Will Bachman: Hello David, welcome to the show.
David Fields: Thanks, Will. It’s always great to be on one of these shows. I’m a huge fan of what you do and I’m unleashed.
Will Bachman: Well thanks, David, and you know that I’m a huge fan of you and your book, The Irresistible Consultant’s Guide to Winning Clients. I’ve given out over 100 copies of it and it is a hugely helpful resource. I know that you just ran a growth workshop for independent consultants and at one of the topics that you cover, which I think a lot of listeners have asked me about is how to make the dreaded outreach call. That’s what I was hoping we could chat about today, so could you kind of walk us through how you coach your clients on how to make outreach calls?
David Fields: Sure, it is a good topic and a lot of consultants dread it. In all honesty, I don’t love making outreach calls. I make them because even though business is strong and I know there’s a direct correlation between picking up the phone and the health of your pipeline, and that is true whether you’re a solo practitioner, whether you’re a freelancer and your phone calls are going to be to Umbrex to remind you, Will, that they exist, or if you’re a boutique. This is true across the board so part of it is mindset. It’s just understanding. It’s vitally important. You have to pick up the phone or WhatsApp or whatever your choice is, but don’t hide behind e-mail.
David Fields: First thing I would say is kind of get your mind wrapped around the fact that it’s really important and you should do it. The second sort of before we even get into what do you say or anything like that is I would encourage people to set aside a consistent block of time, whether it’s … For me, it’s Wednesday mornings or whether it’s every morning or Fridays or a certain time that is for you to make calls, especially if you struggle with. Take the decision point out. Take the willpower out of it and just make it something you have to do. It’s an appointment just like you have an appointment with any other client, this client happens to be new business and if you honor new business the way you would honor any other client, then new business will pay you very handsomely or reward you more than any other client. Be diligent and honor it and go there with integrity.
David Fields: Now with all of that said, you do at some point have to pick up the phone so what happens? Well, I encourage people to use scripts, to actually have thought this out, and I have on my desk for when I do my outreach calls, I have a script that’s built out. I don’t have to follow it exactly but the mere fact that I built it, that I’ve thought it through, helps me have more effective calls. It helps me have calls that work better, that I’m feeling more confident, and therefore, they’re more likely to turn into business, they’re more likely to create results.
Will Bachman: Now some people, David, might say and have told me, “Oh well, I don’t want to just call the person, I should e-mail them first and try to set up some time.”
David Fields: Yeah.
Will Bachman: What do you say to that?
David Fields: Well, I tell those people really what you should is you should send them a text letting them know to check their e-mail for the e-mail about having a phone call where you’ll hopefully set up a meeting, right? It can become crazy. Just pick up the phone. Just really …. Now, there are certain populations and depending on who your target is, where they’ll be more responsive to a different medium than a phone call, but again, I would just encourage you not do hide behind an e-mail and you don’t need to e-mail someone to let them know you’re going to call.
Will Bachman: Yeah, and what about people who say, “I feel that I should be adding value, I should be sending an article, I should be providing something relevant and helpful.” What’s your perspective on that?
David Fields: Yeah, that is such a great question. I’m so glad you asked that, Will. My perspective on that is if you have value that you want to bring to the table, terrific, but you definitely don’t need it. In fact, feeling like you do need to add value is a problem. If you feel like you have to add value on every call and beyond the call itself, if you feel like you have to add value, that puts enormous pressure on you, so no wonder you don’t want to make the call because you feel like oh God, I have to have something really important to say. Not only does that put pressure on you, it puts pressure on the other person, the person you’re calling and that awkwardness, that feeling of this is all … It’s such a set up, I’m trying to create value, I’m hoping you’re going to return it with business, and that doesn’t work.
David Fields: It keeps you from making the sale. It’s actually very self-serving because you’re only coming up with value in hope that they will reciprocate by somehow giving you work and that’s not the purpose. We have to go back to the purpose of the call and also where value is created. The purpose of the call, the purpose of outreach in general, is simply to reinforce, to nurture, to nourish a relationship. That’s all. It is not to win business. It is to create the relationship. When you are in a relationship with someone, you can have conversations with them, and when you are in conversations with someone, they will raise opportunities to work together.
