It’s amazing what the impact of the Coronavirus has had on life as we know it. You can’t turn on the news or read a tweet and not see terms like outbreak, pandemic, self-quarantine, social distancing, soap and water, sanitizer, face masks, work from home, touching elbows, or cancelled due to COVID-19.
All too often, we read in the news about bombings, shootings, accidents, and all kinds of bad stuff that happens in other countries. Other states and towns. With other people. Far, far away from us.
Suddenly, over the last several weeks, this thing got real.
COVID-19 is affecting our jobs, the way we do business, clients, air travel, sports, eating habits, dental appointments, social gatherings, fitness classes, schools, grocery shopping, conferences, news cycles, and unfortunately life and death.
Outside of the many busy doctors, nurses, and hospital staff, a lot more people have more time on their hands now that Chili’s is closed.
As my mom used to say, “This too shall pass.”
On Friday, I cancelled a networking event that I lead in New York City that was scheduled for this week. That means cancelling a food order, beverage order, conference space, and issuing refunds.
In my “this event has been cancelled due to the impact of COVID-19” email to the group, I offered to host a virtual networking meeting that would take place the same time the other event had been scheduled. The response has been overwhelming.
What a great idea! How nice of you! Brilliant! Thank you for doing this!
Registrations are coming in as I write this article. Frankly, I didn’t think a virtual meeting was such an incredible idea. OK, it was a good idea. Common sense. But there are virtual meetings that happen all the time. It’s not like I offered to hold the meeting in a sterilized submarine in the Bahamas complete with fruity drinks with umbrellas, face masks, wipes, and Dr. Oz as the host.
All I did was offer to take the meeting online.
But something struck a chord with the members and the rest of the networking community. We don’t often think “online” when it comes to networking meetings. Webinars and business meetings, yes. But not meetings that are focused on developing relationships to exchange business.
Leading an online meeting is not my favorite thing either. It’s much more difficult to connect with people online and not nearly as much fun. (At least not for me.) But clearly, it has its place.
I do think this is the time to take what might be obvious solutions and transform them into healthy strategies that are helpful.
Anyway, as a sales producer, how can you continue to connect and stay relevant with your prospects, clients, referral sources, and other contacts as you spend more time at home working from your dining room table?
1. Deliver a webinar.
What is your area of expertise? Who needs to hear about what it is you know? It’s easy enough to develop a webinar that can teach your marketplace about something they need to know. Simply create a Top 10 List about the most important aspects of something your prospects, and clients need to know – that might be a great place to start. If you’re a financial advisor, there’s probably a lot of advice you can offer about financial planning and what to do now that many people aren’t working or are in businesses that are at a standstill. Of course, there are plenty of webinars out there right now about COVID-19 and what to do. With the downtime, this might be a great opportunity to develop a webinar, especially if you’ve never delivered one. Maybe you can develop a series of webinars and provide one every week. At the end of your first webinar, ask your audience if there are other related topics that they would be interested in learning about. That’s your next webinar!
2. Write an article or blog.
That Top 10 List I mentioned earlier might also be a great start to a blog. (That’s how this one got started!) Once you get an article or blog written about your key topic, you can email it to prospects and clients and get their feedback. In fact, you can ask prospects and clients if they would be interested in attending a webinar if you created one with the subject matter of the blog. You can post the blog on your favorite social media platforms and generate more buzz and feedback. Do you have recent posts on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook that can become blogs? Remember, blogs can become articles. Articles can become chapters. Chapters can become books. And books can become, well you get the idea.
3. Initiate a virtual meeting.
I’m big on making lists and checking them twice. Grocery lists, to-do lists, play lists, the list goes on. (See what I did there?) One of my favorite lists is my Top 50 list. This refers to the 50 most important people related to growing my business. The list is made up of mostly prospects, but many are clients, past clients, and referral sources. Some are simply raving fans. I try to stay top of mind with my Top 50. Develop your Top 50. Then see if you can initiate a meeting with them either online or on the phone to discuss how you might be a resource to them. Put more of an emphasis on networking (how can we learn and help one another) and less of an emphasis on selling (hire me). Initiate a next step and see if you can get another meeting to develop the relationship. Focus on the give, not the get. Remember, for networking to take, you have to give.
