We all know how to sell the region - many of us have been doing it for years. But, what do you do when a site selector or client company doesn't want to hear from the economic developer who has her elevator speech memorized?
In December, Kimm Coyner, Erin Rolfes and I had the opportunity to attend the Win ED (Women in Economic Development) conference in Savannah, Ga. While it was a great opportunity to network with fellow female economic developers, it also gave us a chance to pick site selectors' brains. One of the illuminating conversations we had surrounded who can tell your region's story.
Practice and amplify
If you're like me, you have a wealth of knowledge about your region. Stats about the number of people living in your city, kinds of industries you recruit and your city's unique sense of place can just roll off your tongue. But that's not the case for everyone a client company or site selector may encounter on a site visit.
Economic development practitioners need to listen to their community stakeholders' unique stories and help them weave those stories into the region's overall narrative. Introduce your client companies to people in your community who can authentically convey the larger narrative you're trying to create. These participants can include anyone from local colleges and universities representatives and companies of a similar size and make-up as your client company to regional champions you know will share a good story. Just make sure everyone in the room understands his or her role and has a part to play. Nothing can sink a deal faster than an unintended remark said to a client company or site selection consultant.
Listen, listen and listen some more
We've all been there - you're meeting with a client company, and you just can't wait to share an anecdote about those regional assets you uncovered. Whether it's a recent win or a story about how different organizations worked together to overcome a challenge, as sales people, it can be easy for us to just keep talking. Next time you're in that situation, take a breath and step back. Remember, you're there to solve your client's problems - and to figure out what those problems are, you need to listen. When you're done listening, ask questions - you'll be surprised just how much a client will share when you give her the chance.
How have you strategically used your region's brand assets when meeting with a client? Share your story with us on Facebook.