Are you interested in generating leads without using a sales pitch!
Well, Douglas Ritter has written a book, The Twenty Seed Game, to help you do so.
In his book, Ritter describes his effective networking process that builds strong, meaningful connections with others, leading to new business.
He calls these connections seed plants. But the seed plant isn’t about selling! No, you are there only to leave a memorable impression.
The steps of the twenty seed game are:
- Getting the meeting
Intrigued? Keep reading to learn more.
Make a list of 40 new (operative word: new) contacts you’d like to meet to plant seeds.
They can be people you know already, but not people you’ve tried to sell to.
They can even be friends if they don’t know what your company does or what you do for your company.
Use your resources. LinkedIn is very helpful.
Make an Excel Spreadsheet with the 40 company names, and 40 contact names, one for each, with the first column header “Company,” and the second, “Contact name.”
You’re making a bigger list because statistically, you’re more likely only to be able to meet with 20 of the 40.
2. Getting the Meeting
If you’ve never met, find somebody to introduce you to the contact person. If you look on LinkedIn, you can often find connections and go through those.
If you’re a phone call person, by all means, make a phone call. But if you’re not comfortable talking on the phone, go by email.
Ritter recommends you write an email to the middle man, asking them to pass along an introductory email that you’ll write up on their behalf.
It’s critical that you specify these two facts in the email:
- You’re not there to sell anything.
- You aren’t looking for a position with their company (even if you hope for either of these).
Tell them exactly what you’re there for, to meet and network.
Send a follow-up email in the next day or two, reiterating the same information. Request to set up the meeting.
No need to CC your point person, as they’ve done what you asked and don’t need to read your whole exchange.
If the person accepts, excellent! If not, more fish in the sea.
3. The Meeting
The first tip is to prepare! This meeting is like a job interview, so you’ll want to go in with all the necessary information.
Research, Research, Research
A good resource is the internet. Research what their company does and the people involved in the company before you meet.
Set up your meeting in an environment that is going to be comfortable for your contact person. This environment can be coffee, lunch, or even at their office if they can’t get out.
The best bet is in a coffee shop where you can relax as long as you need and are in a casual atmosphere.
The meeting shouldn’t be at your office because that feels like a sales meeting.
This Event Is Not a Sales Meeting
With that in mind, think about why you are there? The answer should be, to find out information about their company and what they do.
People like to talk about themselves and their work, so ask questions. Come prepared to find conversation points you’re interested in hearing about.
Make sure you know where you’re meeting and how long it will take to get there. Have a phone number in case something happens along the way.
If meeting at their workplace, show up ahead of time and announce yourself on time. For a coffee shop meeting, arrive early and find a table.
The Meeting Flow
The first part of the meeting is usually spent making introductions. It’s small talk about how you got there, chatting and getting common ground.
You’ll probably have something to say about the person who connected you. It’s a good idea here to bring up something you’ve learned about the person beforehand, just show you did your homework.
Importantly though, avoid sensitive or controversial topics. You’re not here to talk politics.
After this, it’s time to ask the person the questions that brought you to the meeting in the first place.
Focus on the Other Person
Focus on the other person, and let them tell you about their company, themselves, their passions. Ask a lot of questions.
If the other person is going to bring up your job, this is usually the point where they’ll do it. They might ask you what you do or to tell them about your company.
Don’t fall into the trap of turning this into a sales pitch! Just give your brief elevator speech, 1-2 sentences.
If they ask follow-up questions, you’re free to answer. But if not, spend the last few minutes of the meeting asking them a little more about themselves and what they do.
4. The Follow-Up
Follow up with a thankful message via email and ask to connect on LinkedIn. Send your LinkedIn request, but personalize it with their name and a thanks for meeting with you.
Then send one more thank-you email through LinkedIn after they’ve added you.
The total time estimate for each seed plant is 3 hours, not including coming up with your list of 40.
Input the information in your spreadsheet, with the name of the company you met with and notes about how it went. Did it establish depth, trust? Keep practicing, and you’ll become a natural.
Be adamant about making notes in your spreadsheet. Follow the structure of the game, and measure your success.
Document everything and see how long it takes to plant 20 seeds. Ritter estimates typically 2 1/2 months.
Twenty Seed Game Guidelines
So now you know the basics! Be consistent enough to make a habit out of these steps.
Think of this practice as a game; your Excel spreadsheet is your game board.
As you work on planting those seeds, make an effort with each one to find a lead you’re serious about.
There are thousands of people you could meet in the business world, many of them fascinating. Don’t waste your time pursuing bad-quality leads.
Get Used to This Process
Start to understand how long each step takes for you, and how you can most efficiently complete each one.
However efficient you can be, it will all still take a significant amount of time. But with focus and time management, you can consistently make time to plant seeds.
You’ll also learn what works best regarding how you communicate with others.
Keep Track Along the Way
With your spreadsheet, you’re collecting important data about this process to look back at and understand the trends. You’re tracking and measuring.
As you continue the game, you’ll be able to see your game card fill up with seeds planted.
As the game continues, seeds planted will yield requests for proposals, either directly from the contacts you met or because of them. You’ll also find that planting 20 seeds from an initial list of 20 names is difficult.
You’ll likely need more, even double. Some people simply won’t want to meet, and others will delay longer than your estimated 2-month time frame.
In the meantime, seek out more names and keep on trying to set up those meetings.
Use Networking Events
You can help yourself during the game by using networking events. These are a great place to meet people, take business cards and cultivate an initial contact.
These events, like your seed plant meetings, aren’t about selling. They’re just a chance to meet others.
It’s great if you find names here you can add to your game card. You may even find that new names come to you naturally after you’ve begun, through recommendations from others.
You can also add these to your list.
Accountability is a major help when trying to complete a longer-term challenge like this one. Two months is a lot of time, and there will be plenty of opportunities to cut corners or even give up.
Resist the temptation by involving others, getting more players in the game or having somebody act as a monitor to check in and moderate. Hold brief weekly meetings to check in.
With your seed planting, you will begin to see proposals. You’ll have more information to document as you see the ratio of seed planting to proposals, and the size of each deal you can close from these.
You could get proposals from every seed or 1 out of every 7. Whatever the case, the relationship has then turned into sales, and it’s time to close the deal.
As you keep track on your spreadsheet, the data and discipline of input as you go along will help keep you accountable.
Do It Again
The next step is to do it all again! It might be more difficult this time to come up with your list, but the overall process is the same.
You can use the twenty seed game for finding prospects and making sales, even for finding a job. But the key to remember here is to focus on the process, not what you could gain.
Build trust through meaningful interactions and forge strong connections.
How do you create meaningful connections in your business? Have these connections helped your sales? What was the biggest surprise you learned from these connections?
Share your experiences in the comments below. Your experience is unique and valuable to others!