Do you brighten a room when you walk in - or when you leave?
How others answer that question about you carries more weight than anything you can ever say about yourself or your business. It is a skill that can be learned - but only when you "get" its importance. Or perhaps you are too busy?! But doing what..?How others answer that question about you carries more weight than anything you can ever say about yourself or your business. It is a skill that can be learned - but only when you 'get' its importance. Or perhaps you are too busy?! But doing what?
Nobody wants to talk about the possibility of a recession. In an economic slowdown, as communication budgets and margins continue to get squeezed (or worse - eliminated all together by an anxious finance director), what clients say about you and your company 'behind your back' will increasingly determine your success in attracting repeat or new clients. It's time to dig your well before you're thirsty'.
These days, your ability to do a good job is a 'given'. Clients expect that from you. More important to them is how much they know, like, trust and value you. Even when I lecture at Cranfield University's fulltime MBA course, intelligent and professional people make the fundamental mistake that their 'Human Capital' (what they know) is more important than their 'Social Capital' (who they know, and who knows them).
Think for a moment about what you do before you make a significant purchase. The bigger the decision, the less you listen to what the supplier has to say. We ask around. We ask trusted friends and colleagues who have had personal experience of the products or services we are looking to buy.
Your clients do exactly the same. They are increasingly risk-averse. They prefer to stick with who they know. Therefore gaining new clients has become more difficult and costly.
So what, if anything, can you about it?
Ask yourself, "Who do I need to know in the next 12 months?" Include clients, suppliers, advisers, influencers and regulators. Then decide to get out, meet and get to know them. Become someone who they would choose to know. Be of real value to them. This may extend way past their professional responsibilities. Get to know them as people, not just job titles.
Emulate others who are 'good at this stuff'. Your contacts and connections can transform the effectiveness of your company. Relationships probably deserve more of your attention too. Here are a few brief tips on how you can learn to brighten a room on the way in:
- Get out more! Attend more industry functions and general business events.
You can't grow your network if you don't meet new people.
- Decide that you will stay until you have met and connected with a pre-determined number of people. Start with just one or two - as your confidence (and success) grows, build it up to five or six.
- Stand up. Sitting down at a networking event doesn't work.
- Listen more carefully to others' names. Repeat them until they are lodged in your brain. If you didn't catch their name ask them to repeat it, rather than 'letting it go'.
- Focus on finding ways to be of value to others - forget, initially what's in it for you. Do this by offering opportunities to others - information, referrals and recommendations with little or even no desire for 'a return favour'. Offers with strings attached are not offers.
- In order to help others, you need to know what they want. To find out, ask lots of non-threatening questions.
- Follow up on any promises you make.
- Adopt the 'Rule of 4' by re-connecting with four people every day who you may not have spoken to in a while.
- Don't say you'll attend something and then forget or change your mind about going.
- Don't spray your business cards around like a tom cat.
- Don't introduce a female colleague by her first name only, when men are so often given the full works - full name, job title and why they are so successful or important.
- Do not contact others only when you want something - people notice.
- Don't forget to ask for a delegate list in advance if you are attending a seminar or conference - but only once you've committed to attending. Use that list to target those you want to meet.
- Do not dismiss support and junior staff such as secretaries, assistants, waiters and waitresses, security guards and those who deliver the internal mail because they can all be HUGE allies, or your biggest enemies. Spouses also have FAR more power and influence than some imagine. Get to know them as people.