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Selling Your Services: Proven Strategies For Getting Clients To Hire You (Or Your Firm)

Selling Your Services: Proven Strategies For Getting Clients To Hire You (Or Your Firm)

by Robert W. Bly

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If you sell any kind of service, whether professional, personal, or technical, this book will give you the information you need to bring in large numbers of sales at the fees you want.


If you sell any kind of service, whether professional, personal, or technical, this book will give you the information you need to bring in large numbers of sales at the fees you want.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Although there seems to be a plethora of sales books available, Bly, a market consultant, makes a compelling case for the inclusion of this title on a library's shelf. It is his contention that while the American economy is shifting from a product-producing to a service-providing one, the majority of sales books still tend to be product-focused. Recognizing that there are some similarities in approaches, he concentrates on the differences and provides a five-step Service Selling Process that will enhance the service provider's sales program. Organized to highlight and explain each of these different steps, this easy-to-read and practical book should appeal to those readers desiring to learn how to market their services. Recommended.-- Robert Logsdon, Indiana State Lib., Indianapolis
From the Publisher
“Bly, a veteran copywriter and author, provides upbeat, practical tips for all those trying to sell their services.” —Jane Applegate, Los Angeles Times

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Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
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Selling Your Services

Proven Strategies For Getting Clients To Hire You (Or Your Firm)
By Robert W. Bly

Holt Paperbacks

Copyright © 1992 Robert W. Bly
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780805020410

