Small business owners, entrepreneurs and those who "sell" for a living typically lead busy lives. We are often overworked, somewhat isolated, and often multi-tasking on dozens of projects at one time. Sometimes we feel exceptionally organized and other times at the opposite extreme: buried. Most often we are somewhere in-between.
Regardless of how busy one can be as a seller, a common characteristic of everyone is in leaving money on the table in one form or another. It stems from poor or disorganized follow up and follow-through.
Example: A strategic partner who can send you multiple "more qualified" prospects your way indicates to you that you two should get together. You mean well, but you do not set a next action on the calendar nor do you immediately write this person to ensure that some follow up will take place. Ultimately you'll do nothing - and no telling what could have been (that will not materialize).
I have a theory that it is (nearly) NEVER too late to turn the following four situations around, and have seen many business relationships blossom because of them. Notice that I am focusing on people, not on a business in general, because businesses are made up of people.
It IS never too late to thank someone. The first instinct often when someone in business does something generous or helpful is to thank them. If for whatever reason you don't do it right away, do not think that you are too late to do it. It does not have to be awkward - rather it is all in the delivery.
Example: A cookie bouquet-type of company in a particular city found out more than a year later that I was the one who had referred then a corporate customer who purchased thousands of dollars worth of their products. Upon learning about me, the referrer, they proceeded to send me a free bouquet and asked to participate in an upcoming event I am doing in their town.
Tip: Do set yourself up to be able to jot a handwritten note and drop in the mail the same day after you meet someone or have a particularly helpful or important conversation. Most people won't do this, so you will set yourself ahead of the pack.
You know of a person who heads a company or is a seller for an organization and you never have referred them to your customers or to those who you think really could use their services. It is not too late- get organized and make a list of who you could refer to whom. Then execute. You have no idea how grateful and helpful others may become in exchange for your help and support. The world opens up to you when you generously endorse those you know and trust. Instead of deciding it is too late, instead make the referral and you can joke about how long it took you to actually make it happen if you'd like - or just do it and don't think twice about it.
It takes minutes to create great endorsements for others with today's technology. If your contact is on LinkedIn, create an endorsement for them - and make it a good one. Do not use fluff terminology (example, "Oh, his company is so fantastic......") but instead create a constructive endorsement stating what specifically about the company or service that was particularly helpful for your business.
If you have not talked to this person for some time, it can be a very pleasant surprise to receive a note in your Inbox that you have received an endorsement through LinkedIn. There are also ways to endorse right on someone's website. Do this generously, every week.
Reconnect with someone:
For some reason, people often feel uncomfortable calling or e-mailing someone in business they have not talked with in a while. So, what do they do? Nothing. Missed opportunity.
Do not hesitate to pick up the telephone and call someone you have not spoken with for months or years. Make a list of those strategic partners and former customers or near customers whom you hit it off with, but for some reason, the opportunity got derailed. It is not too late to reconnect.
Example: I had a client that I did some work with a couple years prior, and didn't feel that I had done my best work with them. For an upcoming event, I invited the CEO and he did attend. After the event was over, I mentioned to the CEO how I felt about the work that we did, and he assured me I had offered them great value, and urged me to call him the next week. I did, and we continued to do more projects for another 18 months.
To summarize, are you leaving money and opportunities on the table simply because you think you missed your turn to contact someone? Know that it s (nearly) never too late - yes, once or twice it can be - but most often the person on the other end of the phone or the computer will smile and thank you for thinking of them - and the trust you have previously built will help take your offer to the next level. If nothing else, do a good deed with an online endorsement - and see where that takes you.
Lori Richardson is a Seattle-based sales strategist who is on the Fabulous 50 Tour this year talking to entrepreneurs about innovation and collaboration. Follow the tour at http://www.smallbizinnovators.com or reach her @scoremoresales on Twitter.