Are you lost for words at your Networking events?

And now, maybe worse, as networking events that are getting going again, after a long break.

Most of us have been there: a room full of people in front of us, prospects everywhere, and we can’t think of a word to say.

And, more often than not, refuge is found with a glass of wine. We might in the course of the event collect a few business cards. But usually, once we have finished our complimentary glass of wine, we find an excuse to leave.

We may even be spotted by a friendly fellow networker who introduces themselves. But after asking a couple of easy opening questions and getting just a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ for answers they decide that there are more interesting things going on almost anywhere else in the room.

Well, if this picture is even a little like you, it doesn’t have to be.  A few ready made questions and answers will soon have you networking just like everyone else seems to be in the room.  But, first of all let me assure you that you are not the only person feeling as you do. Many will be, it’s just that you are all circulating the room and smiling at all that pass you by!

So, how about that first easy question?  Everyone asks it.  ‘How’s business?’  Your answer might be, ‘Fine’ or maybe, ‘Oh, we are really busy’.  The trouble with those answers is that it doesn’t really leave you anywhere to progress to. The answer may as well be, ‘That’s great!’

But, how about, if instead, you answered, ‘Really great! We have just finished a large project for our biggest client. We had to turn it around in record time, and I’m now looking for a similar job.’  The next comment is likely to be, ‘Tell me more’.

The secret is to have a few answers planned in advance: answers that are not only interesting in themselves but that invite another question.  Then once the conversation starts and you begin to relax you never know where things might lead.  You may just find your next big customer and don’t forget you can use that same great answer for more than one person.

However, sometimes you have to make the first move and again this is easy if you have a few ready prepared questions up your sleeve.  Start by scanning the room and finding someone much like you on their own, looking a little lost.  Go up to them and introduce yourself using just your first name and ask them theirs.  Then follow up with one of your prepared questions.

Why not try one of the following or make up your own with similar ideas?

1)      How did they hear about the event and do they know the host?

2)      Did they come to the event for a special reason?

3)      What is it that they do?

4)      How long have they been doing that?

5)      What made them choose that line of work?

6)      What’s the best thing about what they do?

7)      What kind of business are they looking for?

8)      Is there anyone that you might know that they would like to be introduced to (this person might even be at the event)?

9)      Who is their biggest competitor?

10)  How many people work with them?

All these questions need more than a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer and also the answers will tell you something about the person, their company, and if you want to start a relationship with them.

Remember, the objective at a networking event is the start of a relationship, your next meeting, not a quick sale.

So, never be lost for words at a networking event again and you will see that there is no need to feel on your own, as instead you may be starting lasting and worthwhile connections with the people that you meet.

Guitar Village

I was at Guitar Village, in Farnham, today looking at the Ukuleles; they are beautiful and my birthday is soon!

However, I’m finding it almost impossible to choose one, as I like so many; not just because of their sound but also their looks and the way they are made. Such lovely woods are used, such as mahogany, koa, maple, rosewood, cedar and spruce. Then there are the different makes and types: soprano, concert, tenor, etc. (plus they are all different sizes).

I asked Richard in the shop for help and he advised that, as a beginner, it would be best to decide on how much I would be willing to spend and then buy the one I liked the look and feel of best. He then added that after six months, if I’d become a keen player, that I can look again, as I’ll have a much better idea of what would work best for me.

His advice was perfect and is just the same in business. In business there are numerous things to do and often because of that nothing much gets done. So, think about it, what one thing could you do this week that would be good for your business? Then just ‘park’ everything else and do it. I’m pretty sure that you will see the difference it makes.

Richard also added something else, which I agree with, and in fact am doing. Having a ukulele and spending some time strumming is a great way to relax and get away from the pressure of your work. I’ve got to agree that it’s fun. So, if things are tough at the moment why not get a ukulele and try it?!

Guitar Village – let Richard know that I suggested you came to see him.

Farnham, Surrey, Business Networking – 19th August

Standing on a chair!

In a few months’ time, networking (in groups) should return and it got me thinking.  You know the sort of thing, loads of business owners in a room, food and drink, lots of noise, so you have to shout to make yourself heard, and a few people get to give a sales pitch.  And, unless you are standing in the front row, or the event has a PA, they can’t be heard and so everyone just continues talking, not taking the slightest bit of notice.