Selling Your Services
PART ONEPower Prospecting: How to Generate Initial Interest in Your ServicesCHAPTER ONETechniques for Generating Sales LeadsOnce you decide to begin actively marketing and selling your services, how will potential clients learn about the availability of those services?If you're lucky, perhaps your phone will start ringing right away, without any effort on your part. If that happens--congratulations! You will have all the business you need, and you can skip this chapter.But for most service providers, self-promotion is an essential activity. Just as Ford must advertise to sell cars, you must advertise and promote yourself and your service business if you expect people to call you with assignments.How much of your time will be spent marketing and selling your services? It varies by industry and individual. Many established service providers spend between 10 and 25 percent of their time on self-promotion. Beginners must devote even more effort to establishing a reputation, getting clients, and making a name in the local community.Self-promotion is the subject of this chapter. How do you promote yourself? Does direct mail work for service providers? Does it pay to advertise? How can you get people tohire you? I'll show you what techniques can work for you, including telemarketing/cold calling, referrals, testimonials, direct mail, advertising, and networking.TELEMARKETINGTelemarketing, as it applies to selling services, means picking up the telephone, calling strangers, and asking them if they'd be interested in getting a free estimate or learning more about your services.Does this type of "cold-call" telemarketing work? For most service providers, no. I never make cold telephone calls to a list of prospects, and for the most part, I advise you to do likewise.There are several reasons why cold telephone calling is so ineffective. First, it puts you in the weak, unseemly position of appearing to be "begging" for the work. At best, prospects perceive you as someone who isn't very busy and needs work. At worst, it annoys the heck out of prospects, making them totally unreceptive to your message.The main reason I don't recommend cold telephone calling is because of a principle taught to me by marketing expert Pete Silver. Pete says that when marketing your services, it's better to get prospects to come to you, rather than you going to them. Cold telephone calling violates this principle.Despite what I've just told you, cold-call telemarketing campaigns are actively conducted by thousands of firms, most notably home improvement companies (siding, windows, doors, roofing) and financial services firms (gold coins, stockbrokers, mutual funds, and other investments).Stockbroker Andrew Lanyi, a twenty-nine-year veteran of Wall Street, says he has made over 1 million cold calls in his career. It must be working, since Andrew now earns over $1.5 million a year--almost eight times more than the President of the United States.If you do decide to make cold calls, have someone else in your office do it or hire someone to make the calls for you. Andrew Lanyi, for example, now has a staff of three people who do the initial calling, telephoning prospects listed in directories and corporate reports. The team spends all day calling prospects, qualifying them (a Lanyi client must invest a minimum of $50,000), and setting them up for a call from Andrew.COLD CALLINGEven less effective than making cold calls over the phone is cold calling in person. In my observation, making cold calls simply doesn't work.If you are selling to consumers, knocking on doors puts you on a level of the Avon lady, Fuller Brush salesman, vacuum cleaner salesmen, and other door-to-door peddlers. You want your potential clients to respect you--to think of you as a professional, not a peddler. You'll destroy any chance of that if you just show up on their doorstep. Also, consumer advocates have alerted homeowners to scams perpetrated by door-to-door con artists, so making a cold call at buyers' homes automatically puts them on the alert and creates a negative impression.If you sell to businesses, making a cold call--showing up in the corporate lobby without an appointment and asking to see Suzy Smith or John Jones--is equally as bad. It shouts loud and clear to the prospect that you are a person whose time is not valuable--who is not busy and successful.Also, cold calls are annoying. When I was an advertising manager, I hated it when magazine space reps showed up unannounced. To be polite, I always saw them, but I only half listened to their feeble pitches (the people who made such cold calls were invariably the most incompetent salespersons, with no real understanding of my business or myneeds), and never placed ads with them. The ones I respected always phoned for an appointment well in advance.Don't make cold calls--especially in person.REFERRALSReferrals--also known as word-of-mouth--are a great way to get new business. One advantage of getting leads through word-of-mouth is that prospects are already favorably inclined to hire you, because they have been told great things about you by the person who gave them your name.Whether referrals are frequent and common depends on the type of service business you're in. In my field, direct-mail copywriting, some clients happily refer colleagues to writers and artists, while other clients keep the names of the freelancers they use a closely guarded secret.When my wife was pregnant, our doctor referred us to a qualified Lamaze instructor. I discovered that natural childbirth experts get almost all of their business as a result of referrals from gynecologists, obstetricians, and hospitals. If referrals are a major source of business in your profession, it's important to learn who does the referring--and to contact them and let them know of your service.So, although referrals generally produce sales leads of good quality, you cannot control or significantly increase the quantity of referrals. For the most part, referrals either happen or they don't. Therefore, you can't count on referrals as your only source of new business, and you need to develop other methods of generating sales leads.However, this doesn't mean you are totally helpless when it comes to