Of heart surgery and mothers-in-law

Tips for Entrepreneurs: When you become known as an expert at whatever you do, clients or customers are likely to seek wider advice.

surgery doctors transplant slicing 311 (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
surgery doctors transplant slicing 311
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
I received a phone call last week from a worried friend, who said: “I might need heart surgery. The doctor says that it’s more a ‘quality of life’ issue and not mandatory, but if I don’t do it now, I might not be eligible to do it in 10 years when I need it. What do you suggest?”
Another message from a client a while ago was good news, not worry. He said: “Rabbi, thank you for ironing out the issue with my wife and my mother. It was tearing my family apart. A million dollars would not be enough to pay you for that!”
When you become known as an expert at whatever it is you do, satisfied clients or customers are likely to not only get your expertise on the original topic they found you for, but as the relationship deepens, it tends to widen as well.
In the cases above, it was about someone who received business guidance. During the process of talking about business, these clients realized the person they were dealing with had opened their eyes and shown them how to look at a situation differently. Now that their businesses had benefited, their thoughts turned to other issues in their life. They wanted to tap into that same kind of insight and wisdom in another, more personal, area. That’s how human beings are: They like to do business with and interact with people they trust, people who have proven themselves.
What service do you provide for your clients? How did you end up giving that service or selling that product? When you look back at the trajectory that led you to where you are now, or the people that your career has led you to work with, think about how you got to where you are now.
Use a critical eye and see if you can see what strengths, skills or services you provide that attracts people to you. Chances are that people who come to you for business and come back for personal advice consider you more than just a business consultant. They may consider you a life coach or adviser. If you can figure out why they came to you and why they returned for other services, you might be able to expand that demand to an entire new business function or personal focus.
A client once told me that he is a friend with the “head bell hop” of different hotels in his area. By building a relationship with someone that many people ignore, he ended up building a valuable source of referrals for his retail location. Not only that, he has the added value of being the retailer that visiting celebrity’s order food from because of referrals from the bell hop. This benefits his marketing in a tremendous way.
Even if you were, or are, an employee of someone else’s firm, you can still benefit. Your firm has given you the chance to interact with a variety of people of all kinds. Some of those will be people of means, or people who are well-connected locally, socially or politically. Building relationships, being helpful and interested in others may not benefit you immediately, but over time, if well tended, those relationships will bloom like a fig tree in season.
Connecting with people you have interacted with in the past, no matter in what capacity, on Linkedin.com will help your business grow tremendously. This is because that person, who might have known you as an intern or the son of a friend, now gets a chance to see you in a different light: as someone with something to share in a nonthreatening or noncompetitive environment.
When I was starting out as a commercial mortgage broker, I called up someone I knew who owned a hotel. I asked him if I could refinance his hotel mortgage for him. While he was courteous, I got an immediate “no.” In his mind he was trying to move me from being in his mental filing cabinet as a kid he knew, to a grown man and potential business associate. It would take time for him to get to know me as a businessman.
In the years since then, I’ve done business and gotten professional referrals from some people who knew me as a child – even some quite famous ones you have probably heard of. But, I didn’t approach them at any time and ask for business. People who do business with you when you come from that angle might do it to help you out, but it’s coming from a position of pity or protektzia, and it’s not value-based.
By connecting via social media on LinkedIn or Facebook, or having them see me speak in real life or seeing me mentioned in the media, they made a conscious decision to seek me out and do business with me. Specifically because I was NOT selling anything to them, they had the freedom to choose what they wanted to do.
People like to buy, but they don’t like to “be sold.” They like to exercise their own free will in their own time. Allowing them that freedom made the process of transformation of who I was in their mind easy instead of a struggle.
Hard selling works. No one can argue that. But why go that route when you can connect so much more deeply and elegantly as a friend first? When people trust us as a person, then they naturally enquire about our professional side. They are not only truly interested in what you do, but they have already decided that they will consider you if they need the services you offer.
How many times have you met someone socially and enjoyed talking to them, then asked them what business they’re in? You are filing away a mental note in case you ever need that service.
When a social acquaintance or friend knows your character on a personal level, they assume you will do business with them in the same manner. So their request to do business with you comes from a position of trust in you as a person. There is no real selling involved because your character and actions have already sold them.
I was honored to receive the call about the surgery. It told me how much this person valued my opinion. And while I have descended from a long line of rabbis and hassidic rebbes on both my parents’ sides, I certainly don’t have what is called in Yiddish the plaitzes, or shoulders, to make decisions of literal life and death for people.
But mothers-in-law and business issues? Bring them on.
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Issamar Ginzberg is a rabbi, businessman, public speaker and marketer. He travels extensively between New York and Jerusalem and has been published in more than 30 national business publications, including Inc. Magazine, which honored him with its Top 10 Entrepreneurs of the Year designation.