Networking – Be good on your feet

I’ve heard some hopeless excuses.  “I haven’t got time for networking; I’m too busy.”  Too busy to make new local contacts? Really? “But I’m not good at mornings” – Get good! Get up and go for a run, then you’ll be ready. “I don’t like cold, wet, winter mornings.”  Brave the winter then look forward to the summer!

You must commit to be involved in networking. Mix it, take an interest in everyone over time and, if they’ve demonstrated that they’re good, look out for opportunities for them and they’ll do the same for you.

‘Give first’ is the best motto. As you’re better known in the group, when you’re having coffee, call across the room, “Hi, John, I may have a lead for you.” That will help you.

Don’t measure – if you count who owes you what favour, you’re on the wrong plain. Just get to know and help quality people. The rest will take care of itself.

Be prepared. As we said last week, take 30 business cards. It’s pretty feeble to run out at a networking event, isn’t it? Take an appointment book, too. Arranging to meet someone later is the main reason you are there.

Decide why you are going. Don’t just turn up. What is your message? What will interest others? How can you make a difference to others in the room? Take an unusual object, if you can, that arouses curiosity. If it explains your product or shows what you do, great.

Sales IS public speaking. Get good at it. Shyness in business does not win the day!

If you’re new and you don’t know anyone, remember that people want you to succeed, they really do. You often hear, “I’m really not good at public speaking.”  Once you’re there, remember that Networking is not the time to be sheepish.

  • You don’t have to be RADA trained. Just speak clearly, be heard and know your subject backwards.
  • When someone asks you an insightful question, roll with it and tell them it’s a good question. Then offer an objective answer.
  • Be yourself. Pretentious, loud people who ‘over laugh’ are annoying at best!

The meeting will probably start with 60 seconds introductions. If you start with, “I’m Joanne and I’m a IFA,” you’ll lose them right from the start.

The purpose is rather obviously to explain what you do. But, you may have only 40 or 60 seconds to say your pitch. So it needs to work. Remember the song, “It’s not what you do, it’s the way that you do it – and that’s what gets results!”

Think about something catchy so start with something that involves them, like “You’re probably thinking…” or “Have you ever stopped to think about ….”

There’s no time to be seen as a sheepish, so, don’t bowl in unprepared. Think it through and plan it.

People understand in different ways… so, if you can, show something. A product or metaphor. One woman recently offered sales training and took a baseball bat with her as a metaphor for what to do if your sales team are not performing.

Finally, plan your own body language.

Call us to talk through how you’re networking- we do want to help your business to be a success. Also, check out previous blog on Sales.



Networking – You’re looking for leads

You often hear people saying, ‘I wish I could get more leads at networking events.’ So here are a few tips that will help you to succeed.

Bear in mind that networking does not ‘buy you the right to business.’ At BNI, a national networking group, some say that because there is a ‘Referral System’, you feel obliged (and actually, you’re compelled) to recommend others even though you don’t have the faintest idea if they are good at their job, or even reliable. For that reason, BNI may not be right for you. Recommending others when you don’t know them may lose you friends and clients, after all.

When you arrive, and at the end of the event, stand by the entrance – near to the registration – admin desk.  Someone will be checking-in visitors and taking payments for the meal. Disappear to a corner and you’ll find it’s a lonely place.

Spend 75% of your time with people you don’t know.  The rest of the time, follow-up contacts you’ve made before. If you’ve send them mail, samples or ideas in the interim, ask them what they thought. If they are now customers, always make sure that they know they are valued. Never avoid the chance to talk with a customer in the room. First, it’s a basic courtesy, second, they may be your best salesman that day.

With everyone you meet, try and build some rapport, some common ground. That’s what starts the networking process of ‘working with people you know, like and trust’ – the 4Networking maxim. People admire honesty and enthusiasm and someone who really knows their subject.

