Just recently I was asked to write a networking article for ‘Reverse the Tide’ Magazine about networking and here is the result that you might find useful if you, like me are a serial networker!
I was at the ABC Big Breakfast network meeting back in January and a business coach came up to me and asked how I managed to have my diary booked full of clients for 6 months in advance? I asked him how many network meetings he attended in an average month? He said 3 or 4 max, which at best is one per week! He then followed that up with saying that networking doesn’t work for him!
I told him that during a normal year I attend between two hundred and two hundred and fifty network meetings of one description or another and I have a process at each of those meetings. I also said that over 90% of my business came directly from networking or direct referrals.
He asked for some tips and these are seven that I gave to him:
BE CONSISTENT. It’s no good turning up to a meeting and then not going again for another six months. People do business with people that they know, like and trust and seeing you every six months doesn’t give them the opportunity to build that trust.
MARKETING BEFORE SALES. The amount of time we get cancellations at ABC Networks meetings because people say that they have to see a client! Really? It’s this mind-set that leads to a feast or famine business. Marketing is your sales funnel and without it the sales will dry up, so it has to be marketing before sales. If your clients can’t wait an extra hour in the mornings then that highlights other systemic issues in your business and would suggest a scarcity mind-set.
SUSPEND YOUR JUDGEMENT. Either consciously or subconsciously we are always making judgements and this is especially true at a network meeting. Your job is to be aware that you are doing this and STOP IT! Just because someone is dressed in shorts and flip-flops doesn’t mean they are skint or don’t know what they are talking about. Just because you don’t need a financial advisor at the moment doesn’t mean that they don’t know someone that could use your business. Stop judging and start connecting.
ASK DON’T TELL. If you are telling someone at a network meeting what you do, the chances are that they have turned off! Most people make a snap judgement about what you are saying and if they don’t have an immediate need they lose interest. When I’m asked what I do I always have a quick one line ready that includes the type of client I’m looking for, and then say “More importantly what do you do?” and I always finish with “How will I know if one of my clients is the right fit for you?” This shows that you are interested in them which will probably be a first.
IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU. Reverse psychology here. Most people that network are busy trying to get a sale and that equates to most people are busy resisting a sale! Yes of course in the long run that’s what we want, however, if you work on finding out all about them and how you can help them, the law of reciprocation will mean at some point they will do the same for you. I know it feels counterproductive, trust me, it really isn’t about you!
CONNECT PEOPLE. Make a genuine effort to connect people and keep them uppermost in your mind while you are out networking. My sole intention when I’m at a meeting is who can I connect this person to, and I always offer to connect them with my Linkedin connections if it will help them.
UPDATE YOUR CRM. As soon as you get back to your office or home make sure you connect on Linkedin,Facebook & Twitter and any other social media platform. I always send an email to a new connection thanking them for chatting to me and offering them a connection to my connections. I then update my CRM with the details I collected from them so that I always remember their name and business, when you meet them again and can remember their name they will definitely be surprised.
Overall, I believe networking is about turning strangers into friends and keeping the relationship warm just like you would any other relationship and that is why my diary is booked six months in advance.
If you would like to know more about the Psychology of networking have a look just here!
My new book ‘The FlipFlopPsycho and the Ruby Earrings’ is being published in November. Here is the introduction to the story in which Ruby turns around her ailing business and makes some life changing discoveries. A story full of Leadership, wisdom and business knowledge!
If you like it, please fill in the form at the end to pre-order the book at a very special cost price and one lucky winner will receive six months personal mentoring from me!
So here it is… Enjoy
‘The FlipFlopPsycho and The Ruby Earrings!’
Finally this was the day; it was here, the day that Ruby had waited for all of her life. She was so excited that she was opening her very own jewellery shop with all of her very own designs. It had taken a while and without the inheritance from her dad she would probably still be waiting in another 38 years.
She had found this quaint little shop in a picturesque seaside town that was popular with the tourists so it should encourage lots of new faces to look at her hand made jewellery.
Deposit paid, lease signed for 25 years, a few modifications inside to include her work station at the back of the shop and brand new display cabinets; now her beloved jewellery to fill them!
