“Do you know any good IP lawyers?” I was asked this recently by a contact who knows that I work extensively with the legal profession and am connected to many lawyers.
An easy assumption would be that I’d have difficulty in singling out any one individual from all the IP specialists I have come across, as there would be little by way of differential when it came to technical ability. All are excellent. They wouldn’t be in the firms I work with if they were second rate.
But it was not the technical ability that made me instantly suggest one name – rather it was the relationship that had been established by an associate who has understood and cultivated their network extremely effectively that prompted the recommendation.
Since meeting at a training event nearly four years ago, the connection has been developed and nurtured not so much because there was any indication that their expertise was required at the time or since (although that may of course change at some point) but more because there was a recognition that I, like everyone in business, have many other contacts and may well get asked to make a recommendation.
The result of developing this relationship in such a way is that it was extremely easy to make the recommendation. Now, I may never have been asked to recommend an IP lawyer and there is no guarantee that any relationship is going to translate into an opportunity to help someone but that does not mean that it is not worth developing strategically. It was worth the minimal effort it took to make an impression and keep that alive in this case.
So how was the initial impression made? That is extremely easy to answer and astonishingly effective in its simplicity and efficacy.
The associate attended a training event. Associates attend lots of training events; training events come and go. On this occasion something happened which does not always happen but when it does happen makes a big impact – the associate took the time to email their thanks for the training, along with an appreciation of its value.
This was followed over the ensuing months and years by a series of what successful salespeople call ‘touches’. Every now and then an article or link to a video that they thought would be of interest was sent through; an email to say that they’d recommended me to a contact or friend; a ‘like’ or ‘share’ of an update in LinkedIn; occasionally coming to say hello if I was in the firm. All of which kept their name front of mind – keeping in touch and demonstrating interest with absolutely no guarantee of anything at the end of it.
There was no question as to who I was going to recommend. I have no doubt that all the IP lawyers I meet could advise my contact with as much technical expertise, but the simple act of taking a little bit of time every few months to develop a relationship has, very pleasingly, led to an instruction.
This is how it works. There is no known science behind how many ‘touches’ are needed but what is known is that when it comes to business development, it is a mid to long-term exercise, it needs to be strategic and while there is no absolute guarantee of success, a positive attitude to being present, polite and persistent will pay off.
Luan de Burgh of the de Burgh Group is a professional public speaker and presentation coach.