generating referral business. There are some clients who might refer you but simply never think to do so and never get around to it. These can be sources for referrals, with a little prodding from you.One referral technique that's especially useful when theclient is a large organization is to ask for referrals to other clients within that organization.Typically, most of us are thrilled when we're working for Manager X or Division A of a large Fortune 1000 corporation; this represents lucrative business. But few of us, myself included, ever stop to realize that now that we've got an "in" at the company, other managers and divisions that could buy our service will be much more likely to use us--especially with a referral from Manager X.To get this referral, say to your client, "Mr. Client, I have a question. Who else in [name of company] do you think could benefit from my service?" When the client gives you one or two names, ask for the complete information, including spelling, title, address, and phone number.Then say, "Mr. Client, when I get in touch with [name of referred lead], can I mention your name?" When the client says yes--and he will--you can now legitimately call other prospects within the corporation and say "[Name of client] told me that you use [type of service you offer] and that I should get in touch with you."If you are uncomfortable about having this phone conversation, a less aggressive way of asking for referrals is to send a letter. A model letter you can use follows.date 
Mr. Joe Jones, Title XYZ Company Anytown, USA 
Dear Mr. Jones: 
I'm glad you like the [name of project] I recently completed for you.Like you, I'm always on the lookout for new business. So I have a favor to ask.Could you jot down, on the back of this letter, thenames, addresses, and phone numbers of a few of your colleagues who might benefit from knowing more about my services?(Naturally, I don't want anyone whose business competes with yours.)Then just mail the letter back to me in the enclosed reply envelope.I may want to mention your name when contacting these people. Let me know if there's any problem with that.And thanks for the favor! 
Steve MillerTESTIMONIALSTestimonials can benefit many self-promotions--including brochures, direct mail, ads, and press releases. A testimonial is a statement from a satisfied client praising you and your services. A typical testimonial might read:"Thanks for the training program on 'People Skills, for DP Professionals.' The techniques you taught have already improved relations between users and software developers in our organization and have helped us get through a major bottleneck on one important new system."May Stoddard, Manager of Training Big Company, U.S.A.Some testimonials are received unsolicited; for example, a client might send you a letter thanking you for a job well done. Naturally, this makes a good testimonial. However, before you use it, get the client's permission--in writing. Otherwise, clients may become angry if they see themselvesquoted in your next ad or brochure without consent, and you will have damaged your relationship.Getting permission is easy. To quote a client, send a standard permission letter similar to the one that follows.date 
Mr. Sam Smith Anytown, USA 
Dear Sam: 
I never did get around to thanking you for your letter of 6/7/91 (copy attached). So ... thanks!I'd like to quote from this letter in the ads, brochures, direct-mail packages, and other promotions I use to market my catering services--with your permission, of course. If this is okay with you, would you please sign the bottom of this letter and send it back to me in the enclosed envelope. (The second copy is for your files.) Many thanks, Sam. 
Jean Wilson 
YOU HAVE MY PERMISSION TO QUOTE FROM THE ATTACHED LETTER IN ADS, BROCHURES, MAIL, AND OTHER PROMOTIONS USED TO MARKET YOUR SERVICES.I always send a self-addressed stamped envelope and two copies of the letter. This way recipients don't have to copy the letter or address and stamp their own envelopes."But what if clients don't send me nice letters?" you may ask. That's okay--most clients won't, because most people don't bother to send notes and thank-you letters nowadays. However, this doesn't prevent you from asking satisfied clients to endorse your services with a testimonial. The following letter solicits favorable comments from clients.date 
Mr. Andrew Sprecher Anywhere, USA 
Dear Andrew: 
I have a favor to ask of you.I'm in the process of putting together a list of testimonials--a collection of comments about my services, from satisfied clients like yourself.Would you take a few minutes to give me your opinion of my catering service? No need to dictate a letter--just jot your comments on the back of this letter, sign below, and return to me in the enclosed envelope. (The second copy is for your files.) I look forward to learning what you like about my service ... but I also welcome any suggestions or criticisms too.Many thanks, Andrew. 
Jean Wilson 
YOU HAVE MY PERMISSION TO QUOTE FROM MY COMMENTS AND USE THESE QUOTATIONS IN ADS, BROCHURES, MAIL, AND OTHER PROMOTIONS USED TO MARKET YOUR SERVICES.Note that this letter asks for an "opinion" instead of a testimonial and that it urges the recipient to give criticisms as well as positive comments. In this way you are not just asking for a favor; you're getting information that will help you service the client better in the future. You are not the only one who profits; both you and the client do.DIRECT MAILWhen other service providers ask me "What is the most effective self-promotion for you?" I answer without hesitation: direct mail.You can quickly write an effective sales letter and mail it to prospective clients. It is a relatively inexpensive promotion, and it gives you great control over cost, because you can mail as few or as many letters as you wish.Direct mail can be as simple as a one-page letter or as complex as a multicomponent package with see-through windows, color brochures, order forms, reply envelopes, computer-personalized letters, and other inserts. It can be produced using only a typewriter or word processor, or you can add color, glossy stock, photographs, drawings, pop-ups, and three-dimensional objects.In my experience, cheap