Business is a contact sport. I love this sentence because that is the essence of most businesses.
The more contacts you make, the more successful you will be. Pretty simple concept.
When I first started in sales and in business, I dreaded the “cold call.” I have seen many careers who didn’t reach success, because the person couldn’t get over making calls. Truth is, after I got through the first few months, and gained confidence in my products and myself, I started looking forward to making cold calls. It became a fun game to me. “Who is going to be behind Door #1 Today,? Yep, I ran into the occasional knucklehead, but more times than not, I met so many wonderful people who not only became great clients, but also great friends.
Every situation, properly perceived, is an opportunity. Most of us have had to re-invent how we do business. Certainly, at TOPS, it has caused us to improve our content and distribution. Ultimately, it has made us a stronger operation.
So how do you network in the age of Covid-19?
There are a lot of options on how to network:
Face to face is always the best option but only, and only if everyone feels safe and comfortable. Certainly, it is more of a challenge these days, but it can be done, People are meeting in person. Just mask up (Maybe double mask) and keep your distance. You always want to ask permission first.
The business lunch and cocktails are alive and well. Personally, I plan to increase those significantly after getting vaccinated. I miss seeing friends and clients. As vaccines increase and the weather warms, there will be a lot of pent up demand to “meet for lunch.” There is a great book titled “Never eat lunch alone”. One friend of mine has a goal to have lunch with a “VIP” in the community every week.
The lost art of making a phone call. There is way too much emphasis on sending emails. They have their place. Pick up the phone, and talk to your clients. All of us have had too much isolation, and it is nice to hear a human voice. Don’t just call to sell something. Check in on your clients to see how they are doing personally and professionally.
Zoom Calls. Yep. A zoom call. Not as good as being in person, but better than a phone call. Please make sure that the lighting is on your face, and not behind you. No one likes talking to a silhouette. Don’t be too far away from the camera as it makes you look not engaged. Ring lights and microphones are affordable these days. Make sure you are seen in “your best light” and look professional.
Emails. The bane of my existence. Like most people, I get an avalanche of emails each day. And processing emails takes us way too much time. If I ask someone if they have contacted a client, and the response is “Yes, I sent them an email”, then they will get “the look!” If you send an email, make sure the subject line is relatable. The best emails are short, and have easy-to-read spacing, short paragraphs, and bullet points.
Social Media and LinkedIn. Great tools, and we are all using them. If you post something, make sure it is of value. Why should someone connect and engage with you? Bring something to the table.
Handwritten Notes. Do it because no one else is. It is one of the more impactful and personal networking you can do. We rely on so much digital communications these days, sometimes a good old-fashioned “Thank You” note will really stand out. They will get read, and get noticed.
Go Bold! Early on in my career, I was trying hard to get a meeting with a huge client that wasn’t returning my phone calls. On advice from my mentor, Jim Heavner, I sent him a gift-wrapped shoe box with one new man’s dress shoe, and a pair of dark socks. The note inside said, “If you let me get my foot in the door, I have a presentation that will knock your socks off.” The client called me for the meeting, and said it was the most creative “introduction” he had ever seen. We wound up with a happy, and large client. This is how you stand out from your competition.
Join Organizations. I have met many lifelong friends being on boards and committees. Choose one or two non-profits that mean something to you. There are lead groups, chamber meetings, professional development groups. These make it easy to build up a nice list of valuable contacts.
First, are looking for a “job” or a “career?” Those two things are different. Don’t waste your time or someone’s time if you are just looking for a “Job.” Choose a career path that you can see yourself growing with in 3, 5, 10 years or longer. A career in which you learn, grow, and succeed is much more satisfying than a “job.”
I have had many terrific interviews over the years, but a few “out of the ordinary” ones stand out.
One young woman wore so much perfume to the interview, I began to get a throbbing headache, and I never get headaches. We were in a small, closed office. My face was getting flushed and my eyes were watering. It was so bad, I had to stop the interview, and ask her to go to the bathroom to try to wash off the 3 gallons she had applied. She came back, embarrassed as you can imagine. She was a terrific interview otherwise. Never heard from her again.
One interviewee, apparently “medicated”, pulled a fingernail file out during the interview, and began cleaning her fingernails.
One candidate brought a cup of coffee into the interview that we had offered her. She took a drink, and a few seconds later, a small stream of coffee came out of her lips and went down her chin and throat, and she was acting as if nothing was happening. Awkward! Don’t drink anything during an interview.
One guy brought in a notepad, and a really cheap Bic pen with chew marks on the top of the pen. During the interview, he would chew on top of the pen. He was applying for a managerial role. Didn’t happen. If you are going to take notes, buy the nicest note pad and pen you can afford, and don’t chew on anything.
Speaking of chewing. At a country club lunch meeting, the president of the company and I were interviewing a very high-level candidate. He was really enjoying some chewing gum, and when the servers brought our plates out, he put his wad of chewing gum on the side of the very nice china plate. Didn’t add much to the ambiance or the interview. He didn’t get the job.
If you have a 10am interview (or business meeting), get there 10 minutes prior. Leave early, allow for traffic. Being late for a meeting doesn’t set a great tone.
I don’t have a great sense of smell, but there is something in perfumes, colognes, and lotions that I (and others) can smell a mile away. My rule of thumb is use unscented lotions and leave the scented stuff for dates. It is easy to get ‘nose blind’ to the scents you may be applying every day, and they can be a real turnoff to others. I had a salesperson who wore scented lotions. I kept telling her how strong it was, but she persisted. Until she met with a client, who like my interview before, had to stop the meeting with her, because he was getting a headache from her lotions and potions. She finally got the message. I heard a great quote once, “Perfumes and colognes should be discovered, not announced.”
If you are applying for a position, for heaven’s sake, please double check your resume’. Nothing is a quicker turn-off than sending a cover letter that you just sent to another company. Check for typos and accuracy of course. I am amazed at how few people call or followup to make sure their application was received and didn’t get into ‘spam’ mail. And ask for the opportunity to meet. I guess they didn’t want the opportunity that badly.