David Fields: You can’t create the opportunity, right? You can’t create the problem. If they have a problem that you can solve, they’ll bring it up but you’re not going to force a problem on them if they don’t have it. I mean, at least you shouldn’t. What you want to be is in conversation and you get in conversation by having relationships. Will, I just want to mention one other thing which is in my world, my world view is that wealth is relationship strength. That the more healthy, vibrant, rich, relationships you have, the wealthier you are as a person and that world view is helpful because I don’t think I need to bring value to a phone call or to an outreach or to a Zoom message or a WhatsApp message. I think that merely connecting is value. The mere fact that you’re showing someone you care about them enough, that you’re giving a call and saying, “Hey, I was thinking about you. What’s going on in your world?” That in and of itself creates value.
Will Bachman: Amazing. Walk me through the script. So someone now … Okay, worked up the courage, made a list of people they want to call, and said, “Okay, I’m going to …” They scheduled time on their calendar Wednesday morning, they pick up the phone, and maybe walk us through the script for no one answers, voicemail, what do you do?
David Fields: Exactly, and you hit it right on. I actually think you need three scripts. You need a voicemail script and should have a few different voicemails and you need a script for oh my gosh, what if the person actually picks up the phone?
Will Bachman: Whoops.
David Fields: And I would also practice the turn and be familiar with the turn, which is one of the most powerful techniques that I have in my toolkit. In terms of voicemail, the simple tips on voicemail are to keep it short, to be interested, not interesting, be interested, right? Because it’s all right side up, it’s about the other person, and to smile. You might leave a simple voicemail that says, “Hi Will, this is David Fields, here’s my phone number, 203-438-7236. I was thinking about you today and realized when I checked on LinkedIn you’ve started this amazing company that I don’t know anything about and I would love to hear how you built that. When you get a chance, give me a shout back. I look forward to catching up. Maybe five minutes. My phone number is 203-438-7236.”
David Fields: That’s short, I’m interested, not interesting, I’m making it about you. Notice I didn’t say, “Hey Will, I’ve got something I’d really like to share with you that I’m doing and I think you might want to buy from me.”
Will Bachman: Right.
David Fields: Right? Which is in so many words what a lot of people are saying or, “Hey Will, just wanted to catch up. Call me when you have a chance.” Right? I’d never hear from you unless you guys … I was best man at your wedding and we haven’t talked, then maybe you’ll call me back. You have to be interested. I think also a good way that surprisingly is right side up and most people may not recognize this, is to give the other person an opportunity to be of value. I might say in a voicemail, “Hi Will, it’s David Fields. My phone number is 203-438-7236. You know, I ran into this challenge with a boutique firm and I was thinking about who would have insight on this and I thought you would be the perfect person, and so I was wondering whether you might have two minutes. I would just love to pick your brain for that two minutes, I think you’re going to have just the right insight and I really look forward to talking with you. 203-438-7236.”
David Fields: Now while that sounds like maybe it was self-serving because I’m looking to pick your brain, in fact I may or may not actually care about the insight. What I’m doing is I’m giving you an opportunity to be valuable and most people relish that opportunity. Relish that opportunity to share wisdom.
Will Bachman: That’s the Benjamin Franklin approach, right?
David Fields: Exactly right.
Will Bachman: When he wanted to build a relationship with someone, he’d ask to borrow a book from their library.
David Fields: That’s exactly right.
Will Bachman: Yeah.
David Fields: I call it the exact same thing. Right now, I think at least one article is about the Benjamin Franklin approach.
Will Bachman: Yeah. Okay, cool. That’s the voicemail so love to hear what’s going on in your universe, I saw this, I’d love to hear about it, and okay. Let’s say that the person picks up. Walk us through how to navigate that conversation.
