“I hate networking.” I can almost hear the collective moan from agency owners when the subject of networking comes up. Most of us think it’s either a waste of time or it makes us feel uncomfortable, like used car salesman uncomfortable.
But in today’s world, networking is a necessity. And not just any networking, it’s a new landscape of the hyper-connected selling where social media networking and old school sales and communication skills are the keys to building personal influence and creating human connections.
My podcast guest is David JP Fisher or D-Fish to those who know and love him. He is a coach, speaker, author, and president of Rock Star Consulting where they love networking and all of the power, benefits and new business it can bring your way. His two most recent books, Networking in the 21st Century: Why Your Network Sucks and What to Do About It and Hyper Connected Selling: Winning More Business Through Personal Influence and Human Connection, are all about the power of networking.
Join D-Fish and I as we ramp up your new business, one personal interaction at a time with:
- Why you can’t rely on referrals for new business
- Networking: why it’s relational — not transactional
- How to build your network so it’s stronger and serves your business better
- Why size matters in your network — and why not every connection has to be a strong one
- Leveraging the social capital you create and making the ask at a time where you don’t come off as desperate
- How to build and nurture relationships
- Why young professionals really need to work on building their network
- The power of the one-on-one and taking the opportunity to build deep relationships with people
- Making sure social media is actually in service of your network building
- Why the way we sell has to change in response to the change in the way people buy
- How to sell by being the expert and guiding people through the information they already have
- Using thought leadership to position yourself to be the one people turn to for help
- Why you should aim to be a micro-influencer for a specific niche instead of trying to influence a broad topic (like marketing, PR, digital, etc.)
David J.P. Fisher (D. Fish) is a speaker, coach, and best-selling author of 7 books including the best-selling “Hyper-Connected Selling: Winning More Business by Leveraging Digital Influence and Creating Human Connection” and “Networking in the 21st Century: Why Your Network Sucks and What to Do About It.” Building on 20 years of experience as an entrepreneur and sales professional, he combines nuanced strategy and real-world tactics to help professionals become more effective, efficient, and happy. He helps them understand the new landscape of Hyper-Connected Selling, where social media, networking, and old-school sales and communication skills are the key to providing value and staying relevant. He lives in Evanston, IL – next to a huge cemetery which helps him appreciate the value of every day.
To listen – you can visit the Build A Better Agency site (https://agencymanagementinstitute.com/david-fisher/) and grab either the iTunes or Stitcher files or just listen to it from the web.
If you’d rather just read the conversation, the transcript is below:
Table of Contents (Jump Straight to It!)
- Why Many Agency Owners Hate Selling & What to Do About It
- Networking & the Premise of David’s Book
- How to Properly Build Your Network
- How to Present Your Agency as an Authentic One
- How to Build and Nurture Professional Relationships
- Why You Should Be Networking Outside of the Office
- How Selling Has Changed for Service-Oriented Businesses
- Why You Need to Focus on Intent When Creating Content
- The Biggest Takeaway from David’s Book
If you’re going to take the risk of running an agency, shouldn’t you get the benefits too? Welcome to Agency Management Institute’s Build a Better Agency Podcast presented by HubSpot. We’ll show you how to build an agency that can scale and grow with better clients, invested employees and best of all, more money to the bottom line. Bring his 25 plus years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant to you, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.
Drew McLellan: Welcome to another episode of Build a Better Agency. This is Drew McLellan your host. And I am excited to chat with our guest today. He is an expert on a topic that, I promise you, you think about every single day. And so we’re gonna really dig into that. So let me tell you a little bit about him and what we’re gonna talk about today. So David JP Fisher, or D-Fish, as he is known to everyone except for his mother, has a passion for growth and development that has allowed him to influence thousands of others during his professional career. Today he serves as a coach, speaker, author, and president of Rock Star Consulting. And there he continues to create a powerful impact on individual’s organizations as he works to help them become Rock Stars.
So he wrote a great book called Networking in the 21st Century: Why Your Network Sucks and What to Do About It. We’re gonna really dig deep into that. In writing that book, he built on 20 years of experience as an entrepreneur and a sales professional and he’s combined some nuanced strategies and real world tactics to help professionals become more effective, efficient and happy in creating networks and selling and just creating a circle around them.
He helps them understand the new landscape of the hyper connected selling. So we’re gonna talk about that, obviously. Where social media networking and old school sales and communication skills are the keys to building personal influence and creating human connections.
He’s got a brand new book out called Hyper-Connected Selling: Winning More Business Through Personal Influence and Human Connection, so we will chat about that as well. D-Fish, welcome to the show.
David Fisher: Thanks for having me, Drew.
Why Many Agency Owners Hate Selling & What to Do About It
Drew McLellan: Happy to have you. This is a topic, as you can imagine, that agency owners are both very interested in and a little afraid of. So most agency owners that I know don’t really love the selling. They typically grew up in the agency business so they’re really good at some aspect of agency life. And then, voila, they own an agency and now all of a sudden they have mouths to feed and so they have to go out and sell. So they struggle with it a little bit. Is that common when you come across folks that you’re working with?
David Fisher: Absolutely. It’s the field of dreams syndrome. Everybody thinks that they can just build it and people will come, right? But that’s not how it works at all. And unfortunately, there’s just so many amazingly skilled, amazingly experienced masters at their crafts who are not finding success in business because they’re just sitting there waiting for somebody to come and buy from them versus feeling comfortable going out and getting people and making that sale. So that is a very normal experience.
