Are you lost for words at your Networking events?

And now, maybe worse, as networking events that are getting going again, after a long break.

Most of us have been there: a room full of people in front of us, prospects everywhere, and we can’t think of a word to say.

And, more often than not, refuge is found with a glass of wine. We might in the course of the event collect a few business cards. But usually, once we have finished our complimentary glass of wine, we find an excuse to leave.

We may even be spotted by a friendly fellow networker who introduces themselves. But after asking a couple of easy opening questions and getting just a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ for answers they decide that there are more interesting things going on almost anywhere else in the room.

Well, if this picture is even a little like you, it doesn’t have to be.  A few ready made questions and answers will soon have you networking just like everyone else seems to be in the room.  But, first of all let me assure you that you are not the only person feeling as you do. Many will be, it’s just that you are all circulating the room and smiling at all that pass you by!

So, how about that first easy question?  Everyone asks it.  ‘How’s business?’  Your answer might be, ‘Fine’ or maybe, ‘Oh, we are really busy’.  The trouble with those answers is that it doesn’t really leave you anywhere to progress to. The answer may as well be, ‘That’s great!’

But, how about, if instead, you answered, ‘Really great! We have just finished a large project for our biggest client. We had to turn it around in record time, and I’m now looking for a similar job.’  The next comment is likely to be, ‘Tell me more’.

The secret is to have a few answers planned in advance: answers that are not only interesting in themselves but that invite another question.  Then once the conversation starts and you begin to relax you never know where things might lead.  You may just find your next big customer and don’t forget you can use that same great answer for more than one person.

However, sometimes you have to make the first move and again this is easy if you have a few ready prepared questions up your sleeve.  Start by scanning the room and finding someone much like you on their own, looking a little lost.  Go up to them and introduce yourself using just your first name and ask them theirs.  Then follow up with one of your prepared questions.

Why not try one of the following or make up your own with similar ideas?

1)      How did they hear about the event and do they know the host?

2)      Did they come to the event for a special reason?

3)      What is it that they do?

4)      How long have they been doing that?

5)      What made them choose that line of work?

6)      What’s the best thing about what they do?

7)      What kind of business are they looking for?

8)      Is there anyone that you might know that they would like to be introduced to (this person might even be at the event)?

9)      Who is their biggest competitor?

10)  How many people work with them?

All these questions need more than a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer and also the answers will tell you something about the person, their company, and if you want to start a relationship with them.

Remember, the objective at a networking event is the start of a relationship, your next meeting, not a quick sale.

So, never be lost for words at a networking event again and you will see that there is no need to feel on your own, as instead you may be starting lasting and worthwhile connections with the people that you meet.

Guitar Village

I was at Guitar Village, in Farnham, today looking at the Ukuleles; they are beautiful and my birthday is soon!

However, I’m finding it almost impossible to choose one, as I like so many; not just because of their sound but also their looks and the way they are made. Such lovely woods are used, such as mahogany, koa, maple, rosewood, cedar and spruce. Then there are the different makes and types: soprano, concert, tenor, etc. (plus they are all different sizes).

I asked Richard in the shop for help and he advised that, as a beginner, it would be best to decide on how much I would be willing to spend and then buy the one I liked the look and feel of best. He then added that after six months, if I’d become a keen player, that I can look again, as I’ll have a much better idea of what would work best for me.

His advice was perfect and is just the same in business. In business there are numerous things to do and often because of that nothing much gets done. So, think about it, what one thing could you do this week that would be good for your business? Then just ‘park’ everything else and do it. I’m pretty sure that you will see the difference it makes.

Richard also added something else, which I agree with, and in fact am doing. Having a ukulele and spending some time strumming is a great way to relax and get away from the pressure of your work. I’ve got to agree that it’s fun. So, if things are tough at the moment why not get a ukulele and try it?!

Guitar Village – let Richard know that I suggested you came to see him.

Farnham, Surrey, Business Networking – 19th August

Do you feel like you are on your own?

Many business owners feel like that they are on their own, that they are the person at the top, so it’s their job to sort things out.  After all, who can know more about their business than they do?  And, wouldn’t it be a sign of weakness, if they let anyone else know they had a problem?

They are the captain of their ship.  But then, we know of captains who have gone down with their ship, because they didn’t ask for help. 

Yes, no one else will know more about your business than you, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t be helped and asking for help is everything but a sign of weakness. It is in fact a sign of strength!  It means that you are big enough to know what you are not so good ‘at’, and will ask for help from someone that is.  The result? – a much better company.

