Mark Layder hails from Telford in the United Kingdom, which is the home of the industrial revolution and now, the collaboration revolution. By being a business connector, he’s helping fellow entrepreneurs who don’t like to do the selling themselves get noticed.
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A lot of networking takes place out there in the world. However, there are certain business owners who don’t particularly like it; there are also those who do, though it’s not connected to their strategy.
Over the past years, the profession of business connecting has emerged. It has helped a lot of business owners and entrepreneurs with no sales and marketing background to really leverage their businesses.
More than 80% of business owners in developed and first-world countries will say that they’re not from a sales or marketing background. They’re the typical technical business owners: They like to make cakes, build software, and cut hair but don’t necessarily like the front-end business development aspect. And it can partly be attributed to how first-generation coaches from 25 to 30 years ago also didn’t like that.
Mark and his team in BizConnectors have been providing that business development element and the systems that allow business owners to spend a lot more time doing what they love. And for him, it’s a pretty natural thing. This sort of profession chose them, rather than them choosing it.
The Goal of BizConnectors
There’s an old story about how Bill Gates was laughed at when he said he wanted to put a personal computer, in those days, on every desk. People told him to not be ridiculous. But today, even Mark who has a house-cum-office (it’s not a traditional office) has 14 devices in one place. In reality, Bill Gates has massively under-promised or under-targeted.
This is why in Mark’s case, the goal is to put a 24/7 sales and business development capability in every business in the world. They plan to do it for any entrepreneur, first, for free. When their clients are getting a return, then they can reach out for more support.
This way, clients won’t need to get stumped up with the traditional pricing method where they take all the risk. With this strategy of working for entrepreneurs on a commission basis, Mark and his team get to share the risk, earn their clients’ trust, and keep going forward.
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Utilising a Diagnostic Questionnaire
A British company called Allied Dunbar (now Zurich) revolutionised what’s now called the financial advisory market by introducing two things to what was a very small market at the time. One was a questionnaire; the other was a group of 4,000 young girls and boys in blue suits and white socks. The company went out to clients and offered the free diagnostic questionnaire through a long hour-and-a-half process.
There are companies and people like this who have all these legs and tentacles that can go out in the field. However, the key was in the questionnaire used, because it served as a point of contact with clients.
Mark resorted to using a short online questionnaire for BizConnectors. It’s effectively the same thing with the one mentioned above and it costs business owners — their clients — nothing.
He and his team offer this because he believes that it’s their job to find out how clients see things first before they can start coming up with solutions. These solutions won’t only help their clients but also challenge them. Because once they overcome that and get some wins, then, the more that they will be able to go forward.
While their approach is no different from the old commission-basis system, it can be considered new in terms of being an outsourced business resource for entrepreneurs who want to increase their business development capability.
What the Job Entails
Mark has a blend of coaching and business background. To be a pure coach, he didn’t need to know the details of people’s businesses. His job entails asking them questions that challenge their thinking. They themselves would come up with answers that they can work upon.
If you take that process and put it into the world of business development, then it won’t require Mark and other business connectors to be experts on their clients’ businesses. Their clients are already experts on it. What they’re not necessarily the experts on is the growth side of it.
By utilising a diagnostic questionnaire to help business owners build their plans, they’re able to tap into their clients’ skills and perspectives to develop something that they can recommend. Mark and his group are not trying to sell a box of goodies that they think their clients need, which, unfortunately, is what everybody else is trying to do.
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Because it’s the skillset and approach that Mark is utilising, their profession can be considered sector-agnostic.
They also consider themselves as something global.Thanks to Mark’s background, a lot of his contacts are based in the United States. And because of some circumstances, he also has several contacts from the African continent.
On Training ‘Biz Connectors’
Mark and his team are also getting people who want to be trained as a biz connector. In this regard, the system is quickly transformed into something that these aspirants can use in their respective home markets.
One of these biz connectors comes from a high-end business opportunity background and caters to a very short-term market (he sells things that people want to make a profit from in a short span of time). He helped that person create a list showing different types of deals that offer long-term opportunities.
In the process of working out what his profile is, Mark learned that he is a sort of promoter — the kind who likes to share new things with people and, at the same time, likes to go back. These are people who are not like the old direct sales guys who weren’t interested in long-term relationships. They are hunters that farm: They like the newness but they also cultivate relationships.
With the business opportunity market, what Mark and team are trying is not to push people into their company’s box — because there are different ways and levels wherein people can be trained as biz connectors.
If they’re forced into doing business connecting in one way, Mark points out that it would be the same as doing the opposite of what he’s teaching them to do with their clients. This is why he and his company see to it that they provide people with a level that they’re comfortable with; a level that they can grow into and scale up or down to suit their goals and needs.
How He Gets His Business Get Noticed
Mark caters to two audiences — the clients themselves and people who want to be biz connectors.
