Networking doesn’t work…

It’s a FACT!

Well, at least that‘s what I was told at a networking event recently.

I had seen the articulator of this statement before, often in fact, and even spoken to him on occasion; not that he remembered me.

He told me that he had been networking for two years and to date had never got a single piece of business from it. And I can tell you exactly why this is the case. I even tried to help the person concerned but they wouldn’t listen and throughout the remainder of the event he carried on in just the same manner. There’s no need to mention here what Albert Einstein had to say about this sort of action.

The problem was that he wasn’t networking. Well, not in an effective way anyway. His idea of networking was to thrust his business card into some poor unsuspecting person’s face and then quickly move on to his next target. Casting his ‘seed’ far and wide and hoping that something would take root. Rarely does this kind of tactic work as the very act of this sort of behaviour damages the personal brand of the person concerned and with it the likelihood of any business.

What should this gentleman do to improve his networking?

Well, to start with he should stop spreading himself so thinly and spend more time focusing on a few well-chosen networking groups.

But, the big thing is to start building relationships. Networking only really works consistently with people that you have a strong relationship with and this will take time to cultivate. The relationship must also be two-way, not just what you can get out of a person. You need to find out how you can help the other person.

So, networking is the start of a journey. You meet someone at a networking event, ask about them (they will ask about you) and then arrange to meet them again and again. And this may lead to a relationship that keeps giving year after year as you become friends.

Trust me, the results will be so much better than sticking your business card into someone’s hand.

Practice makes permanent!

I expect that you have heard the saying ‘practice makes perfect’. Well in reality this couldn’t be further from the truth, as no matter how much practice you do, if what you are practising is wrong, you will just become very bad at whatever it is you are doing.

Some time ago I heard a better version of the maxim from Nigel Botterill; he added a perfect at the beginning. ‘Perfect practice makes perfect’. And of course this makes perfect sense. After all, that’s why I have drum lessons because my teacher will ensure that I am practising correctly; even down to the way I hold my sticks.

But better still, and therefore more valid, I think, is something I heard Tim Henman say when he was commentating on a match that Andy Murray was playing at Wimbledon. It covers the real truth and benefit of practice. ‘Practice makes permanent’, he said. And that really is the key. Whatever you practise, good or bad, it becomes permanent. And it is exactly the same with us as business owners.

As a business mentor often it is the business owner who has been in business for a good number of years which is the hardest to help. Why? Because they are set in their ways. Practice has made what they do permanent. And, as any tennis coach will tell you, it is very hard to change a bad swing; sometimes impossible. The only chance is if there is a real willingness to change and then a great deal of practice!

So, if you are new to business, or been around a few years, is what you are doing, what you practise each day, what is becoming a habit, good for your business? Because, if not, you could be damaging the very success of your business in the long term.

It’s something I think we all need to think about very carefully!

You’re no good to me!

I was at a networking event once; it was in a nice restaurant, lovely evening, great food and pretty good wine.  Just a typical, well to be honest, better than average, networking event with well over one hundred people intent on doing business or just having a good time.

I’ve been to many similar events – some good, some bad – but I have never witnessed what I did that evening.  I have to say that even I was speechless!

I’m sure that we have all seen the inexperienced, or just plain bad, networker who thrusts their business card in your face and says “If you ever need a (whatever it is) you know where to find one”, and disappears as quickly as they appeared. But this person, at this event, took it a whole stage further.

He walked up to the person I was standing behind and said, and I am not making this up, it really did happen, “Hi.  Have you got a will?”  The startled man said, “Yes” and this guy just said “Well you’re no good to me then”, and walked off.  I still can’t believe I heard it or saw it happen.  Needless to say, I avoided that person for the rest of the evening.

So, what’s my point?  Other than the fact this is not a good way for anyone, ever, to act when at a networking event.

Well it’s simple. Networking is about the beginning of a relationship; it’s not about selling whatever it is that you are selling.  Not at the event any way.  It’s about helping people; it’s about building relationships that hopefully will be rewarding and beneficial to both parties, over many years.  Above all, it has nothing to do with a quick sale and moving on to the next prospect.

If you treat networking with respect and forget the quick hit, I promise you networking will bring you the rewards that you are looking for.

Good but not quite Carling!

Do you remember the Carling adverts? I think I like the cricket with the nun’s one the best, but I also like the office escape. If you don’t know the adverts, it’s where a guy does some amazing feat just to fail at the very last moment.

And that is exactly like a great many businesses’ marketing. There is some great marketing about but most fails just when it might have converted into a sale. And that’s just the case with a piece of direct mail (door drop) we received from one of the estate agents in our town. We were just about to put our house on the market when a card dropped through our letterbox.

