – “I’m the Moneyman, I have to know that.”
“You’re hired! You’re hired!” shouted Stevie.
Something as silly as that (I had the gig anyway, I think) put him over the edge. That little tidbit sealed the deal.
So I have to ask; why would anyone go to a meeting unprepared? The only way to win is to practice, practice, practice.