Showing all pages regarding networking.
I was talking to a group of business people recently on the subject of winning and keeping clients. We all agreed that face to face conversations with clients are the best opportunity you have to win them over. Yet it strikes me that this critical stage in the process is often poorly managed. When we’ve done all our marketing and networking and have actually got a prospect who is willing to sit down and have a discussion with us, we go and mess it up. Why is this? In my view it’s because we are so intent on selling our product or idea that we forget to listen. The aim is not to dump information on the client. Rather, the aim is to identify what their problem or challenge is, show how your product or service can help them and then to get a positive response.
So a large part of the conversation will involve listening to the client, asking them questions and being interested in what they are saying. Sounds easy, but it isn’t. Listening patiently is hard – we are all too eager to jump in with our solutions. If you can spend time allowing your client to talk, and being genuinely interested, they will be delighted and impressed. And that’s how you begin to establish a sustainable trusting relationship. These are the relationships that are more likely to bring you business. Because we tend to do business with people we like and trust.
A colleague of mine, Jamie Hancox of ‘buyingtime’ (http://www.buyingtime.co.uk/), gave me the idea of using a pie chart to represent the client conversation. So I came up with my own pie to show the key stages of the discussion (see above). This format is not intended to be prescriptive. But it does help to emphasise just how much time is spent on understanding the client and diagnosing their needs. Of course, you still have to describe the benefits of what you do and you have to close the sale (some seem to shy away from this crucial bit!) but those parts take up relatively less time.
Remember, companies do not make the decision to hire or buy. People do. The relationship you build with people in your client organisations is crucial to your business. Try listening, it’s very effective.
This week I ran a one day workshop in Stockholm for senior women managers in Pfizer. The workshop is part of a company-wide initiative to support and encourage women within Pfizer who have leadership potential – a great example of effective talent management. The subject of the workshop was ‘Visibility & Networking in Pfizer’ and we spent time discussing some common anxieties about networking and how to overcome them. It was a fantastic day and brought home to participants the value of networking, the importance of making it personal and of nurturing relationships. What a pleasure to work with a great group of women with plenty of ideas and enthusiasm! I reckon Pfizer will soon reap the benefits of this particular investment.
Do you need help with networking or some networking tools? Have a look at my workshop handout ‘JPA’s 20 Networking Tips’ – it’s based on years of experience!
I have been thinking a lot about networking recently. Having just established my business, moved house, joined the local choir; it seems to be something that I am involved in almost every day. I am convinced that networking is an important part of doing business. It is one of the best forms of marketing, finding new business and developing useful contacts. Furthermore if, like me, you do a lot of work on your own and are a bit of an extrovert, then getting out to meet others at least twice a week is a must if you want to preserve your sanity. I have recently joined my local branch of the London Chamber of Commerce. The person who suggested this to me (also a self employed consultant) said ‘I don’t think I have ever got any business through the Chamber but the support network they offer has been invaluable’. And we all need support at some time in our lives.
But let’s not get these networks confused with true friendship – there is a world of difference between the two and one cannot replace the other. Online networking and social media, while offering so many benefits, can also encourage people to isolate themselves and hide behind the convenient impersonality of email, ‘Facebook’ etc. I am amazed at those who profess to have over 500 connections or ‘friends’ online (do they really know this many people?). Of these friends, how many can really be called on for support? How many will pop round for a drink and a chat when you fancy some company or need cheering up? Without these ‘true’ friends there is only loneliness. It is interesting that, despite the increasing range of opportunities available for connecting with others, the instances in society of depression (where loneliness is often the root cause) appear to be growing.
In my view the reason for our obsession with casual networks and the apparent over-reliance on virtual networking is because enduring friendships take time to build and face to face communication is difficult. Talking openly and putting effort into more intimate relationships can make us feel exposed and vulnerable – most would rather avoid these feelings. However, we need, at some point and in certain contexts, to be able to communicate at a human level and to talk about what is important to us. Even at work there is a place for and value in friendships that go deeper than other business relationships. Networking can be enjoyable and has its advantages. But true friendships are built with different skills and bring entirely different rewards.
Jeanette has over 20 years experience in management and was Chief Executive of AMBA for 7 years. She has worked in both the commercial and public sectors. Having completed her MBA (with distinction) at the Cass Business School, Jeanette was asked to join the school's academic team as a Visiting Lecturer in Organisational Behaviour... [read more]
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