Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Elusive Question

Amanda Thompson, owner of the amazing Riverbend Team Solutions, asked a question about networking that probably everyone wants to ask but is afraid to!

Drum roll here.....

When is the appropriate time to ask for the sale?

So again I take the easy road of, "It depends!"

When I think of traditional networking - that of developing relationships to know how to help each other - probably the sale, as most of us think of it, won't even come into play. But taking a closer look, there is always a sale implied at some point during any appointment.  

The end result of an appointment could be:

1.  Should we meet again?
2.  Will you give me the name of that person?
3.  Can we make a plan so I can introduce you to the person we talked about?
4.  Would you like to attend that event with me?

As you can read above, all the questions need an answer.  Indirectly you are selling to the person in front of you on some idea talked about during the meeting.   Getting agreement is realizing the sale!

However, if in a networking meeting, all of a sudden one of you switches gears and  begins selling your product or service, ("That's nice that you are going on vacation, now how about buying our landscaping services.") it feels a little icky.  I know, I know, it sounds weird, like it could never happen that way.  Well, it should never sound like that, but unfortunately is does.

So Amanda, to answer your question, you are always closing  The challenge is just picking the appropriate close as it is the most important step to take!

What the weirdest closing situations you've found yourself in? 


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Put Me Out of My Misery

Karla Lewis is a good friend and even better referral partner.  She has become certified as a sales coach with Southwest Consulting, which excites me because I don't do and don't want to do traditional sales training.  Now I can send those requests to her.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I asked on Facebook for challenges that others face when networking.  Karla sent a comment that I'm sure we all are bothered by more than we want.  She asked, "What can I do about a person that I meet in a networking situation that talks the whole time?" 

We've all been there and probably have spent time  trying to figure out if that person can breathe through their ears, because they just don't seen to take a break. 

There are two main situations when this happens:

1)  You are at a networking event and this person comes up to you and launches their monologue.  Since you weren't expecting this salvo, you probably aren't prepared to defend yourself.  The best way to extricate yourself is to say something like, "Oh, excuse me, I have been taking all your time and I know that you want to meet a few more folks."  Now extend your hand to shake theirs (a signal that the conversation is done) and say, "Before we part, may I have your business card?"  When they give it to you say thanks and then move on.  It sounds kind of abrupt, but with this type of behavior, you can't be subtle.  Oh yeah, put a BIG x on that card, to let you know to never ever connect with that person again!

2)  You are having coffee with a new networking contact and he or she has asked for the meeting.  It is twenty minutes in and you are hating the fact that you agreed to this because this boring person is talking and talking and talking.  A couple times you had to stifle a yawn.  This is a tough situation.  Quickly decide whether you want to keep this person in your network.  If yes, you might interrupt and steer the conversation with some well-placed questions.  That way you will have control of what gets said.  If not, just interrupt and let the person know that you only have just a couple minutes to get to your next appointment and that you're sorry but you're going to have to cut this short.

I do want you to think about the person.  Are they new to networking and are they so nervous that they have diarrhea of the mouth.  Can you share how difficult it was for you as a new networker to learn to listen when all you wanted to do was talk? (you can lie a little here!)  Compassion goes a long way in the networking world.

OK, now it's your turn, what ideas do you have?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

What Do You Mean..Goals?

Shannon Benge, co-owner of Beyond Business, asked me to write about two networking topics, one being the whole concept of setting goals for networking events.  (The other is about the fear of rejection when networking and I will address that in a separate post.)

So you're about to step into the venue where the chamber after hours event is being held.  What can you think about that will help to give you a good ROI on your time and money spent?

Shannon, who is a marketing consultant, would tell you that any marketing activity has to start with the objective in mind.  Networking is a marketing effort, so having an idea of what you want to gain is important!

Some questions you might ask yourself are:

1.  Who do I want to meet?
2.  What types of people do I want to meet?
3.  As a result of meeting those people what do I want?  (an appointment?)
4.  What is the amount of time I will dedicate to this event?
5.  Who else might I take with me to the event to help?
6.  What message will I use when people ask about what I do?
7.  Is there a leadership role I can play to help my visibility?
8.  If my goal is to schedule appointments, how many?

