FORENSIC NETWORKING – your key to developing larger clients

After more than twenty years of experience in the speaking industry, I found that over time not only had the size of my audiences increased, but also the size of the organisations with which I was working. I then started to realise that in order to break in to large organisations (whether defined by turnover or by number of employees) one really needed to be quite strategic, and certainly professional. And the more touch points or connection points within an organisation, the greater the chance you had of getting a positive response from the decision maker. Large organisations contain multiple pockets of influence, and cross-networking opportunities abound once you get in there – but exactly how to do that is often the dilemma. 

 I first heard the expression ‘Forensic Networking’ from a very successful senior partner of an international accounting firm. This was something the firm did prior to meeting with potential clients, and included accessing public domain information about the potential client – their non work-related interests, and their networks – looking for touch points within their already substantial client base who could potentially be an advocate for their firm. 

 THE BIGGER THE POTENTIAL CLIENT, THE MORE TOUCH POINTS/REFEREES 

 YOU NEED TO CULTIVATE 

 I came to realise that many people already do this, but not necessarily in a systematic or strategic way. As a consequence, the results can be very inconsistent. Be warned – forensic networking requires time, effort and energy, and some of the information is easier to access than other material, but as a rule of thumb, the greater the effort, the better the result. It is my belief that you really only get one shot at a potential client – one chance to prove your worth or value to that organisation. And if you blow that opportunity when you meet with the decision maker/s, it may be a long, long time before they give you a second chance. So the more touch points you can locate, the better the chances of a favourable outcome. 

 FORENSIC NETWORKING YOUR POTENTIAL CLIENT – 

Consists of a list of questions about your client’s organisations, networks, and potential touch points/connectors. Much of this information will be in the public domain, although at times it might feel like you are piecing together a jigsaw puzzle. Set up a two-ring binder filled with plastic sleeves and dividers and start your forensic activity. Alternatively, you may like to keep an electronic file. At first, it may just be a jumble of information, but as you continue to work on it, the patterns and images gradually become clearer.  

1. IDENTIFY YOUR POTENTIAL CLIENT 

 2. IDENTIFY THE KEY DECISION MAKER/S AND THE PEOPLE IN THEIR INNER CIRCLE IF POSSIBLE 

3.  WHO DO YOU KNOW IN THEIR INNER CIRCLE, OR WHO DO YOU KNOW WHO KNOWS SOMEONE  IN THEIR INNER CIRCLE? 

 4. WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT THE POTENTIAL DECISION MAKER/S? 

 Your folder should be bulging with clippings and pieces of important information as your build your knowledge. And don’t forget your internal network. Ask questions at group meetings. “Does anyone know JA and BB, decision makers at XYZ, or do you know anyone who works at XYZ?” Google and other Internet search engines can also be a great help here. Again, make sure you collect key pieces of information. Remember, you may only get one shot at this potential client, so you want to make sure you are well-prepared for that meeting.  The more prepared you are the better the results you will gain. 

 5. WHO IS THEIR CURRENT SERVICE PROVIDER AND HOW LONG HAVE THEY BEEN A PROVIDER? 

 6. THINK LIKE THE CLIENT, NOT LIKE THE POTENTIAL SERVICE PROVIDER.  

 If you were XYZ, what would make you consider changing service providers? Often, price is not the sole determining factor in supplier-related decisions. Think more strategically about what you have to offer. 

 7. IS THERE ANY WAY YOU CAN REFER BUSINESS TO XYZ IN THE SHORT OR LONG TERM? 

 FORENSIC NETWORKERS ARE CREATIVE THINKERS 

 8. DO YOU KNOW ANYONE WHO ALREADY HAS A STRATEGIC ALLIANCE WITH XYZ? 

 9. ARE ANY OF YOUR CURRENT ADVOCATES AND A-CLASS CLIENTS CURRENT SERVICE PROVIDERS TO XYZ? 

 10. HOW MANY PEOPLE DO YOU KNOW WITHIN XYZ COMPANY? 

 11. HOW MUCH EFFORT ARE YOU PREPARED TO COMMIT TO THIS XYZ PROJECT?   

 12. WHAT TIME FRAME WILL YOU PLACE ON THIS PROJECT? 

The bigger the client, the larger the potential results and often the more effort required. 

 Bottom line, if you can’t answer at least 60% of these questions, you are NOT ready to offer your product or services to that potential client. Back to the forensic networking jigsaw one more time. Trust me, the effort will be worth it! 

 HAPPY NETWORKING UNTIL NEXT TIME 

Robyn H. 

 

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