The art of developing influential online relationships

Anyone who owns a cellphone, has an email account and is registered on a social media platform has received the “unsolicited” call. This may be received in many forms, for example, a phone call, email or a message on social media. In most cases, the person communicating with you does so in an opportunistic manner. The call or message focuses on their product or service and they are asking for a purchasing decision from you. This approach is invasive, annoying and unwanted. In nearly every case (unless the caller is a plumber and there is water gushing from a burst pipe in your kitchen) the recipient will either hang up (or ignore the email or social media message) or attempt to terminate the conversation as soon as possible.

The unwanted, unsolicited call, email or social media message is the worst possible way to initiate interaction with a prospective customer. It is not the favourable approach for a number of reasons:

1, You will be blocked

The irritated recipient will block your cell number, add your email address to their junk folder and block your social media account.

2. You have one chance

The unsolicited communication approach avails you of one chance to convert a prospective customer. Since you are leading with a product or service “pitch”, there is nothing you can add when attempting to contact the recipient again. If they are receptive and kind enough to talk to you, they will inform you that they know what you do and will contact you when they may need your services. This call very seldom occurs.

3. It is time-consuming

This approach has a very low conversion rate. In a study conducted by Christian Kreibich of Spamalytics, only 1 in 12,500,000 pharmacy spams lead to a purchase! Cold calling results in a 1 – 3% chance of getting an initial meeting. This means that you have to phone 100 people to get 1 – 3 meetings.

4. It is selfish

Calling a prospect and talking about your product, services and solutions conveys one message. You are only interested in yourself. You have not shown that you understand the prospective customer’s requirements or business challenges.

5. You will be prosecuted

Many countries are introducing legislation to protect consumers and their privacy. Unsolicited communication may result in fines in the millions and imprisonment for would be perpetrators who are reported and prosecuted.

6. It is a business transaction

This approach does not build relationships. All the caller wants is to make a quick sale and move onto the next customer. There is no attempt to build a long term, sustainable business relationship. Since it is only a business transaction, the purchaser will do their utmost to get the “best deal”.

So how SHOULD you build an influential online business relationship?

As mentioned in the introduction to the five step plan to developing influence and trust, you need to take every one of the above-mentioned points and turn them on their head. Do the total opposite of what an opportunistic, selfish cold-caller would do to get a quick deal.

Before you engage with your prospective customers, you should consider the following points:

  • Your prospective customers are only interested in their own problems and challenges.
  • People want to interact with potential suppliers or business partners at a time that suits them.
  • Consumers and decision makers at companies expect you to understand their personal challenges, and in the business world, their industry.
  • People do not want to be treated like a number. The more personal and relevant the communication, the more receptive they will be.
  • Everyone are buyers however they do not want to be sold to.
  • People love hearing or seeing their name. It is one of Dale Carnegie’s “How To Win Friends and Influence People” principles.
  • People react to empathy. If the caller shows that they genuinely understand the recipient’s challenges, the recipient will be more receptive.
  • Consumers or decision makers react very positively if you show a genuine interest in them or what they do. This is another Dale Carnegie principle.
  • Prospective customers will follow someone on social media or subscribe to email correspondence or a blog if they believe the content shared with them will “add value”
  • Your prospective customer will make a buying decision when it suits THEM, not when it suits YOU

Taking these points into consideration, you will build much better relationships with your prospective customers. Before initiating contact with your prospective customer, follow the approach described below:

Do your research first

Before you interact with your target market, whether it is consumers, decision makers in specific industries or particular management categories (e.g. chief financial officers, human resources directors, sales managers) at companies, make sure you have an intimate understanding of their industry, their company or their role within the organisation. You build credibility when you show insight into their industry, company or job role.

Be selective with whom you contact

Once you have a good understanding of who will benefit from your value proposition, prepare a list of the prospective customers with whom you would like to form a relationship. Whilst conducting this exercise, identify influencers and persons with the media who would be interested in connecting and interacting with you. Do not deviate and cast your net too wide. If you provide relevance, people will connect with you.

Provide a compelling reason to connect

There is a big difference between an unsolicited telephone call, email or message on social media, promoting your company, product and/or service as opposed to well-worded, personalised, relevant, targetted communication which offers a compelling reason for the person to connect with you. You may use this message in telephone correspondence, personal email communication and social media messages and/or your “call to action” on your website or blog to subscribe.

Understand your prospect’s challenges

Your prospective customers will be more than happy to connect and interact with you in you show a good understanding of their personal or business challenges. If you show a genuine understanding and empathy, they will be a lot more engaging.

Never talk about yourself

One of the golden rules is to never talk about your company, your products, your services and solutions with any outbound communication. Your prospects are not interested in this information. Keep words like “I”, “we” and “our” out of your communication and use words like “you” and “your” instead. People will look at your company and product information when the time is right.

Keep it personal

With all communication, keep your correspondence personal. If you are sending an SMS, email or message on social media, use the person’s first name. Make sure to start with a capital and follow with lower case (e.g. Andrew) and NEVER use get the spelling of their name wrong or have their name all in upper case at the beginning of a message.

Stick to the law

Ensure you comply with your local “protection of personal information” and “electronic communication” laws. If someone decides that they do not want to interact with you, make a point of honouring their decision, no matter what.

To summarise, your initial connection and ongoing correspondence will yield way better results if you show an understanding of your prospective customers personal and/or business challenges and industry, you provide a compelling reason to connect with you, you never talk about your company, products and services and you keep correspondence personalised, targetted and relevant. Ensure that you comply with local legislation at all times.

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