There are no experts.
The older I get, the more that I am convinced of that.
Now certainly there are smart people in this world that have attained great knowledge in certain fields and on certain subject matters. And they are to be recognized and respected for all the sweat equity it must have taken to cram all that stuff, some of it even useful, into their noggins.
But I started to become suspect of “experts” many years ago as a young court reporter for a daily newspaper. Both the defense and the prosecution would trot out their paid experts to testify to their evaluation of certain forensic evidence. Naturally, their positions would be diametrically opposed to each other.
Many years later, I find myself hanging out a shingle and calling myself a consultant. Am I an expert? Well, let’s just say I have gained some specialized knowledge through the proverbial school of hard knocks. I have learned some things about what works and what doesn’t. And if I can pass that along and save a client heartache and money, well, everyone should win.
At least that is my story and I am sticking to it.
But if there is anyone that gets under my skin, it is the person who knows it all. You know who I am talking about. It’s that man or woman who has definite ideas on everything and who holds himself (or herself) up as the smartest person in the room. They enjoy the mantle of expert and scoff at anyone who might have contrary views.
Most of the time, I give pomposity a wide berth. No sense arguing with the annointed.
Now I am writing this as a prelude to a telephone call that I recently received, actually several phone calls, from what will be an unnamed regional economic development organization from an unnamed state. I am not here to embarrass or point fingers. Just to show what not to do.
And while I do not hold myself up to be an “expert” in business development, again, I have developed ideas on what is effective and what isn’t. Trial and error is a wonderful teacher if you are only willing to learn. So here’s the story:
The first telephone call comes in from a woman who properly identifies herself and the organization that she is representing. She says that an economic developer with her organization picked up my business card while attending a recent solar industry show in Dallas. Then she asks if my company has expansion plans and would consider expanding in her state. It’s here where we will pick up the conversation:
Me: “So you have my business card?”
Ms. X: “Yes, I do.”
Me: “Do you know what I do?”
Ms. X: (pause) “No, sir, I don’t.”
Me: “You do see a web address on my business card, right?”
Ms. X: “Yes, I do.”
Me: “Well, don’t you think it would have made sense for you to pull up my website first to determine what I actually do before you called me?”
Ms. X: “Yes, I probably should have done that.”
Me: “Now if you would have looked at my website, you would have seen that I am not a manufacturer. I am a site selection consultant. I work with manufacturers, and yes, your state and region could be considered under the right circumstances.”
Ms. X: “So you are a consultant?”
Me: “That is correct. Thank you for calling and good day.”
About two minutes later, Ms. X calls me back. I am tempted to ignore the call, but I answer it.
Ms. X: “Sir, it’s me again. Would you be willing to have a telephone conversation with Mr. XX, president of our organization, about our region and what it has to offer.”
Me: “Certainly, I’ll have that conversation. I am in my car right now and do not have access to my calendar. Please email me some times and dates that will work for him and we’ll schedule a time to talk.”
Ms. X: “I will do that. “
A week passes. No email from Ms. X or her organization. And then, I get my third and most memorable phone call from Ms. X.
She begins by telling me that an economic developer with her organization picked up my card while attending the recent solar industry show in Dallas. She asks if my company might have expansion plans and would consider locating in her state.
Me: “This is the second phone call that I have received from your organization asking the very same thing. Again, I am not a manufacturer but a consultant, and I wish you knew that.”
Ms. X: “Oh … Well, that was me who called you the last time. I’m sorry. I don’t know how that happened.”
Me: “Nor do I.”
Now I am not holding myself up to be an expert, merely an experienced practitioner of business development, but these telephone calls were troubling for a host of reasons:
1) The ED organization did not bother to do any due diligence to determine who they were calling, although the name “Barber Business Advisors, LLC” should have provided a strong clue.
2) When provided a suggestion on how to determine who they were calling, a simple matter of looking up a website, the ED organization ignored that advice and carried on in a mindless fashion.
3) The ED organization’s record keeping was flawed to say the very least. Ms. X called me a second time to ask me if I had expansion plans and would consider expanding in this region. She had no idea (until reminded) that we had this previous conversation.
4) No email follow up was ever received to schedule a conversation with El Presidente.
5) If anyone should have called me, it should have been the economic developer who met me and got my card.
Eat at Joe’s (My Shameless Plug) — https://deanbarber.wordpress.com/about/
I tell you this story as an example of what not to do. This was not effective business development. Rather, this was annoying business development.
If you are going to do cold calls, and I am not suggesting that you do not, at least have a good idea on who you are calling. Whenever possible, have a name, a job title, how that person fits within the business organization, and have a basic understanding on what the company does.
I like to employ what I call “luke warm” calls. In some form or fashion, I have prepped the future recipient of my coming phone call. They have an idea of what I do and why I am calling. I prefer doing my prepping either through emails or the use of social media. Try it, you might like it.
Before attending trade shows, I will often send emails or make creative use of social media or make phone calls to my target contacts that I plan to be in attendance and would like to meet with them for a few minutes. It greases the skids. They know what you do and you know what they do. It almost always makes for better subsequent face-to-face conversation.
From John Deere to Maserati
I have moved from Red Oak to Plano. Both cities are in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area. And they are very different from each other.
Red Oak, about 20 miles south of Dallas, still has strong vestiges of a ranching community, with a hardened hands feel to it. I paid $10 for a “regular man’s” haircut there from a woman who called me “sweetie.” Outside the barbershop, a giant concrete cowboy boot served as a planter.
Plano, about 20 miles north of Dallas, is very much a button down corporate community. Near my home, is a street named “Headquarters Drive.” It’s here where Frito-Lay, J.C. Penny’s, Intuit, HP, AT&T have either corporate headquarters or at least a very big presence. And my first haircut in Plano cost $24.
The women wear designer jeans and the men wear sunglasses on cloudy days with sweaters draped over their shoulders in Plano. In Red Oak, you will see the occasional cowboy hat and boots on a man or woman wearing jeans bought at Tractor Supply in nearby Waxahachie. Old and new pickup trucks abound in Red Oak. In Plano, you will see some truly exotic vehicles made in Europe that cost as much as a house in Red Oak.
For my consulting business, Plano is probably the better choice because of the large corporate presence. My wife certainly likes it here because of all the nearby restaurants and retail. And she is my better half, despite the new and creative ways that she finds to depart us of our money.
I think I will come to like Plano, too, even if I have the only pickup truck on my street. But I’ll always have fond memories of Red Oak and those regular man’s $10 haircuts and being called “sweetie.”
Need a partner in results-oriented site selection? Contact me, Dean Barber, at 972-890-3733 or at firstname.lastname@example.org Barber Business Advisors, LLC, is a site selection and economic development consulting firm in Plano, Texas. Please visit our website at www.barberadvisors.com