What I have found is that in most instances, if I don't have a plan of action for each event, I tend to be lazy and just socialize.  Knowing what I need to achieve to meet my own accountability, springs me into action.

Greg Peters, The Reluctant Networker, has an article about this very subject in his networking tips from last week.  If you'd like to read or listen to it go to this link. You can also subscribe to his weekly tips.

What other goals have you set for yourself at networking events?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

What Do They Want, Too?

My friend, Cheri Holdridge is the pastor of The Village church.  She asked a great networking question about how those in the non-profit world can network with people in the for profit, business world, figuring out how each can help the other.  I loved that last past of her question because it says to me that she not just a taker!

When I asked Cheri for further clarification, she mentioned that the non-profits in the world need money from the for profit businesses to continue to do "good" in the world. Cheri says, "The BIG but is that we in the  non-profit world have to figure out what the motivational hook is that will help gain the funds from businesses." 

And this is where networking helps because I look at networking as a way to gather information that will prove helpful or useful in the future.  The easiest way to find out what the hot buttons are that make companies open their pocketbooks, is to ask.

It might sound something like this:

"Tell me how you currently link into community causes."

"What has been a successful about this for you and what about it makes it so?"

"If you could change anything about the way you give time and money to causes, what would you do?"

The most difficult part of this exercise is to keep quiet and listen.  After all, your goal is to eventually get money from the person sitting across the table from you, but until you know all the answers, you won't even know if they would consider your cause.  Getting answers to the above three questions will at least give you a starting point.

  • If you sense that they are NOT interested, move on! 
  • If you sense that they might be interested, then you can begin taking about your cause and how it might help what they are trying to achieve as a business.

There is a superb article in the book, Masters of Networking entitled, Charity Networking with a Princess.   It is on page 69 of the book. It tells how several for-profit and not-for-profit organizations linked together to raise money as a group.  Because of the power of the group, they raised more money than if they had tried to do the same thing separately.  It was an exercise in finding out what each organization had to give (surplus) and what each also needed (demand).  Using this technique, might mean better collaboration of both profit and non-profit worlds.

Any other thoughts out there?


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Please Help Me!

Jennifer Blakeman asked a great question the other day. She wanted to know how much you should share of yourself during a one-to-one meeting.  Should you actually share that your business is barely hanging on and that you need referrals, or should you just keep a stiff upper lip?

Great question!

And the answer is one that everyone is going to hate!  IT DEPENDS!

  • If this is someone new that you've just met, that level of confidence is probably going to scare that person away 
  •  If this is someone that you've known for a long time and with whom you have shared other worries, if would probably be OK.  I would phrase it carefully, though, asking for advice or ways that they think you can jump start your business.  
It's really all about the level of relationship and the length of time you have known the person sitting across from you.  No one wants to sit through a pity party, so look at this as an opportunity to open your brain to new ideas on how to promote your business.  

Also think about the people you are choosing to meet with.  Are they referral partner material, meaning, do they want to help and have the same target market?  If not, while it is not a waste of time to meet, the time spent could be better used if  you were more strategic in selecting people to meet.

Did I miss anything? 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Scary Meetings

My friend, Yvonne Goodwin, asked a great question about one-to-one meetings recently.  Her puzzlement was about people who ask to meet with her and then proceed to "throw up" about what they are selling during the whole time. Her comment was, "If I ever do that to someone, I hope they will tell me right away!"

The real question is how to guard against that kind of "backed into the corner" setting.  So here goes:

1.  When someone you don't know well or at all asks to meet with you, it is quite alright to ask the reason for the meeting.  The inquiry might sound something like, "Can you tell me what you'd like to accomplish as a result of this meeting?"

2.  I have been so bold as to explain that it is very unlikely that I will become a customer, but that I am willing to meet to get to know each other better.  In other words I set the tone of the meeting.

3.  If I get caught in a situation where the person is either dragging out their sales materials or beginning a sales pitch, I will stop them and again reiterate that I am not a prospect, but that if we just get to know each other, that perhaps I'll be able to help in the future.

