Much has been written on the mechanics of using social networking and collaborative community environments to develop a pipeline of contacts for business development activities. Rather than deliver more “best practices” on this topic, we decided it would be more useful to discuss a few personal experiences thus demonstrating the practical results of effectively applying technology.
This week, I sat down with XONITEK’s own Rick Hulse and Barry Livsky, both advocates of social networking and collaborative communities in business development efforts, to hear their thoughts on these critical advances. Their unique viewpoints are evidence that, regardless of one’s style and approach, these technologies can be valuable in developing a business practice.
Thoughts from Rick Hulse
“Technology is a small, yet critical component that can have an enormous impact on the effectiveness of an individual or firm’s business development activities. To that point, our worlds have changed drastically over the past few years with the evolution of business and social networking tools such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. However, the one thing that has remained the same is the essential human element of relationship building that serves as the catalyst, precursor, and foundation to the runaway success that these sites have experienced. Without it, we’re merely faceless, voiceless log-ins and profiles.
It all starts with a phone call or an email requesting an introductory conversation or a follow up with someone from a meeting – making that personal connection. Here’s a case in point: I make it a point to introduce myself to new members of our Operational Excellence Group on LinkedIn for no other reason than to give folks that personal touch, as well as to let them know that there are REAL people who are supporting and sponsoring this venue for knowledge sharing.
Time and time again, I’ve had folks tell me how nice it was that I did this. In fact, just recently I had an introductory chat with an individual who had newly joined our Operational Excellence Group and who wears many hats in her career. Just a few weeks after our conversation, she reached back out to me to ask if our firm would be interested in chatting with one of her students regarding Six Sigma Black Belt training. My answer, of course, was yes. This illustrates how the human element is the catalyst that moves things forward.
My guess is that the majority of you reading this article are probably saying, “This sounds like common sense.” Let me assure you that, unfortunately, it is not so. Focusing on making personal connections with folks and listening to them – while also leveraging technology – is a difficult balancing act. If done properly, great relationships can be born and nurtured; and mutually beneficial business tends to flow thereafter.
So reach out to folks inside and outside your network – get to really know them and their businesses. We’ve never had a better set of tools to foster communication, but they will never replace the human element.”
Barry Livsky: When Technology and the Human Element Mix
“Is it a recipe for disaster or a delicious feast? It’s actually a little of both. The downside to human interaction via the relatively anonymous use of technology – whether it is email, instant messaging, user groups, or social and business networking sites – is obvious. Raise your hand if you’ve received an email of a personal nature regarding a fortune that a “friend” needs help getting out of his or her country. I know how special I felt knowing I was selected for my honesty and integrity. So the downside to all this technological advancement is that people with bad intentions have a new medium to ply their trade. That is just human nature; you can’t blame technology for that. However, using a little common sense goes a long way in protecting yourself.
The upside to this recipe obviously far outweighs the bad. If you think about the opportunities that technology has afforded us compared to the options just a few decades ago, it’s astounding. In 2002, we were implementing the then-new Exact Synergy solution in our office. We recognized that we had a diamond in the rough, but didn’t know how to describe it to people. Several of us sat in a conference room one day and came up with the term “Collaborative Community Environment” as way to describe this solution. It was an eye-opener as to how technology could be a facilitator to our human efforts, both as a company and as individuals.
With sites like LinkedIn and Facebook, people are connecting and collaborating like never before. Professional networking sites have a strong social feel to them and social networking sites are used for outreach and community based activities. It doesn’t matter if you’re on different continents or across the street; making connections is easier than at any other time in history. Technology is not an “option”, nor is it to be feared. It is a part of our daily routine and should be used wisely.”
Epilogue: Business Development Also Involves Service Delivery
Building on the experiences of our internal advocates, I have also had great success with social networking sites as a recruiting mechanism. We have identified and recruited several of our best consultants via the web of connections we made on sites like LinkedIn.
In prior decades, we may never have known of these folks. The ability to search and browse the talent available, in a framework that encouraged cultivating introductions, was critical. In the end, this has resulted in more effective consulting delivery to our clients, with an indirect benefit of longer, more profitable relationships for XONITEK.
Regardless of your own role in the business development cycle, effective use of social networking and collaborative community environments can result in a triple win: greater revenue for your organization, better service delivery to your customers and clients, and a stronger network of personal contacts for your own professional development. Take the time to practice the application of these technologies in your own environment and discover for yourself how effective they can truly be.
Mike Borzumate serves clients within XONITEK Corporation’s Operational Excellence Consulting practice. He focuses on developing corporate strategy, project priorities, and process structure, then selecting team members for particular improvement efforts, delivering targeted training modules, and leading the modeling function in process improvement. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Richmond Hulse serves as the Director of Business Development at XONITEK Corporation. He is highly experienced and knowledgeable with an extensive background in the development of Operational Excellence consulting business practices. His focus is to continue the aggressive growth within the company’s business practices such as: Lean / Six-Sigma Practice, Operational Due Diligence, and Turn-Around Management.
Barry Livsky has been a member of XONITEK’s Sales and Marketing Group since 1990. Contact him at email@example.com.