Drew McLellan: When I meet an agency owner, often what they will tell me is when I say, “Well, tell me about your business development,” they’ll say, “Oh you know, we are completely based on referrals.” And what I remind them is while referrals are awesome and they are a commentary on the work you do, it forces you to work with the people that walk in the door who may or may not be the right fit for your business.
David Fisher: Exactly. And just because you work by referrals, my next question is always so what is your referral process? What is your program to actually cultivate the referrals from the best customers, the ones that you want more of like them? And as you said, not, maybe, the referrals that you don’t want so much. Hope is not a business development strategy, right?
Networking & the Premise of David’s Book
Drew McLellan: Right. Absolutely. But I think a lot of agency owners struggle with they know they need to do it, but either their introverted or they’re too busy working in the business, or whatever it is. But they don’t really know how to leverage a network and how to create connections that are planting seeds that may tee up sales later on. So let’s talk a little bit about the networking side. I definitely want to dig into the selling side too, obviously, and they’re often interwoven. But let’s talk a little bit about the premise of the book, which is why your network sucks and what to do about it. So give us a little bit of foundation around that idea.
David Fisher: Absolutely. And you actually touched on, I think, one of the main challenges that we have with networking when you were talking about this idea of planting seeds. The biggest challenge, I think that we have with networking is that networking is not a linear process. Meaning, you don’t do X and get Y back automatically. And human beings really like that linear idea in our lives. We like the fact that if we throw a ball so hard, it’ll go so far but if we throw it twice as hard it’ll go twice as far. And networking and building that web of relationships around you, it just doesn’t work like that. In fact, I think that’s not really our fault. Our brains are not really wired for networking. One thing I always talk about is a number called Dunbar’s number. It’s a little bit of science. It makes me sound like I know what I’m talking about when I drop some names.
Drew McLellan: I like it.
David Fisher: But Robert Dunbar was an anthropologist who studied human relationships and he found that the average number of people that we can maintain relationships with is 148. So about 150 people. It’s really not that many if you think about how many people you have on your LinkedIn list or your Facebook list.
Drew McLellan: Right.
David Fisher: But the problem is there was another guy who, his name was Mark Granovetter, who did a study, very seminal study, that was called the Strength of Weak Ties. And he found that most networking advantages, most opportunities, come through people that we don’t know well, what he called a weak connection. Somebody you see between once a week and once a year.
Because what happens is it’s not that we get networking opportunity from the people that really like us, it’s from the people that have the opportunity. And the way they have that opportunity is they’re in different spheres of knowledge and influence. It’s that person that you run into at a conference once a year or the Chamber of Commerce event in your area every couple months, who lives in a very different world than you do and then goes, “Oh, hey, you know what? I have a friend I was talking to, I think they were trying to do some PR work. You guys should talk.”
And because of that conflict, we can only maintain so many relationships. But the more we have, the more effective we’re gonna be, there’s that conflict. And I think that’s why most of us really struggled, historically, with networking. And that’s why I think a lot of the “networking masters” were the people who were really out there hustling, were making all the phone calls and going to all the events and just having all these points of contact and it was just exhausting. And so, I think a lot of us just gave up. We’re like, well, it doesn’t even work anyways because I don’t see these linear benefits and I don’t even know how to structure this. And everybody tells me to network. I mean, what I love is everybody goes you should network. And nobody defines it. Nobody knows exactly what it is.
Drew McLellan: I think most people translate that to exactly what you’re talking about which is go to every chat, chat love your hat event. Whether it’s a Chamber event or whatever in your community, right?
David Fisher: Yep. Exactly. And to your point too, what if our personality isn’t really conducive to going out to those events? Some of us love them, some of us don’t like them. I think what really happened is that we’ve got this very ossified idea of what networking is. It’s this Chamber of Commerce, back of a restaurant, bad appetizers, getting a business card flung in our face, and that’s what networking is. And most of us don’t like that. We don’t want to be that person either throwing a business card in somebody’s face.
Drew McLellan: Right.
David Fisher: I think one of the mistakes we often make is that we view networking as transactional. And one of the points that I make is that networking is relational. Networking happens over time. Networking happens with more than one contact. It doesn’t mean you’re going to become BFF’s with everybody. But it does mean that it’s more than just, again, that business card exchange, that very superficial kind of smarmy feeling exchange for most of us.
Drew McLellan: Well, in fact, it’s what most people complain about at networking events. That they go and rather than decision makers being there, it’s basically all sales people and they don’t … A, it’s not their target, but B, that’s not who they want to be seen as.
David Fisher: Exactly. What I would almost suggest, though, is that one, it’s okay to be a salesperson. I’ve been in sales for my entire career and I know some people think sales is a four letter word. But many of us are good people. It’s okay. But the other thing is, if you walk into a room full of salespeople, great, that means that they work for an organization that is big enough that they have a sales team. So the way I look at this-
Drew McLellan: They could be your conduit in.
David Fisher: Yeah, exactly. And again, that’s this idea of not looking at it simply as a linear process. I have to run into that ideal prospect, that decision maker immediately. It’s okay, this is the person I met, they’re a sales person. Let me get to know them, let me find out some information about their company. Oh, hey do you know the marketing director at your organization? Could you introduce me? Something like that.