The opening day was good with takings in excess of £1500; brilliant, Ruby thought, with money like that coming in I’ll soon have the life I’ve always wanted and financial freedom. The first year of trading was good she had taken enough money to pay the bills, buy new materials for stock and pay herself a small wage. What she didn’t seem to have was any left over, the more money she took in the shop the more she seemed to spend.
The next two years were better on the takings but Ruby found that she had to subsidise her spending for the business with her credit card, she justified this by telling herself it would get better after the recession. The fact was that the business was losing money!
From the minute Ruby had been old enough to pick up a crayon she would draw anything and everything she saw.
Her mum and dad would encourage her to play with other toys without avail, Ruby was absolutely single minded and only wanted to draw. When she started school she was the same and had no interest in anything other than drawing.
She didn’t pay any attention to the lessons except for art classes and when her teachers tried to explain that she needed an education she really couldn’t see why as she knew best. When she got to senior school she started to concentrate on drawing jewellery and the thought came to her that she would like to design items for princesses and actresses. Her favourite design was a pair of ruby earrings, with lots of individual rubies shaped like a bunch of red grapes.
When she left school Ruby went to work for a silversmith and learnt how to make fine jewellery and soon started creating items from her own drawings. She was learning all of the necessary skills to excel at her chosen profession. One day the silversmith said to her “I think it’s time you should know something about business!” Ruby looked at him and said “why would I want to do that? I love making jewellery and that’s all I want to do!”
This had been the way of her life; she had done what she wanted to do when she wanted to do it. Being interested in anyone or anything else wasn’t what she considered important. Why would she need to be good at maths or English, why would she need to be friendly to people, why would she need to understand business? It just wasn’t as important as designing and making her own jewellery. She was a loner and that’s the way she liked it.
It was a sunny Saturday morning when a very successful local businessman dropped his wife off at the busy seaside town to have a look at all of the shops while he went to see a client that lived nearby. When he came back to pick her up she said “I’ve seen some lovely ruby earrings in this little jewellers shop at the end of the high street; can we have a look?”
So they walked back along the high street passing several other jewellers with lots of people milling around outside window shopping. When they got to the shop, there was a sign in the window saying “Closed for lunch!” “That’s a strange business decision‚” said the businessman; “A busy high street with lots of potential clients and the shop is closed for lunch? Never mind we can come back tomorrow as I need to get back today for another client.”
Sunday in this typically English seaside town was the busiest day of the week with lots of people driving in from the bigger towns of Maidstone, Canterbury, Medway and even London. This made shops in the high street a premium and they seldom came on the market for sale or lease even during the recent recession.
The businessman and his wife got to the jewellery shop just after 10am only to find it was closed again. All of the other shops in the high street were open for business and were taking advantage of the sunny day and the resulting extra influx of tourists. He said to his wife “Lovely jewellery but if the shop isn’t open on the busy times, how do they earn any money?”
They checked the opening hours on a sign hanging in the side window of the shop which said open Monday to Saturday 9am till 4-30pm and closed for lunch 12-30pm till 1-30pm. So they decided to come back on a weekday in a couple of weeks and hope that the ruby earrings were still there.
Two weeks later they visited the shop again and were in luck as it was actually open. In they went and his wife started looking around for the earrings. Ruby came out from her work station at the back of the shop and said “do you need any help?” A classic poor opening question thought the businessman.
“I would like to try those ruby earrings please!” said his wife. While she was trying them on he said to Ruby “how are you finding business at the moment?” “Not very good‚” she said “We have a lot of competition with three other jewellers in the high street!” “If we can’t get more clients in we may have to close!” “That would be a shame‚” said the businessman. “How do you market your business?” he asked. Ruby said “We are in a busy high street so we shouldn’t have to do anything other than attracting walk by clients.”
Very interesting he thought, and then asked “So what about a website?” “I have one but people don’t buy from it and I don’t understand it anyway.” He asked “what about Twitter and Facebook?”
“I don’t engage with my friends on Facebook so why would I want to engage with strangers? Anyway, none of that stuff works for bespoke jewellery like mine!”
“Ah‚” said the businessman “You have some lovely jewellery in here, is this all handmade?” “Yes!” Ruby replied. He asked “Have you made everything in the shop?” “No, I wouldn’t want to bore people with all of my things; I share the shop with another person.”