David Fields: Okay, so the beginning of that conversation you obviously need to introduce yourself, you might want to say something about not having talked in a long time, if you haven’t, you might want to acknowledge that, and then of course, it isn’t an of course, but we all have to remember to do it, ask, “Is this a good time to chat?” First get some permission and if it’s not, instead of saying, “Well, why the heck did you pick up the phone?” Which might be your thought. You say, “Hey, no worries. Let’s get a time on the calendar.” And you get a next date and time on the calendar.
David Fields: But if they are, they say, “Yeah sure, what’s going on? Why are you calling?” You want to very quickly transition it back to them. “Oh, I was calling because we hadn’t talked in forever and I value you, I value your insights, and I wanted to find out what’s going on in your world. What are you focused on these days?” Now again, remember, I’m making it about you. I’m not pretending I’m making it about you while actually wanting to find out whether you’ve got business for me. You actually do need to be right side up. It has to be about them, not about you.
David Fields: I’m going to ask you about you, I’m going to listen, I’m going to reflect, I’m going to engage, I’m going to interact with you, not listen so that I can get my next comment out, but listen to listen, right? And share in what you’re telling me. If we’re not connecting, that happens sometimes, then I’ll say, “Look, Will, it sounds like you’re really busy right now and I appreciate that we had a chance to chat. I would love to connect another time, maybe there’s a better time. Let’s grab our calendars and set up a date, set up a date for the next call.”
David Fields: But if we are engaging, chances are you’re going to ask me what I’m doing and I will share, here’s what’s going on, here’s what’s going well, here’s perhaps what I’m doing with other clients, which is a very subtle nudge towards maybe that will remind you, but if not, no big deal, and then I’m going to circle it back around to you because most people’s favorite subject is themselves. You know, “Oh, you mentioned that you had been in San Francisco and I’d really love to hear more about that trip.” Right? So you’re going to have that conversation, you’ll reflect, you’ll listen, you’ll engage, again, and then you set up your next call.
David Fields: “Will, I am so glad we connected. The biggest mistake I made was letting it go six months or letting it go a year or six years, and I don’t want to make that mistake again, so what do you think about reconnecting in three months? Or what do you think about reconnecting in six months?” Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, perhaps a hundred times out of a hundred, will the person you’re choosing going to say, “Yeah, that’d be great.” “Alright cool, let’s bust out our calendars. What’s the third week in July look like for you?” Right? And everybody’s like third week in July, man I have no idea, so you pick a time and you put in on the calendar.
Will Bachman: Yeah, and that works for you actually kind of scheduling something six months out?
David Fields: Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, the worst that could happen is in four months or in six months, but minus one week, it pops up on their calendar and they say, “Oh man, I need to reschedule.”
Will Bachman: Right, right.
David Fields: That’s okay. Either way you’re top of mind to them, which is really what you want to be, right? You just want to have that relationship be solid and you’ll reschedule.
Will Bachman: Now let’s talk about what you alluded to earlier, so let’s say that some kind of possible project gets brought up. The person doesn’t say, “Hey, and actually I could use you for this particular project.” But they just sort of mention something in passing. Tell us about the turn.
David Fields: Sure. The turn is how you transition a conversation that’s not explicitly about working together or explicitly about business, into a conversation about business. There are so many applications of this, we can’t cover in just a minute or two. It is described … The language I’m going to give you is in the book and there are variations on variations on variations, but it is about recognizing when you are in a conversation that’s about working together and when you’re not. Often in an outreach conversation you’re not and if you try to push it there, you’ll ruin the relationship.
David Fields: The turn creates a bridge and that bridge really consists of seven words. Again, variations but the seven words are ‘Are you open to a separate conversation?’ Let me put this into context. “Will, I’ve reached out to you, we’ve had a delightful conversation, you’ve been telling me what’s going on with your business, I’ve shared a little bit. You also mentioned a couple of concerns you’re having with building your organization.” Right? So for me, I’ve got this little thing going on in my head. Ding, ding, ding, oh an opportunity, ding, ding, ding, ding!