Even if there is no one in the room who you think is your ‘type’, your model client, remember that everyone knows 200 – 500 people. So, touch the right nerve and even if your product isn’t right for the person you’re talking with, ask them to listen out for you. “Do you know anyone who….?” is a better question than “Is my business right for you?”

When you exchange cards, try and make it purposeful. For example, try and send them a sample of your product or your work.

Keep aware of time. It’s so easy to get tied-up and realise that you’ve been talking to the same person for thirty minutes; ten is enough, then move on.  The purpose is not to close a sale but to arrange further meetings. So many people attend networking events expecting to sell product or service on the day. It rarely works.

Other benefits with networking are to find out how others go to market and to learn from them and to perhaps offer them help and advice. Not a free consultation but a bit of help that will demonstrate what you do with an idea that will help them. But watch out for those who sap your ideas and maybe try and use you. One great (marketing) idea could be the making of them.

An IT specialist may give someone a shortcut that saves them hours of pain fathoming it out themselves, or paying for someone to cure the problem. I heard a web designer helping someone and immediately thought, ‘Wow, that advice has real value.’

You may decide to give away all the free advice you can. If they have picked your brains, and they’re not buying, you are more than justified to ask them if they know of anyone who could do with sensible advice on your subject.

Call us to talk through any reservations you may have about networking. We’ll be talking about how each of the National groups work in a future blog.


Networking: How to work a room

To make networking events work for you, you do need to pre-plan the event. Call the Group Leader and ask him or her how many normally attend and who is likely to be there. If you’re told there’s only six people, move on and find a group with around twenty. (Over twenty and it can be a bit of a bunfight – or it will take you more time to circulate).

Show up early. If it starts at 08.00, be there at 8. Don’t look rushed or flustered. Take 30 cards.

If you’re attending with a colleague or associate, don’t sit together, work the room between you.

Look up and look cheerful! Walk around and get the feel of the room.

Target your prospects. Who would you really like to meet? Everyone is there for the same reasons so you’re not alone. Sure, there will be people who know each other well, who will be locked in raucous banter but find interesting-looking people and smile!

Shake hands firmly. First impressions count and no one wants to shake hands with a dead fish. (See previous articles on body language).

Be ready for the key question:  What do you do? That question is make or break. The best answer I heard was “I shave dolphins.” The reply came – “You don’t see many hairy dolphins”.  The response was brilliant, “That’s because I do a good job!”  Irrelevant?  Not really. Try and have some impact with your opening lines… “I help people to… “

As opposed to “I’m a designer” or “I’m a builder.” Try..  “I help people’s products come alive with really clever art. Here’s one I did yesterday.” Or, “I’ve just re-tiled a roof in Horsham, here’s the picture.”  Let your work speak for itself if you can.

“I supply Aloe Vera.” Try.. “I help people to use natural, healthy products to make their skin feel great!”

Rather than, “I sell pensions” – try, “I give people the chance to save and enjoy their retirement in comfort.”

I’m sure you see the difference, discuss WHY you do what you do, not WHAT.

Each of the better answers creates intrigue and interest and begs the follow-up question. Isn’t that what you want?

Attitude:  Be seen as a happy, enthusiastic and positive person (but not gushing).

Don’t waste time if the person isn’t a great prospect …but bear in mind she knows lots of people and could refer you to others if you’ve set the right impression. Move on politely and spend time on those who can make a difference to you.

Say the other person’s name to them twice so that you don’t forget it..and people like hearing their own name. It shows that you’ve taken it in and that you’ve attached some value to the conversation.

Let them say their piece..”Tell me what you do.” And let them tell their story first. Listen positively. Don’t be distracted by others; listen to them only. Look at them and nod occasionally. Don’t cover your mouth.

Write down any significant notes on their card or take a small notebook.

If you’re a smoker, it’s best not to smell of tobacco/smoke. It is repellent to non-smokers and they won’t want to stay talking with you.

Stay until the end. There are opportunities begging to be picked up.

