Master Your Professional Relationships

Growing your business is all about building relationships.  With customers, with potential customers, with vendors, and many other people.  I've spent 20+ years perfecting this skill and I'm happy to share my tips.

A couple of sentences here to introduce this article and why it's important to you and why you are someone the reader should trust and learn from.  Basically - This article is going to help you [impact on their life] by teaching you [valuable skill].  I should know because for the past [# of years as a business owner] I have learned to [valuable skill] and it has helped me be [impact on your life].  Enjoy!


Networking At Conference Drinks Reception


Networking Groups

use the power of groups to generate more business



Networking groups are great for business owners and entrepreneurs. They allow you to meet and form business relationships, they also allow you to create business opportunities and share information about potential ventures or paying clients.

Going to these events can help you make your business network larger. Increase your chances of growing your business and its resource options. There are lots of people who say if you network effectively that it's all the marketing you will ever need to do. Even though you think taking a couple of hours out of your day once a week or once a month is not worth it.  Go to a meeting, share your favorite beverage or a meal with others just like you. See what you can learn.

Why is Networking Important

Networking is an essential and important part of our work life now. These days you are more likely to get into a career field or job you want based on who you know, not just how well you did in school.

Putting yourself in a new environment with people you don't know can be extremely scary and uncomfortable. But by doing this, you can improve yourself and your business like you can't in other ways. I know from personal experience. It can be very hard to stand up in a room full of strangers and try to get them interested in you and your business. I also know the feelings of accomplishment when I can stand up and take 30 seconds to make a quick pitch for my company. I know what you are thinking, "30 seconds? That doesn't seem like enough time to get someone to pick me and chose to do business." It could be. You learn after just a few times, what to say and how to say it. By only having 30 to 60 seconds to make your pitch you learn what is important and what will make an impact on someone.

There is also the matter of finding the right group for you. Just like trying on shoes or a new pair of pants, one size does not fit all. You may have to go to three or four different groups to find your most effective event or network of people. Don't get down faced with all the networking options you are bound to find the one for you and your business.

Don't be Pushy & Salesy - Get to Know People and Build Relationships

Remember you are there to build relationships not sell to the people in the group. They first want to know who you are as a person and how you can help them. You want to make sure you are being truthful and that they know they can trust you to follow through. This will take more than an introduction. Your ultimate networking goal should be to get them to refer you to people they know.

An easy way to start a conversation in a new group is to just give your name and a smile. I know it sounds simple and just too easy. You have to start somewhere and saying hello is a great start. After you get that far, you can ask someone at your table about their business. Once you feel more comfortable you can start to branch out and make more connections.

Are you bad at remembering name? There are so many tips, tricks, and apps to help you remember peoples names.

Nameorize

This app lets you add names and details as soon as you meet someone, if you're using an Apple product. Put in details like looks, where you met, workplace, or the person who introduced you to each other. This app is great, it can remind you a very scientific intervals 10 minutes, 1 hours, 1 day, 5 days and 2 weeks after you have met any new people. There currently isn't an Android version - yet.

Tips and Tricks

  • Motivation - You have to make sure that by remembering this person you and your company could benefit in the future. Come up with something that you want to accomplish or something you want like a case full of money or season passes with box seats to your favorite sports team.
  • Focus - You are never going to remember someone new if you are thinking about "What's for lunch?" or "What you are supposed to be doing tomorrow?" So focus on the person you are talking to, give them your full attention. You would want them to do the same thing for you.
  • Repeat, repeat - Repeat their name. When someone introduces themselves say their name back to them and shake their hand. This will help you focus and remember their name and face.
  • One head, one conversation - When you meet someone new you are usually thinking of what question you are going to ask next, or what you are going to talk about. You will never remember them if you are not focusing on them.
  • Pick a feature - Take a second and look at the person, pick out something that makes them standout to you. By connecting the name with the feature it helps give you an anchor.
  • Review - At the end of the day take time to go over all of the names you learned, visualize the faces or the features you picked out about them.  Say the names a few times and if you need to write them down.
  • Exchange business cards - The secret is to have a fine-tip Sharpie with you. Jot down some notes on their card to help you remember them. You might even have special pocket for connections you want to follow up with after the event.
  • Offer to connect - The point of social media is to make connections. After you've spoken with each other, ask if you can connect on social media. 

Participate in Online Groups on LinkedIn or Facebook

Online groups in LinkedIn and Facebook follow the same rules that face to face groups do. If you have ever been to a networking meeting then you already know how to conduct yourself, share valuable information, and grow your business. 