With that, his wife said that she liked the ruby earrings and dropped the hint that there were also a couple of other items, a bracelet and ring that he might want to come back and buy for her as Christmas presents.
“I’m not sure I want to sell those particular earrings as they were the first piece of jewellery that I ever made from my own design.” said Ruby. This is getting crazier by the minute thought the businessman; he asked “Why would you put them on display if you didn’t want to sell them?”
With tears in her eyes Ruby said “business has been really tough, with all of the competition it’s really hard to make ends meet. It’s the last resort if I sell the ruby earrings I will have enough money to pay the rent this month!” “What will you do next month?” he asked. “I’ll keep my fingers crossed and hope we have a good month over Christmas!” she replied.
He paid the £800 for the ruby earrings for which Ruby thanked him and they left. She felt as though the world had collapsed under her, she had promised herself that she would never sell her first design, but this was really her last chance to keep the landlord happy. Oh why oh why had she signed that 25 year lease?
The Saturday before Christmas the businessman arrived at the shop at 9-00am sharp to find a sign in the shop window saying, Christmas hours Monday to Saturday 10-30am till 4-00pm. Despite being disappointed to have to wait, he did so as he had driven 30 miles to buy a particular item. He walked up the high street which was already packed. The little kerbside cafe’s were almost at capacity and people were queuing to get into other shops, he just couldn’t work out why any business owner relying on walk by customers would open an hour and half after their competition did?
At 10-30am he was waiting at the door of the small jewellery store and there was Ruby in her work station as usual. The shop looked particularly empty today and he asked if she had had a good Christmas up till now? “No‚” she said. “I haven’t been able to replace the stock as we haven’t made enough money so it looks like we will close down after Christmas.”
He asked her “what was the thinking behind the reduced opening times over the busiest time of the year?” Ruby became very defensive as she always did when people questioned her decisions and said “It’s my shop and I’ll open when I want to, I can’t see the point of being here early at Christmas!” “That’s a shame as the high street has been very busy since I’ve been here at 9-00am!”
He picked the ring and the bracelet that his wife wanted and asked how much? Ruby said that it was a thousand pounds. At that moment the businessman had a thought; he said to Ruby “I’ll make you an offer, you can take the thousand pounds now or I’ll give you a day of my time and I’ll help you save your business!” Ruby thought for a minute and said “there’s nothing you can do to save my business as I’ve done everything that I know how and it hasn’t worked. I’ll take the money please.”
That’s normal he thought for most small business owners, too busy justifying what they know to find out what they don’t know. He handed over the money and said “just before you go to bed tonight ask yourself this question.” “What would you do differently if you had the chance to do it all again?” “Then as you sleep and dream tonight maybe the answer will come to you!”
With that he thanked her gave her his business card and left. Like everything else in her life Ruby took no notice of what he had said to her and just got on with her day moaning to everyone that came in the shop about how hard it had been through the recession and that she would have been ok if it hadn’t been for the competition. That evening as she was counting the day’s takings she found the businessman’s card, she thought about what he had said to her, laughed, and then put his card where she put all other cards… Straight in the bin!
As Ruby slept that night she had the most vivid dreams, recalling all of the conversations that she had had with the businessman. The first time she met him when he had asked about marketing her business, about the website, twitter and Facebook. She dreamt about the question he told her to ask herself and realised that all of her life she had done what she thought was right and didn’t take any notice of what anyone had told her.
It was at that point she remembered what the old silversmith had said about learning about business and realised that that is what she would do different. She would have learned how to do it properly, she would have learned how to engage with people, she would have learned about marketing and sales. She would have paid attention to customer service, she would have realised that having a bespoke service she could have sold it online, if she had only found out what she didn’t know instead of justifying what she thought she did know.
She realised that she had had a strategy that was perfect to give her what she had and if she kept using the same strategy she would keep on getting the same results. She realised that she was a brilliant jeweller but a very poor businesswoman.
Early the next morning she went through the bin and hoped that the businessman might just still give her the opportunity of the swap of the jewellery for his time. Could he really save her business? She hoped he could as she now knew that if she wanted something different, she had to do something different!
And maybe, just maybe she could earn enough to buy those ruby earrings back!
Too late, the bin men had already taken the rubbish!