Have fun and be funny. It’s not a driving test.

Networking – Should I or shouldn’t I?

A wise person knows everything. A shrewd person knows everyone. (Chinese proverb)

If you’re not networking at all, you might be missing a trick. After all, if you’re not talking to anyone, who’s going to be talking to you?

We’re looking at networking over the next few weeks. There are many reasons why you should network so, if you’re still tentative about it, let’s run through the why first then we’ll look at how to go about networking to make it work for you, and then how to get involved.

The main reason as to why it’s a must to meet new people who can help you in your business; it’s as simple as that. The only reason you don’t need to network in one way or another is when all your business comes from word of mouth. If that’s the case then, happy days, but that’s still networking!

It’s ‘putting the word out there’, asking others to talk about your business to their friends and relatives. There is a skill to it.

So often we hear people saying, “Networking, does that mean speaking in public?” Or, “Isn’t it just a group of old wind-bags having breakfast together?” “Is it just an old boys’ club?”  So let’s show you how to get the most from meeting the right people.

What sort of business people go to these events? All sorts! – coaches, trainers, a few trades, therapists, web /designers, SEO specialists, accountants, IFAs, health and fitness people, advisors, videographers, printers, etc.

Let’s look at Networking this way:

  • It’s getting known by those who can help build your business.
  • It’s getting together with local business contacts and turning them into customers and friends.
  • It’s building and nurturing long-term relationships (you won’t sell at the first meeting so don’t try! And you could well put off those you’re talking to).
  • Consider that you’re demonstrating how people could buy from you, don’t sell. Let it be their idea.

Networking only works if you approach it with a positive attitude. Think of it as developing business contacts, more sales, more business education, and more community involvement.

If you attend regularly and do it right, then you’ll get results. We’ll suggest the right approach as this series develops.

So, set a plan:

  • Where do I network now?
  • Where do my best customers network?
  • What are the three organisations I should investigate and possibly join?
  • How many hours a week should I invest?
  • What kind of people do I need/want to connect with?
  • Do I have the networking skills I need?
  • Is there anyone I should avoid at these gatherings?

What’s the kind of format? – In a nutshell, the usual setting is a golf club, a hotel, or restaurant: over two hours, cooked breakfast, quick (timed) intro around the table, time for 3 ten-minute  one –to-one’s, a ten-minute talk from a member – (Insight, not a sales pitch). Time to talk afterwards.

Where should I network? More later on how these groups work, but here are a couple of pointers for this area:

4Networking is a good place to start. It’s not starchy and it’s less formal than some others.  – Hayward’s Heath, alternate Tuesdays, breakfast group. 08. til 10.00 (£13). Seaford: alternate Wednesdays, breakfast. Horsham: alternate Thursdays, breakfast. Shoreham: alternate Fridays, breakfast.  Brighton: alternate Thursdays – lunch (£15)

TIP 1:  What should you take?  Business cards, preferably memorable business cards that tell a story. (Or, if the people you’ve met go home and cannot remember you, that would be wasted effort.)

TIP 2:  Go with a positive attitude.

Call us if you want to know more about memorable business cards.

More next week.

Walking away from business?

The ability to work out what is really happening with a person and your interaction with them is actually quite simple.

In the third of these studies, we’re touching on a few signs and indicators that will help you to make client and prospect interaction work to your advantage.  Read people and you will be able to gauge how they are understanding your proposition and your likely chances of success. Then, when to stop in your normal routine, to recognise and tackle objections from non-verbal signs, and when to close.

Nonverbal communication, just like words, is a means of transmitting information. It’s achieved through facial expressions, gestures, touching (haptics), physical movements (kinesics) and posture. Combine that with speech, tone, acoustics-phonetics and voice volume to gain the full picture.

Lies, damned lies! Is your client being truthful with you?  Psychologists tell us that the less dependable lies are words because they can be rehearsed. The most reliable clues to lying are those made by gestures people make automatically because they have little or no control over them. For example, when we see, speak and hear lies or deceit, we often react by covering our mouth, eyes or ears with our hands.