Have a Great Intro - On a group page there is a section called "About". This is where the group explains their purpose. This is the best way to determine if the group is right for you. The About section should have when the group was started, who started it, and who the admins are. Facebook groups are starting to incorporate surveys as part of the introduction process to help determine if you're the right fit, too.

Group Privacy Levels - This is so important. How easy or hard is the group to find with a Facebook or Linkedin search. This also sets limitations on being able to add and remove people from the group. There are three levels you can choose from in Facebook.

  • Public - Anyone can see group members and their posts.
  • Closed - Anyone can find the group and the members, but only members can see posts.
  • Secret - Only members can find the group and see posts.

Remember to be personable. It may be tempting to jump in with both feet and let everyone know what your business can do for them. Sometimes the admin or moderator will invite you to dive right in and introduce you and your business. But just wait, you need to be a part of the group before you try to take over and sell your business. Some groups don't allow sales promotions. They are formed to just share information. Take time and see if there is a schedule or an order to the way the group handles making pitches. After you have the opportunity to get to know how the group works you can start adding yourself and your business to the group. Helping others goes a long way. If you see a way to help someone in the group, share your knowledge about the topic.

And finally try and meet some of your group members out in the real world. Getting to know someone in person can help promote your business. Seeing you or you seeing them will help someone from online seem more human, and easier to trust. You could treat the online meeting just like any other face to face meeting.

Microphone in focus against blurred audience. Participants at the business or professional conference.


Pitches & Presentations

leverage your time in the spotlight effectively



Make sure that you use your time wisely. You may only have about 30 seconds to gain someone's attention. You have to be certain you have everyone focused on you, and you have to keep them engaged. In this section I am going to give you a few of the tips and tricks that I have learned in my years of business. So I hope you enjoy these and maybe use some in your next presentation.

  • Stand for your presentation
    • By standing for your presentation you put yourself in a position of power. Standing also makes it easy for you to speak loudly and clearly when you are standing. 
  • Make eye contact
    • Eye contact is a crucial part of body language. By making eye contact with your audience you make a connection with them. It helps you remember you may make a difference for that one person in the room.
  • Enjoy yourself
    • Plan a presentation that you can enjoy. If your audience can see you are not enjoying your own presentation then there is no way to keep them interested. Include some stories about your topic. Stories will help you remember your talking points, too!
  • Go off script
    • Not everything goes according to plan at all meetings. Don't be worried or intimidated if you have to wing it. If you took the time to plan your presentation then you know what you have to get across to your audience. So just take a deep breath and rock that presentation. Plan to have a non-digital version of your presentation. Technology is not always helpful.
  • Write the best opening
    • You want to have an opening that can grab the attention of everyone in the room. You can make your opening funny or serious. And to make an even bigger impact by trying to memorize the first 4-10 lines. An outline of your talking points is extremely helpful to keep your talk on schedule.
  • And finally closing​​​​
    • There are plenty of ways to end a presentation. Here are a few of my favorite:
      • A Quote: Make it something that will stay with them long after the meeting.
      • Call to Action: Always end with a call to action, this is a great way to end with power and strength. 
      • Use a story: Make sure your story is relevant to your presentation and something that will make them want to hear more from you.

Give a Presentation that Engages and Builds Trust

Not everyone is comfortable standing up in front of a crowd and giving a speech. But is it not impossible. There are plenty of tricks or bits of advise that people will try and give to make you feel better. And for the most part it does seem helpful. I have a few more here for you. So please take a moment and read through this section and see if you learn anything new.

  • Practice
    • Of course this seems obvious but with busy schedules it is not always easy to make time. But you will be more at ease if you are certain you know your material.
  • Listen to other speeches​​​​
    • By going to other speeches you can see how someone else handles the audience. And it may be possible to talk with the speaker and see if they can give you some advice.
  • Be early
    • Make sure to arrive early. That way you have time to get used to the venue and meet some of the audience which can help you see them as people and not a massive crowd of strangers. 
  • Deep Breaths & Smiles
    • Being nervous makes us tense our muscles and sometimes hold out breath. Breathing deep can send much needed oxygen to your brain and help you relax. And smiling can help you by increasing endorphins. When this happens it can replace anxiety with calm and give you confidence. 

Deliver Sales Pitches that Don't Sound Like Pitches

The real problem is most sales reps don't know how to really engage and talk to people. Most sales reps are more interested in pitching their products or services and don't treat the people they are speaking with like people. The person that you are trying to get to buy or use your product or service is just like you. In this section I will give you some tips and tricks that I have learned in my time in business.

