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The Power Of Small Business Networking Compels You

Does it really? A sunny afternoon, sitting in your chair, the phone is quiet, e-mail is slow and you “have” to fold laundry or vacuum or think of something for dinner. What’s wrong with this? NO ACTIVITY! It is so easy to create “busy to be busy” and avoid the fact that sales are slow and you really don’t know what to do. Guess what… STOP! Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.

Don't Let Distractions Become Your BusinessTime To Build A Plan

Open your eyes and pull out a pen and paper and write down five people whom you haven’t spoken to in a long time, five prospects who haven’t called you back, and five leads that you should talk to. Next write out three ways your product or service can help other businesses be successful – NOT YOURS! Now, pick up the phone and dial. Leave messages for each one telling them that you have something wonderful to tell them about and to call back as soon as they get the message. If you get them live, set up an appointment to discuss how you can work together to develop results… not success, not sales, not revenues, not money, not moving the conversation forward – just plain old results. The reason you don’t label the outcome is because results can mean different things to each person and you want to “close” them on communication and activity not a quick sale.

Turn Ideas Into Action

Evaluate your success. Did you  reach five of the fifteen? How many appointments? Regardless of the results write down five ideas/issues that came from the conversations or messages. Review them and put them into an e-mail with the subject line… “Help! I need some advice from you because I trust you.” Craft each e-mail message to discuss the ideas and ask for feedback from ten to twenty contacts from your secondary network. You will experience up to 10% response indicating ways to deal with your ideas or issues. Note  I said secondary network. Your primary network knows you, has done business with you, or is active with you socially. The secondary network might be part of your trickle marketing, friends of friends, or people whom you were referred to in the last 60 days because they were a potential “good fit” for your company. They all should be on the outskirts of your “know, like, trust” group but potentially interested in your product or service.

Networking Power

Everything I have discussed so far can be considered “sales 101” in the sense of creating not stagnating in your business. Distractions are far easier than conducting business and I guess that is why we call it work. Having said that, what we are addressing is the difficulty every business owner faces daily in regards to activity, lead conversion, time management, and critical thinking. Setting up a patterned system to contact, promote, and stimulate networking will lead to unrealized rewards. The key is consistency, follow-up, and defined strategy. Don’t waste time with contacts, businesses, or people who don’t really move you forward to your goals.

Who Should I Talk To?

The only thing you can control in your business is you. Your time, energy, drive, self-management, and passion for success. You have to clearly define your goals on paper and talk about them with others prior to launching campaigns, going to networking functions, or … folding laundry. The reason small business owners let distractions take over their focus is because it is easier to complete something immediately tangible than to struggle with a long-term initiative. When was the last time you decided to review billing, evaluate year-to-date numbers, or analyze resource capability rather than picking up the phone or sending a directive e-mail? I suffer from the same issues and literally rise from my chair and walk in a circle and sit back down to re-focus.

Develop Good Habits

Take the time to analyze your reaction to stress, lack of activity, and how you deal with distractions. Develop a system to break the status quo and launch new activity-driven campaigns or initiatives and  better your business today. For example, in the first part of this article, focusing on five cold prospects, five active leads, and five potential targets gears you up for action not stagnation. The system should include simple actions that are performed in order, be measured, and slightly changed for maximum benefit. Strengthen the habits that lead to positive outcomes and ignore ones that lead to distraction. Now is the time to start. Don’t wait, don’t think, just do! Remember, the only one you have control over is… YOU!


7 Tips to Build Better Business Relationships

Business Relationships Start with CommunicationThere are countless methods, tricks of the trade, and advice given by “self-described” gurus about the best ways to be in business relationships, but many fall short of executing actual tasks. I  find that many of my clients struggle with understanding their business value, messaging about their company, and truly taking interest in other business. They look at the world around them suspiciously rather than with an open mind and tend to miss opportunity to work interactively for mutual success.

The following list will help business owners and managers alike develop daily habits that will fuel better relationships and long-term growth and success. Some of them might be a no-brainer but some might surprise or be difficult to maintain. You be the judge.

1. Be punctual and prepared

As a business owner/operator punctuality remains the biggest obstacle to overcome and right after preparation. Many business meetings last too long or tend to become embroiled in side bar chatter effectively undermining the desired outcome. The critical step is knowing and setting expectations for each interaction and sticking to them. Which leads us to the next tip.

2. Craft interactive agendas

Body language in meetings says it all. Participants who are slummed over, doodling, texting, or whispering among themselves demonstrate lack of interaction with the subject matter. Interaction is a key component to any meeting and leveraging “group speak” is better than reading slides or presenting huge amounts of material in a classroom setting. People aren’t built to absorb data without creating clues, cues, and hints during the memory building process. Retention of 10% of any information is considered great. Ask yourself, “how much information do you retain from a long meeting?”

3. Listen actively and interpret  

Many business people claim to listen to their colleagues, alliance partners, or customers but don’t actually retain or regurgitate the same information. Nothing will kill a relationship faster than being perceived as someone who doesn’t “get it” or talks over the other person. Physical touch, leaning forward, and looking directly at the other person when they speak indicate interest and attention to what is being said. To show full understanding  interpret what was said and build a response using their data. Some people call this rapport. I call it a necessity.

4. Develop mutual interest outside of the subject matter

Too much direct communication about a particular subject can lead listeners away from the intended outcome. Retention of data and conversion to new ideas takes time and energy. Attempting to flood the conversation ends up in confusion. The best way to build mutual understanding is through interesting anecdotes and stories about material that is not directly related. This method gives participants a chance to link other experience to difficult concepts creating knowledge.

5. Follow up using as many methods as possible

Everyone has trouble with following up after interaction or meetings. The goal is to actively build on the meeting in creation of something better but often the results are neglect and lack of movement. I suggest a follow up e-mail, call, or note to insure the other party(s) have an understanding of what was said and expectations for the next meeting. This process can actually create an agenda for the next meeting that will be more productive.

6. Quality not quantity

Many presenters, partners, lunch dates, and colleagues suffer from word overload. Speaking too much or in circles turns off the audience and kills any relationship building. Nothing hurts worse than hearing someone drone on about a meaningless story, problem, or event. Linking concise messaging to expectation can build your reputation.

7. Be interesting and interested

Finally, each of us has expectations for our interactions with others. Communicating them to the other participant(s) has to build off of knowledge about their expectations. It is easier to speak about building cars to a car enthusiast than speaking than talking with someone who really doesn’t care about building, just how much they cost. A critical step in the relationship process is identifying what motivates others and leveraging that knowledge in communication with them.

This, by no means, is a comprehensive list and many of you will tell me what I missed. This list is designed to provide the basics and make you think about how you interact with others. If this post didn’t accomplished that, I will be happy to talk to you about it.

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