If you’re still not convinced, it’s a fact that the Police and higher authorities use these techniques all the time. Being able to decipher lies from the truth is how their training and experience gets best results. When they ‘trap’ a suspect under questioning, attitudes, body language and comfort levels change and generally, reveal the flaw in the suspect’s story.

When people hear bad news or witness an accident, they will often cover their entire face with their hands to symbolically stop themselves from seeing or hearing awful news. But hand to mouth gestures can mean holding back information. When someone puts their fingers across their eyes, it need not indicate they are tired, more that they are not convinced of your argument and that they’re frustrated; they need to look away from you.

Understanding how the limbic system’s freeze, fight or flight responses influence nonverbal behaviour is only part of the equation. How we feel challenged, perhaps threatened and how we should react will make the difference between success and failure in a sales (or any) situation.

In general, when the limbic brain is in a state of comfort this is reflected in non-verbal displays of contentment and high confidence. While your prospect is clearly in this state, things are going well. But how many times have our proposals fizzled out, our prospects haven’t bought from us and we ‘didn’t see it coming?’ So, learning to detect false or misleading cues is critical.

Clustering. It would be misguided to believe that just one gesture from someone is an indicator. You need to read body language in clusters. For example, scratching the head can mean uncertainty but it can also mean annoyance, exasperation or…dandruff.

The perceptive person can read body language in ‘sentences’ and accurately match them against the person’s verbal responses. That’s where subtlety comes in. If your prospect sees that you’re reading him, he may react very strangely, feeling threatened and resorting to near animal freeze, fight or flight instincts. (After all, no one likes to feel a mug).

The clever money is on being able to watch, interpret and turn body language and words and into a winning proposition.

Ignore the signs and you be leaving the deal on the table – none the wiser.

How perceptive are you?

When we say that someone is perceptive or intuitive we are unknowingly referring to their ability to read another person’s body language and to compare these cues with verbal signals. We often get a hunch or a ‘gut feeling’ that someone has not quite told the truth, that their body language and the spoken word don’t agree. Looking out for these signs and signals will help you to understand your chances of success in business…and of course, in romance, too. But let’s stick to business!

Here’s a few examples.

If you were talking to a few people or even a roomful and they were all looking downwards with their arms crossed, what would that tell you? To succeed, you’d have to change your strategy, I think you’ll agree. You must read the room and not your script which is entirely useless if you haven’t captured attention. (Article later).

If you’re pitching to women remember, they are far more perceptive than most men – though gay men are said to be perceptive, too. It’s proven time and again. Research by Harvard University psychologists show that women are far more alert to body language than men.

Sorry guys, but there’s this thing called ‘women’s intuition’. Women have an innate ability to pick up and decipher non-verbal signals, as well as having an accurate eye for small details. This is why few men can lie to their partners/wives and get away with it and why most women can pull the wool over a man’s eyes without his realising it. Awkward, but true!

The shoulder shrug (especially in France) is a good example that someone either doesn’t care or they don’t understand you. It shows three things. That there’s nothing being concealed in the hands, then hunched shoulders to protect the throat from attack, and raised brows, considered universally as being submissive.

Open palms – in olden times, open palms and hand-shaking were gestures used to demonstrate that no weapons were being carried. Children particularly do the same instinctively to demonstrate their innocence, just as they will hide their hands behind their backs to be defensive. A dog will expose its throat to show submission or surrender; humans show their palms.  Most people find it difficult to lie with palms open.

Hands clenched – shows frustration. It shows a restrained, anxious or negative attitude.

Fingertips touching in a steeple – demonstrates superiority or confidence with the answers. That may develop into hands together in a prayer-like attitude. Also, it suggests confidence or ‘winning’.

Your hands are always in front of you when you’re with a client. It’s a good idea to use gestures sparingly, slowly, so as not to startle and therefore, effectively.

