New York is the city that never sleeps. For six months, our company is participating in the Canadian Technology Accelerator, a program that helps high potential Canadian entrepreneurs and their tech startups reach new heights in New York City. This accelerator differs from others in that there’s a focus on business development — the process of acquiring new customers.
Now that we’re a ways in, I’ve learned some important lessons that would be valuable to any entrepreneur considering a large city like New York.
Call Your Prospects
Getting a meeting isn’t as difficult as you think. You just need to pick up the phone and call your prospect. New Yorkers are willing to take any call, but you must get to the point quickly. No chit-chat. They don’t talk about the weather or last night’s game.
If you can demonstrate value in 15 seconds, they’ll continue to talk. The goal of the call is not to make a sale; rather, it’s to get an in-person meeting.
Register for Events
While you’re be busy making calls during the day, in the evening other opportunities will arise. New York has much to offer for those who enjoy networking. Those in the know head over to Gary’s Guide, a directory of New York-specific events ideal for those in the technology and startup scene. There are events focused on every industry, job title, hobby or skill set. You’ll find three to four relevant events to choose from every day. Be sure to register for each event in advance, as most buildings have security and will require that an ID.
Once at the event, make the most of your time. Strike up a conversation with those in attendance by asking a simple question such as “Where did you hear about tonight’s event?” or “What are you hoping to learn at tonight’s event?” Good events can yield up to ten new contacts, so be sure to arrive equipped with your business cards.
Offer Face Time
People love meeting in person. When lining up a meeting, be sure to get face time, ideally at their office. In short, you have to go to the prospect. That’s why you’re in New York in the first place — to develop key relationships in person (something that was unlikely to happen is smaller markets). When booking time on their calendar, ask for 15 minutes. New York moves quickly and no one has time for an hour-long presentation. Regardless of how much face time you can get, be grateful.
However you connect with prospects, be it on the phone or in person, it’s imperative to demonstrate your knowledge. Share an industry trend you’ve been observing or some news that just zipped across your feed. Knowledge is currency, so tell them something they don’t already know. Educate, don’t sell. If you’re meeting someone specific, visit their company newsroom to read recent press releases first. If the company is publicly traded, be sure to check out the investor relations page to find announcements that may be suitable to bring up in a meeting.
Once you’ve made it through security and are waiting in the lobby at a your target company, you should now be ready for anything. This includes a change of locations, meeting in a small office, no big screen TV to display your presentation on and any number of other potential bumps. Whatever surprises pop-up, roll with it. Be willing to give your elevator pitch at a moment’s notice. For example, I’ve presented at a makeshift boardroom table constructed from an antique dining room table, while sitting back on couches resting my laptop on the armrest and even in a recording studio where I placed my laptop on the mixing console. As they say in the entertainment business: The show must go on.
Throughout the presentation, make it clear what you are offering, and more importantly, how it’s exclusive. Your prospect knows the competition is just down the street, so there’s always a sense of urgency. Get creative and give your prospect access to an opportunity their competition doesn’t have.
Act Like a Local
New Yorkers want to do business with New Yorkers. Equipped with this knowledge, do your best to fit in by sounding like a local. Know your neighborhood and be able to reference the cross streets of your office (e.g. Broadway and 40th). This matters because if your prospect needs to get a hold of you or book another meeting, you’ve given them the confidence that you’ll be around.
New York is without a doubt the busiest place I’ve ever been. Everyone has somewhere to be and a day full of appointments. To break through the madness of daily activities, you have to be memorable. One way to do this is by always following up. Follow up the same day, ideally when you’re back at the office. Waiting even a few days sends a subtle message that you didn’t value the encounter. If you promised to send a copy of the PowerPoint deck, do so the same day. This shows you mean business and that you’re committed to making the relationship a fruitful one.
Stay in Touch
Staying in touch is vital. If you couldn’t move a deal forward on your first attempt, get permission to put a date on the calendar for 60 or 90 days. Then follow up. Should your time in New York expire, there’s always an opportunity to re-engage when you’re back in the city for a conference or special occasion. Some of my best contacts have developed over a number of years. My persistence in visiting our best partners each time I’m in the city is what has made those relationships successful.
I’ve learned that your success in New York is directly tied to the amount of effort you put into your time there. By applying a few of these tips, you’ll be developing new business relationships like a local in no time.
David Ciccarelli is the co-founder and CEO of Voices.com, the online marketplace that connects business people with professional voice over talent. The unique blending of his audio engineering background with business savvy and product development afforded David the creative freedom to pursue his passion for innovation.
BusinessCollective, launched in partnership with Citi, is a virtual mentorship program powered by North America’s most ambitious young thought leaders, entrepreneurs, executives and small business owners.