How to Properly Build Your Network
Drew McLellan: So, if what we’ve just talked about is the wrong way to build a network and it’s why our networks are not as strong or as effective, what should people do about it to build it properly so that it serves them and their business better?
David Fisher: Well, do we have a couple days to dive into this?
Drew McLellan: We do, yep. You and I will take bio breaks and we will just keep talking.
David Fisher: I love it.
Drew McLellan: Okay.
David Fisher: You know, the first thing that I think people really need to do is what we were just addressing which is just reconfigure how we approach it, right? I mean, this is such a … It’s so important to have the right mental framework to what we’re doing. To approach your network and your networking activities long term. To go, hey, my job today and tomorrow and the next day are to plant seeds, to cultivate relationships. To really, not necessarily get something for right now, although that would be great. But to make sure that I’m really, again, planting seeds that I can harvest down the line.
I really think that a good network requires a couple things. It does require a web of connections, right? It’s not just one or two people. Size can be very helpful here. And so one of the things that I think is important is that we do look to expand our network into those weak connections I was talking about earlier. You don’t have to become best friends with everybody, but again you do have to have a broad reach. The broader your reach, the more opportunities that are gonna come your way.
And the next thing that I would suggest is to look for ways to actually help your network before you’re looking for them to help you. One of the biggest mistakes I think people make is that they wait to build a network until they need something. They go, “Holy cow, we just looked at our numbers for last quarter and man they’re low.”
Drew McLellan: Exactly. Right. Then it’s panic networking.
David Fisher: Yeah. And I say this all the time, but it’s true. We can smell desperation a mile away.
Drew McLellan: Oh gosh yeah. Yep.
David Fisher: And it’s not sexy.
Drew McLellan: No.
David Fisher: It’s not good.
Drew McLellan: It’s really like the Axe, I think, of smells, don’t you think? It’s like that spray that 14-year-old boys wear.
David Fisher: Pretty much. And it has pretty much the same effect.
So I think that if you can make the leap and go I am going to invest in my network before I need something … There’s a great old Irish saying, you should always dig the well before you get thirsty. Or the other version, the best time to fix the roof is when the sun is shining. It’s the same thing. So you might be sitting there going, “Well gosh, things aren’t … I’m not in panic mode right now, business is good, things are going okay, I don’t have to work on networking now.” I would be like, that’s exactly when you should be diving into it.
And I think the place to start is to go, I am going to start building relationships. We can talk about some specific ways to do that in a moment. But I’m going to build these relationships and instead of going, how can I get something from them, I’m gonna start putting some positive chi into this process. I call it networking karma.
So if I’m going to walk into a room full of those salespeople, hey you know what? How can I help them? Are there people that I know that I can introduce them to that are prospects for them? Can I find ways to make connections? Because then, when I do need something, and we’re all gonna need something at some point, that’s fine, it’s not gonna be tough to ask. Right?
And I think that’s the other thing that most people don’t do is they actually don’t ask for help in a meaningful way. They just think that they can sit there and their network will give them a call and say, “Hey are you looking for more business?” And in fact, I mean, I do come from the sales world and one of the best things I learned as a very young sales person was, it never hurts to ask, right?
Drew McLellan: Right.
David Fisher: If you ask with a smile, you ask with … There’s a right way of doing it, giving people an out. But there’s nothing wrong with saying, hey I know you work over at company XYZ, I’d love to see if there’s some way for me to be of service to them. I love the work they do, could you introduce me to this decision maker? Or do you know anybody who’s in their marketing department or in their PR department or working with digital communication over there? I’d love an introduction. You know, that ask is so huge.
How to Present Your Agency as an Authentic One
Drew McLellan: I was just thinking about the whole concept of A, don’t start when you’re desperate; B, go in with a giving heart, if you will. And I think people, just like they can smell the Axe version of desperation, I think when you walk in with a sense of abundance and a sense of being helpful, I think they also smell that. And that’s the attitude most agencies want to give off to their prospects and clients is that we’re here to serve and we’re here to help.
So if you show up that way from the very beginning, then it becomes very authentic and real as to that’s who you are. And when I think across the landscape of agency owners I know, it’s kind of how they’re wired. It’s how they got into the business to begin with is because they want to help business people grow their business. And yes they want to be successful themselves, but they really do come from a very generous place. So that would probably make networking more comfortable, as well.
David Fisher: Right on. And that idea of authenticity, of alignment between what your company’s doing and who you are I think is so critical. One of the things I often point out to people is networking is something we do naturally. Every business relationship does start as a relationship, as a human relationship. And unless you live in a cave and are a hermit, you have these relationships already. The trick, I find, to making that leap, to being a great “networker” is simply to add some intention to it, to maybe be more intentional about, again, broadening your network. To be a little more intentional about helping people and finding ways of connecting them.
And then to be a little more intentional about asking for help. I think something you’ve probably found is that when you have people who are really comfortable with helping and are very service oriented, which is great, sometimes we feel a little uncomfortable making the ask, right? Making it about us for a little bit. But one of the things I always point out … I’ll ask a group of people if I’m speaking, for example, I’ll say, “Who in here likes to help people?” And everybody raises their hand. And I go, “Who likes it when somebody asks them for help?” And everybody raises their hand. I’m like, “Well, you have to give people that opportunity right?”
Drew McLellan: Absolutely, right.