The reason I mention this, is that over the course of a number of conversations, three conversations were exactly the same.  They had the same problem, at almost the same time.  It doesn’t matter what the problem was, but my point is that they battled through the problem on their own, only just making it, and they didn’t have to.  All three were shattered, but knew they had to keep going.

A business mentor could have helped, because the mentor may have already been through what they were going through and therefore could offer guidance, but at the very least a mentor would have been someone to unload on and so take some of the pressure away.

But, maybe even better still, would have been to join a business group, where business owners get together to discuss their businesses: their problems, successes, ideas and much more, most importantly finding out that they are far from alone.  Groups offer help, support and guidance and can make a big difference to the success of your business.

So, if you want more success, less stress, and not to feel like you are totally on your own, why not join a group and discover the benefits for you and your business?

Earn more just by dressing up!

Making a good profit can be a hard thing to achieve, In fact, at times, any profit is hard to make, but so many business owners make this more difficult than it need be.  There are so many ways to make more profit and one of those is to simply charge more for what you do.  Again there are many reasons for charging more for your service but one of the best is just dressing up!

I will assume that you are very good at what you do and that you give an incredible service.  But now I will give you two examples of how the same business might be sold.  For each I will just concentrate on three areas, but I’m sure that you will get the picture.

Method one:  The owner drives up in a dirty three-year old car, his business card is flimsy and has a number crossed out on it, and, to be honest, he looks like he has been away camping for the last few days.

Method two:  The owner drives up in a beautifully clean three-year old car, his business card is branded and printed on a heavy board, and he looks as if he is going somewhere special.

Now remember they are providing exactly the same service.  Which would you more likely give your business to?  But, more importantly, most people would pay more money for the service provided by the second method.

There is another point to my example: you knew the service was the same in both cases, but what if you didn’t?  Who would you have chosen to buy from?

‘Designer’ goods are all about dressing up: charging more and making more profit.  Okay the quality of a £4 pair of jeans from the supermarket is not the same as that of a ‘designer’ pair, but a great deal of the price paid is for the ‘look’ and not totally the product.

So, if you want to increase your profits, why not just try ‘dressing up’ a little? Believe it or not – it does make a difference.

Kick Started

Everyone I know received a bit, or a great deal, of a kick start when they first got their business going; and in fact still do today. It may have been their mum and dad, brother or sister, a friend, another business owner, someone famous on TV, someone in history, or at a live business event. The possibilities are endless but it can make a large difference to someone’s success.

The same is true when things get hard; finding a person that will give you a ‘kick’. The trouble with many business owners is that when their business is running they don’t like to ask others for help when things are tough as it seems weak. Many also think that they know more than most others so they can’t in fact be helped. Often that is a big mistake because often a ‘kick’ makes you think differently – it’s not an obvious answer.

Kickstarter exists to help bring creative projects to life and it can make an enormous difference to how you start a project; a new business.

During the lockdown my son has written a comic book. He has been planning it for years but being ‘locked down’ he was given the time to work on it and Kickstarter gave him the ‘kick’ and the knowledge to launch his comic. I have to say that it has been great and I’m really looking forward to getting my printed copy.

So, now maybe the time that you need a ‘kick’, from a friend, or a mentor, the important thing is to improve the way your business operates, adapt the current situation, and make sure that your business is successful going forward.

If you like adventure have a look at my son’s comic book; it might just give you a little kick (in more ways than one). You can see it here.

Your 3 a-day

No I’m not talking about your fruit or vegetable intake or, in fact, your health. However, I am talking about the health of your business.

We hear a great deal about setting goals. Your five-year plan, your three-year plan, one-year, and I myself really promote the one-month plan. Of course you need a long -term plan, something big in the future, but the reason that most long-term plans fail is because there are no one-month plans made in order to reach the bigger plan.

But even if you have your one-month plans in place, they won’t work unless you take some action; actions that will make your plan possible.

Here’s a simple example. Let’s say you want to double your turnover in the next two years. Not a bad plan – just imagine what that would do to your business.

Now at a very simple level, you would know how much business you would need in order to double your turnover. But, assuming you didn’t get any extra business from your existing customers, do you know how many new customers you would need?

Assuming you know that number, how would you go about getting that number of new customers?

How many new customers per month would you need?

Depending on your conversion rate how many customer meetings would you need?

And how many leads do you need to get to a customer meeting?

So far we haven’t even thought about extra staff, resources, cash-flow and a whole host of other things.

But even when you have done all of this work, at the moment it’s still all just theory. And this is when the action comes in. What actions will you need to take in order to make your plan, your goal, a reality? Because without any actions you will never achieve your goal.

