Published 8/11/2017 in The Maryland Daily Record
After I had spent many years in what is considered a relationship development role, it wasn’t until I worked with a business coach that I really learned the power of protecting my time.
I used to run around keeping a nonstop schedule with appointments. I was taught in my early days of training at a large investment firm that if I kept myself in front of as many people as possible, the numbers game would go my way.
I was very good at getting people to meet with me. That part was actually easy for me. Because I am so outgoing in this way and such a willing listener to other people’s stories, I found no trouble at all finding people to meet with and fill my schedule. I wasn’t taught about properly qualifying someone as a worthwhile person to meet with in the context of the services that I had to offer. Rather, I was trained to qualify if people simply had money, connections to money or an expertise around advising people with money such as attorneys and accountants. As long as they were in these categories, a meeting seemed worth my time because well, you just never know. …
This turned out to be a materially flawed approach. The essence of the flaw here is the litany of other factors that affects someone’s capacity, desire and willingness to become a meaningful connection.
The capacity to refer is the core piece to identify. Does someone actually have that capacity, either within their own means as a direct client or in a sphere of influence that is connected to people who have a need for your services? Or are they uniquely positioned to be in the same circles as your target client? If the answer is simply no to these core questions, no matter how nice the person is, how willing they are to be treated to breakfast, lunch, coffee and any other invitation as often as you ask, the possibility simply won’t materialize.
Once the capacity has been established, the next key ingredient is desire. Does this person have the desire to work with you or help you to connect to others who may have a need for what you do? Often people have competing interests that prevent them from wanting to take action on your behalf. This could have nothing to do with you personally. It could be that they have a family member who does what you do or their best friend from college does what you do or their firm does what you do and they get paid to keep the business in house.
None of these are personal to you. They simply have competing interests that prevent them from wanting to do something different. These are critical questions to ask before investing lots of time with someone that simply doesn’t have the desire to make a change.
So, after capacity and desire have been established, the final step is willingness. Is someone actually willing to help you? Are they willing to put their name out there on your behalf?
Knowing someone’s experience with referring business is very telling. I have found that some people are risk-averse in this area. They worry that if something doesn’t go well that it could reflect poorly on them and potentially risk the relationship that they have with the person they have referred. This is especially true of a referral to someone who manages money, as we do at my firm. Some people simply don’t want to get so involved. Their lives are busy enough and, regardless of how helpful this type of connection may be, they just don’t see the world in terms of being a connector.
This is super important to know ahead of spending time with a person who simply isn’t willing to help.
What I now do
There is a process that I have learned that helps to identify these key pieces ahead of investing the time in a face-to-face meeting. It is so simple yet I had never thought about doing this and how effective it would be. The single most important step that I take now before meeting anyone is to have an introductory phone call. The purpose of the call is to get a feel for the person, our communication styles, and to allow me to answer these core questions before investing time in a relationship that may not materialize. Each of us seems more pressed for time than ever before, and this approach has been incredibly useful in protecting time — mine and everyone else’s whom I come across.
—Dorie Fain, founder and CEO of &Wealth