In my previous blog post, I outlined the importance of first impressions. In this blog post, I want to explain about the importance of the follow up. I will be the first to admit that following up is not my cup of tea and I don’t always follow up with everyone, but I do my very best (if they’re on Twitter, I will definitely give them a shout out to their business). Back to my preferred local carpet guy and after our initial meeting, he explained my carpet options, agreed on a date of measuring the house for carpets and said that he would call back as soon as he had finished.
I waited eagerly but no call came. I thought that I would wait a day: perhaps he had several places to measure up, or maybe he had a carpet installation. He didn’t call the next day either, and so I finally gave him a call two days later. He explained that he couldn’t get through to me on the number I’d given him, which was rather strange as I had received several calls throughout the day, but I gave him benefit of the doubt. He explained that for one section of the house, he would have his colleague call me, and he would call me the next day to finalise the rest. I waited a day for the rest of the quote. Neither he or his colleague returned my call.
I happened to be in the vicinity of local carpet guy’s showroom a couple of days later so I popped in and I explained that I had been waiting on his and his colleague’s call. There was no apology or explanation, but he did proceed to give me all of the quote. I left the place a little dejected. Maybe he didn’t want my business. I had expected to be asked when we would like to be booked in, or whether he required a deposit, but I received nothing. After my experience, I reluctantly went into a big chain just to see what my experience would be there.
The showroom was laid out perfectly. Big bright lights, free of clutter and easy for wannabe customers to walk around. It’s kind of what you’d expect from a big corporate. One of the sales assistants came over and asked my sister and I several questions. He gave us a bit more advice than the local guy which I was extremely surprised at. From past experience of going into large department stores and being served by a young college kid who had no experience and didn’t really want to be there, this sales guy’s knowledge, advice and customer service was surprisingly refreshing. He booked an appointment for one of the guys to measure the place, and after the house was measured, the original sales guy followed up with a phone call a couple of hours later to see how we got on.
Surprisingly, the quote wasn’t very different to the local guy and so it left me with a dilemma. Do I go corporate or do I shop local? Do I choose excellent customer service with great follow up or go for the local guy whose customer service wasn’t entirely my cup of tea? Price wasn’t a consideration because the quotes were both very similar. Both products were of the same quality, so all I could to differentiate was the level of customer service. After much deliberation, even though I had given the benefit of the doubt to local carpet guy several times, I reluctantly went with the corporate guy. Following my decision, the corporate guy followed up my decision with an email confirmation; a text confirmation of date of installation and then a further email asking for customer feedback following the carpet fitting. I still haven’t heard back from local carpet guy.
What are your thoughts? Was I wrong to go corporate (it certainly felt like it!), or should I have given local carpet guy one more chance? Do you have any local business stories to share?
I am a huge fan of Ted Talks for personal development and one of these Ted Talks changed my perspective on people. It was Susan Cain’s talk on The Power of Introverts.
Prior to my coming across this video, I couldn’t understand the apprehensions some business owners expressed in taking the stage to deliver a talk. It didn’t make sense to me why some business owners explained that after going to a networking event, they would go home for the rest of the day in order to recharge. For me, some of my most productive days might have involved a couple of networking events; a couple of one to one meetings or phonecalls, with maybe a skype chat in the evening to an overseas client. But then as I watched this video, I finally understood what it meant to be an introvert. How they are different to extroverts and how it is perfectly okay to be an introvert or extrovert or both.
I mentioned in another post how my branding mistake suddenly led to see images of a template I chose for my first business card everywhere, and I had a similar experience after watching this Ted Talk, as I realised just how many of my friends and my sister as it turned out, were introverts. With my new found knowledge of introverts, I did a bit of research, talked to several introverted business owners and from our conversations, I manage to compile the following list of tips introverts could use in order to cope with the daunting prospect of networking.
Find a networking group that works for you. Try finding a networking event that attracts smaller numbers. Networking is not about quantity but quality. Networking should be less about collecting as many business cards as you can, and more about how you can help others. If you are unsure of what networking groups there are around you, here are a few suggestions that may help.
Review the attendee list. With many networking events, especially with Facebook Events, and organisations such as Eventbrite and Meetup, it is possible to see who is attending the event beforehand. It enables business owners to be productive with their time as they can see which business owners are attending prior to the event. Take a look at their profile, their website and social media credentials and then make a list of who you wish to talk to.
Don’t work the whole crowd. It’s scary enough having to walk into a room full of strangers without putting undue pressure on oneself to try and talk to everyone. It just isn’t possible and in fact, us extroverts/ambiverts wouldn’t attempt to talk to everybody either. Set a realistic goal for yourself to talk to maybe one or two individuals, and spend some time mayking that connection and having a qualiTEA conversation.