Constantly looking for signals – People born blind nod and shake their heads; it’s clearly nothing they follow from others. It’s generally not something we use for effect; it’s far more natural than that. The head shaking from side to side emanates from breastfeeding and from baby years of refusing food they find distasteful. Therefore you must still be holding the attention of a client who is nodding and looking relaxed. That could be the time to try your closing questions – So, if I …would you?’ or ‘When would be a good time to start?’

Try this:  set aside time as often as you can to people watch. On trains, in restaurants, hotels, and while you’re waiting for someone, especially if you’re alone it’s never a waste of time to watch the mannerisms and affectations of couples or groups. See how they interact: the listeners from the chatters, the over-ebullient to those who use their arms and bodies to create effect.

If you think this is all baloney, the next time a supplier comes to see you, especially if you really have no need at all for his product or service, give him some time and watch him as he struggles to get through. Would his gestures intensify as he scrapes the barrel of his argument? What do you think?

Ps It’s not clever to mirror someone’s gestures. Many people will see straight through that kind of sycophantic gesturing. But, you cannot be at polar opposites with gestures or that really will show.


It’s not what you say …

When you’re ‘out there’ meeting prospects for business, first impressions are vital. Everyone is busy and snap judgements will make the difference to the time you’re given to pitch. Many will be trying to dispense with you as soon as they can. It’s not your ‘right’ to take a prospect’s time, so all the verbal and non-verbal signals you make have to ‘get through’, I’m sure you agree.

Last week we looked at how humour works in the sales process and shows you as a real person, fun to deal with and that you’re right for them.

The next steps are to continue to project a consistent and confident approach, compatible with those smiling and friendly traits. Well, ask yourself, would you really want to do business with someone that you don’t like, feel he’s not trustworthy and will be hard work?

We’re going to offer a few tips from leaders in psychology that are not aimed at misleading or tricking you or your clients or prospects, but they will show you in a much better light when you understand how they work.

So, let’s start with introductions: a warm and confident smile is a good start but use a whole smile with your eyes smiling as well and a relaxed and slightly open mouth. Then your handshake says a lot about you. Is it ‘just right’ – a balance between sincere and deliberate or is it limp and useless? If it’s pretty feeble, what does that say about you? If it’s too strong, even brutal, on the receiving end, would you appreciate that? Men often shake both men’s and women’s hands far too strongly. I was with one salesman who shook a female client’s hand so firmly that the ring on her right hand broke her skin. She tried to mask the fact that her finger was bleeding, but it was not a great start to a pitch!

Shaking hands is not a show of strength – which could also be considered as a will to dominate. Women are generally not as strong as men; bear that in mind when shaking hands. Practice, it really is worthwhile.

The experts seem to agree that body language is generally more powerful than words. So much can be said without using words. After all, you have probably rehearsed your lines often when it comes to meeting prospects, and those words will bounce off most people as ‘sales talk’. Words are used primarily for information whereas body language is used for negotiating interpersonal attitudes and in some cases, is used as a substitute for verbal messages. For example, a woman can give a man a ‘look to kill’, conveying a very clear message without saying a word.

The human animal is rarely aware that its postures, movements, and gestures can tell one story while its voice may be telling another.

The key to reading body language is being able to understand a person’s emotional condition while listening to what they’re saying and understanding the circumstances.

Whether you are the buyer or the seller, you are evaluating people every day. As I’ve said, people you meet for the first time are making snap judgements about you, but going forward, you must always stay on top of watching your clients with great interest. Be sure that they are comfortable with you, that you’re not missing signs that they’re wavering and losing faith in you or that they may be considering your competitors. If they aren’t happy with you their body language will reflect that and, to avoid losing business, developing these spotting techniques will help.

We’ll offer some more suggested techniques to look out for and for your own style next week. When they’re used carefully, they can make the difference.

Call us with your views.