Fans of this blog will know: I never switch off. My every waking moment is spent thinking about how to grow BigChange and make the service we provide even better – much to the frustration of my family.
Part of being ‘always on’ means that I’m looking for leads all the time. It’s the entrepreneurs’ way: every interaction is a potential networking opportunity. If you are growing a business, you need to view every single person you meet as a potential advocate or customer for your company. This is a lesson I learned from my father, who was always talking to people. It’s also a skill I’ve passed on to my son’s, Joseph my 22 year old once found a brilliant partner for BigChange just by chatting to the people at the next table in a restaurant while we were out for dinner. I was so proud!
Here are some of the ways I turn any situation into a sales opportunity:
Trains, planes and automobiles
Whenever I’m travelling, I talk to people, and I travel a lot. I like to make eye contact with whoever is sitting opposite me and ask, “How was your day?” or “How’s business?” Or an old faithful is: “Do you know what time this train arrives in London?” That’s a reliable conversation starter, as it usually leads to us both moaning about delays, expensive fares and poor service. You never know who you’ll meet if you talk to strangers and, at the very least, you might make an interesting new friend.
One tip I would add is to have a sticker with your company logo on your laptop when you’re working on the train. People are often curious. The other week, the guy sitting next to me on the train looked me up on LinkedIn and told me, “Your CIO used to work for my company!”
LinkedIn Find Nearby
The LinkedIn app has a feature that allows you to see connections around you. If you activate the ‘Find Nearby’ option, you can see if any professional contacts are on your train or at your event so you can say hello in person. I love it when technology actually makes a face-to-face connection easier instead of harder. You can find out more about Find Nearby here: https://www.linkedin.com/help/linkedin/answer/75689/using-the-find-nearby-feature?lang=en
I used to be really sceptical about organised networking. I thought it was a rip off, full of people who were unlikely to generate sales for my business. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I’m a big supporter of the BNI movement, which hosts breakfasts for professionals. It’s amazing! You have to provide testimonials before you can attend, so everyone there – whether they are a plumber or a software developer – comes highly recommended by people they have worked with. Even if you don’t generate sales from these events, it’s a really useful way to practice your pitch and grow in confidence. A lot of people who run businesses aren’t the best at promoting themselves or their businesses, and even serial entrepreneurs like me benefit from a bit of practice now and then.
I attend a lot of trade fairs with BigChange and I have several tried-and-tested ways of getting people to stop and talk to me. I’m going to let you in on a couple of my secrets (no charge!). The first is to try and shake someone’s hand as they approach. Most people can’t help it, and you both end up laughing and having a chat. The other is to say, “I’m sure I know you”. When they say they can’t remember you, look at their name badge and say, “Michael! It’s you!” Even when you confess that you’re complete strangers, it’s a conversation starter!
What’s the strangest place you’ve made a contact or sale? Share your tips in the comments!