David Fisher: I love helping people as much as I can, but I’m not psychic. I can’t be like, “Hey, you know what? I think that you are running an event for a great organization, you’d love to have a networking speaker, you don’t really have the budget for it, and I think you’d like me to discount my services so that I can come and really provide impact for your group.” Yeah, I don’t know that psychically. You have to call me and ask.
Drew McLellan: Right, absolutely.
David Fisher: And it’s the same thing if you’re running an agency and you love what you do, you love helping people, you know that you do great work, you know that there’s some opportunities for you to work with an organization, with a company. You’ve got a way in, that conduit. Until you leverage that conduit, you’re just stuck right back where you started. So I think that’s actually a big thing. It’s a little switch, but having that mentality of hey, it’s okay for me now to ask, to leverage this social capital that I’ve created, is so powerful.
Drew McLellan: Well, and again, when you are not in desperate need, the ask can come off more gently and it doesn’t sound like, “I’ve got to have business tomorrow or I’m going to shut my doors.” It is more off-hand, if you will, even though you’re intentional about it, and it feels different. And it’s easier to ask, I think because it’s just like a, “Hey, I’d love to meet him some time” as opposed to “Hey, do you think he has any room on his calendar tomorrow?”
David Fisher: Right.
Drew McLellan: Right?
David Fisher: And one thing that can be really challenging for people, and just call it as it is, if you’re really looking to make this transition to being successful at networking and business development, which, by the way, I think is going to be the way you’re going to have to be successful in the future. I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of other options available. But it can be really tough to make this transition because you might be listening going, “Yeah, but I do need that meeting tomorrow.” In some ways, it’s just a matter of going, “Okay, I’m going to have to put a little trust, a little faith in this. I’m going to have to take a long term view, still working hard.”
What I found is that the harder you work to build these relationships and to have that long term view, stuff does naturally come in earlier, right? You are going to have that person go, “Actually, you called at the right time. Let’s have a conversation.” But yeah, you’ve got to take away some of that desperation and fear because, ironically, it’s the best way of pushing someone away, right when you need it.
How to Build and Nurture Professional Relationships
Drew McLellan: So let’s talk a little bit about how do you build and nurture your relationship? What’s the best way to do that? Whether it’s 150 people or you’ve got a wider web of those weak connections that you were talking about, how in the world, as busy as everybody is, how do I actually, genuinely, nurture and grow those relationships?
David Fisher: Sure. I think that there’s a number of different approaches. And one of the things to keep in mind is that all of us are different, right? And I don’t think that there’s actually a cookie cutter this is how you do working.
Drew McLellan: Right, on Mondays do this, on Wednesdays do that.
David Fisher: Because we’re all different. I do think though that it’s about finding some activities that you feel comfortable with and performing those activities regularly, consistently and … There’s no magic to this. I often use the analogy of Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid. And the first Karate Kid, not the second one, that was atrocious. Pat Morita I’m talking about. But in teaching Daniel to do karate he was like, you know, paint the fence, wax the car, really simple, basic activities, but done over and over and repeated and done with, again, intention, they were very successful. So I do think that for the professionals looking to build their network and really starting to get some value benefit from it, and give some benefit from it, it’s about figuring out activities that you can fit in your schedule, that you do feel comfortable with, that do align with who you are, and doing them regularly.
So, to give you an example, if you’re kind of younger in your professional career, that might be age-wise or maybe you’re just kind of entering into a new industry, I think your time really needs to be spent building the web, right? Bringing more people into your sphere of influence. So in that case, it could be as simple as saying, “I’m going to go to a networking event once a month, every other week.” The kind of, what I call the singles bars of the networking world, which is those larger events. And no, you’re not going to find somebody and get married at that event, but you are going to make those first initial contacts, which can be very valuable.
Some people feel really comfortable online. This is where you could use a LinkedIn group, a Facebook group, using some sort of online community to make those first contacts. Then I think the next part is really taking the opportunity to build some deeper relationships with people. And again, deeper relationships does not mean I’m going to see this person every week or talk to them all the time. I am and always have been a huge fan of the one on one cup of coffee. There’s just so much that can be done in a 45 minute conversation.
And I do a lot of these are virtual cups of coffee, right? If I meet somebody who’s more nationally based. But I started my career, when I started my consulting firm, and I just went to a ton of networking events and everybody who I thought was a good prospect, I thought knew good prospects, or that I liked that I just kind of … I was talking to them like, “Wow, you’re a really sharp person. I might be able to get some knowledge from you.” I was young to the business world. I’d say, “Hey, can I buy you a cup of coffee?”
And in the beginning I was having maybe two cups of coffee a week with people, which I’m going to drink a cup of tea, anyways, why not have that conversation? But I look at these as first dates. And the difference between networking and dating of course is that you don’t have to keep dating just one person. But it’s really, I’m sitting at that table, and my job is to find out everything I can about that person; about what they’re working on, what they’re about, what they’re trying to accomplish in their business life, how I can help them be successful with that. As you said, it’s that giving heart. Like “Hey, I’m here to find out about you.” By the way, very naturally, human reciprocity means that they’re going to start asking about you.
Drew McLellan: Of course, yeah.
David Fisher: But that’s not where I’m staring. I’m starting with, “Tell me about you.” And even if … I was working with a client once, very successful, actually a lawyer, very successful lawyer, very accomplished, but very poor network. And the reason why is because she was very introverted. She was like the epitome of what somebody would be considered when they’re shy. And I was like, “Okay, let’s figure out what you’re comfortable with.” And she was comfortable having lunch with somebody, just with one person. She felt good in that environment. So that’s all she started doing was like I’m going to have lunch once a week with somebody, right? And she started with people that she really knew well and kind of then started to broaden out to people she wasn’t as comfortable with. But she got a ton of benefit from that, because in that conversation, great things came up, opportunities, what she was working on, what they were working on. They could make some connections. So that can be a great inroad.
