The Sound of Silence

Paul Borthwick • 28th Jun 2019

Working in Business Development it’s a considerable part of my job to have to talk to strangers. That doesn’t mean just anybody of course. Oh no. It’s only a select few who I approach in my search for the right client partners for The Lane Agency and Lane Media. We use that word ‘partners’ specifically. That’s because we’re seeking open minded organisations who collaborate and believe in the value of creativity and specialist knowledge (be still my beating heart!). Those who are looking for something mutual, basically. After all, we don’t want to waste anyone’s time, especially our own.

As a business, I’m confident that The Lane has a good collective instinct for the kind of relationship that works best and the kind of client we can do our best work with – so everyone I get in touch with is as reasoned and personal as possible. 

Alright, full disclosure; I’m prone to the odd hail mary approach – it’s irresistible. I don’t have any proof but it feels very much like Albert Einstein was talking about this job when he said, “I have no special talent; I am only passionately curious.”

So, yeah, sometimes I’m a little less ‘Einstein’ and a little more like one of Love Island’s male inhabitants – chasing after Lucie the surfer knowing full well that only one or two might make it to pitch, at best. And even if you’re fortunate enough to couple up there’s no guarantee of lasting love.

Despite this always-on optimism, we do have a pretty good filter and if you make it through this filter there’s genuinely a bloody good reason. One that goes beyond professional curiosity. Whether you’re the latest protein replacement start-up in Scotland or an under-the-radar e-commerce giant in some ugly industrial estate in ‘the North’ who’s dabbled with influencers but just doesn’t have the time or skills to scale their paid social media – you were chosen for a reason. Because I think we’d make a good fit.

So my hope is that my ‘chosen ones’ understand where we’re coming from. That we’re looking for strategic partners. That they appreciate the effort and they recognise my good reasoning… or are simply too busy to reply. Because most of them don’t. Not the first couple of times anyway.

I won’t lie there’s a bit of a buzz when Jo(e) Bloggs, Marketing Director, answers your call, replies to an email or accepts your request to connect*. On the other hand radio silence can be quite demoralising.

It’s a well-known phenomenon that, when applied to business development, usually takes the following form:

Step 1: You meet or connect with a ‘prospect’. 

Step 2: You make a genuine enough connection and/or demonstrate enough value to make the natural conclusion that a follow-up is necessary, or at the very least – not unwelcome.

Step 3: You follow up with a call or email, or both.

Step 4: Silence.

Step 5: Try Again. Maybe change the record. We’re all busy, I get it, it’s not me; it’s you. And when I say it’s you it’s not because you’re an asshole, 99% of the time anyway. Well, OK, maybe 89%. 

Step 6: More silence.

Step 6: Try one last time. 

Step 7: Hello darkness my old friend. Give up and wallow in the cold, silent, empty, demoralising, black hole of nothing.

…Just kidding. It’s impossible not to second-guess what the reaction to my cold call will be. Thankfully I’ve got quite a thick skin, and I like to talk to strangers. So for us, it’s just a matter of finding folk I think we could work well with and starting a conversation. Whichever way you look at it, this ‘reaching out’ is the business equivalent of a chat up line and the ebb and flow of emotions are a natural part of the process.

No need for tears. It just wasn’t meant to be. It’s most likely for the best. Move on. The boys on Love Island get it (sort of) – there’s plenty more fish in the sea. 

But given you’ve made it to the bottom of this article, I’d say you now know myself and the company I represent pretty well. So if my name appears in your inbox anytime soon please don’t leave me suffering in radio silence.

*DISCLAIMER: If the great Pat Nevin, Open champion Paul Lawrie or anyone else relatively famous pops up as a suggestion to connect I’m going to do it for absolutely no reason other than just because.

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