Find a mindful extrovert to go with. Extroverts thrive in social situations especially networking events and if you find the right extrovert to go with, the mindful extrovert will introduce you to a circle of business owners, and ensure you get an opportuniTEA to introduce yourself and your business. A mindful extrovert will ask questions in order to draw out more information from you that you can relay to the group of business owners. A mindful extrovert may even keep an eye out for you for the duration of the networking event. We do exist, I promise you 🙂
Don’t change. You are who you are and you should embrace it! Introverts have a reputation for being great listeners. You are thoughtful, you are observant and have a keen eye for detail. Use this to your advantage when networking. These are key traits to have if you want to excel in networking to help others which will in turn help you and your business in the long run. Remember the lessons that Dale Carnegie taught us.
Remember your why. Remember your goals. Think about your passion and your business. When you remember why you are in business and why you are in the room of strangers, it will make it easier to strike up a conversation with someone. We are all in the same room with the aim to network and find contacts and connections. The start of the conversation will probably start in the same way: ‘What is your name / What is it that you do’ and if you remember your why, these questions should be easy to answer. Following the introductions, try asking open ended questions to keep the conversation going.
Find the wallflower in the room. This is probably the most challenging for introverts but stay with me. As an ambivert, I tend to walk to the wallflower who looks up nervously from their phone hoping to find the courage to speak to someone. I hope that by walking to that individual I can learn more about that person and think about ways in which I could help them. Introverts can do this too. They know that introverts the world over are in the same scary networking predicament. It just takes one introvert to take that brave step. Take a deep breathe, smile, walk over to an individual and say hello. Believe me the wallflower in the room will really appreciate what you did and you will find a rewarding conversation will ensue.
Follow Up. Once you have reached your desired goal and met everybody that you wanted to meet, go home, take that well deserved rest and don’t forget to follow up once you are fully recharged. If the conversations you held involved offering some assistance to the other person e.g. sending them an article, giving them a contact, or link to a website, whatever it was don’t forget to honour your word and send them the details. Ask them for a business card and write a little note to yourself to remind yourself why you were going to follow up; and if there was no call of action following the conversation, just a simple thank you email will do wonders to help you build your network.
Now if all of this sounds too daunting, don’t worry. There are a couple of other steps introverts can do to help them along the way and when the time is right, you could revisit this post and start your relationship building journey.
Find a Toastmasters group. When I was networking in London, I was asked to accompany one of my friends to a meeting. My friend knew she would have to network for her business and the thought of networking filled her with dread. She thought that by going to Toastmasters, it may give her the confidence to speak to others. I went along to support my friend and when I turned up, the amount of support the organisers and attendees gave to each other filled me with immense joy. One of the most memorable moments that night was when three friends, announced that they had all had a stammer but they made a pact to come to Toastmasters to increase their confidence, so that one day they could walk into a party and strike up a conversation with a stranger. The meetings are very well structured and the organisers are extremely welcoming to every attendee. Their aim is to help you achieve your goal: whether it is to turn up to a party; prepare for that best man speech; networking for business or any other goal you may have. Everybody in the meeting is in the same boat and everybody wants to reach that goal of having the confidence to speak in public in whatever capacity. Why not find your local group and find out how they can help you?
Try Networking online. A great resource for introverts is to use social media to find business owners to talk to and connect with. I wrote a blog post on how to get the best out of a Facebook Group and this is probably a great place to start, in order to start networking. Like a post, comment on a post and share useful articles. These are a great way to start networking in the comfort of your own home (or office). You can look at member’s Facebook profiles, look at their Facebook pages and their website and social media credentials and when the time is right, you could send them a Facebook message to start a conversation with them.
So that’s my 8 (plus 2 bonus) tips on how introverts can network effectively but I would love to hear from you. As an introvert, what other tips do you have to help others to network effectively? I would love to see your comments below. Thanks for listening.
Networking, according to Wikipedia is a socioeconomic business activity by which businesspeople and entrepreneurs meet to form business relationships and to recognize, create, or act upon business opportunities, share information and seek potential partners for ventures. Networking, or relationship building as I prefer to call it, can take two forms: face to face and online and I thought I would write my experiences of both over the years.
I remember, just after I was made redundant, I had already launched my business but without the comfort of a day job, I had to venture out into the business world and start building relationships. Fortunately my dear friend, Katrina, from The Marketing Lady fame, took me under her wing and recommended a few places for us to meet with like-minded business folk. Having read my favourite book for personal development and relationship building, I felt equipped to make a start.
I’d scan the room and look for individuals who were sat on their own, looking at their phones, or sipping their coffee (or even better, a cup of tea 🙂 ). I’d see plenty of groups of business owners exchanging business cards, having a conversation, having a laugh, but I wanted to connect with an individual. Why? I did it, because I have done it all my life. I can appreciate how nerve wrecking it can be to walk into a room full of strangers. I have been described as an extrovert which means walking up to a stranger is very easy for me. As I have gotten older, I actually feel that I am more of an ambivert but I digress. When I read in my favourite book that listening with empathy is a way of getting people to like you, I knew that I was on the right track.
