Monday, February 9, 2009

The Power of Permission

My friend Gaye Hardiman, who's great at sales, shared the secret of her success with me - when you make a cold call you are essentially asking that person for permission to express interest in them. It's a refreshing approach to marketing as we find ourselves in an economy that requires entrepreneurs of all stripes to "get out there and sell".

Here at Palette, Martin and I have turned up the volume on our networking, pitching and new business development. For the most part, this means re-connecting with friends and acquaintances across the city, becoming more involved in professional organizations and participating in RFPs. But we have also identified potential clients, contacted them personally and, in some cases , enjoyed face-to-face meetings. Many are not ready to commit to new services but a connection has been made and could reap rewards in the future. At the very least, we've expanded our network by one.

As the owner of a PR firm, I've noticed that, I too am receiving more pitches from service providers (e.g. photographers, event venues, financial services firms). I have no problem with this and completely understand the need to sell your wares in this economy. A precious few call and ask permission to send more info by e-mail but most don't bother. Rather, they include me on a bcc list and send a blanket e-mail marketing their services. What's really disappointing is that the majority of them are located in Toronto and could benefit from taking the time to start a relationship.

Like many small businesses, we're holding off on incurring new expenses as we wait to see what will happen with the economy. But we will be looking for partners and suppliers in the future and when we do, I'll be getting in touch with the ones who understood the power of permission.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Hi Louise,

    It never ceases to amaze me how some people crave the greatest successes in life, but are only willing to put forth the most inconsequential effort. My parents raised me on the words – if you want something, go and get it. And they meant it very literally, put on your shoes and go talk to someone. I don’t know about you, but for me, emails tend to fade to black quite quickly (especially blanket bcc emails that offer no originality). However, a phone call and a coffee, that tends to stick with me for a much longer time.

  3. Hi Louise,
    I would just like to start off by saying that I really enjoy reading your blog. It is sometimes difficult today to find people, even in customer service, who still focus on proper business etiquette. As a PR student finishing my last semester, I do not have much experience in professional business settings. However, I have worked in the customer service sector for quite some time. Being on both sides of consumerism, I can say first hand that those little bits of effort, such as asking permission, sending a thank-you, or being accommodating can go a long way. While technology has certainly enhanced our society and communication through the use of e-mail, blogs, twitter, etc., remembering the traditional modes of building interpersonal relationships should not be forgotten.

    Asking permission to send information via e-mail is not only effective relationship building, but creates a tailored relationship separate from other clients. If we all feel a part of the same mass list, there is a lack of personal connection. I also find that when I cold call and ask to follow up with an e-mail, I am normally well received. People today are becoming more comfortable with e-mailing than speaking on the phone. While this is the way society is being shaped, I believe it is worth the effort to make a personal call, go the extra mile and demonstrate proper manners and etiquette to create a memorable impression.

  4. Glad to see I'm not alone here and especially pleased that young people still believe in etiquette. Stay tuned for the Power of Permission Part II - continuing to send e-mails to someone who has unsubscribed...

  5. Great post, Louise. Like your friend, I also have a sales background, and am fortunate to have been able to hone my selling skills in companies that truly value their customers, and not only their bottom lines.

    In my most recent sales position, we were taught by a brilliant and very successful sales VP to focus on relationship-building rather than selling, per se. For with the building of rapport, he said, sales would eventually follow.

    We were encouraged to meet with customers over lunch or coffee for the mere purpose of connecting. It was fine if business didn't happen to come up, or if it did only at the end of the conversation, because we were solidifying the bond and building trust. After three or four such meetings, we were told, customers would either ask us if they needed something or, if we asked first, feel comfortable telling us. Being the friendly, non-aggressive sales type, I was happy to try this approach, and happier to see that the majority of the time, it worked.

    Selling your firm to potential clients struck me as being a similar scenario. Perhaps those that are not yet ready to engage your services will become more so if, when you arrange subsequent face-to-face meetings, you focus more on developing the connection you've established. Presumably, you have already introduced the firm and outlined its services; now let them get to know you.