And again, it’s people always telling me, “Well I’m so busy.” You’ve got to eat, right? One of the first books I ever read on this way, way back was Keith Rossi’s Never Eat Alone.
Drew McLellan: Yup, exactly.
David Fisher: And it’s a great book. But it was such an interesting concept. He’s like, you have to eat. So what happens when you invite somebody into that time that you’re going to, you need to spend, feeding yourself? So just bring a person there. It’s huge.
Drew McLellan: But that doesn’t happen by accident, right, you have to plan it.
David Fisher: Exactly.
Why You Should Be Networking Outside of the Office
Drew McLellan: You do have to block the time off for it. And what I find is, when I have coffee or drinks or lunch or dinner or whatever with somebody, it’s pretty rare that in the course of the conversation, I am not able to say, “Hey do you know so and so?” And when they say no, I say, “Oh, I’ve got to introduce you to that person.” That may be the only thing I do for them during that lunch or that gathering. But almost always, I know someone that could be helpful to them in some aspect of whatever they’re trying to get done. And it just takes a simple introduction. It’s not taxing on me.
But those meetings only happen, and those opportunities to help only happen if your calendar is created with those windows of opportunity in mind. I think that’s where alot agency owners get themselves into a bind is that they look at their calendar and there’s no room for the day. One of the things that I talk to a lot of agency owners about is at least a couple times a week, you should start your day by not going into the office but by start your day by having a breakfast, a coffee, a fill in the blank. Because once you get into the office, your day is shot, right?
David Fisher: Right. You said it right on. I was going to come up with something pithy to say there, but let me just say this; you’re right on. Why not just … You’re going to have breakfast, you do it early. I know many, many successful professionals; they’re all morning people. Not all of them. I should say, there’s a couple night owls in there. But hey, if you call me and you say, “I’d really like to have breakfast with you at 7:30” or “Let’s go have a protein shake at eight o’clock or a smoothie.” They’re not doing anything.
Drew McLellan: Right.
David Fisher: And what a great way of starting the day. To your point as well, that offer of an introduction … It might not take a lot for you to do that. I think one of the things we’re also afraid of is that we are going to have to really put a lot of effort into helping other people. Just the idea of going, “Oh, you should talk to so and so. I’ve got his cell number, let me just text him right now. Hey you really need to meet Sue, she’s awesome, here’s her number. Cool.” And then you move on.
Or even just the fact that you’re … And this sounds a little hippie dippie, but just the fact that you’re sharing time with another human being, especially in an environment and a context right now where it’s just so, there’s so much noise, and it’s so busy, just the fact that you’re like, “Hey, let’s have a conversation for 40 minutes that’s just me and you.” And sometimes, you never know if hey, that person just needed somebody to talk to. You don’t know what kind of day that person’s having, what kind of quarter they’re having, the stress they’re under, whatever. Sometimes just being able to talk to somebody else can be so valuable. And that’s a huge gift you can give to somebody.
I’ve actually had that experience on both ends. I know there’s people who have talked to me during times, they didn’t even know it, but the fact that they kind of had that understanding ear and I was able to talk to them and connect with them as a person at a time when maybe life was a little stressful for me. I mean, I’m forever grateful for that.
Drew McLellan: Yeah, the humanity of it should not be forgotten.
David Fisher: Yeah, weird, right?
Drew McLellan: Yeah, right.
David Fisher: That’s the one thing computers can’t do.
Drew McLellan: And you know a lot of times, or most of us, we exist in this sort of group mentality, whether it’s on Facebook or group emails or at the office or whatever, and so a lot of times we don’t have a lot of one on one time with very many people in our life. So it also is … There’s an intimacy to the connection that is very different.
David Fisher: Very different. Very powerful. As I said, I’m a huge fan of that one on one, having a cup of coffee. I actually do enjoy craft beer, so there’s a lot of my friends here in the Chicago area where just every couple of months I’ll say, “Hey, let’s go grab a beer at this brewery, check it out, and we’ll have an hour, have a beer or two, catch up with each other.”
And this is great for new connections, but I also would really encourage people to go, “Hey, is there somebody that I should talk to once a quarter? Once every six months?” Because even if you talk to somebody twice year face to face, again, two hours of your life, and you could get so much in return. And you never know when. It might be a year and a half down the line when they’re like, “Hey, there’s something coming up in my company, let me get you involved with that.” You never know.
Drew McLellan: Right, absolutely.
David Fisher: And the other thing I should point out too is, you mentioned social media, and I do think social media and digital communication has a very important place to play in networking. But one thing I would suggest is that we want to make sure it’s in service to your relationships and not just activity for online activity’s sake, which is what I think a lot of people do. I, for example, really enjoy using LinkedIn. And I know it’s pretty rare to hear people say that. But for me it’s a very purposeful tool that I’ll use to connect with my existing network. And I actually just spend five or ten minutes a day and I go through my newsfeed and I’ll share, for example, one of my little activities I have to do every day is I have to comment on three people’s activities, right? On a post they’ve put up, on an article they shared, whatever it might be. And that’s it. It takes me five minutes.