and simple is best for service providers who mail limited quantities on a limited budget. My standard package consists of a one-page letter (a typed form letter printed on one side) and a reply card mailed in my regular #10 business envelope.Although I could personalize each letter using my computer, I prefer a form letter because it's faster and easier to produce and mail. If I personalized, I could mail letters only when I wasn't using my computer to do client work. A form letter can be pulled off the shelf and stuffed in an envelope any time, in seconds.If you need a lot of leads, you can mail in large quantities.I like to "test" any new letter by mailing to one hundred prospects. If the letter generates a good response, you can use it in larger quantities--say, five hundred or so at a time. If the letter fails to produce any replies, go back to the typewriter and try again.Also, there's no law that says you have to mail in large quantities. Whenever I learn of potential clients--say, an ad agency with a new account, or a company launching a new product--I can look them up in a business directory, address an envelope to the appropriate person, and drop a form letter in the mail. This is much quicker than writing a personal letter from scratch and allows me to reach many new prospects I might not otherwise have time to contact.The following is a simple one-page form letter I mailed to prospects listed in business directories. Mailed with a reply card in a standard #10 business envelope, the letter generated a 7 percent response.HOW AN ENGINEER AND FORMER AD MANAGER CAN HELP YOU WRITE BETTER ADS AND BROCHURES. 
For many people, industrial advertising is a difficult chore. It's detailed work, and highly technical. To write the copy, you need someone with the technical know-how of an engineer and the communications skills of a copywriter.That's where I can help.As a freelance industrial and high-tech copywriter who is also a graduate engineer, I know how to write clear, technically sound, hard-selling copy. You'll like my writing samples--ads, brochures, catalogs, direct mail, PR, and AV. And you'll like having a writer on call who works only when you need him.Here are my qualifications:I have an engineering background (BS, chemical engineering,University of Rochester). I started out writing brochures and AV scripts for the Westinghouse Defense Center. After I left Westinghouse, I became advertising manager for Koch Engineering, a manufacturer of process equipment.In my freelance work, I've handled projects in a wide variety of industries including computers, software, chemicals, industrial equipment, electronics, publishing, banking, health care, and telecommunications. My articles on business communications have appeared in Business Marketing, Computer Decisions, Amtrak Express, Chemical Engineering, and Audio-Visual Directions. And I'm the author of The Copywriter's Handbook (Henry Holt), A Dictionary of Computer Words (Dell/ Banbury), and nine other books.Now I'd like to help you create ads, brochures, and other promotions. Call me when your creative team is overloaded, or when the project is highly technical.I'd be delighted to send you a complete information kit on my copywriting services. The package includes a client list, fee schedule, biographical information, and samples of my work. Just complete and mail the enclosed reply card and the kit is yours--at no cost or obligation to you, of course. 
Bob Bly 
P.S. Mail the reply card today and I'll also send you a free copy of the much-reprinted article, "10 Tips for Writing More Effective Industrial Copy."You can either adapt my letter to suit your needs, or write your own letter from scratch. If you want to write your own letter, here's an outline you can use:1. Begin with an opening statement that grabs attention.You can promise a benefit, as I do in my headline. Or you might get attention by stating a fascinating fact, quoting a statistic, or asking a provocative question.2. Next identify the reader's problem. Then offer your services as a solution. I do this in the three opening paragraphs of my letter.3. Elaborate on your background, showing why you are uniquely qualified to solve the client's problem. Explain why your services are superior, or why you have the best qualifications for the job. In my letter, this section follows the sentence "Here are my qualifications."4. Call for action. Ask the reader to phone or write or mail back a reply form. Offer a reason for the reader to respond, such as free information, a free consultation, a free meeting, a free analysis, or free estimate. Tell readers the specific action you want them to take and spell out the benefits they will receive if they respond now.5. Always include a reply card the reader can use to reply and request more information. The typical headline for such a card is "YES, I'd like to know more about how [name of service] can provide [major benefit]." The reply card does not have to be a business reply card; you can put a box in the front upper-right corner that says, "Place stamp here." However, using a business reply card enhances your image a bit and may also lift response slightly.6. The reply card should leave ample room for the prospect to fill in name, title, and company name (if mailing to businesses), address, city, state, and phone number. Under the headline, the reader should be able to indicate the desired action by checking a box. Typically this might read:[ ] I'm interested. Please call me to arrange a FREE estimate.[ ] Please send more information by mail.The first offer is called the "hard" offer. It is for prospects who have an immediate need, and checking it results in a phone call or visit by the seller. The second offer is called the "soft" offer, because it enables the prospect to find out more without making personal contact with you. Typically, 90 percent of prospects will check the soft offer; only 10 percent will have an immediate need and check the hard offer.Of the prospects who check either offer, 10 to 25 percent will eventually become clients within a time frame ranging from a month to a year or longer. The rest, for one reason or another, will not become clients. Some were not really interested but were just curious. Some people just like to get brochures in the mail and will respond to any offer. Some had a need but did nothing about it or chose someone else. And your service may not have been right for others.7. Mail your sales letters in regular #10 business envelopes. Type the recipient's name, title, company, and address directly on the envelope. Do not use labels. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal reports that many corporate mail rooms dump mailers sent to titles rather than individual names, so always use the prospect's name.The advantage of having a tested sales letter--one that will generate a certain percentage response every time you mail it--is that you can quickly produce as many sales leads as you need, whenever you need them. For example, if your letter generates a 3 percent response, mailing one hundred letters will, on average, produce three inquiries. If your goal is to get ten sales leads, you will need to mail three hundred to four hundred letters. As a rule, you'll get the majority of responses to your letter within two to four weeks after you mail it.PERSONAL LETTERSIf you have the time and feel that direct mail is too impersonal for your taste, you could write personalized letters targeted to specific prospects. The key is to personalize not only with the person's name but with specific details that show your knowledge of the business, industry, products, and goals.For about two months in 1981, I tried to start a small ad agency in New York City. One freelance writer sent me a letter that began "Dear Mr. Bly: Congratulations on your new business. May you have great success and pleasure in it." I found this opening effective because it flattered me and showed me that the writer knew something about my company.One way to personalize without writing a brand-new letter each time is to write a basic "boilerplate" (standard) letter that you can then tailor to a particular reader by adding a few details. If you write an entirely new letter to every prospect, you may get good response but you won't be able to get many letters in the mail. The overall effect may be a reduction in total leads produced instead of an increase.You can use my letter (shown earlier) as a model, or try something totally different. The important point is that you are not committed to your first effort, nor will a bad sales letter ruin your reputation. At worst, it simply won't get any response. The important thing is to try a variety of approaches and learn which works best for you.ADVERTISINGAnother way to get people to call and ask about your services is to advertise in newspapers, magazines, and directories. While your own experience and judgment may suggest where to run your initial ads, you can't really predict whichpublication will work best. As with direct mail, you should test your ads--both the content and where you place them. Only by testing do you know which ad and which publications will get the best response.Although I have run larger ads, I have found that small classified and display ads work best for me. In any case, I recommend that you test small versions of your ad first. If the smaller ad gets good results, you can do a larger version based on the same theme. But if the ad flops, rewrite and try again before spending more money on a bigger version.Where should you advertise? Obviously, in publications read by your prospective clients. And which are these? It depends on your business, on the services you offer, and the market you want to reach.A useful reference for people who advertise is the Standard Rate and Data Service (SRDS), 3004 Glenview Road, Wilmette, IL 60091, (708) 256-6067. SRDS publishes comprehensive directories listing all magazines and newspapers, plus advertising rates for each publication. SRDS directories are available at most local libraries.However, common sense and experience are at least as useful as SRDS in planning your advertising. In what publications do other service providers in your area advertise? What publications are your clients reading? What publications do you read?You should advertise in publications read by your prospects, not by other vendors. If you are a painter, for example, advertise in the town newspaper, not in Professional House-Painter's Bulletin.One good indication that a publication is worth trying is that your competitors are already advertising in it. If no one in your field advertises in a magazine or newspaper, there may be a very good reason for that. Advertise where others do--or, as advertising expert Joe Barnes puts it, "Fish where the fish are biting."Don't neglect small, local publications, such as the newslettersof local business associations or bulletins produced by professional groups and associations. Weekly newspapers, penny savers, and town shoppers are excellent for local service businesses such as real estate agents, insurance agents, financial planners, painters, roofers, and other contractors.Once, for $2, I placed a thirty-five-word ad in IABC Employment Letter, a newsletter published by the local chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators. The first (and only) call I received resulted in an immediate $5,000 assignment to write an annual report.Once you have been in business for a time, you will begin to receive many solicitations in the mail asking you to advertise in a variety of professional directories. If you decide to try an ad, insist that it be placed in a separate category for your specific type of service. Don't allow your ad to be placed in a category that's too generic; otherwise, no one will find it.For example, if you are an executive recruiter, insist on a category titled "Executive Recruiters." Don't allow the directory to place your ad under the broader category "Management Consultants"; no one thinks of looking under "Management Consultants" for a headhunter.Some business publications have separate sections for classified and display ads offering business services. People turn to these sections when they are looking for a service, so your best bet is to put your ad in that section under the appropriate category. However, you might also want to test an ad outside of the special section.My advertising strategy is to run a small classified