I think the most important fact to remember is that the people who violate these rules do so because they don't know better. Or even worse, sometimes they are trained by their company to stalk prospects.  You can help them to modify their approach which probably means you are helping to ensure their future success.

Any thought on this?

Thursday, March 07, 2013

2 + 1 = 3 - 2 = Bingo!

Last night Steve and I were at a cocktail party.  I knew most of the people there and he knew some.  I made sure that I introduced him to the people he didn't know.

There were a couple of spouses I didn't know, but because I knew their other half, I felt very comfortable going up to them and starting a conversation, even if their husband or wife wasn't a nearby.

One couple was completely unknown to me.  And guess what, I didn't feel comfortable approaching them.  I noticed later my husband was chatting with them and I asked him later if he knew them.  He didn't.

So here is my analysis of this phenomena.  It is probably not very scientific, but it will probably make you think.

1.  I felt comfortable going up to the spouses because they were alone and also they were related to someone I already knew.  I get 2 points for that.

2.  I obviously talked with the people I knew making the rounds so I talked with each one at the party.  I think that is good for 1 point.

3.  I was not comfortable talking with the unknowns.  I didn't know them and it was a group of two people.  Not so easy to approach.  Minus 2 points!

4.  Here's where I think I had an aha!  Steve was comfortable going up to these people because he was an outsider too.  He had something in common before he even approached them.  Bingo!

Using this enlightenment (or call it what you want) I figured out another networking game I can play In order to feel more comfortable about approaching unknowns at a networking event, I need to figure out a commonality to act as the trigger.  It could be as fleeting as, we're both at the same party and must both know someone here!  Usually, it is the conversation that helps to identify the common points, but in this instance, I have to do the work in advance of the approach!

What do you think?  Am I all wet?

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Pressureless Goals

Staying in line with my blog post on giving simple thoughts and ideas about networking, today I'd like to start talking about the little games I play to make my networking work for me.

Games 1  (Have a goal for what you want to achieve.)

I have an overall goal in the back of my mind of what I want all my networking to produce for me each week.  Notice I said "all my networking."  Some of you may have read the post about my goal of meeting with two new people per week.  Since I do quite a bit of networking each week, having the overall goal, instead of a specific goal for each event, works better for me.  It takes the pressure off and allows me to just enjoy the event.  In the back of my mind I am thinking about meeting my goal for the week and if someone that I meet helps me to fufill that goal, great!  If not, I can still enjoy the opportunity to chat and listen.

I can give an example.  This past week, I was at an event, where I either knew everyone or didn't want to meet with the ones I didn't know.  There wasn't really anything wrong with a couple of them, I just didn't feel the synergy.  So be it.  Instead of being frustrated I just sat back and enjoyed the presentation part of the meeting learning some little hints that will help me in my business.  Who knows, maybe I was just feeling lazy!  I figure I'm entitled to it once in awhile.

Of course, I can't sit back all the time, but having to overriding goal seems to be doing it for me.  So far this year, except for the week of vacation, I have had no less than my goal of 2 new people appointments per week. 

I think if I score this game, I am ahead!

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Debby Doesn't Do Tech...Well

I am the first to tell you that technology is not my friend!  I do love some aspects of it (this blog for one) but some of it just mystifies me.  And when I ask for help, I am lucky enough to get it, but the tech-happy people help me do whatever it is that I want to do so quickly, that I don't get to learn how to do it.

Right now I am trying to figure out why my wireless mouse doesn't work.  Yes, I put new batteries in it and it just sits there.  Also, my i-Pad is not being recharged each night as it has in the past.  This morning I only had 20% of the charge after being plugged in all night.  And the mouse and the i-Pad sit next to each other on my desk.  It is just a rebellion? 

What's this got to do with networking?  Nothing!

What it does remind me is that for me networking is easy.  I have it down pat -- or at least I think I know what I'm doing.  I have to remember that for some folks this is an entirely foreign language.  I have to deliver short bursts of helpful information slowly. 

Nothing earth shaking, just a good "aha" on the Sunday afternoon.