David Fields: The wrong thing to do is to jump in right there and say, “Hey Will, are you open to a separate conversation?” No, right? Because that proves I’m not actually listening, I’m not caring about you, I’m caring about me and just hoping I hear the right words. I’m going to continue to listen and reflect and engage and demonstrate that I’m listening to you, but at the end of the conversation I might say, “Will, you know earlier on you mentioned some challenges you were having with your organization, that kind of stuff is pretty center of the plate for me. If you’re open to it, I would love to have a separate conversation at some point where we chat about that. What do you think?”
David Fields: Okay, so I use those same words, I mix them around a little bit, but I kept the key parts, which is separation and agency. I gave you the choice as to whether or not you want to have the conversation. I do use the words ‘if you are open to’, you don’t have to. I like those words because very few people want to be perceived of [inaudible 00:16:13] being closed and I’m acknowledging that now was not the conversation, now was not the time for that. Now was the time when we were catching up, when we were being social and so that gives us the opportunity for you to say, “Yeah, let’s talk about that now.” Or, “Yeah sure, I’d be open to that at some point.” And we get it down on the calendar. Does that help?
Will Bachman: Yeah, no that’s super helpful. You mentioned it but just elaborate a little bit more. I’ve heard you speak before about kind of two realms and that transition between them as awkward. I think your terms are sort of the social realm and the world of kind of the market realm.
David Fields: Right.
Will Bachman: So what you’re saying kind of helps transition from one to the other. What are your terms for those and could you just elaborate a little bit on how you see those two realms as separate?
David Fields: Sure. You bet. In credit where credit is due, I picked this up from Daniel Ariely’s book Predictably Irrational, and he may have been quoting another study but unfortunately, the chain breaks there because I don’t remember. He talks about market norms versus social norms and when we’re operating in a world of social norms, social norms are kind of fuzzy and warm and it’s not transactional, right? There’s not an expectation of reciprocity. We’re not saying I will give you this so you give me that. In a social situation, you’re just giving and it’s certainly not monetary, whereas the world of market norms is this sharp edged expectation of reciprocity. I’m going to give you value, you’re going to give me something in return. You’ll pay me for it. Right?
David Fields: This is where transactions are done. This is where consulting agreements are made is in a world of market norms and those two do not mix well. That pointy edged, sharp market norm world, if you push it into a soft, warm, fuzzy conversation of social norms, you’ll puncture it, you’ll ruin it. You can just flat out ruin a relationship. You can lose one forever by bringing market norms into it. Fortunately, most of us are at a gut level where we are sensitive to it and as a result, we get this gut reaction that you know what, I’m not comfortable. Something’s telling me if I were to ask about business it would be awkward, and my advice is pay attention to your gut. Your gut is telling you there’s an intersection of worlds here, the world of social norms and the world of market norms, and that’s not going to go well. We need a bridge and that bridge between the worlds is the turn.
Will Bachman: Marvelous. David, this was short and sweet. I know that you do full day sessions on this topic.
David Fields: Yes.
Will Bachman: And you also work with individual, independent consultants and boutique firms on how to do outreach. What’s the best place for people to contact you?
David Fields: Best thing to do is just go to my website, DavidAFields.com. There’s all sorts of easy ways to reach out and create contacts. You’re right, Will, we do full days on this. Part of what I’ve learned, perhaps the hard way, is a lot of the magic is in the nuance of the words, just little phrases that can make a big difference, and those are the pieces that we get to work on one on one. We can make those slight tweaks that have a huge impact, but yeah, just going to the website is the easy way to get ahold of me.
Will Bachman: And you know that I love your blog, it’s the first thing I read every Wednesday morning, so definitely check out DavidAFields.com and David’s book, The Irresistible Consultant’s Guide to Winning Clients, is a classic. David, thanks for joining today.
David Fields: Of course. Thank you so much, Will.