I do however have an appetite for business but have been faced with a certain dilemma with regards as to how hard to push for it. I’ve never been a pushy salesperson* and think I generally strike a good balance at networking events. I’m keen to talk about my business and not shy about giving out my business card (although only if I think the person I’m giving it to will action it) but I don’t try to sell to people. I see networking events as an opportunity to inform people about what I do and learn about what they do. I think it’s important to look at the bigger picture and as a result had an enlightening conversation with an accountant about how I could potentially fall foul of employment law and how I can protect myself. That was every bit as valuable as had I sold him a four hour web content package to update his company’s site.
No, the problem is once I actually have a lead. For example, an acquaintance put me in touch with a contact of his who he said needed a copywriter. Several unanswered phone messages later and I was starting to feel like I was stalking the guy! I checked with my acquaintance and he reiterated the keenness of the potential client. I asked for an email address and worded a simple offer of a flexible meeting and decided to leave it at that. A few days later I got a reply and we have a meeting set up for tomorrow. He was just very busy.
I’m not alone in wondering where the line is. Talking to an independent hotel owner this week, he expressed his opinion that the South West has a pace of its own. Coming from the South East, he said he’d found himself needing to adjust from a 24hr working culture to a place where there still exists the lengthy lunch hour. We had arrived at The Daffodil at midday for their monthly cheese club and I left around 3.30pm with a quarter of the dining room still occupied. This is one of the reasons I have developed my freelance business into an agency; marketing and client relations can be a full time job.
My hotel owner friend said he found it strange how people (in this instance, tradesmen) would come and quote for a job and not follow it up with a phone call having invested their time. This something I’ve found myself and hence my concern at being perceived as pushy (despite being in a different industry) for practises that strike me as standard. For me it’s a learning experience, I want to know if my quote is too competitive or if I haven’t instilled confidence in the work to be done. I am ready and willing to adapt and develop if I haven’t convinced my potential client in our initial meeting.
But if nobody does it will I stand out in a positive or negative way for my proactive approach? Yesterday I received a brief email where I was CC’d into a message saying I was the copywriter the sender had mentioned in conversation with the primary recipient. I sat and pondered it for a little while. Should I make the first move? I decided to look up the organisation (based on the email address) and wrote an email explaining the nature of the service I can offer his business type. It worked and I think he appreciated my brief summary of what I could do for him.
I’m enjoying the challenge and I suppose when (for it is sure to happen) I overstep the mark it will help me clarify my approach but for now I’ll stick with chasing each opportunity. I began with the attitude that it was necessary to pursue every job but that hasn’t been the case. Within hours of establishing a contact form on my fledgling website I had an enquiry. So much for the notion that if you build it they will come being completely outdated (although clearly you’d never want to rely on a single method of lead generation).
While I’ve long recognised the value of building relationships through networking (having made referrals for people myself only after meeting someone a few times and getting a feel for what they do), it has surprised me how much business I’m getting through conversations with people I’d imagine I could neither help nor be helped by. It feels almost too easy; be nice, assume niceness in others and life will be good. I’m sure my Nana said something along those lines once!
Oh and we didn’t make it to Lechlade Festival. I couldn’t face crowds in high temperatures in my fat and grumpy state.
* Once upon a time I sold kitchens on a commission only basis and truly believe direct sales experience is vital if you’re going to be an entrepreneur and yes, I rather like Lord Sugar as he actually reminds me a bit of my late father.