Getting a Foot in Corporate's Door
Many mediators ask me what's the secret to landing a workplace gig. I've worked with many companies large and small on a variety of projects. There isn't a secret but here are a few tips to share.
Be Broad. Unbundle your Skills
From designing an internal mediation program for Polaroid to serving as a facilitator as Colonial Gas merged to acting as conflict coach for senior executives at Fleet to training managers at Milipore, each project required different skills and knowledge beyond simply mediator. Make sure you are well-rounded in the kinds of professional activities that businesses need - consulting, training, coaching and mediation.
Quick story. Bank of Boston was my first corporate client. I got my foot in their door after a year of effort (more below about that) to do a basic conflict workshop for their human resources department. That single job turned into four very productive years of collaboration on all sorts of projects dealing with conflict, including mediation. Why? Because I saw myself - and helped them to see me - as a problem-solver who used mediation as one of my tools.
Be Prepared, be Overly Prepared
Attracting the attention of a prospective client is a little like dating. You have to make your interest clearly known (and a bit of flattery never hurts). Research your company. Set a Google Alert for its name. Read the local business paper for references about them or interviews with their key employees. Then demonstrate that knowledge and interest in each contact you have with them.
While courting Bank of Boston I followed their every move, especially those by Helen Drinan, former VP for HR and Greg Rice, Director of Employee Relations. Connecting a company with a person is very helpful in creating a thoughtful pitch. Those insights into Greg's character and management style allow me to tailor my communications to fit his needs and interests. Eventually, my efforts paid off with an invitation to audition (my training) for a select group. The rest as they as is history.
Be Persistent - in a Nice Way
It's important to stay top-of-mind with prospective clients so they call you when the need arises. It's equally important not to make a pest out of yourself. So where's the boundary line? It's a tough question and only you can decide.
Personally, I discovered that calling a prospect every 4-6 weeks and sending two notes/emails about relevant topics in between works for me. I also realized that forcing myself to make one extra call generally pays off. So if you're torn between a note and a call - make the call.
Try to contact at least two related people, say the sales manager and the president and cc the other. I think it can stimulate internal conversation about you or at least make someone hesitate before sending your note to the circular file. Oh, it's really useful to keep a chart of your communications with a company. It's hard to recover from sending someone the same great article twice.
More to come
Of course there so much more to consider and learn as you approach corporate clients, but this is a good start. I hope folks will share your questions, challenges or successes in the comments. If there's enough interest, I'll consider hosting a coaching group on marketing to businesses.
Try. Fail. Work. Grow!