It’s got to be more than just a like, but it’s got to be, “Hey, that’s a really interesting article” or “That reminds me of this” or “Great job on that.” And that means that I’m putting myself in front of my weak connections through social media 15 times a week. And by extension, all the other people that are going to see that post. And that can be a way to use technology to scale our ability to interact and engage with these weak connections that we didn’t have before. So, again, super powerful, but don’t replace the human with a tweet.
Drew McLellan: And do you do most of the social connections, the commentary kind of thing, do you do most of that on LinkedIn or do you think it’s as effective anywhere on any of the channels?
David Fisher: It can be effective anywhere. I really think that most of us, and we’re all still trying to figure out how social media fits into the world. We sometimes forget that this is only, this is less than 20 years old.
Drew McLellan: Oh my gosh, yeah.
David Fisher: We’re really, I think, still wrestling with a lot of this. What I tell people is pick your platform and really go deep into those platforms.
Drew McLellan: And you don’t have to be everywhere.
David Fisher: No. And I tell people this, I’m on LinkedIn, I’m on Twitter, and really very, very lightly on Facebook. It’s actually not my preferred place to be, but I know some people like consuming content, so I do put some stuff there. And then I write my own blog. But that’s it. Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, they’re all very popular with tons of people, but first of all, it’s not as professional as LinkedIn is, not where they really focus the time. And I just don’t have that much time. That’s it. So the people who are like, “Here’s where I’m at, these nine different platforms.” You’re either not spending time on those nine platforms or you are and that’s actually causing everything else to suffer, right?
Drew McLellan: Or you’re publishing the exact same thing across all of the channels and if I follow you on three of them, by the third time I’ve seen the same thing, I’m annoyed.
David Fisher: Right, exactly. And then you’re not engaging with people on that platform. In the end, I really think that most of these platforms should be about how do I have better offline engagements with people by using these online tools? Right? And LinkedIn’s a great example. I don’t really have a ton of “engagement” with people. We’re not having conversations on LinkedIn in the comment section or whatever, but the number of people who I either call or who call me … And I had somebody call me the other day who was like, I worked for her speaking for her group ten years ago and she just called me again. She’s like, “Hey, my new organization needs this kind of work, can we talk?” The reason why is because she sees me on LinkedIn all the time speaking here and talking about sales and posting content, all this other kind of good stuff. So that’s where it’s powerful; to make sure our offline conversations continue to be really, really good.
How Selling Has Changed for Service-Oriented Businesses
Drew McLellan: So I want to dig into the selling side of this, but let’s take a quick break and then we’ll come back and do that.
All right, welcome back everybody. I am here with my guest D-Fish from Rockstar Consulting and we spent the early part of the podcast talking about networking and what that looks like and how to do that better and sort of the number of people that we can really be connected with. Now I want to shift. So you’ve got a brand new book out called Hyper Connected Selling: Winning More Business Through Personal Influence and Human Connection. So let’s shift our conversation to the selling side of the equation. How has selling changed for the audience that we’re talking to? So for people who sell services, how has selling changed and what do they need to be aware of and thinking about as they go out to sell and to earn the business of new clients?
David Fisher: Well, it’s changed massively. One of my biggest contentions in the book is that because the way people buy has changed, the way we sell has to change as well. And one of the biggest things that has driven this is the internet, right? Is the availability of just massive amounts of information.
Drew McLellan: And the removal of geography as a boundary for a lot of people. Now all of a sudden, do I care if my agency’s in Pittsburgh or in Sacramento, California? Not really, right? Some people do want somebody local, but in a lot of cases, they’re looking for somebody with a specific expertise and the fear of working with somebody from long distance doesn’t seem that daunting anymore.
David Fisher: Exactly. I have a friend who runs a marketing agency who just moved from Chicago to Madison, Wisconsin and I asked him, I was like, “Is that going to affect your business at all?” He goes, “No. All of my clients are national anyways. They don’t even know where that email goes to.” What I think has happened is that, let’s go back 20 years even. 20 years ago, if you were in “sales” or you were selling, what you were really trying to do was give information to a prospect that would lead them to understand what you’re offering was better. So information was valuable. If you were a sales person, you were an expert, you were, kind of like we look at doctors. If they put a white coat on, we’re like, “Wow, you’re the authority, I should listen to you.”
Drew McLellan: Right.
David Fisher: Back then it was like, “You’re the salesperson, you’re coming with the glossy brochures and you know all the jargon, I should listen to you.” What all the research is showing now is that the way that buyers buy, it’s kind of inverted in that so much of the buying process is starting before there’s actually a salesperson involved. You know, there’s a lot of research that’s coming out of the B2B world about this. There’s number like 57% or 65% or 70% of the buying process happens before a salesperson has ever contacted. But we don’t even have to go into that world. We can just think of our own lives.
I always tell people, “If you are going to buy a television today, how would you buy it? Would you walk into Best Buy, tell the salesperson, “I’m going to buy a TV, what should I get?” No, you sit on Amazon, right?” You go online, you do your research, and you narrow it down to maybe two or three different options. Then you go in to the Best Buy and go, “I want to see what these are going to look like on my wall.” That’s how people are buying now, as well, in the services world. And so what that means is that if we’re going to rely on “information” to be our entrée, to be the way that we get in and the way we provide value for people, it’s not going to work. They have more than enough information.