It sounds cold and calculating doesn’t it? Be genuinely interested in people so that people like you. Be a good listener and encourage the other person to talk about themselves. Make the other person feel important and do it sincerely. The thing is though, to make friends and influence people in business is a skill. It is imperative for your business and if you’re not a good listener; if you can’t be genuinely inTEArested in others, then networking is going to be a waste of your time.
Networking will end up becoming a business card collecting exercise. Talking to others about yourself; selling to the other person before they’ve got to know a little bit about you, is likely to turn people off. Let me ask you this. Do you like being sold to? Are you a fan of junk mail appearing in your letterbox or Inbox? Do you like those pop-up Ads interrupting you when you are in the middle of reading an online article? Rather annoying isn’t it? Here are a few of the other #networkingbloopers that I have experienced over the years. These are all genuine. Some of you readers may have experienced these already. I am not mayking these up. (MK is me; NB is short for Networking Blooper).
Hi my name is […] and my business is […]. Here’s my card.’
[Thrusts business card into hand then walks off to the next victim]
NB: So what’s your name?
MK: My name’s May King and… [NB interrupts]
NB: Hi May, so I’m [insert name] and my business is [insert business name] and I [outlines the business]
MK: [nods / smiles / listens]
NB: [10 minutes later] so yeah, that’s me, but I better go, here’s my business card. We should catch up!
[Walks off to find next victim]
NB: Hi, my name’s [insert name] and you are?
MK: Well my first name is May King and my business is MayKing Tea.
NB: What do you do May? [I should interrupt at this conversation and ask you readers. Did you notice NB’s blunder? NB didn’t listen and didn’t call me by my first name. Yes, I know it’s an easy mistake to make but another great tip from Dale Carnegie if you want to make friends and influence people is: ‘Remember that a man’s name is to him the sweetest and most important sound in the English language’. Back to the blooper:
MK: [as I explain what I do, NB looks over my shoulder for a better prospect. NB’s not listening, I don’t really feel like talking anymore and I’m plotting my getaway in my head as I aim to finish the conversation quickly].
NB: So what do you do? [Yep – no hello, no introduction, launches straight in]
MK: My first name is May King and I have a business called MayKing Tea. I sell loose leaf tea sourced from around the world.
NB: That’s not going to make you much money is it? But I have a business that will make you lots of money! [Proceeds to talk about his/her network marketing proposition]
MK: [nods / smiles / listens/plots in head for quick getaway]
I have thought about doing a #networkingblooper series to recreate the funniest moments I and other business owners have had experienced in networking. Kinda like Candid Camera or You’ve Been Framed except that you don’t get £250 for sending your videos in. Maybe I will one day, but in the meantime here are a few things that you can do when you are at a networking event.
Meet new people. At a networking event, we are all there for the same reason. Don’t be tempted to stay with the people you came to the event with. This is known as your comfort zone, and you know what happens in business if we stay in our comfort zone don’t we?
As we are all in the room with the same agenda, try and find someone on their own, smile and introduce yourself and start a conversation.
Don’t sell. I mentioned earlier that generally as humans, we don’t like being sold to, so explain what you do, but don’t sell. If you hand over your business card, and if the person is inTEArested, they will contact you.
Ask questions and listen. There are plenty of great lessons and principles in Dale Carnegie‘s book and this is one of them. Give the person you’re talking to, the respect that they deserve and be genuine in your questions and listen sincerely.
Don’t interrupt, criticise or argue. This is common sense but it’s amazing how many people want to be heard and in an attempt to get their point across, they will use one of these negative actions. Remember you are at the meeting to represent your business, your brand and you want to make a good impression. Focus on the positives and ditch the negatives.
Smile. I love this Chinese proverb: ‘A man without a smiling face must not open a shop.’ It’s amazing what can be achieved when you smile. Sharing what you do, especially if you love what you do, coupled with a smile will create a positive impression to the person you’re talking to, and we all want people to have a positive impression of ourselves and our business don’t we?
Follow Up. This final point, I have to admit, I have made mistakes on and haven’t necessarily followed up with every person I’ve met, but we’re all human. We all make mistakes, right? If you have a Twitter profile, I’m likely to give you a shout out, as I do love Twitter. If I want to meet with you, I will connect with you, especially if you have all your social media credentials, website and email address up to date (this is extremely important). To make that first positive impression of you and your business stretch a little further, the follow up is a great habit to form. It’s the start of building a relationship with another business owner and by following up, you never know where the start of that relationship can lead your business.
There’s probably another 10, 15, 20 networking tips that I could share with you here, but I would love to hear from you. Do you have a #networkingblooper story you’d like to share? What’s your best networking tip for networking newbies? Would love to hear from you.