Fail sometimes. It’s ok.

 

So how about a salesperson Sally? Who looks after sales within your organisation??

Employ someone? Where am I going to get a salesperson that understands my business, Charlie?

Fair comment I thought to myself, we’ve all asked the same question.

I knew that Sally was a sole trader and the question from me was an honest one. Sally had her bookkeeper, relied on some freelance and just now was worrying about the struggle for new business.  Social media brought the odd enquiry although nothing substantial.

Besides Charlie, I don’t think I could burden the business with the cost of an extra person, even if it were part-time. I would worry about their messages, fear for their rejection, the critique acquired through competitor comparison … if that makes sense.

It does. So, you’re going to come along and find out how networking may help?

Yes, next week. It’s early, which is good as just now, it’s the only time I have Charlie and I feel I need to be more accountable for new business, for sales.

Fear of transparency, failure as a consequence of taking the opportunity, stepping out of the comfort zone is commonplace Sally. The very thought of turning up and engaging a room of expectant strangers is enough to undermine any thoughts of a great first impression … but … the positive to networking can be profound.

So when should I expect results?

I’m just as impatient Sally, although when I started networking I soon found out that not everyone is in the marketplace for my services at the same time. Networking ‘works’ with calculated patience.

You already know and understand that you are the best qualified to offer your business services. The ‘selly-sell’ is not required.

Be prepared to fail sometimes, show your vulnerable side … (develop empathy.)

If you can keep your eye on the ‘why am I doing this?’  Clearly explaining this to your audience, by being concise you will soon find support.

Benchmark your efforts Sarah. Deliver consistent messages over a given period of time and adjust your presentation accordingly, for ‘the room’ or seasonally to suit your business, create the trust among your audience to realise the opportunity, the ‘bizability.’

Something else, don’t forget to have fun Sarah, smile.

At 7 am?

People buy from people Sally.

Reputable, reliable, referable

Is he reliable Charlie? Ben asks.

Do you know him well enough to refer him??

Fair questions. I thought for a single moment and realised that this time, I just wasn’t sure of my answer…

All in business have had times of dilemma, finding the reliable trading partners, co-workers and suppliers are part of that conundrum. Yes, there is an abundance of reputable offerings … but are they reliable?

I consider myself lucky that I have made some fantastic, trusted long-time connections through networking. We seem to ‘sing from the same hymn sheet.’

Similar to what was being asked of me now, think yourself, what characteristics would a potential business partner or supplier need to possess? There’s a good chance you’ll come up with a list of attributes (nearly) similar to the following …

Is there evidence of:

Like-mindedness

Product knowledge

Empathy

Not forgetting, a reputable name?

Connections

Reliability

What makes them so referable, to you?

Personal recommendation. Reputations are built on them.

You may be given an introduction to a wholly reputable business, someone who fits the bill, an organisation that tick’s all the boxes, even drinks your brand of coffee, but if that connection is more a ‘maybe’ instead of a clear yes/no kind of outfit then chances are, you’re going to hesitate in referring them.

There are many reasons we buy into our professional network and each of us has our own prerequisite when choosing to work with someone.

Personally? It’s reliable. If we’re unable to count on our supporters to be with you when it matters, then they’re certainly not referable.

So in answer to Ben? Sit down, take a minute, share cake and get to know what works for you both.

Our fair weather friend(s)

 

“Hey, c’mon we’ll be late for kick-off!”

It’s Saturday morning and I’d called by to collect one or two lads for the local rugby meet, the regular transport being unable to support us this time around …

As the boys clamoured into the back of the wagon, there was the usual hubbub, high spirits and lots of chatter with plenty of wise-cracks. It was just what you’d expect from a bunch of ten year old’s out with mates, on the way to ‘rugger.’

The exception amongst the car load being Joe, our ‘perennial sub.’

“So what happened to transport this morning Joe?” I asked.

‘Oh dad said he had a few things to do around the house, he said he’d be back to see us when we start winning again …’

“Whaa … ??”

Joe explained … ‘Dad said he liked to watch the team although didn’t like the coach so once we start winning he might come along.’