ad in the special services section of Adweek, one of the leading trade publications covering my industry (advertising). My ad runs all year long. That way, people can always find my name when they turn to the section to look for a writer. I also have developed ads for other publications that I run periodically when I want to increase the flow of new business leads.WRITING THE ADIn a small ad, you don't have room for a lot of sales talk, so you must stick to the essentials. The ad must communicate in a clear, direct fashion: who you are, the services you offer, type of clients you serve, the next step, and how to get in touch with you.If you are advertising in a magazine where no other service providers in your industry or profession are running ads, you can gain attention simply by stressing your service in the headline. Because there are no other ads for this service, people interested in your type of service will be drawn to the headline. For instance, if you are the only collection agency advertising in a local business magazine, your ad might read as follows:COLLECT THOSE OVERDUE BILLS!We help you get the money owed you to increase your cash flow. To turn old invoices into cash fast, call Watson & Crick Collections, phone XXX-XXXX.On the other hand, if many other collection agencies advertise in this publication, you would need something special to make yours stand out from the crowd.Some ad writers would elect to use a clever headline. I prefer to target readers by stressing a benefit or specialty. For instance:BUSINESS-TO-BUSINESS COLLECTION SPECIALISTSWe use proven techniques that get business customers to pay bills while retaining good customer relations. You get cash without losing valued clients. For details call Watson & Crick Collections, phone XXX-XXXX.Stressing the offer of a free booklet or report can also be a successful tactic:10 NEW WAYS TO COLLECT OLD BILLS!Free booklet explains collection secrets that turn your old unpaid invoices into cash--fast! For your copy, call or write Watson & Crick Collections, 100 Main St., Anytown, USA, phone XXX-XXXX.There are two additional points to keep in mind with small ads. First, although repetition helps create an awareness of your name, most ads gradually lose their impact over time. When the number of responses begins dropping off, you might consider running a new ad. (But save the old one. You may want to rerun it later.)Second, competition will hurt your response. When I was one of only a few writers advertising in Adweek, response was great. As more and more writers took out ads surrounding mine (many of them lifting sections of my headline and copy and using it in their own ads!), response dropped off. When the competition gets thick, you must work extra hard to make your ad stand out. On the other hand, no competition may indicate that the publication doesn't work for your type of offer. But you can always test it and see.On occasion I have run larger ads in select publications. You can get more response and attention with a larger ad, but the price of the space can be stiff. Although some of my big ads were successful, I find that the smaller ads are more cost effective in most cases. The exception is in highly targeted business directories or local and regional business publications where small businesspeople can afford even a full-page ad.Some additional tips for making ads generate more response:1. The headline should either stress a benefit ("INCREASE PRODUCTIVITY!"), the nature of your service and your specialty ("ROOF REPAIR FOR VICTORIAN HOMES"), or an offer of free information ("NEW FREE BOOKLET TELLS HOW TO REDUCE LONG-DISTANCE PHONE BILLS").2. Ask for action. Tell the reader to phone, write, or send a fax for more information.3. Offer free information, such as a brochure, catalog, report, pamphlet, or booklet.4. Show a small picture of your brochure or booklet.5. Describe the contents or special features of your free information ("Includes 12-month lawn care maintenance schedule").6. Give your literature a title that implies value. "Information kit" is better than "sales brochure." "Resource guide" is better than "catalog."7. Include your fax number in your ad, if you have one and are aiming at business audiences.8. Put a heavy dashed border or other unusual border treatment around your small ad to make it stand out.9. Offer a free consultation, analysis, recommendation, study, cost estimate, computer printout, critique, and so on.10. Talk about the value and benefits of this free offer.11. Test different small ads. Keep track of how many inquiries each ad pulls. Then run only those ads that pull best.12. Put your name in the ad as well as your company name. Invite the reader to contact you personally.13. Use a testimonial from a satisfied client as a headline or in body copy.14. Use your photo in the ad to personalize the message.15. Consider using a toll-free hotline. Pete Silver, a professional speaker, has a toll-free number, 800-MR-SPEAKER.NETWORKINGNetworking is a new name for an activity that has been going on for a long time: doing business through personal contacts. The purpose of networking is to meet as many people as possible who can, in some way, help advance your career. And the reason these other people are networking is to find someone who can help them--perhaps you. "I go to luncheons and meetings even when I'm busy," says entrepreneur Joan Harris. "These give me high visibility which translates into lots of new contacts, referrals, and actual business."Is it necessary to network? I'm living proof that it isn't. I've served more than a hundred satisfied clients, have a steady flow of new-business leads at all times, and only a few have come to me through networking, meetings, or social contacts (most are through direct mail, publicity, public speaking, articles, or word of mouth). I used to tell beginning service providers, "Don't bother with networking; you don't need to do it and it's a waste of time."Now, however, I'm starting to "come out of my shell" (as some of my colleagues have observed) and am making much more of an effort to meet people, make contacts, and join and participate in professional societies and informal groups--even though I'm shy and an introvert