A few years ago, I was having a conversation with a colleague. She had just left her full time role to launch her new talent management consultancy. She was 3 months into the new gig, so I asked her, “How’s it going so far?”  She said, “Pretty well. I’m tracking at a half-million dollar run rate right now”?  

I’m sorry, what did you say…? A half-million dollars in just 3 months?

Needless to say, I was intrigued, but I acted cool, and let that slide, and we continued our conversation.  However, over the next week, I couldn’t get that comment out of my mind. I kept thinking, what is she doing to generate that kind of business? What’s the secret? What’s the hook? After about a week, I couldn’t take it anymore, so I called her.  

“Hey there, I am really curious to know how you are generating that kind of business in such a short time. Would you mind if we met up so you can walk me through your process?” She enthusiastically agreed to do so. 

A few days later, we were at Starbucks, and I was ready to get all the details on the business development process that was going to take me over the top. 

“So,” I said… “What’s the first step?”

She said, “Well, each day I spend about 30 minutes scrolling through my LinkedIn feed. And  when I see someone that I haven’t connected with for a while, I send them a message, asking if we can get together.”

“Great,” I said. “Then what?”

“Well, we get together.”

“Ok, then what?”

“I ask them how they are, how their business is going, how the family is doing. If there’s anything I can give them in the moment, or after the fact, I help them with it.”

I was still waiting for “the hook”, so I kept pressing. “Ok, then what?”

She could see I was looking for the silver bullet, so she said, “Jay, I never go into these looking for what I can get. I truly want to know how they are and how I can help them. If I go into these meetings looking to sell them something, they sense it right away, and they clam up. Instead, I seek to learn about them, and what they need.”

I responded. “That’s all well and good, but you can’t spend your entire business development life just asking people how they’re doing? At some point, people have to buy from you.”

“That’s true,” she said, “At some point during our conversations, they ask me what I’m doing, and I briefly tell them. Many of them will ask, ‘Well, how can I help you?’ And I’ll reply with ‘If you know of anyone who would benefit from learning about what I do, I’d love to meet them’. As a result, I’ve developed a great network of ‘introducers’ that send me referrals.”

“That’s it?” I asked.

“That’s it!”

On the way home, I contemplated the conversation, and then it hit me… this is what Bob Burg talks about in his book “The Go-Giver”. Your true worth is determined by how much more you give in value than you take in payment.

In the “get all you can while the gettin’s good” culture we live in, this approach to business development seems backwards. But I can tell you from experience, it’s effective. It leads to long standing, mutually beneficial relationships. It leads to success. Go ahead, give it a try.