How to succeed in business in The Big Apple aka New York City (NYC)

As a lifelong Bostonian and die-hard Red Sox fan; it’s hard to admit and even type that, especially this year, but it’s true.  I was in New York last week for 3 days with a colleague visiting clients and prospects of our property operations and workflow solution.  Aside from all of the great things that New York has to offer as a city, doing business there is a terrific litmus test for any company.

We have been very fortunate and worked extremely hard to establish a very solid group of clients in the City, but it has certainly taken time and we had to learn some hard and valuable  lessons along the way. My trip last week reinforced a number of those and I thought I’d share what I think are some important ones with you here:

1. Relationships Really Matter

When you are in sales, you certainly know and understand the importance of developing a connection to your prospect. However, in New York this is more true than anywhere else. We sell and support a web-based software application, so our typical sales process involves email and direct mail and other campaigns, phone calls and web demonstrations of our product.  These indirect sales tactics alone will not cut it in New York.  You need to put your feet on the ground there. People want to meet you, they want to see the effort made to connect personally and quite frankly, to be able to “size you up.”   This is not a one and done effort either, you need to show a commitment to being there and that you are willing to make an investment toward building solid and lasting relationships.

2. It’s Really a Small Town

It is incredible, particularly in our business, how true this is. Everybody knows everyone else.  People want to know who you are working with in the City and they will absolutely check you out. I had a client tell me over lunch last week,

“The first thing I do when I  am evaluating a potential vendor or partner is to reach out to my local network; I want to know if they have heard of you and if they have worked with you, everything about you… all the pros and cons.”

While it is a challenge to establish that first client without a track record in the City, it is essential that you service that client extremely well in order to build a solid reputation and the local references that people will prefer.

3. You Better Listen Well

New York moves at an extremely fast pace, and the people you will work with are used to keeping up with it and dealing with the individual demands of their jobs and clients. They will tell you what they need and expect, but really only want to do that once and their expectation is that you will hear what they are saying directly, or have the ability to “read between the lines.”  Your ability to absorb that information, ask the right follow-up questions and turn that around quickly into a solution that meets their needs is critical.

4. Have a Thick Skin

New Yorkers have a great sense of humor. But they can occasionally come across as gruff and even perhaps a little crass.  Not only do you need to be able to laugh along, often at yourself, but you should also be able to give it back a bit. There is certainly a skill to doing this well, but New Yorkers respect that ability and certainly in a place where the daily pressures can be intense, being able to laugh a little bit at yourself and with others is critical to developing trust and building relationships.

5. Bring Your “A Game”

More than anything else, in New York you will be working with, and competing against, the very best.  In general, the nature of the city- the history, size, energy, the businesses and opportunities that exist- attracts the most skilled and competent people you will run into.  There is very little they haven’t seen or heard and you must continually prove your value.  Be well prepared and certainly never try to  “put one past” anyone as you will find that extremely difficult to do and will be called on it.

If New York is an important market for you and your business, thinking about and applying these tips should help you and your chance for success. There’s actually a strong bit of truth to the line from Frank Sinatra’s famous song…

“…if I can make it there, I can make it anywhere, New York, New York!”