The kindness of strangers

Last Friday, I was rocking out in my truck on my way home from work, and I was going about ten to fifteen over – completely oblivious to the outside world.  Obviously I was unaware that I was rapidly approaching a policeman hidden in the bushes, radar in hand, while I was doing my best John Bonham impersonation on the steering wheel.

Lucky for me, the other drivers on the road did me a favor.  About a half-mile before I ran into the camouflaged cop, I was roused from my euphoric rock star trance by flashing headlights warning me to slow down.   I flicked my high beams back to thank them, took my foot off the accelerator and shot a grin at the highway patrolman tucked back in the woods as I coasted toward a great weekend.

Now, I’m no Haley Joel Osmont, but I have found that paying it forward when you can, both in business and life, pays unparalleled dividends.  Whenever I begin speaking with a new qualified prospect, I immediately begin thinking of ways we can help them while we try to seal the deal.   And no, I don’t mean sending them a Christmas present or entertaining them on the golf course (but if you do hit the links, and you’re hiding it from your boss, do a better job than this).

Instead, I show them that our company is genuinely interested in helping theirs by proving to them our company can do what we claim it can even before an official relationship is formed.   Here are a few ways I do just that:

1. We are presented with a wide variety of reporter queries each day and I keep our prospects in mind when we are brainstorming which clients make sense for each story. You never know when the next slam dunk opportunity will present itself so, if a prospect is a solid fit for a story, why not go ahead and prove to them we’re capable of delivering the results for which they’re considering hiring us?

2. Sometimes we are already working with a client who would be able to help a prospect and vice-versa.   Now, these potential partnerships don’t always pan out, but, if I make sure that the conversation is worth their time, both the prospect and the client are pleased with the effort.

3. We are also willing to provide our prospective clients with advice/tactics they can use before the engage us as a services provider.  Whether it is helping them set up a Facebook pages, directing them to relevant networking events, or helping them with key messaging, we aren’t afraid to help our prospects drive their business and marketing effort forward before we begin working with them.

If you think it sounds like too much work to offer this kind of help to prospective clients, you’re going to miss out on crucial opportunities to build rapport.  At 919, our willingness pay it forward has landed us a number of big-time clients.

Why does it work?  Well, we all know that age-old saying that people want to do business with people, not businesses.  It has become clear to us that our prospects don’t care about favors or handouts.   Don’t pamper them with swag bags to win them over – be different than the rest and go out of the way to actually help them drive their business.

If you do, you’ll be the one flying home to celebrate winning some new accounts and you’ll need someone to flash their headlights in your direction.