Pretty much a waste of time!  Well at one event I remember one of the speakers did their best to be heard; to stand out.  They jumped up on a chair and spoke from there.  From where I was, at least I could see him, but I still couldn’t hear a word that he said.

And, it got me thinking about standing out from the crowd. About a business having a USP (Unique Selling Proposition); a thing that makes you special. I had already met three photographers that evening and they had all said pretty much the same thing; great pictures, latest technology, reliable service.  And, that their prices were coming down all the time.  They had nothing unique, so the only thing that they could sell was on price.

So, my question is – what is your USP?  When you next go networking and your competition is in the room, how will you stand out?  What makes you truly different?

Here are three things that might help you to develop a really valuable USP.  That will help you to win more business and be able to charge more.

  1. You can’t use what you see as benefits that your competition would also use, or for that matter are just expected of any good supplier.  For example: outstanding photography, reliable, we go the extra mile.  It has to be unique.
  2. Really dig down into what you do.  Ask a friend to ask you this question, “So, why is that good?”  And, get them to keep asking you the same question until your answer really makes them say, “Okay, now I’m interested!”  For example: the computers you sell have the latest chip.  “So, why is that good?”  The answer might be because data is processed faster.  “So, why is that good?”  The answer might be because then you get you work done faster.  “So, why is that good?”  Get the idea?  You just go on and on, until you really hit the reason that matters.
  3. A real success story.  I heard a great example of this recently from a garage. Like most garages they did servicing, MOTs and body repairs. But, how about this for being truly unique?  They service a fleet of Mercedes for a Royal family.  Now that has to put them a step above the norm.

So, develop a one-off USP and you really will stand out when networking and it will help you win more business.

End Times…

We all set start times for things – let’s face it, it would be pretty difficult not to. But very few of us set end times. A time that whatever we are doing will end.

In fact, talking of start times, let’s cover those first. Have you ever thought about making a start time not on the hour? Most meetings are naturally set on the hour.  10.00am – 11.00am – 2.00pm that sort of thing.

So how about instead of setting a time of say 10.00am you go for 10.15am? It’s amazing the difference it makes. Psychologically it says the meeting will be shorter – because people’s minds work in hours. And of course it marks you out as different. You stand out. It’s a small thing but it helps you to be remembered.

But put that together with end times and you have a real winner.

Most people don’t set end times for their meetings and so their meetings take as long as they – well take. In consequence they allow any meetings they have a large window of time. Extra time in case they run-over. Or even – just because they don’t have much else to do. Nothing planned. The thing is these people don’t value their time. The amazing thing is that time is the only thing we can’t get more of – when it’s gone, it’s gone.

Why do meetings drift? The simple answer is because most people don’t plan their meetings. They have a broad topic (or an overloaded topic) – but that’s about it. So it’s impossible to know how long they will take.

So a great place, maybe the only place, to start is to plan your meetings; by doing that you will have a good idea of an end time.

On the other hand – just set an end time in the first place. You will be amazed at how much more focused your meetings will become and because of that a great deal more productive.

Now this might seem like a small thing (and you might already do it) – but it can have enormous benefits.

One of which is with diary dates. If you look at the average person’s diary they are filled with a lot of ‘air’.  Shall we say coffee time, or catching up on social media – that sort of thing. For example: meeting at 9.00am – not sure when it will end, so maybe the next meeting will be a 11.00am. Time for a coffee in between – or look around the shops. I bet you’ve been guilty of that. I know I used to be.

Worse still, I know business owners who never book more than one meeting in the morning and another in the afternoon! Why? Because they just don’t know how long their meetings will take. Nothing has been set.  It could be 20 minutes, on the other hand it could be two hours. Result? Lots of lost time.

Now just imagine what a difference there would be if you set an end time and didn’t start on the hour.

First meeting at 9.15am – finish by 10.00am. Next meeting at 10.30am ending at 11.30am. Meeting after that starts at 12.00 and ends at 12.45pm. All made possible by setting end times.

With clear focus and planning, meetings will be both shorter and more productive. Making it possible to have two, maybe three, meetings where before you had just the one.

Just think what that would do to your own personal productivity! Scary isn’t it?

But it doesn’t have to end there. Because all ‘meetings’ can have a fixed end time. Zoom calls, video calls, even plain old phone calls.