‘Just SOLD in your area’. The design was good, the photos lovely, each picture had ‘sold’ printed on it – just what we needed. But then I turned over the card and they lost our business.

You see they are looking for ‘…similar cottages to yours…’ because they can sell more. Well we lived in a large three storey semi-detached Victorian house. And to my mind, if they don’t know the difference, that’s going to be a problem for me.

Now you might be thinking that some delivery company did the door drop. Well, even if they had, a good estate agent would know which roads were lined with cottages. As it happens I saw the person doing the door drop; it was a suited young man who looked very much like an estate agent. Now I’ll be fair, in our road there are both cottages and houses, but that’s where the ‘good but not quite Carling’ comes in. This guy (the estate agent) to a point was doing a great job, but he failed just at the last moment, because he wasn’t thinking about exactly where he was posting his marketing cards and it cost his company business.

So, is your marketing Carling or not quite Carling?

Sherlock Holmes gets it!

I watched an episode of Sherlock recently, ‘The Sign of Three’, and I must confess I was beginning to think that maybe I could be doing something better with my time.  But, the last ten minutes, or so, saved the day; because it made me think about business.

So, what’s Sherlock Holmes got to do with any business?  Well, he’s a pretty good detective, and in business we should always be looking for clues, such as to business trends, customer delight and staff morale – to name just three.

And something that caught my attention was when Sherlock was ‘helping’ Mary with the seating plan for her wedding.  She asked Sherlock if this particular person should sit at the top table and Sherlock said no.  When Mary asked why Sherlock replied, ‘Because he hates you and barely thinks about you.’ She replied, “Really?”  Sherlock then explained, “…Second Class post, cheap card, bought at a petrol station…”

The thing is this is also the case with many businesses.  They use 80gsm paper, manila envelopes or cheap off-white, thin card, Second Class stamps, leaflets printed on their inkjet (often crooked), and much, much more; everything for as little money as possible.  Now I’m not saying that you should throw your money away.  But, when talking to clients and prospect customers, what does cheap stuff say about you?  And, more importantly, what does it say you think about them (your client)?

As Sherlock says, do you barely think about them?

Little things can make a bid difference to the success of your business so make sure you get them right.

99 Red Balloons

I’ve just listened to one of my favourite songs from the ‘80s, ’99 Red Balloons’ by Nena and it reminded me of a presentation I attended some years ago by BNI Executive Director Andrew Hall. If you ever get the chance to hear Andrew talk I highly recommend it as he tells the most amazing stories which are all linked to business success. And it is one of those stories that I want to relay to you now. Although Andrew tells it much better than I will, I think it is so powerful but at the same time so easy to implement.

The story is about selling and comes from the time that Andrew used to sell balloons in Battersea Park.

At the time Andrew had a team of fourteen sellers and what made him unusual was that he trained his team in how to sell a balloon. He didn’t just give each member of the team a bunch of balloons and say ‘go sell’. He did a far better job than that, and this is what he did. It really is what makes the difference between doing an okay job and a brilliant one. And it’s so simple.

It goes something like this. When someone approached the seller, Andrew’s seller would say “Would you like one?”, and that’s where most normal sellers would stop. And in most cases this seller would get a ‘No’ or a shake of the head. But Andrew’s sellers were well trained, and before the person approaching them had time to speak, they added the ‘killer’ line, “Which one would you like?”

They had been presented with a simple choice, would they like the red balloon or the blue balloon? The result? Hundreds of balloons sold.

So, how does this story help you?

The answer is simple. Most people when selling ask the prospect if they would like to buy whatever it is that they are selling. Therefore it is easy for the prospect to say ‘No’. But, if instead, you can provide your prospect with a choice then your conversion will increase.

It can be as simple as asking, “Will you be paying cash or would you like me to invoice you?” Either way they are giving you their order.

If you can find your ‘Which one would you like?’ offering your sales will climb.

And, should you need any help then please do contact me.

£100 Bar Tab

Collecting the details of your clients and prospective clients, and keeping in touch with them, is essential to your future success.

And I really like this simple little card that I picked up at my local just last week.

It offers the chance of a £100 Bar Tab. Now that has to be worth my name and address. But there are also another couple of nice things offered.  A small gift when you sign-up and the promise of a little treat on your birthday.  Well at least I know I’ll have one present to look forward to!  But they also have a clever promise, a guarantee, especially useful for those worried about handing over their details to companies.  They will “… NEVER, EVER, EVER rent, sell or share your information”.  That’s a nice reassuring touch.

Their fishbowl was already pretty full with completed cards when I dropped in and there was even a pot of pens conveniently close by.  Not one pen mind you – about thirty.  Another bit of good thinking.

So, what simple mechanism can you put in place in your business to collect data and ensure yourself a brighter future?