You’ve seen the ‘reach out’ on Facebook. Why is it called that? It makes me feel a bit sick. It goes something like this, “Can anyone recommend a website designer or videographer?” Quite often, it actually means, “I’m looking for something world class that’s next to free!”

As usual, the agencies, freelancers and contractors all join in the bun fight for a race to the bottom, but I think that there is a deeper issue at play.

You see, networking is vital for growing your business and having a network helps you to make the right decisions, however, a Facebook post like the one described above shows that your network isn’t big enough!

Now, I have, on occasion, responded to the ‘shout out’, especially if I knew the person, or genuinely felt we could add value. It’s nice when your network advocate you, BUT it’s usually the case that the people who get the work are those closest to the decision maker.

And this is my point really, that shout outs for work on social media may get a lot of attention but it’s not the right kind of attention. Networking isn’t always about sales, in fact, networking is about creating the right relationships, the very connections that should power your business.

Respond to a shout out and if you do get into a conversation, you often find the person has no idea what their budget is until you give them a quote. Then they’ll tell you it’s too high… So, they did have a budget, hmm… Then, you enter into a race to the bottom. Don’t do it! Press abort!
Why is this so wrong for you? Well, if you don’t know you’re ‘who’, you’ll get the wrong kind of enquires and you’ll respond to everything in the hope that something might stick.
 
When you know your ‘who’, you’ll also know who isn’t it! In these recent times that’s the biggest transition we have been through as a business.
 
Our value statement reads like this: “Brands with purpose that empower people to create a better planet.” We love to empower our clients and help them get to the top by prioritising impact above income. Those that do see the income increase, feel more fulfilled in business and retain staff for the long haul.
 
Here are some red flags when prospecting a client (because not everyone should be your client).
 
No idea on budget – Be prepared to have to educate this potential client at every step
 
Shady reputation – You won’t change them, honestly, biggest mistake I made was thinking I could.
 
Money motive – They want to make as much money as possible – which means your prices are always too high!
 
Can you send me a proposal now? – Be careful! Interview the potential lead first – my experience is they will use your proposal and go shopping. Interview them first. Find out more, and if they don’t want to tell you it’s a sure sign you’re being used.
 
Avoid discounts – Discounting is a bad starting strategy. It erodes your expertise and means everything is negotiable – you will forever justify your value which wastes time and is not profitable. Always add more value or take it away. Don’t discount!
 
Bad mouthing – If the lead is moaning about the previous agency and mentions more than one, run. They don’t know what they are doing and rather than take responsibility, they blame others. If they are moaning about someone else, you can be sure they’ll be doing it about you soon enough.
 
Phone sink – If there is a number which makes your heart sinks when you see it come up on your phone, either repair the relationship or recognise this as a sure sign of misalignment. Sometimes it doesn’t work and it’s not going to. Be honest, and go your separate ways.
 
 
HOW TO AVOID THIS…
 
Build a network – have trusted people around you in many sectors. Build a strong network not just for business transactions but to have the right people in your circle.
 
Ask the right questions – Know who you are looking for – that’s how you go from good to great.
 
Face to face – Wherever possible go through the proposal face to face, if via a call, do it over Zoom. Not only will you get a stronger rapport but you will also get a feel for fit. If they are always looking at their phone, texting etc, you are going to spend most of your billable time managing them.
 
Referred clients – Our clients are looking for opportunities for us and us for them. That’s the best way to grow a business. Online it could happen via a Twitter referral for instance.
 
Become an authority – Blogging is a great way to do this. It helps communicate who we are and why we do what we do. Those that have got to know us, know that certain sectors are just not the right fit. The more you are visible with your audience and potential audience the more you will attract the right people.
 
Stick to your values – Values make you valuable. Today, we are working with everyone we want to work with. We love working with people that want to be more purposeful even if it’s something they are working towards. Clients and staff are recruited against values and that is what makes everyone wake up in the morning happy!
 
Best is attainable – Make sure you can do your very best by your potential client. Your team know if they can wow a client with the skills they have. Ask them for feedback. If you can wow, then do it now!
 
Listen, I could tell you a few stories about challenging situations we’ve faced over the years, and how, in my quest to fix things I missed the red flags. I know that as a business owner you too will make wrong choices that lead to difficult situations.
 
Look at your current client list and rate the relationship out of ten. If it’s below an 8 you have work to do, but first, ask the question if you can make an impact. If not, it’s time for honest conversations, if you can, put things in place to keep the score high!
 
So, next time you see a shout out for help, pause for a second before joining the race to the bottom and consider whether you might have someone in your network already who could give you a better chance and connect you. Then you can deal directly with those at the top! If not, it might be time to consider strengthening your network and get more clarity on who your ‘who’ is.
 
It’s never worth compromising your values to win business. When you live by your values, the business that comes your way through referral can be the most valuable.

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