4. Create an online networking platform.
Do you belong to a networking group? Have a networking group? Know what a networking group is? Have you ever started a networking group? Well, now is your chance. Platforms like Zoom make it easy although there are many others. Take the initiative to compile your top five or ten favorite people in your network (remember, they must benefit from this initiative too) and schedule a date to meet online. Then send them a calendar invite with a link to join the meeting. You can create an agenda that makes sense and even ask those that you want to invite to help with the agenda. I wouldn’t make the meeting more than an hour unless you have a lot of people. At the end of the meeting, you can initiate and schedule another meeting. You might develop a group for the long haul, and it could become a business.
5. Become more active and strategic on social media.
This is a great time to look at what your business goals might be on social media. I’m thinking specifically LinkedIn as that is the most business-oriented platform. Are you just randomly posting “Look at me!” posts or are you providing a valuable message to your network? Are you tagging the right people (your Top 50?) and getting enough of those right people to view your messages? Are you posting a message daily? Your blogs and articles? Webinars? Are you sending messages to people that you want to know? Initiating meetings? Making comments on the posts from those you want to know better? This is the time to develop a strategy for making social media a part of your daily routine. Your social media strategy shouldn’t be an all-day thing, but it should be a thing.
6. Send more targeted emails.
You can send five or 10 emails a day to those you want to know better. Basic I know but this is the time to make your lists and decide who to potentially contact and why. What better way to discuss those Online Networking Platforms, get information for a blog to write, or set up a meeting? With perhaps more time on your hands than ever, consider how you can be more strategic and intentional with your email correspondence and marketing. Just be careful with group emails and subject lines. Recipients of email notes tend to be much more receptive if the correspondence is personally sent to them rather than sent as a mass mailing. Don’t lose sight of the personal touch.
7. Produce podcasts.
I haven’t put a lot of focus on podcasts, but it is a platform that I’m looking at more closely. I’ve been interviewed on podcasts and they’re a great way to get your brand and message out there. More people are listening to podcasts, especially when they’re driving, commuting on the bus or subway (yes, I’m in New York), or on the treadmill. Of course, there are a lot of benefits to hosting a Podcast. This gives you a great reason to contact those on your Top 50 list and invite them to be interviewed. What a nice way to compliment someone and develop an important relationship. Naturally, Podcasts get posted through social media and can be mentioned in blogs or email.
8. Make a phone call.
When I’m speaking at events, I often ask the audience about their favorite App. I get all kinds of responses. Waze, Spotify, Candy Crush, Facebook, Snapchat, Netflix, WhatsApp. My favorite App is the Phone. Yes, there’s an App for that! (I get laughs.) This is a resource that I constantly have to remind millennials and centennials about. Just make a phone call. We’re salespeople and that’s what we’re supposed to do. Ask any grizzled veteran salesperson how they got to be successful and many of them will talk about how many phone calls they made in a day. It’s a lost art. I’m not suggesting we make more cold calls (although some still do). What I am suggesting is to make more calls to those you already know and initiate a conversation or look to schedule a time for another call. Again, those Top 50 Lists are a great place to start. Engaging phone messages usually get returned. Especially when your message is collaborative and focused on how you might help one another.
Most of us have access to Zoom accounts, PowerPoint, social media, a search engine, and a phone. But creating a strategy and a process to leverage the resources we have while getting them into our calendar is not.
Think of the outcome. More scheduled time in your calendar for when it is safe to go outside. And yes, that day will come.
There are a lot of resources out there and many people that have expertise on how to use them. The point is to start somewhere and start to leverage the resources that most of us take for granted.
This is a great time to get started.
Remember, people will have more time on their hands in the coming weeks and it will be easier to get on their calendars. That is, if your initiatives are valuable, well planned, and have a focus on giving and helping rather than pitching and selling.
Even in the best of times nobody likes to be sold to but almost everyone is looking for solutions to solve a problem while they’re biding their time.
The world will return to normal soon. And so will our businesses, careers, relationships, and our social distancing,
“This too shall pass.” My mom was always right.
Stay healthy and safe.
And keep the left up!
— Read 7 Business Networking Reminders, on ThinkAdvisor.