  • Communicate with honesty - Making your pitch the first conversation that you have with someone is never the way to go. Make sure that you know what their needs are so that they will not feel like you are wasting their time. Ask questions instead of telling a client about your service is a great start.
  • Don't be nervous - Anyone can feel anxious or nervous. If your client knows you are nervous then it will make them uncomfortable and can make them lose confidence in your product or services. The goal is to do business a long time together. You're there to make a friend and share what you do.
  • Plan your presentation - Make sure you know what you are going to say. You don't want it to sound like you are reading from a manual. Plan an outline of what information might help someone.   
  • Keep it a two way conversation - Ask questions. Really pay attention to their answers. Make sure they know you were listening and you truly value what they have to say.
  • Keep it short - Keep what you have to say short and to the point. Tell them what they need to know and ask questions.
  • Stay in touch - After your meeting make sure they know that you are available if they have any questions.  Make sure you are there to answer them when they reach out.  This can mean so much to people and keep them coming back to you again and again.

Write Proposals that Show You Listened

Include a personalized cover letter or email that reiterates what you talked about in your initial meeting - revise strategic portions of the document so it includes personalized elements throughout.  Here are six key steps for you when you are writing your proposal that may help.

  1. Plan Proposal - Think about who your audience is and what they might already know about what you have to offer. This will help you get to the point quickly and effectively. 
  2. Research your customer/client - Your proposal will fail if you do not understand what motivates your prospect to make that final decision.
  3. Brainstorm - Since you have done the research think about your client's situation and how you would approach them for yourself.
  4. Write a summary - This should be a summary of basic issues and the proposal solution with the promised end result listed plain and clear.
  5. Body - This is where you will give a detailed explanation of how you will do the work, everyone involved, your companies experience in this area an similar projects from your past. You may want to add evidence of your competency and financial stability to make them feel more comfortable. Bullet points for details help instead of long paragraphs of information.
  6. Edit, Edit, and Edit again -  By going over your proposal with a fine toothed comb more than once you can make sure that nothing is missing and everything is spelled correctly. Remember to run a spelling and grammar check. We love the Gramerly app and Chrome plug-in. 

Having a great proposal can let a potential client know what you can do for them and why you should be the one they work with.  Your written words can help determine if they may need your a service or product.  You just have to help them see you are the right person or company to help them get where they want to be and obtain the results they want.

Photo Of A Beautiful Young Female Shopping Online And Paying With A Credit Card.


Customer Satisfaction

keep the successful relationship moving



Customer satisfaction is so important. I think sometimes companies let the bottom line get in the way of making sure the customer is happy with not only the product but also with the service that they receive. You want them to know that they are important and not just one of many. 

It Starts Before They Sign

Customer satisfaction starts before they even become a customer - you build a relationship with the prospect from the first conversation/email/call - you set the tone for the relationship and set the expectation you are there for them and have their best interest in mind.  

Up-sells & Cross-sells

You also start building their interest in related services or up-sells to the service they are interested in when you first start talking to them. You continue it after they sign and as you deliver the product or service - and then you follow up after the purchase to stay top-of-mind.

business woman reading paper


Referrals & Reviews

expand the relationship



Customer referrals are one of the most powerful tools for selling and marketing you can use. The best source of new business is a referral from a satisfied customer who has great things to say about you. Referred customers are also more loyal and have a 16% higher lifetime value – according to researchers at Wharton University.

Get Referrals to their Friends, Family, and Associates

So, how do you get more quality customers? By referrals from other customers. Referrals have a huge effect on a company’s bottom line, by providing a steady stream of customers. Turning customers into advocates for your brand is a long-term strategy for acquiring new consumers that can save your business money in the long run.

Get Reviews from Happy Customers

Want to know how to get customers to give referrals to your business or product? Here are some tips that you may want to use.

  1. Ask for referrals at the right time - Timing is critical, you want to ask them when they are feeling the most satisfied with your company.
  2. Incentives - It never hurts to give them some kind of bonus for sending someone your way.
  3. Simplicity - Make the referral process as easy as possible. If you make to many steps or need to much info, people will not take the time to do it.
  4. Use social media - Engage with current customers on social media and get them to share your interactions so that others can see what you are doing for them. We ask our clients for social media reviews on a regular basis. Check out our reviews on Facebook.
  5. Train your staff - Take the time to train your staff how to get customers to refer the people in their life. This can be a great way to get your name to more of the right people. Linkedin is a great place for professional referrals for yourself.
  6. Go automatic - Use some of the great programs and software out there to build an automated referral program. These can help you manage, track and scale your referral program.

I know some of these ideas can seem like you are making more work for you and your employees. These simple actions will help you in the long run for your business and your digital ranking in search. If you are looking for a great and cost saving way to grow your business consider developing your own referral plan.

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