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A small business blog featuring tips to help entrepreneurs succeed in the small business world. Topics include family business, human resources, marketing, money, networking, operations, ownership, startup, taxes and technology.
Connections Trump Contacts

We’ve all had them – those annoying telemarketing calls right in the middle of dinner and spending some much needed time with our families. Even with no-call-list registration, a call sneaks through the cracks occasionally. We get frustrated and often, the poor individual on the other end gets an ear full.

But have you ever taken the opportunity to put yourself in that telemarketer’s shoes? As a business owner, you should, since sales is an important part of every business. I sure do because I actually had a telemarketing job at one point. Albeit, it was only for four months, but that’s because it was horrible. I didn’t make a sale the entire time I was there. Call after call made for nothing. In a telemarketing job the focus is quantity – the more calls you make, the more likely you are to get a sale. That simply wasn’t the case for me – it isn’t for most. Just look at the turnover rate for telemarketing businesses and you’ll see the effects.

And why is that? Because the people I called were simply contacts – a name and phone number filled out on a piece of paper (most likely a drawing for some type of prize) for individuals who didn’t even know what they were signing up for. The reason cold call and door-to-door sales people fail more than they succeed at a sale is because they are making contacts, not connections, with potential clientele.

Let me clarify the difference between the two even further. A contact can, in fact, be more than simply a name on a list. It could actually be someone you’ve met, maybe even had a conversation with. You’ve exchanged business cards and may keep hers in a large stack with everyone else’s (and probably couldn’t find it if you tried). If you saw her in passing, you may recognize her and even remember what she does for a living, but her name may not come to you immediately. While there is potential there for a future sale, it is minimal. Those that use contacts often “lose” sales that were never theirs to win in the first place.

A connection, on the other hand, is someone you truly know. You could pick him out in a crowd without a problem and immediately strike up a decent conversation. You know about his family, his business, his personal likes and dislikes. He may be a business associate, but he may also be a friend, relative or neighbor. He is someone you would actually make an effort to spend time without outside of business matters, and would have the added bonus of obtaining his business. He knows he can trust you and wouldn’t think twice about using the services your business provides.

The difference really comes down to quality. Cold calls, as I mentioned, are about quantity and the odds that, the more people you call, the more likely you are to get a sale. But making a connection with someone can really increase the odds of making a sale tenfold, without increasing the number of people you talk to. Yes, there is more effort there, but it’s totally worthwhile.

Let me provide you with an example of making a connection with someone. A business owner, who caters predominately to women, offers to throw a luncheon for her client’s birthday. The client provides her with a list of guests and the business owner does the leg work. The client is bound to mention to her friends that this luncheon is being provided by someone who provides her with a product/service, and the guests are bound to ask. But the business owner keeps business matters to herself and spends the majority of the luncheon focusing on the client’s birthday. At the end, however, the business owner makes her cards available as guests leave and will then answer any questions.

The guests at the party are connections, rather than contacts, because the business owner spent the afternoon getting to know them, who they really are, without any business pretense. They know that she is a trustworthy and loyal provider and will probably turn to her without a second thought when her business services are needed. And each of them will probably get a birthday luncheon next year. Additionally, the business owner strengthened her connection with her already established client.

While birthday luncheons may not work for your business or clientele, you get the idea. There are plenty of other ways to establish and strengthen connections with potential clients, it’s just a matter of doing it and getting past that “contact” scenario. While cold calls may work for some, the best results for both your business and the clients come from a relationship, not a list of names.

Related Small Business Buzz Posts:
Saving Time on the Telephone
Building New Business Contacts: Networking 101
Define Strategies, Service & Product Line – How to Write a Business Plan: Part 4 of 8
Tips for Dealing with Calls from Upset Clients
An Interesting Way to Win Potential Clients

By Michelle Cramer
Sunday, August 5th, 2018 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Networking, Operations |