So, work out what actions you need to take for your goal to succeed. There will be many of them; and then take three of those actions each and every day. As they say, actions speak louder than words, and in goal achievement this has never been truer.

Keep the Cash Flowing

Lack of cash will eventually kill any business, large or small, and it makes no difference whether the business is making good profits. I’m sure that you have heard the saying ‘cash is king’ and this is important in business because it means that you can always cover your costs.

A business owner contacted me because he had serious cash-flow problems. In truth, there was no flow of cash at all. His profitability was good and the company’s turnover more than adequate. So why was there no flow of cash? Simply that no invoices had been sent out for over six weeks. Six weeks and he was wondering why the cash had dried up!

Now before you say ‘well, that’s surely a one-off’ let me tell you that lack of invoicing is pretty common in business. And I’m not just talking about being slow at getting invoices out; I know many companies that don’t send all of their invoices out. It’s totally astonishing!

So here are eight tips on how to make your invoicing process not only effective but that will ensure that the cash keeps flowing. This is one area where having a good system in place will, literally, pay rich dividends.

1)    Invoice every day, week or month, whichever is the most appropriate. The most important thing is to be consistent.

2)    Confirm the amount to be invoiced is correct with your client before invoicing. This solves a lot of problems later on.

3)    Ensure that all order numbers, etc., that are required are included on the invoice. Again this solves problems later on.

4)    Ensure that any credit terms are clear and agreed.

5)    Check that your invoice has been received. Again this reduces future problems, like invoices having never been received and then delaying payment.

6)    If, for example you do a lot of one-off jobs, consider getting a mobile credit card terminal. Don’t be put off by the cost of this service as it is far out-weighed by the advantage of time saved not having to chase up payments later. Plus it’s instant cash.

7)    If you provide credit, call your customer five days before the money becomes due to check that all is okay and that the payment is scheduled.

8)    If payment should fall overdue, call immediately and ask when the payment will be made. Get the name of the person you speak to and the date for when the payment is promised. Don’t be put off from doing this; remember it is your money. It will also demonstrate that you operate a well-run business.

How are your ten best customers doing?

Do you ever wonder how your ten best customers are doing?  In fact, do you know, right now, who your ten best customers are?  If not, I really urge you to find out without delay.

Depending on your type of business, knowing who your best customers are today, six months ago, a year ago, can give you a valuable insight into your business.  Is the order changing.  Have some customers disappeared and others taken their place?  Is their spending going up or falling?  Armed with this information you can not only thank those spending well, but, more importantly, if sales are falling, find out why, and hopefully, be able to do something about those customers before it is too late.

However, back to my original question.  Do you know how well your ten best customers are doing?  Why should you care?

Well, if you know how your best customers are doing it is a good predictor of how your business will be doing in the future.  If your best customers are doing well the odds are that you will be as well.  If, on the other hand, your best customers are finding trading difficult then again it is likely that you will be too.

If, as is more likely, some are doing well and others are not doing so well, do they come from a particular market sector?  If the answer is yes, perhaps it would be worth looking for more business from a successful market sector.

Can you offer this successful market sector something extra?  Something that will get you recognised as a leading supplier in the market place?

Then again, if a client is finding trading difficult, how can you best help them?  Or maybe you should be careful as to what level of business you do with them.

Knowing who your best clients are and how they are doing can be a real key to your own success.  So, please take some time this week to find out who they are and how well they are doing and you could have a great idea as to how well your business will be doing over the coming months.

Does your business card leave people in the dark?

You’ve been out networking, had a productive time and given out lots of your business cards.

But have you ever stopped to wonder what happens to your card?  Is it, and more importantly, are you remembered, or does it just end up in the rubbish bin?

Is, in fact, your business card worth keeping?

I ask this because all too often I am handed a card that just has a name and a mobile phone number on it.  Sometimes it will have a company name, but often the company name gives me no clue as to what the person does.  And likewise, the email address doesn’t either, as often it is just a name with a number added to @.

If your card is anything like this the chances are that it will end up in the rubbish bin.  After all, I can hardly ring you up and say, “I’ve no idea what you do, or where you are based, but let’s do some business.”  It’s just not going to happen!

Now you might be thinking I’m not very good at networking, as having met someone I can make notes on their card (not always possible on some cards), which of course I do, but, and it’s a big but, why take the chance on someone else making notes about you, when you have the perfect opportunity to tell them exactly what you want them to know?  Why risk your business card ending up in a bin somewhere?  Wasting your very valuable time spent networking.

In any market place you need an edge over your competition: that something extra.  So, why not increase the odds of your business card being kept, improving the chance of future business, by simply improving the information on your card?