Plant with care

Plant with care, weed with purpose

Long ago I was advised I should be hanging on to those business cards … ‘you never know when it may come in useful.’

Trouble is, I’ve just taken a look at around 25yrs worth of hanging on to business cards and I’ve come to the conclusion that 60% of these need to go…

‘Have you reached-out?’ I hear you say.

‘Don’t wait for the business, drop them a line with an update … include them in your newsletter, stay in mind.’ Yes, yes and I hear you again… but no.

Hey, I’ve been there, done that and I’m not so sure today’s networker has intentions for the long-term. Taking the advice though, half of those I included in updates had moved on, or sadly died. Half again seem to be only ‘in it’ for the now, so no. I’ve new purpose.

These days there are a core bunch of connections with whom I have a natural affinity. I see most of them on a regular basis and I value their advice and support.

I’ve learned over the years to select your close connections and cultivate with care. I look past the commercial engagement and seek more intrinsic values. I’m happy now to be comfortable in my shoes, happy where I sit in this place. Is this so bad?

So selecting my mates, my business connections, those whom I am prepared to spend time with in getting to know and trust is important to me. These are the people I can count on ‘for the journey.’

‘So what happens when someone else reaches out to you, do you accept the invitation?’ I hear you ask.

Sure, we need to engage and be prepared to offer help when it’s required, I believe that’s part of human nature, although if in ‘follow-up’ (and we all follow-up, don’t we?) the communication is lost, then I’m a little more mercenary on with whom I gift my time these days.

For me, cultivating new connections in business is a little like gardening. I’m more prone to plant and care more selectively, I’ve also developed a passion for recovering the space taken up by anything/anyone simply coming along for the ride …

Innovation

In my business, I get plenty of questions. Mostly these focus on the difference. Innovation and how they can increase the level of business.

It’s something I ask myself on a daily basis. How about you?

If we’re not ‘on top of our game’ it’s very easy for business these days to find that they’ve become lost in the crowd. Even if we start out with all the right intentions, if we’re not aware of the needs of our audience, we soon find we’ve become one of a number of others producing the same service/product provision … and so guess what?

We need to focus on innovation. Diversity, innovation and timing are so important.

Sure, timing is something we can tune into, as learned business people it’s over time we come to understand the seasonal landscape and learn to pitch for the max reaction.

Now if we embrace diversity, if we consciously focus on that one special something that sets us apart from the rest … then put this into practice, this is where we become more successful.

Innovators themselves are on the lookout for innovation …

Be an innovator.

We’re tuned in, to listen out, so find your diversity and think ‘my innovation,’ be mindful and talk it up when that question inevitably comes …

‘What can you, do for me?

Lose the bad apple

The bad apple. When it comes to referral some of us are our own worst enemies, don’t you think?

I’m writing in business context here, my young friend Ben had told me about a referral that sounded promising. Naturally Ben was upbeat about the connection and as is good practice, he followed up right away.

It turns out, this referral wasn’t picking up the telephone, made excuses via email and over the course of a couple of days the opportunity petered-out.

Seen it before folks? Here was another example of fast-track to oblivion in terms of referral marketing. Who was going to refer such a person after speaking with Ben? It’s true, bad news does indeed travel fast via word of mouth.

I did my best to reassure Ben that not all of his networking efforts are deemed to go the same way although I could see he was disappointed.

Trust is so important, Ben knows this, he had already made some great contacts so he could move on.

It’s six months now since I began working with Ben and his family as they establish the ‘new generation’ and over that time we’ve managed to avoid the unreliable ‘apple,’ determined the USP, covered ‘The Plan’ and worked on our ‘top ten’ attributes developing the dependable referral network … how do they compare with your own?

Attitude Do you have one? Ensure that it’s the positive kind.

Enthusiasm. Just like attitude, it’s contagious and brings out the best during networking.

Good Listener. Be sincere, how do you know what others want unless you listen?

Sharing. Share the knowledge, the good news and more, develop the relationship.

Trustworthy. Build trust by trusting others, sit down and listen to those new contacts.

Showing Gratitude. If someone helps out – that’s a great reason to say ‘thank you.’

Enjoy Helping Others. Some don’t ask it, so make sure you do: “How can I help you?”

Work Their Network …be on hand to support your colleagues.

Recommend others. Then ask them to recommend you.

Follow Up On The Referral. Nothing poisons the relationship faster than not following up on your promises. (Just ask Ben.)

Hey Charlie, that guy doesn’t bother me. He’s his own worst enemy and as far as I’m concerned, I cannot afford to be associated with him.”

That’s understood Ben just like your colleagues in your referral network.

Less trauma, less stress

Most in business understand that reaching out to new customers is key to growing the business and certainly contributes to our own personal development.

Some though, find that engagement through networking can be stressful, traumatic and in some cases, less than profitable.

So we shall keep it simple. Let’s take the stress out of PTSD.

There are just the three essential ingredients in becoming successful when networking:

Preparation.

Know what it is you want, know your audience, understand what makes you different and be prepared to ask for referrals. Work on the USP before you start your network journey.

Timing.

Once you’ve prepared, be there. All the preparation comes to nothing if you are not prepared to step out and engage your potential next best customer. Be Miss (or Mr) Consistent. Sure ‘being there’ creates its own opportunity through luck … although remember, the practice is called netWORKing …

Delivery.

When the time comes to introduce yourself, do so with confidence in your abilities, boldly outline what it is you are looking for, people will love you for it, show sincerity, don’t forget to smile … and be willing to ask for the help you need.

That’s it, work on the fundamentals as you invest your time in people and others will start to invest their own time in you.

The outstanding multitude of magic ingredients? These become more obvious over time.