The response from our clearly deflated chum was profound enough to hang in the air for a minute, a full minute before the usual in-car banter recommenced.

Nice encouragement Dad! I thought to myself.

Sure the boy’s team were on an unlucky run just now and morale may be low but hey, how to inspire belief, eh?’

As it happens our opponents didn’t play so well that morning, whilst we, the home team managed to excel and win the game by a good stretch, even Joe being amongst the scorers. Much reason to cheer!

Sure enough, our coach had come good and this particular win was a prelude to a welcome run of good fortune which brought the ‘part-time support’ back to the fold, even Joe’s fair-weather supporter managed to be with us toward the end of the season …

With friends like that, I hear you say?

Attitudes. We all know the importance of a positive mental outlook if we are to be competitive on the sports field and it’s certainly the same in business. We learn from our peers, we listen for inspiration … but what lessons are we passing on when all we have is apathy?

Fair weather friends, can you afford to have them in your network?

Dream on

So Doug said that I was only looking out for myself, lining my own pockets and that I really only make ‘it’ all up as I go along …

There are times when hearing a declaration such as this that I deny all knowledge, refute the evidence and argue until I was almost ‘blue in the face.’

I’d just finished a conversation suggesting that Doug’s working practice was not conducive to better business. I tactfully (so I thought) pointed out that he couldn’t keep breaking appointments and disappointing colleagues, therefore it was in his own best interest and that of the Forum, that he should consider standing aside so that another might take his place as the ‘specialist in the room.’

It hadn’t gone down particularly well …

‘But they’re my friends, my customers.’ Came the reply.

Really, so is this how you treat your valued clients Doug?

Doug was right about a couple of things though. I was making up the business model as I went along. After all, I had twenty-five years experience in such matters and by now I had a good idea of what worked and perhaps what did not. It was also true when Doug suggested I was out to make a living for myself.

After all, as a business Forum, most are attending for the connection, I am no different to anyone else who habitually met with others at a given time and place to discuss lead and referral. The opportunity is there for anyone wishing to inform and inspire others to collaborate.

I’m attending regularly, offering myself the same valuable ‘air-time’ as anyone else who regularly attended the network Forum. We’re not having to think about ‘fees,’ or any direct competition in the room, this particular field of business is dead level, completely transparent.

An easy environment to tell us what you want so that we may see how we can help you.

If you are not attending we do not see you, if we don’t see or hear you, we cannot develop the relationship or consider the trust, let alone the referral.

Think reputation Doug.

community network

Community-focused networking has lots of benefits, some are immediately evident, others need clarification and I was witness to this just recently as around twenty met over ‘brunch.’

Our guest was Michael has a lot of domestic responsibility, being the ‘office at home’ and supporting two young kids. He loved the idea of opportunity through engagement, connecting with others in business. The same for many sharing a similar routine these days …

‘Great business today Charlie, met some good people and so glad I accepted your invitation.’

It’s taking that first step, isn’t it? That’s where the intimidation lies, right? Stepping outside of the ‘comfort zone’ into an alien landscape, we all become moulded by our routines and I think Michael was no exception.

With a greater number working from the home office, we soon realise the value of people.

‘I didn’t know what to expect really. Although, I was half expecting the selly-sell, and/or the ‘sign-up’ so today was a refreshing change.’

‘Yes Michael, it is good to have you with us and course there are those who come along fishing for business, with focus on the referral. Others Michael, are just as happy to engage views, share the dialogue, focus on areas of passion, of need and the point of view, not to mention collaboration and to ultimately sample the ‘culture.’

Business is at times a secondary consideration – or ‘the bonus’ as some put it.

Seems to me, the development of community engagement is important, not least because it inspires better efficiencies by creating belonging. Along with a clear infrastructure, community helps us all, in whatever line business.

Most especially, those working from the home office.

‘Happy people mean a happy business, right?’

True Michael, cultivating the community network has enabled many to plan for the realisation of longer-term goals, the chance to step away from the monthly/quarterly led management figures and visualise the ‘bigger picture’.

Cultivating community delivers so much more. Community inspires relationships, affinity, infrastructure and ultimately the trust – then comes referral.