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The most difficult part of any relationship, whether it’s business or dating, is the “getting to know you” period. It helps if you know someone who knows someone. You could know all the “someones” in the world and have great relationship with them, but it won’t matter if you never ask, “What do you know about our services?”

A conversation with my mentor in summer 2015 reminded me of this. I visit with my mentor every few months for guidance and to stay connected. He was the manager of the company that I professionally “grew up” in, and I have learned a lot from him over the years. During this conversation, I mentioned I was working on an initiative to reach out to more local companies but was struggling with where to start.

My mentor suggested reaching out to some of our former coworkers from the telecommunications industry. Many of them are now senior leaders at local companies, or have started their own companies that are thriving. Though I frequently interact with my former coworkers on LinkedIn and other social networks, I hadn’t spoken directly with them about Smartlead.

When I took the chance to ask a few colleagues about their interest in our services, I was surprised to learn that several of them didn’t know much about the services we provide. Locally, we’re what our CEO, Dan Rogers, calls a white rhino. We’re here and we’re real, but not much is known about us. Many of our clients are spread out across the United States or international, and local companies knew us for one or two services, but weren’t aware of the full breadth and depth of what we do.

This got me thinking — if companies in our own community don’t know all we do, there’s a good chance our clients aren’t aware of all of our services, either.

Our Account Managers took this revelation and ran with it. We started asking our clients if they knew about certain services that would be relevant to them. It turned out to be a great way to expand opportunities and support those clients’ goals. Many were happy with one of our services and were interested to find out the different ways we could help them in other areas of their business.

It’s true that knowing the right people and being well-connected is important for business development. But just as important is being willing to ask the right questions and making something positive out of the answers. No one can read your mind — they’ll never know how you can help them if you aren’t willing to ask what they know about your services.