Screengrab from BizConnectors
When he got in touch with Chambers of Commerce, one person said to him that there’s nobody called a biz connector in their chapter. He then invited Mark to have one in each of the chapters, because the existing members don’t particularly want to do the connecting and the networking.
Mark considers this a whole kind of corporate market: A corporation started approaching them and enquired about how they could work with a biz connector. This model works perfectly because there’s an independent person who wants to be trained as a biz connector and another corporate person who wants to hire one.
There are different ways that this can be done and the market continues to expand as the need for business connecting becomes pretty much ubiquitous.
Behind biz connectors are what they call a counsel of experience. These experienced people know who their suppliers and experts are, and these are those who often have the same problem about connecting and networking.
The end-users that they have are typically great at what they do but also don’t want to spend all their time selling and marketing. What Mark and his team do is to represent them and link them with a biz connector.
They’re also practicing what they preach. Whether it’s doing LinkedIn or any kind of marketing, they use such methods to promote their profession. Additionally, they have a funnel-building personnel who is an expert at what he does (In fact, they could even make him one of their biz connectors and take him out to the market).
The beauty of this is that they’re not just promoting biz connectors because they provide good commission. They’re working with them because 98% of the time, Mark or an individual partner has already previously worked with them. Its community-first approach is high on trust. And through this, recommendations have also become easier.
For Mark, the classic and easiest person to sell to is a referral. While everybody acknowledges this, nobody has actually systemised it. His group has ways to do just that and use that as well in their own marketing efforts and in helping their end-users.
‘Program of Attraction’
Back when the company was based in the US on a contract basis, Mark had an old boss of sorts who refers to their system as the program of attraction. He calls it so because they don’t insist their business — the biz connectors can use their own suppliers to address an issue.
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For instance, if a biz connector happens to know a public relations (PR) guy and Mark says to use their PR team, it could be an instant point of friction in the system. What they realised that they can do is to ask the business connector to introduce them to the PR guy and even promote him, too. They have to make it wherein each business connector can also build their own supplier if they want.
On their part, Mark and company are still in the relationship to provide value.
This keeps the system very transparent. They’re not charging monthly fees. They’re also not forcing biz connectors to use the company’s suppliers. These connectors can choose to continue gaining support as long as they see value in it. If there aren’t, they’re free to go on their own.
The Desire to be a Connector
According to Mark, their business started from a relationship-based point of view. And it was men of a certain age (SilverFox entrepreneurs as how I call them) who first said things about wanting to leave their homes and connect with other people.
While the web has become a place where people can build their business from a computer, the desire to go out and be the local connecting point is alive and well.
Though there are some women biz connectors, this profession has been particularly about men. But from that original relationship build, they’ve increasingly looked into different ways to make that more available to different segments of the market.
Their system has also been versatile. A biz connector can be talking to someone face-to-face or to somebody in Singapore through the web. It really fits well with different personalities and types of people.
On Contract Negotiations
Contract negotiation is where the relationship of the biz connector becomes important.
The world is a busy place and there are different channels — but nobody’s on any of them. With a biz connector, someone connects a supplier (for instance, a PR guy) into a final user. There now exists a third-party entity whose vested interest is to negotiate.
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Clients have several reasons to maintain relationships with both sides.
When it comes to working with Mark and company, the clients get a guarantee for the kind of people they bring to the party. They know them and they have worked with them. Their biz connectors also have long track records and if they bring their own people, they’re also from the network. There are also a lot of checks and balances.
Knowing that there are biz connectors who run between the market and the suppliers, the final end-users and clients can also get on doing their business. These people aren’t seen as somebody who’s there to flog something but to genuinely solve their problem. They supply the extra vested interest. Everybody could carry on with what they’re doing because there’s a connector who’d do all the messy stuff that nobody else really wants to do.
Building a Business Requires Connections
In their early phases (before they even called themselves BizConnectors), there was a person who specialised in currencies. He worked on that little niche and used that one area to open up other opportunities. He did this while he was still a student.
He went traveling to Colombia and after three months, the commission that he was making was already enough to shoulder both his expenses abroad and at home. And it’s just from one product.
This is one of those archetypal stories that showcase the power of relationships and some of those products and services the people often find complicated to deal with. These are products and services that, if you find somebody else to sort it out for you, you can get on doing whatever you’re doing.
As Malcolm Gladwell, the author of The Tipping Point, has discussed: There are three different types of people — mavens, connectors, and salespeople. Salespeople go across networks. Connectors, on the other hand, help build communities. Mavens are the people who are into research and invention. These are professionals that entrepreneurs need to go to tap into different networks and build their businesses.
To learn more about Mark and other biz connectors, check out www.bizconnectors.org, which has an interactive mini-questionnaire so that people can start the process right away. You can also reach out to him on LinkedIn.