Drew McLellan: Yeah, if anything, they’re overloaded.
David Fisher: And that’s exactly it. One of the things I talk about in the book is that what we need to do is realize that we’re working with an audience that has limited attention and limited bandwidth. And so the phrase I use is that we have to learn to become sales Sherpas. And instead of giving them information, helping guide them through the information they have to make the best decision for themselves.
And the way that this all ties in and the way that I really think this happens is actually through building relationships; through networking; through positioning yourself in the minds of people as the expert. And not necessarily as the expert meaning I’ve got the information, but the expert meaning I know how to help you parse through all of the information that you have. I’m going to assume that my prospect has done all of their research and they’ve done a bunch of comparisons and they’ve got this stack of data and they’ve got all these websites and these white papers and these reports that they’ve downloaded from everybody, and they’re going, “Okay, now what do I do with this?”
Our goal is to become the person that they call, and that they go, “Hey, you know what Drew, help me through this. Help me figure out what’s the right decision.” Hopefully then it will be with us, but I think what we’re seeing is really the successful people in sales … And again, this is somebody running an agency comes in and goes, “Hey, I can help you do that. Or, you know what, I would love to help you, but this isn’t really what we do, but let me connect you with somebody who can.” Let me always be service minded, because I know it’ll come back to me in the future. And so I think that’s the biggest shift.
Being successful at sales and, by the way, how awesome is this for all the people who don’t really see themselves as that hardcore salesperson just pounding the phone or knocking on doors. It’s really not that anymore. It’s not about interrupting somebody going, “Hey, you probably weren’t thinking about hiring a PR agency when you woke up this morning, but here we are. Ta-da.” And instead going, “How do I plant seeds? How do I reach out to my network? How do I let them know that I am the expert when they need my help, I’m available?” Or “How do I make sure that I see somebody who we can help that I’ve planted those seeds, that I’ve built that credibility in their mind where I can give them a call and say, “Hey, I heard you’re working on project XYZ, we might be able to help you with that, can we talk?”
Why You Need to Focus on Intent When Creating Content
Drew McLellan: So now there’s a lot of talk today around thought leadership and creating content and all of that. So are you saying that that’s not … So putting out more information, in essence, right? So is that not what you would advocate for or is there a way to do that that is more of the Sherpa model that allows people to be guided further along the buying cycle?
David Fisher: Awesome question, because that’s the conflict, right?
Drew McLellan: Right.
David Fisher: If people have too much information, how does writing another article help? I think what we have to do look at is the intention behind creating that content. And what I mean by that is, does creating content, does becoming a “thought leader”, does that still help? Yes, because it’s about position. It’s not so much about saying, “Hey, I’m going to give you this information because you don’t have it, it’s because hey, I want you to see me in a certain way.
For example, I actually don’t think you have to create good content to become somebody … I think there’s actually very few thought leaders in the word. That’s one of those terms. Everybody’s like “I’m a thought leader” and you’re like, “You haven’t had an original thought in years, so I don’t think so.” I do like this term ‘influencer’ and really even, I would go into this idea of becoming a micro influencer. So if you’re running an agency and you’re in a specific market or you do a specific kind of work, you do it very well, you actually don’t need everybody to know about you. You need a very specific community about you. And so the way that you could have them know about you and have them find about you is by creating content, creating good content and sharing it.
It could be through curation. There’s a lot of successful influencers that don’t do any content creation.
Drew McLellan: They just share what they know or what they’re reading or found, yup.
David Fisher: Yeah. And they’re masters at translating two. They’re masters at going, ‘hey, I read this article from this place and this article from this place and this article from this place. I’m going to share all of these and then I’m going to tell you why these three things are actually connected, right? And again, it’s a positioning play versus an authority play I guess I would say. You’re not trying to say, “Hey, you know, I’m the expert in this area.” You’re saying, “I am an expert in this area, but more importantly, I’m an expert that can help you, so let’s talk.
Drew McLellan: I love the idea of sort of the micro influencer. And this ties, the listeners will be like, “Ugh I’ve heard him say this so many times,” but this ties back to one of the reasons why I’m big advocate of agencies having areas of focus. So whether it’s an industry or a specific audience or whatever it may be, you can’t help everybody and you can’t be and an expert in everything, but the minute that you carve out a space for yourself and say, “Well, you know what, we only serve law firms,” whatever. And now, all of a sudden, you can be a micro influencer in the law firm marketing arena and in the legal arena. That’s a much easier goal than I want to be recognized as an international marketing genius around all platforms and across all industries. It’s just impossible.
David Fisher: Absolutely. I tell that to people all the time.
Drew McLellan: And did you guys hear that? D-Fish said absolutely.
David Fisher: I actually tell people all the time, you’re got to plant a flag.
Drew McLellan: Yeah, I agree.
David Fisher: You’ve got to say, “This is what I’m about” I had a mentor tell me early on, “You try to be everything to everyone, you’re nothing to nobody.” And that’s exactly it. If you can maybe then grow from your niche to be the internationally recognized guru of PR or guru of marketing or guru of online/digital/whatever, fantastic. But yeah, figure out exactly what you’re about, who you can serve, and communicate with them. Because we are in such a busy, noisy world. I think too often we look at the, especially let’s talk about social media for example, the superstars, right? The people with 10 million or 20 million followers and this huge reach and we go, “Oh gosh, I can do that too. I can get there.” Probably not.
Drew McLellan: Right.
