Here are some things that are almost certainly a waste of time. I think, to my embarrassment, I have done most or all of these things myself. Mostly they makes me cringe….. Since it is a lengthy list, I have split them into two parts. Part one is below.
- Trying to take someone to lunch without an agenda that makes it clear that the lunch is for the other person’s benefit.
In this situation, the other person will assume you are trying to just get business out of them, and they will cleverly and creatively avoid it for a loooooonnnnngggg time.
I wonder how many of you readers are – right now – chasing some poor prospective client down for lunch? And if so, how many times has it been cancelled? And at the last minute at that, I bet, which is kind of demeaning to you? And afterwards I bet you chased after the person to reschedule. And each time it gets rescheduled, is it weeks, or even months, till the reschedule date? And what is your plan for that lunch – to talk about the poor fellow’s kids and skiing and then (subtly) slip in something about getting his business, which is supposedly the point of it all?
Bottom line, you are thinking of what you want and not what your client wants.
- Making up a super-convincing PowerPoint to show people.
Unless it is really funny or funky or crazy or iconic or a dramatic visual presentation, it will just put people to sleep. They will do anything to get out of watching it or if you force them to watch it they will not pay attention, or even if they do politely force themselves to pay attention, they simply will not remember it.
Do you really think your analysis of your market share versus that of your competition is going to “make the sale”? I ask you, when was the last time someone sold something to you, and why did you buy it?
By the way, here is a super-sales story, and it happened only a few weeks ago. The doorbell rang and a traveling saleswoman showed up. Can you imagine how she made the sale to me, and I had no chance against her tactics?
Well, she was about seven years old, cute as a button, and was with her Mom. They lived down the street and she was selling Girl Scout cookies. She just said “….do you want to buy some girl scout cookies?” I hate most Girl Scout cookies, and the rest make me fat, so I bought only ten boxes.
Boy was this a devastating sales technique. I wonder what would have happened if she had brought a PowerPoint…
- Misusing the internet and the social networks.
Some people seem to think if they press the right button on the internet or on social media, the business will just roll in. This is not going to be the case if the use of these tools is in place of personal interactions.
At least I certainly haven’t found a way to do this in a professional service business, nor have I seen anyone else do this successfully. The internet can be used for generating leads and letting people know your brand. However, sitting in your office and playing on social networks just won’t get the job done.
By the way, a caution here about what I mean is in order. I don’t mean you can’t email people and build pre-existing relationships by putting forth positive statements about yourself and your Power Niche on the internet. Of course you can and should. What I mean is that you shouldn’t be using the internet instead of personal contact. There is nothing more powerful than meeting someone in person, shaking hands, and sharing a cup of coffee or a meal. That is a predicate to a “relationship.” A supposed relationship built over the internet is not much different from an email relationship with that fake Nigerian Prince.
- A party where you invite all your clients/customers so they can network, etc.
This can feed your ego, if the party has “all the cool people there,” but doesn’t get the job done nearly as well as sitting down with people and talking about “their” business and how you can help build it. It is also a lot of time and money that could be spent better elsewhere.
- Networking without a plan or a message.
Networking without a plan is a lot better than doing nothing, as I will point out in later columns, but not that much better. It is a variant of working “hard” but not working “smart.” If you couple the hard work you are willing to put into your networking with the smart ideas you will learn from my column, then you will convert this to a winning strategy.
- Conventional PR.
After flip-flopping on this a half-dozen times in the past ten years, I have concluded that, for most of us, and for most businesses, this is just about a complete waste of time. Typically PR sops up the personal time of the most senior, and most valuable, persons in your company, as that is who the media wants a quote from.
You might spend hours to get yourself quoted somewhere? So what? Are you really going to get hired as a lawyer because you got quoted in the newspaper? Hardly.
Sorry, but all of this is almost always a complete waste of time, not to mention a waste of the money you spend on a PR Firm.
You are better off taking the time and the money that you would have devoted to PR and using it on the other techniques I outline for you.
Having said this, PR can be good for a global law firm to maintain its global branded position as one of the top players in the legal world. But down in the trenches, for most of us with smaller-sized law firms, it isn’t likely to help your business succeed or help you become a great rainmaker.
. . . .
If you have been doing any or all of the foregoing things, don’t bum out too much. I think I did every one of them, other than the social media stuff. The past is irrelevant – all that matters is what will happen going forward.
By the way, if you have done some of the foregoing and it has actually worked for you, consider why that is the case. Is it pure luck, in which event it is great that you were lucky but you still shouldn’t waste more time on it? Or, do you maybe have a special angle on the foregoing that I personally haven’t seen but is nonetheless successful that could be exploited? I don’t like to admit it – but I don’t (yet) know everything…