Building Business Development Without Trying

Building Business Development Without Trying

I told one of my friends that I was once again taking work, something that I haven’t done in awhile because I knew I couldn’t balance a new client with the demands of my child. But things changed and it was possible again. Her response was, “Well that should be easy. Business development is a piece of cake for you.”

This was shocking news to me. Business development was not a skill I’d list as number one on my list. It wouldn’t even make the top ten. But someone I have known for years was saying it was easy for me. As if.

I can’t completely deny that I am doing something that smells like business development every day. It’s just not intentional, and I don’t connect with people based on what kind of business they can give me. So this is more of something I just do. But I have figured out what it is that makes me more successful than most, and I’m more than happy to share that.

I follow people who are more skilled than I am

Above all else, I love to learn. So for years, I have been seeking out those who have a skill that I would like to be better at. I don’t think, “Hey if I connect with this person, I’ll get business,” and I don’t do this when I actually need anything. In fact, I may never ask anything of most of the people I follow beyond what they are actively sharing.

I think starting off with honest interest may still make people question whether your intentions are true, but having them actually be true will eventually get them to come around. Not everyone will be your friend though and it’s important to not be offended by that. So many people have had bad experiences on the internet or they just don’t want new friends. I accept I am not the right person for them at this time and move on.

I get to know people

To be honest, I don’t talk about business very often, especially with those who have given me the most business. Because I’m honestly interested in their real life.

I may be lucky, but I have found the some of the most talented people are also the nicest people. The more I get to know them on a personal level, the more I want to talk to them about anything but business. I think it’s only happened a few times where I have gotten to know someone who I thought was talented and realized they weren’t so great as a person. And upon further inspection, they weren’t so talented to begin with. Only a few times over the course of many years on social media. Not that bad.

That personal connection has brought me a lot of joy outside of business, and honestly, it has brought me quite a bit of business as well.

I help people

This may stem from insecurities born from childhood trauma, but still… my favorite thing in the world is being able to help people. So if there is a request out there and it’s within my means to do it, I’m doing it, even if it’s a bit awkward. I honestly can’t help myself. It’s a bit of a compulsion.

I also connect people who I think should know each other. Maybe they have complimentary projects or maybe they just really, really remind me of each other. But I love bringing people together who should know each other.

Basically, if I can make people’s lives easier and better in some way, I’m doing it. I’m not even thinking about the future business it could bring me. But I know this is the reason why people are happy to send business my way when they can.

I meet people in real life

Look, doing all of this online is great. You can have a very meaningful relationship with others who you have only met online. But there will always be something missing.

Nothing beats face-to-face in real life. Getting to know those little quirks of other people. Seeing emotion light up their face as they are babbling on about something that is super important to them. And then living a story you’ll tell others about for years to come. That’s when friendships are really cemented.

So if you are leaving these relationships to online-only, it’s not bad, but you are missing out. Figure out a way to meet those who are on their way to being more than just someone you talk occasionally to online.

And then I just ask for help with my business development

I have amassed a number of real friends over the years who started out as people who I wanted to learn from online. I’ve done so many favors over the years that I do actually have quite a bit that I could potentially collect on. But I hate doing that, so I don’t ask anything from anyone unless I really know this is the right fit. I’m definitely missing opportunities because of that.

Right now, I’m in the midst of doing some asks and I’m forcing myself to do one ask a day, because I know this is my least favorite part of business development. I go through my list of people who I have developed relationships with over the years, and I explain that I’m now taking referrals again while explaining what I do for work at this point. This is how I have gotten my best leads in the past and it looks like that is true right now as well. (Has anyone ever gotten great leads cold calling? I had one that turned into a lead but it looks like that person just vanished. Not such a great lead after all.)

Did I just write a whole blog post about how to make a friend online? Yes, I did. Is this honestly how I do business development? Yup. I am no good at doing it any other way.

In the end, business development is about the relationships you make. It takes a much longer time and it’s always better to do it when you don’t need it. But it’s a lot of fun when your whole goal is just to make friends with wildly interesting people who are really nice. When your goal is to get more money in? Yeah, not nearly as much fun, and I’m not sure I could ever do that. But more power to those who can.

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