BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS IN QUARANTINEJun 15, 2020
How to Networking During a Pandemic
Do you remember what you said way back when, on New Year’s Day 2020, as we were clinking glasses, giving hugs and kisses celebrating the end of 2019?
I said it. You might have said it, too! “2020 is going to be my best year ever!”
Do you remember your resolutions? What commitments did you make to yourself that would make 2020 your best year ever? I know it seems ridiculous to even think about it. The last six months have felt like six years for me, too. But you have two choices in times like these.
- Roll up in a ball and wait for it to pass, or
- Do your best regardless of the circumstances.
Back to my question. What did you resolve to do to make this year exceptional? Hmmm?
I can’t remember most of mine either . . . but I do remember that I wanted to build my network – not just by the number of people clicking on my Facebook posts or asking me to connect on LinkedIn, I wanted to build relationships – lasting lifetime relationships. Connections that will survive through a pandemic and quarantine. Relationships that will grow stronger, as we face our future together with all its changes. Positive changes create an inclusive society that prospers for everyone.
Building your network and forming new relationships is easier for some than it is for others. Then throw a little COVID-19 quarantine into the mix. Let’s get real. Zoom coffee dates with our besties are weird at best these days but getting on a call with someone you have never met . . . that’s just uncomfortable for some. You clutch your cup of coffee, pretending to be relaxed, and give it your best forced “I am staring into a camera” smile.
I get it. 30 years of business has honed my skills. I will admit I am quite comfortable meeting new people and striking up a conversation now, but I remember all too well my first time. Awkward!!
Like me, if you are uncomfortable or maybe bombed a time or two, you just need to get back in the game. Building your network cannot be underestimated as a business strategy. It is the most important activity you can engage in if you are intentional and prepared.
In the past months, I have watched so many business owners and entrepreneurs pull out the stops and take giant leaps into the new normal. They jumped into the virtual world when it was the last thing on God’s green earth that they wanted to do. Then gained new skills building off strengths they had never thought about. They were authentic. They joked about their discomfort. Got sideswiped by tech gremlins and bounced back with a smile. Some even overshared about what they were wearing or not wearing. No matter their approach, they just took action. No excuses.
That is really what being in business is all about. Action. Nothing happens until you get off the sidelines and act. So, I would like to give you a few tips about how you can get out there, not just on Zoom, to build your network. If you want to have your best year possible, you must “get out there” and tell people what you do, or no one will know that you are open and ready to do business.
Your #1 high-priority activity to make this year the best year possible is . . .
#1 Make a few calls – look at your contact list or CRM and pick 3 contacts you are dedicated to touching base with.
People are craving human interaction, and phone calls have all but gone by the wayside in our fast-paced world. Reaching out and being a friendly voice, sharing some small-talk and a bit about your business can be enough to light up someone’s day.
Every day, I reach out to three of my people. This is intentional, not random. I schedule the time on my calendar to connect with them. If you only do this five days a week for 50 weeks, (Giving you some vacation time!) you will touch base with 750 people and build relationships. Not just now, but always we love to know someone was thinking about us!
Here’s how you can choose who you will call.
If you have a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system you can easily sort and select who you are going to call in the next week. If you aren’t familiar with CRM systems, we will talk more about CRMs in an upcoming article. But you don’t have to wait for another app or system to get started.
Start here . . .
- Make a list of your list of past customers or acquaintances that you would consider advocates or promoters. These people might not know what you have been up to and you don’t know what they need unless you call and check-in.
- Make a list of those referrals people have given you that maybe you have not followed up with yet. Tip: You might want to start by calling the person who made the referral and ask them for some insights about the referral.
- Grab that stack of business cards you collected at your last networking event. Yup! We all collect them with the best of intentions. Here’s the secret, in the future, when leaving a networking event, go through that stack right away. Make connections on social media, send them a text saying, “Nice to meet you. Let’s set a follow-up date.” Don’t wait for the magic call or you get to be just another business card in their stack.
If just getting on a call and chatting is a bit too anxiety-producing for you, write a short script and practice. Call your “friendlies.” Past clients that you have a pretty strong relationship with already, your sister or a friend. Whoever you call, ask them to provide you with honest feedback. In my book, The DAMN Plan How To Find Freedom, Love, And Money In Your Business, I talk about surrounding yourself with people who will stand beside you AND kick your backside to help you achieve your goals. So choose wisely. I have been a test dummy for more than one entrepreneur, they most often were better than they thought, but we could always find improvements and the confidence gained by just doing it was invaluable.
#2 You can turn a cold call into a warm one by sending an email or text first.
Keep it succinct and specific. Write it out. Walk away and read it before you send. Here again, send your first emails to your “friendlies.”Break out of your comfort zone. No excuses about COVID or anything, make those calls. The very life of your business depends on it!
#3 Take action!
Building relationships is your most important business strategy. That’s why I’m not going to let you off the hook. But I know that you may still be feeling nervous. So, here are a few bonus tips for you to make calling your people easier.
Pump yourself up! If you are nervous, recognize it, but remember that truly you have a gift to offer. Someone needs your gift. You are not selling anything when you are reaching out to your clients and prospects, you are helping them solve problems and fulfilling their wants. So quiet those voices in your head. You’ve got this girl!
Smile. If you feel those negative, “I hate this” thoughts crawling through your brain, a smile can change your mind. Try being negative while giving yourself a big ol’ goofy smile in the mirror. It’s pretty hard to keep those negative thoughts going. When you talk on the phone, the receiver can “hear” the smile in your voice, and you’ll both come out of your shell for a more enjoyable conversation. You might even have a real smile on your face by the end of the call, as you create or reinforce a relationship with a customer!
Set an intention and be open to possibilities. You are there to meet new friends and build relationships – not just sell, sell, sell! That is what will sustain your business relationship far after the passing of this pandemic.
Have a giving spirit. Ask questions about other people more than you tell them about yourself! Give more than you take. Remember: People buy from people they like, know and trust. This is your opportunity to build that relationship foundation upon which future sales will be built!
If you are nervous about it, do it anyway. No excuses! Networking – building relationships – is a necessary strategy for your business.
You got this! I’m in your corner.
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