Category: Business relationships

What is networking all about?

As we enter our seventh month of not being able to network face-to-face I have started to see many cases of ‘Zoom fatigue’. (Other systems are available and have the same challenge). Often the numbers of people attending have reduced and people have become more comfortable with the system. (Strangely, our Groups reduced and have now started to grow again as parents see their children back at school.)

So, since the government guidelines are not looking like we will be able to come face-to-face again any time soon, I thought it would be helpful to remind myself why I network. I hope this helps you too.

Networking is a huge part of my marketing strategy. It enables me to meet other businesspeople, build strong relationships and from this I gain: advice, information, support and, of course, work. The latter will almost always take a while to happen, so let’s explore the first three things:

Advice

No one has experienced the situation we have all faced this year, but what I realised is that many of the challenges some have faced are the challenges that come from owning a business: cashflow, getting work, completing work, getting paid etc.  In addition, there is a whole raft of never-before-experienced challenges:  furloughing staff, preparing for people to work from home, preparing for people to work in the office. However, both these sets of challenges are helped by people offering advice, usually from their own experiences. This happens whether face-to-face across a table or face-to-face across a screen. When networking you meet people you can trust who will offer advice. You then decide whether to take it.

Information

This is, of course, closely linked to advice. The difference is that information usually comes from people’s area of expertise.  For example, you may want to wade through the intricacies of furloughing staff and the HMRC, I do not. I get information from my accountant and sometimes, while networking, I get the latest, ‘hot off the press’ information from an accountant who is attending. (When I finish networking I usually find this information from my accountant in my inbox but that is by the by.)

Support

There are times for many businesspeople when things don’t go well or as planned, don’t get started, or seem never to end. Self-employment in its different disguises can be a lonely place and through networking we can gain contacts who will listen (occasionally) to our rants, our troubles, our whinges. They may offer advice and information but what they really will offer is their attention. Naturally we have to remember that this should not be every day!

These times have been for some, psychologically and practically, difficult times. Members tell me they have really appreciated the support they have received, now more than ever. Because we work using the Chatham House rule they feel able to be completely honest and this has always been helpful.

If you would like to see my blog on networking, here’s the link: https://www.ebn.uk.com/blog/?p=37

And if you would like my top 20 networking tips, go to: https://www.ebn.uk.com and claim your free download

Have fun.

Would you do that if we were meeting face to face?

Warning: This may border on the edge of a rant:

I was talking to someone about a meeting they had attended, where he was the presenter. He was very unhappy because, while he was doing his presentation, some people put their contact details in the chat facility. (Yes it was Zoom and yes, other options are available.)

We talked for a while about strange behaviour we had seen in virtual meetings, e.g. people messing around with their backdrops, or taking phone calls. These were certainly unacceptable, but my friend was really annoyed with the people who had been obviously typing rather than listening to his presentation. As he said “ I would never introduce these people to my contacts because they obviously don’t understand what professional looks like”.

So, I started to think about how this behaviour differs from when we attend a face­­-to-face networking event (remember those?) People judge us by our behaviour and, for businesspeople in particular, we need to show ourselves in the best light. This ensures that people feel confident at putting their own reputation on the line by introducing us to their contacts.  Finally, I came up with a simple rule: you shouldn’t do anything at a virtual meeting that you wouldn’t do at a face to face meeting. Simple.

Or is this just me? What do you think?

Want a free gift? Go to ebn.uk.com and download 20 networking tips. You’re welcome.

Once upon a time…

In the last week I have been asked the same question three times: How do I tell people about all my different services when I first meet them? My answer was the same: don’t.

Many companies have a business category, e.g. IT support, but this is made up of lots of products and services: hardware, security, etc. Tell people all that and you will see them glaze over and stop engaging with you. Don’t forget that networking is about building relationships, not overwhelming people to the point when they switch off.

My advice? There are two parts to this.

The first part is to tell people what your business category is. (Assuming you have said your name and company name.) Then you can say “We have lots of products and services”. You can, if you want, say “For example” and list two or three of the services, followed by “Today I’m focussing on helping people who need to have their cyber security reviewed”.

The second part: tell them a story. Think half a page, not War and Peace. As humans, we understand stories. Give it a beginning, a middle and an end. For example, “Cyber security is getting to be more and more of a problem”, throw in some stats if you must, and then “Recently we helped a firm of solicitors who had lost £250,000 because someone hacked …”.  (This is not my area of expertise, so bear with me.) “We were asked to look at all of their systems and we found 5 ways of ensuring this kind of attack could not happen again, and we also put in place a system that will constantly keep the company protected.” ” So…this is the kind of help we want to give to others—do you know any solicitors who you would feel able to introduce me to?”

Then shut up and let them talk. One final thing: if you see people snuggling down for the night, you have spoken for too long. Refine the story.

If you would like some more tips on networking, go to ebn.uk.com and at the bottom right hand side you can download my top twenty tips.

Being hit with a two-by-four

As I write this it is four months since England when into lockdown. On that day two things happened to me:

  1. On paper, my business stopped. ebn is a business networking company, we meet face-to-face, over breakfast. For a few weeks before lockdown things had been decidedly different: members not sure what would happen with their business, what they needed to do, would they survive and how could they protect and support their staff. Then on 23rd there was some clarity, at least for me. On a business level I couldn’t continue my existing business model. It justwasn’t an option, that was very clear.
  2. I was told, very emphatically, that I was classed as vulnerable and must not go out of the house for any reason other than my regular fourweekly hospital appointments.

Maybe if one of these issues had happened in isolation I might have coped better, as it was I felt like the twobyfour had been applied. (Not that I know what it actually feels like to be hit with a twobyfour, but I have an active imagination!)

So, what happened? My network immediately kicked in; my fabulous team of Group Directors, all business owners themselves, took their groups online and this gave me some space to get to grips with all aspects of ‘being vulnerable’, from the psychological impact of that, to the practical.

My beloved, who is high risk, decided, to keep me as safe as he could by also not going out. We, therefore, had to work out how could we get things like food, medicines, and other frivolities.  The next-door neighbour became our short-term lifeline and then three people from my business network volunteered to shop for me. (Any of you who are thinking: what about home deliveries?” are delusional. I never managed to get the golden ticket, or as some people called it, a delivery slot.)

Since 23rd of March four things have happened:

  • ebn has grown as people came to virtual meetings as visitors, got help, advice, and support from my wonderful members. Business people have come together and supported each other. It has not just been about how they are coping but how their businesses are doing.
  • I have realised that, if nothing is normal then, for my business everything is possible. So, I am reviewing my business model. This includes how and where we open groups and when and how we develop additional products, which would be available to members and non-members
  • I have realised that ‘vulnerable’ is a label that others apply to me
  • My long-held belief has been proven; networking works.

Since networking is about building relationships, please accept my gift of Top 20 networking tips by following this link: ebn.uk.com and complete the form to download your copy.