I know someone who only takes phone calls in the afternoon and they are all booked in slots of 15 and 20 minutes – on top of which before the call is made he has a rough agenda for the call. The amount of work this guy gets done in a day is just staggering.

If you value the limited time you have – please plan and set end times (end times made possible due to the planning) – I promise that you will discover time that you thought just didn’t exist.

Well that’s it, four really useful business practice thoughts that will give you more time.

I hope that you will implement some, if not all four, into your business and that you reap the rewards from doing so. If you do, frankly, the results will amaze you. And please don’t even think for the moment that you don’t have the time – because you do.

You will have hours, and I do mean hours, of extra time. But more importantly you will find that time pressure disappears and with that a vast amount of stress.

And it doesn’t matter who you are. Everyone can save some time. From maybe just a couple of hours a week to, in some cases, whole days. I’ve seen it!

Whichever it is, you don’t need much of an imagination, to see how the extra time would make a massive difference to your business – in fact your way of life.

You would have control; more time to work on your business. You could have a better work life balance. And, I’d almost guarantee, fewer sleepless nights.

No hair cut!

A friend of mine owns a hairdressing salon which is closed and has been for a great deal in the last year due to the lockdowns.

And because of this, people are trying all sorts of things: cutting, hair colours, new styles, with some being done by themselves and others by close contacts (in their bubble), who are prepared to take the chance for them. Some are successful and others are…well, not so good. Other people are just waiting for a haircut; I’m one of those!

Anyway, back to my friend and others like him; those who have no business at the moment. Week by week it’s getting harder for them and it’s not just about the lack of business now, as for some of them it is the damage that less business will do in the future when lockdown is lifted. I don’t know about you, but I know that things won’t suddenly go back to how they were. A great deal of business just won’t return; some things are changed permanently or, at the very least, long-term.

However, for some, like my friend, things are far better than they might have been. Why? Because he has spent a number of years building himself a residual income just like me. I build my residual income business for two reasons: one, to have extra holidays each year, and two, to add to my pension when I retire. But, the thing I like best about my residual income, is that it pops into my bank account every month, whether I’ve done any work or not, and will do long into the future.

What it’s doing for my friend at the moment is taking lots of earning pressure and worry off him.

Residual income is not a get-rich-scheme, although you can earn nicely pretty quickly, it’s more about thinking five, even ten, years into the future. The great thing is that there’s nothing to lose by trying it, but maybe something wonderful to gain. My friend has really discovered this.

So, if this interests you, have a look, as I say, there’s nothing to lose and now might just be an appropriate time to find out how good it could be. There are many options available. Two, connected services, which I find are very workable together are Full Power (commercial) and Utility Warehouse (domestic) energy. Just click on their names if you would like to know more, or give me a call.

The West Wing

Time is something that we all have exactly the same amount of as each other and yet some people seem to do so much more with their allotted amount than others.  One of the questions that I am asked the most is how to make more time?  Well, the simple answer is that you can’t.  But, what you can do is save time: make better use of the time that you have.

Most things will take as long as you allow them to.  So, an easy way of saving time is to give everything you do a set amount of time: making it less than you normally might.

One of the biggest users of time are meetings.  Endless meetings, meetings to discuss meetings, meetings because that is what you are suppose to do.

I firmly believe that most meetings could be at least 25% shorter, maybe 50%, and that some meetings need not happen at all.  I will explain my rationale.

Most meetings are given a set time: 30 minutes, an hour, maybe two, maybe even all day.  Then an agenda is worked out to fill the time decided on.  A meeting might be scheduled for 2 hours every week and so it is filled up with stuff to take two hours.  But what if there are only 20 minutes of material to cover?

So, how about trying this?  Decide what needs to be covered in a meeting and however long that requirement is, that is the length of the meeting: whether it be 20 minutes or one hour and thirty-five minutes.  Trust me, no one will complain about having shorter meetings if it means they get something else done.

Another major loss of time in meetings is bad chairmanship; people getting way off the subject in hand and being allowed to waffle.  Every point on the agenda should have a fixed amount of time and then that time stuck to. 

Practise just these two things and I promise you will save hours of time.

