Monday, 8 December 2014

Playing a Long Game

I had an interesting - if typical - conversation with a group of barristers last week. I was speaking with a Marketing Committee within a busy commercial set and the reason for the meeting was their dissatisfaction with the work of an external marketing consultant (I was along at the request of the Head of Chambers and the chair of the committee to add, and I quote, "a sensible, reasonable, voice" to the mix).

The crux of their dissatisfaction was to do with time - why was it taking so long to see some concrete results. They had spent a good few tens of thousands of pounds on some necessary tasks - updating member profiles, focussing on new areas of business, etc - and had spent quite a lot of time speaking with major client organisations. Building contacts to use the necessary buzz phrase.

What they were unhappy with was that they had been doing this for nearly six months and could not point to a single instruction coming into chambers that could be the result of the new effort.

It's quite a problem. There can be an enormous gap between the work done in marketing/sales/networking or whatever you choose to call it, and a sale or an instruction - or some paid work. It can be difficult to see a connection at all. I have one contact with whom I have lunch or coffee about every three or four months. Over the four years we have been doing this, I haven't got a single piece of work directly from him - but I have had four projects come through from people who know him. Interestingly none of them have said that he recommended me - but I think the connection is there.

So - would my marketing committee friends think that my time and resources have been spent well? Well to avoid the possibility of me putting thoughts in their head, I asked them at the end of the meeting. I gave them the short story about 'schmoozing' my contact for four years with no obvious return and almost everyone said that I should stop since it was a waste. So far so obvious. Interestingly, when I gave them the full story, almost have still thought that any more contact was a waste and that I should dump the contact from my network.

That was a surprise. I couldn't convince them that the work was worth it - and even it it hadn't been so far, it was worth plugging away. I lost the argument about playing a long game. My barristers wanted their reward soon. It was notable that they did not see the same need to reward people who had 'schmoozed' them...

My point is that we must play the long game. It is a career or a practise and it needs building up. There will always be those contacts where the reward is not obvious. It is, however, worth continuing - if only for practice!

Think long term and you might be able to avoid a heavy sell. They might not bring business in now - but they might later, or they might introduce you to people in their network.

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