David Fisher: And that’d be a really hard journey to be on. But it’s much easier to say, “I’m going to be in this specific niche industry. There’s a thousand people who are decision makers here.” That’s still kind of a big number, but I could be like, “Wow, okay, you can get to those 1,000 people with a structured and focused plan. Much more doable and you’re going to find a lot more success.
The Biggest Takeaway from David’s Book
Drew McLellan: Yup, absolutely. When someone reads your book, what’s the one selling technique or suggestion that you make in the book that is going to surprise the readers the most?
David Fisher: What is the most surprising thing a reader would find. That’s a great question. I think the most surprising thing somebody would find is that there is actually not any clever sales tools or techniques in the book. I think, especially for people who are not coming at this from the sales world, I think there’s this conception that to be a salesperson, you just need to know that secret way to close or that one clever thing to say that makes everybody buy. I just don’t think that’s what good sales is, especially not sales in the modern world, which is very relational. You can’t just get somebody. You can’t convince somebody to do something that they don’t like that they don’t want to do because what happens these days is your reputation follows you everywhere. The way you treat somebody now, it’s going to resonate through social media, through online communication forever.
So I think that would actually surprise people. I really don’t think the way to success and sales today, or really I think has ever been through trying to be clever. It’s really been about finding ways to provide value, to provide knowledge, information, to help people make better decisions. And really, it’s kind of an overused statement, but really being more solution oriented. My goal in selling anything, ideally, is to help somebody with a problem they have. And I think that the people that take that approach … If you look at your agency and you look at what you’re doing as I am here to make people’s lives better in some way, shape, or form; I’m here to solve a problem that they have, you don’t have to worry about being clever. You just have to genuine, authentic, you have to ask a lot of questions. And then, when the time is right, my favorite closing question as a salesperson has always been; “Based on what we’re talking about, it looks like I can help you with this challenge. Would you like to work together?” And that’s it.
Drew McLellan: Yeah, it’s fascinating as I’ve been listening to you, the big takeaway for me is in this modern day, hyper-technology, artificial intelligence world, what all of this technology and connectivity has brought us to is it’s sort of removed the impersonal part of selling, which is the slick brochure with the bullet points, and it’s really forcing us to sell very relationally, which is sort of old fashioned.
David Fisher: Right on. I think that technology is fantastic. I think there’s amazing things that are being done with AI and marketing automation. The tools that a salesperson has to communicate right now, or just to do any business development. I mean our communication tools are amazing, even compared to 20 years ago. But, if there’s one thing that computers can’t do and are not going to be able to do any time in the near future, is have a human conversation. I mean, the most powerful computer we’ve ever come across is still the human brain and we’ve evolved over a long, long time to have these conversations, to build trust, to build credibility, all these different social needs that we have. I think that success is really going to be in the hands of people who develop these “soft skills” to the highest level. But what’s great is that’s available to all of us, right?
Drew McLellan: Right. And it’s how we’re wired, really. This has been awesome. I know we talked about taking a bio break, but actually I’m going to let you off the hook and wrap things up, but thank you so much for sharing your expertise. If folks want to learn more about you, want to follow you on social or your blog, tell us a little bit about how they can access you, where they can get your books, all of that information.
David Fisher: Sure. The easiest place is my home base on line which is my website and that’s davidjpfisher.com. And there’s no C in that, so davidjpfisher.com. I am active on Twitter, so @dfishrockstar. And I mentioned LinkedIn a number of times, you can find me there. Just search davidjpfisher.com or put in LinkedIn.com/in/iamdfish, I-M-D-F-I-S-H. And all my books are available on Amazon. It’s this little website, I think it’s got some legs.
Drew McLellan: It’s a cute little bookstore really, is what it is.
David Fisher: Yeah, they sell books and other things as well. But the easiest thing, just search networking in the 21st century and all the books will pop up. But those are the easiest ways to reach out and get in touch with me.
Drew McLellan: Awesome. Thank you so much for sharing your expertise and helping everybody get a little better at something that they are a little uncomfortable doing, but know they need to really get out there and do. So thank you very much.
David Fisher: Absolutely, had a great time.
Drew McLellan: You bet. That wraps up another episode of Build a Better Agency and hopefully you found it incredibly helpful and inspiring and that you are ready to go out and do some great things.
I also want to talk to you about another tool that we’ve built that I would love to offer you. So as you have probably heard me preach, I believe a lot of agencies chase after the wrong business prospects. And I think we do that because we have not taken the time to clearly define who our sweet spot clients should be. And the way you do that is by looking at your current clients and then developing out who your prospects should be based on your best, current clients.
So we’ve put together a sweet spot client filter, say that five times fast, that I would love for you to take advantage of and for you to use inside your shop to figure out exactly who you should be targeting for new business. To get access to that free tool, all you need to do is text AMI, or Agency Management Institute, as you might imagine. AMI, text that to 38470. Again, text AMI to 38470 and we will get the sweet spot client filter out to you right away.
Thanks again for listening. If I can be helpful, you can find me as always at [email protected]. Otherwise, I will touch base with you next week with another great episode. Talk to you soon.
That’s all for this episode of AMI’s Build a Better Agency, brought to you by HubSpot. Be sure to visit agencymanagementinstitute.com to learn more about our workshops, online courses, and other ways we serve small to mid-size agencies. Don’t miss an episode as we help you build the agency you’ve always dreamed of owning.