I titled this blog ‘The West Wing’ I don’t know if you have ever watched the programme but if you have you will have noticed that some of the President’s meetings are just a few minutes long.  When what needs to be said has been said the meeting is over and it’s on to the next one.  Now before you say “It’s only a TV show” do you really think a President runs the US without having such meetings?

Earn more just by dressing up!

Making a good profit can be a hard thing to achieve, In fact, at times, any profit is hard to make, but so many business owners make this more difficult than it need be.  There are so many ways to make more profit and one of those is to simply charge more for what you do.  Again there are many reasons for charging more for your service but one of the best is just dressing up!

I will assume that you are very good at what you do and that you give an incredible service.  But now I will give you two examples of how the same business might be sold.  For each I will just concentrate on three areas, but I’m sure that you will get the picture.

Method one:  The owner drives up in a dirty three-year old car, his business card is flimsy and has a number crossed out on it, and, to be honest, he looks like he has been away camping for the last few days.

Method two:  The owner drives up in a beautifully clean three-year old car, his business card is branded and printed on a heavy board, and he looks as if he is going somewhere special.

Now remember they are providing exactly the same service.  Which would you more likely give your business to?  But, more importantly, most people would pay more money for the service provided by the second method.

There is another point to my example: you knew the service was the same in both cases, but what if you didn’t?  Who would you have chosen to buy from?

‘Designer’ goods are all about dressing up: charging more and making more profit.  Okay the quality of a £4 pair of jeans from the supermarket is not the same as that of a ‘designer’ pair, but a great deal of the price paid is for the ‘look’ and not totally the product.

So, if you want to increase your profits, why not just try ‘dressing up’ a little? Believe it or not – it does make a difference.

Kick Started

Everyone I know received a bit, or a great deal, of a kick start when they first got their business going; and in fact still do today. It may have been their mum and dad, brother or sister, a friend, another business owner, someone famous on TV, someone in history, or at a live business event. The possibilities are endless but it can make a large difference to someone’s success.

The same is true when things get hard; finding a person that will give you a ‘kick’. The trouble with many business owners is that when their business is running they don’t like to ask others for help when things are tough as it seems weak. Many also think that they know more than most others so they can’t in fact be helped. Often that is a big mistake because often a ‘kick’ makes you think differently – it’s not an obvious answer.

Kickstarter exists to help bring creative projects to life and it can make an enormous difference to how you start a project; a new business.

During the lockdown my son has written a comic book. He has been planning it for years but being ‘locked down’ he was given the time to work on it and Kickstarter gave him the ‘kick’ and the knowledge to launch his comic. I have to say that it has been great and I’m really looking forward to getting my printed copy.

So, now maybe the time that you need a ‘kick’, from a friend, or a mentor, the important thing is to improve the way your business operates, adapt the current situation, and make sure that your business is successful going forward.

If you like adventure have a look at my son’s comic book; it might just give you a little kick (in more ways than one). You can see it here.

Your 3 a-day

No I’m not talking about your fruit or vegetable intake or, in fact, your health. However, I am talking about the health of your business.

We hear a great deal about setting goals. Your five-year plan, your three-year plan, one-year, and I myself really promote the one-month plan. Of course you need a long -term plan, something big in the future, but the reason that most long-term plans fail is because there are no one-month plans made in order to reach the bigger plan.

But even if you have your one-month plans in place, they won’t work unless you take some action; actions that will make your plan possible.

Here’s a simple example. Let’s say you want to double your turnover in the next two years. Not a bad plan – just imagine what that would do to your business.

Now at a very simple level, you would know how much business you would need in order to double your turnover. But, assuming you didn’t get any extra business from your existing customers, do you know how many new customers you would need?

Assuming you know that number, how would you go about getting that number of new customers?

How many new customers per month would you need?

Depending on your conversion rate how many customer meetings would you need?

And how many leads do you need to get to a customer meeting?

So far we haven’t even thought about extra staff, resources, cash-flow and a whole host of other things.

But even when you have done all of this work, at the moment it’s still all just theory. And this is when the action comes in. What actions will you need to take in order to make your plan, your goal, a reality? Because without any actions you will never achieve your goal.

So, work out what actions you need to take for your goal to succeed. There will be many of them; and then take three of those actions each and every day. As they say, actions speak louder than words, and in goal achievement this has never been truer.