by nature.Why? There are several benefits. First, if yours is a one-person business, work is a solitary activity, and loneliness can be a problem. One way to cope with isolation is to force yourself to get away from the office every now and then. It can be mentally stimulating and refreshing to have lunch with a group of service providers or attend an evening lecture sponsored by a local business club. You meet new people, make friends, and exchange ideas.Forming a "network"--a group of people you know and who know you--can open up many new doors for you. For instance, at one luncheon I met a man who recently openedhis own printing business. We established a good rapport, and he now does most of my printing for me, paying closer attention to my jobs than other printers I had found through local Yellow Pages ads.Networking builds a base of "people resources" you can count on to help you with many situations. Now I can turn to my card file and find artists, writers, printers, photographers, lawyers, accountants, and many other professionals who can be of service to me or my clients. I know I'll get immediate attention from these people because we've already established a personal relationship, no matter how brief.Often I will refer one person in my network to another person who can help. For example, an audiovisual producer called and asked if I knew someone who could direct an industrial film for her. I was able to give her the name of an independent director I had met. The referral ended the producer's search and put some money in the director's pocket. And, while I never asked for it, I'm sure both of these people would be glad to return the favor some day.Finally, networking can also lead to more business for you. Most often, someone you meet through networking may keep your card and someday give your name to a prospective client. Or sometimes you meet a potential client directly. In either case, the more people who know your name, the better.The advantage of networking over advertising is that people you meet through networking are more likely to remember you because of the face-to-face contact.Before I got involved in networking, I kept an eye on the "meetings" section of several trade journals and promised myself I'd go ... when I had the time. As it turned out, I never had the time and never went to any meetings. If you're like me, a good way to get started in networking is to join several clubs or associations. Paying the membership dues somehow makes me feel that I should at least attend a meetingor two to get my money's worth. (I am currently a member of the Business/Professional Advertising Association and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.)Another way to force yourself to go is call up a friend and invite him or her to a luncheon or evening meeting. Do it several weeks in advance. Making the commitment early helps prevent you from backing out at the last minute. 
Ten Tips for More Productive Networking1. Always bring a handful of business cards. Exchange cards with everyone you meet.2. Don't be a wallflower. Try to walk over to people and make conversation.3. Get a drink from the bar and hold onto it, even if you don't drink (drinking mineral water and club soda is "in" these days). Having a glass in hand can help shy people overcome nervousness.4. Do not sell while networking. Your purpose is to make contacts, not get a client to sign a purchase order.5. If you've never attended a meeting of a particular group before, go with a friend who can introduce you to people in the group.6. Dress in proper business attire. Your comfortable, well-worn "work-at-home" clothes are not appropriate for a business gathering.7. The best way to make friends and get people talking is to ask them questions. Instead of telling all about yourself, ask other people about what they do.8. When you get home, follow up by sending people a short note that says "It was a pleasure meeting you--let's keep in touch." You might also enclose another business card, a brochure about your services, or a reprint of a recent article you wrote.9. Keep a "contact file" of business cards, organized alphabetically or by type of business.10. When making referrals, think of people in your contact file first. Sending some business to a person is a good way of cementing the relationship between you.Networking can result in referrals not only from service providers in other fields but from people working in your own field and offering similar services--even direct competitors. There are certain jobs you will take on your competitor won't, and vice versa. If you know each other and are aware of your respective specialties, you can refer business to each other.For instance, as a writer, I get numerous calls from people who want me to write instruction manuals. I don't do instruction manuals, but I refer those leads to three writers I know who do. In return, they've referred me for work they knew they couldn't handle but that was right up my alley.Networking, advertising, cold calling, telemarketing, referrals, and writing letters are all action-oriented marketing techniques focused on generating an immediate, direct response--an inquiry from a potential client with an immediate or future need for your services.As important and powerful as they are, these direct-response methods are only half of a total new business marketing effort. The other half consists of the soft-sell, visibility-building publicity techniques, such as writing articles, being interviewed by the media, and giving speeches. These methods are covered in the next chapter.Copyright © 1991 by Robert W Bly


Excerpted from Selling Your Services by Robert W. Bly Copyright © 1992 by Robert W. Bly. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author

Robert Bly is an independent copywriter specializing in business to business and direct-response advertising.

Robert W. Bly is an independent copywriter specializing in business-to-business and direct-response advertising. He is the author of more than sixty books, including The Copywriter's Handbook and Secrets of a Freelance Writer, and has appeared on CNBC and CBS's Hard Copy. He lives in River Vale, New Jersey.

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