By Nancy Marshall, The PR Maven®

Building your networkI spent some time this week with my friend Sue Boardman, who is vice president of sales at MassPay, a payroll management company. She is a sales powerhouse and is always working on moving clients from prospects to leads to actual customers. She is so focused and tenacious. She inspired me to think about how each of us moves our prospective clients or customers along the “customer journey” toward the destination of doing business with you.

One of the things Sue told me that I found the most interesting is that she asks prospects a TON of questions when she is finally able to sit down with them face-to-face. Try to find out what keeps them up at night and where their pain points are. If you can be the one that swoops in and help them solve their most pressing problems, you will be the one they recommend and remember.

Do you have a plan in place to move your clients or customers through the process? If not, perhaps it is time to think about creating a plan.

It starts with continually broadening your professional network. You may do this in a variety of ways:

  • Ask your clients for referrals
  • Ask your friends to introduce you to other friends who may want to do business with you
  • Attend networking events and actively introduce yourself to others, and hand out business cards
  • Read the announcements on new hires and promotions on the business page of the newspaper then send the people a note congratulating them and asking for an introduction

Once you have your list of new contacts, you need to attempt to bring them into your “inner circle.” How do you do that? By nurturing them along. Start with:

  • Inviting the new contact to have coffee, breakfast or lunch with you.
  • Find out when their birthday is, and send them a personalized card.
  • Invite them to a fundraiser or other event you think might be of interest to them.
  • When you have a chance to meet with them, actively probe into their pain points by asking a lot of pointed questions. They will be flattered by your interest in their work and their issues.
  • Offer to make an introduction or provide them with information that will help them solve their most pressing problem. Position yourself as someone who can really help them and who really cares!

Remember to always send a hand-written thank you note to acknowledge a new contact or thank an old contact for making an introduction for you to a prospect.

The goal is to constantly broaden your circle of contacts and your sphere of influence. This is how you will strengthen your personal brand and exceed your marketing and sales goals.