Cultivating Connectors from a “Standing Start”Mike White
Force multipliers or “connectors” are often easier to cultivate than are prospects. It can be easier to build a history and therefore trust because the relationship is not weighed down by the “heaviness” of a retention goal. At the same time, it can be hard to build trust if you are viewed to be merely a “transactor” who cobbles together as many conversations as possible to create as many introductions as possible. At a process level, of course, that is exactly what you want to accomplish – you just don’t want your business colleagues to feel they are party to that process.
The secret here lies in the concept of “incrementalism” – sequencing together a series of “yeses” to give the relationship necessary momentum. Most people are very open to helping you get smarter about certain issues, particularly when they are viewed as a domain expert. “You’re smart ([about a particular issue or area of content]. I’m dumb. I’d like you to help me be less dumb [about the particular subject] . . . ” This approach appeals to their ego, and unless they are crazy busy, they will let you pick their brain over a cup of coffee. On the strength of a warm introduction from another connector, you have a great chance of getting this meeting. Let’s call this the “thought partner step.”
You are now at the meeting and your business guest has addressed your knowledge deficit and enlightened you about an area of interesting content; she/he has been a true thought partner! Your next step is to enlist your business guest as a “mentor” – someone who will help you make your own commercial agenda or business development agenda even better: “Because you know so much about the virtual payments industry and why it’s interesting to me commercially, you have a sense for how I’m trying to find new virtual payments industry clients. If you don’t mind, I’d like to share with you my plans to use my emerging knowledge of the virtual payments industry to acquire more clients. You’ll no doubt be able to poke some holes in those plans and make them better . . . ” Let’s call this the “mentor step.”
Once your business colleague helps you author and craft your own plan, it’s not a big leap for her/him to serve as a connector. “Thank you for helping me bullet proof my go-to-market plan as it is a much-improved product. As you think about some of the types of people I should be meeting, do you know anyone who might be a good information source, connector or perhaps prospect in the ecosystem of virtual payments industry businesses?”
Voila! You now have cultivated a “connector“!
Edge Principal Mike White, an expert in the field of law firm growth, works with firms and practice groups in two primary areas: client experience innovation & differentiation, and strategic planning for growth. He also advises firms on business-development skills training/planning/coaching, law-firm succession planning, lateral-partner integration, and partner-compensation restructuring.