We Didn’t Do It That Way Before!
When my Dad and his partner Bud Stewart were in the service station and auto repair business; there was no such thing as business networking.
We lived in a small town so they knew most of the folks who were customers. Since they also dispensed gasoline, prospective customers became auto repair customers once they got to know both men as affable, honest and always willing to go the extra mile for anyone. It was unheard of to leave for a long lunch just to munch and mingle with folks they hoped would do business with them in the future. And at the end of their long days, all they wanted to do was go home, eat a hearty meal and enjoy the evening with family.
And to my knowledge, they never wanted for business. It came to them. From those who stopped to buy gas or oil at the Mobil Oil Flying Red Horse who returned when they needed a machine engine overhaul. Most of all, it came to Herm and Bud through word-of-mouth. . . what we now call a qualified referral.
The Times, They Have Changed. . .
But over the years, not only did culture change, so did business. That is, how we do business. Instead of simply relying on being and doing the best knowing that satisfied folks would tell others and our businesses would grow via word of mouth; folks started going beyond their local environment to find new prospects for business growth. In fact, we began to call future customers. . . prospects. Not friends or acquaintances, but prospects. In fact, I once heard a very successful business woman refer to what she was doing in a room full of business people as “prospecting“. As if she was panning for gold!
This business woman had totally dehumanized the folks in the room who were walking, breathing human beings seeking to do business as well. I know the woman and can attest that had the shoe been on the other foot; she would have yelled like a stuck pig!!!
Chris Brogan Hit the Nail on the Head!
Each Sunday, business guru Chris Brogan publishes an e-letter. This week’s version is about how rapidly everything is changing – technology, culture – everything. We no sooner learn a new piece of technology than it’s obsolete and something new has come over the horizon. It’s also about how we and our customers (the folks we ‘serve’) change as well. At least our beliefs and those of our customers, about life and things, change. He makes the point that to remain relevant and worthy of our customers attention; we must keep up with the changes in both culture and our customers thought processes.
Not only does Chris remind us that current customers and those who will become the same are human beings; he says business is about a relationship that is beyond owner/client or customer:
“Business is indeed about belonging and it might be an untapped part of your job to help people realize that they can feel safe and like they belong with you.”
Forget About the Sale!
I read what Brogan says about business and those we serve via our business as “forget about the sale!” With that said; perhaps getting together with other folks ought be about just getting together. Learning from each other and willingly sharing one’s own expertise.
Let me suggest the following approach to building your business:
- Join small groups that share similar interests to your own
- Join small groups that share remarkably different interests than your own
- Join small groups where you know most of the folks there
- Join small groups where you don’t know another person in the room
- Join small groups with no idea about making a sale
- Join small groups to learn new things
- Join small groups to share the expertise you’ve learned over the years
- Join small groups to be of service to others
- Join small groups and let them gift you with service
In closing please note my consistent use of the phrase “join small groups”. Small groups permit us to get to know all the others in the room.
Note also that each “join small groups” is the exact opposite of each other. To be successful at anything we do; we must be willing to entertain life’s opposites. Being with folks we know and know well is comforting; especially at the close of a day in which we’ve been beat up in the marketplace. But walking into a room with total strangers stretches us beyond our comfort zone. And it gives us the opportunity to build new relationships with folks we can serve and be served by.
Finally, begin thinking of what you do in business as creating an environment where folks feel comfortable with you and what you bring to the table (product or service). Forget about the sale. When you are an authentic human being willing to serve and be served by others; the sales will take care of themselves. (from series Answers to Basic Business Challenges)
Linda S. Fitzgerald, M.S.Ed, CEO & Visionary Partner
A Women’s Place Network, Inc. dba
Affiliated Women International
Building a Community for Christian Business Women
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