Thursday, April 30, 2015

What If You Don't Golf?

It's that time of year - the weather is great, the sun is warm, and no one wants to be stuck in the office if they can avoid it. When you request a meeting, you're offered 3 different tee times.  But what if you don't golf?

I don't golf, though not for lack of trying. There are few things I'm worse at than games requiring hand-eye cooperation! The first time my daughter beat me at mini golf, she was 5. She's not an athlete, either; I'm just really that bad.

If I wanted to go for a walk with a client in a beautifully-kept park to talk business without golf clubs, they'd say "no." Golfing takes 2 or three hours - a wonderful amount of time to blend casual and business conversation, and deepen the professional bond that will flourish for years. We non-golfers can have the same access to our clients, but it takes a little creativity.

First of all, no matter your gender, witnessing sporting events is always a good way to bond and talk business in an outdoor setting.  Baseball games are a favorite, since there's lots of quiet down time between scoring and great plays. Grab a copy of Baseball for Dummies, learn your details, and get out there.

Also, there are a variety of charity and arts events in the spring through the summer. Symphony concerts, outdoor art shows, ballet and dance recitals, garden shows, sailing - there is more to great weather than golf. Any circumstance that can qualify as networking and have enough quiet time to deliver your pitch will work. Try to pair the event to the client, and offer a friendly afternoon.

n the short term, if you're offered golf, counter with a pre-game lunch request, claiming an impossible schedule that day, and hope for the best. In the long term, establish a couple of hobbies that you can substitute for golf to give you the access that you need. Your competition may be golfing, but you can compete, and you won't need to work on your putting.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Volunteer for Higher Sales

When your prospecting and cold calling are letting you down, what can you do to freshen things up? How can you get doors to open instead of close?  Volunteer, and do so in a strategic way.

Volunteering is a wonderful way to stay involved in your community, and most communities have literally hundreds of opportunities open to you.  When you participate in a charitable organization, you inevitably meet new people, and strengthen your reputation.  You can sign up as yourself, or as a representative of your company.  I strongly recommend you volunteer in circumstances that will bring you into contact with a lot of people, not situations where you interact with only a couple. Your goal is to meet and interact with as many people as possible.  There are charity walks, charity runs, Habitat for Humanity community projects, and many more places to volunteer where you'll be exposed to dozens or even hundreds of people.  

Choose a cause you believe in and respect.  It's key to participate in community efforts that are genuinely important to you. If you are only volunteering to increase your network, you'll resent every moment of effort, and it will damage your reputation.  Instead, the idea is to aid your organization of choice while you add new members to your network to help you reach deeper into your target market and overall community.  If you’re like most people, there are several groups you’d be happy to help. Find local groups and events on websites like Volunteer Match and Volunteer Connection.  How does it work?

While you're working at your event, make an effort to get to know your co-volunteers. It's a networking opportunity on a much more personal level than the usual.  The fact that you're volunteering shows that you're responsible and hard-working. You and your co-volunteers have an interest in common, and you both care enough to donate your time. You'll have some business cards in your pocket, so you'll be able to share them with your new contacts before you leave. Make sure to take their information, too.

During the next work week, treat your new contacts like you would for any other networking opportunity.  Reach out to your new contacts and remind them of your meeting.  Invite them to coffee or happy hour.  Slowly move your new relationship in a professional direction.

Any of your new connections may be a door to a new level of professional networking.  The more people you know in your community, the more doors will open for you.

Friday, April 17, 2015

"Job" or "Career"? The keys to the difference

Career-track employment is a wonderful thing, and I am not here to discredit it. However, I think the value of "jobs" is becoming harder to see. Case in point:

A 21 year old psychology student, Nina, took a job as a secretary in a real estate office. Her competence quickly earned her more responsibility, and within 6 months she was the office manager. At 9 months, her boss offered her tuition to get her real estate license. She did. At 18 months, she was the property manager of over 800 rental units. At 3 years, she's making more than $50,000 per year, and has minimal debt. She loves her work. The kicker? She was advised against the secretary job because it wasn't "career-track."

Similar stories can be told about the cashier at the pharmacy who became a pharmacist, the Burger King employee who now owns 5 restaurants, and the man who joined a painting crew as a second job who opened his own house painting company.

None of these people saw their employment as "just a job," and that's what made the difference. They took their work seriously, and learned to do it well. Those attitudes helped them make choices that lead to fulfilling employment, and careers that can grow as far as they want to take them.

What if you hate your job? What then? You're still learning valuable lessons. Maybe you're learning that office work is not for you, but you're also learning about the management, operations, and skills required for office work to get done. Maybe you never want to flip another burger, but you're learning about general food and health rules, team management, and the joys and challenges of serving the general public. When you have to stand in for the manager, maybe you learn that you love to supervise. Or maybe you learn that you'd rather take direction than give it.

When opportunity knocks, don't mistake him for an intruder!  Don't avoid work because it's not obviously on your career track. If there's a part-time opportunity in some area you'd like to check out, go for it! If you need a second job to make the rent, do it with pride. And if there's nothing available in your field, get a job anyway. You can apply what you learn in dozens of ways. And it just might change your life.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Time to Throw Away Your Business Cards

Now that so much has gone digital, is it time to throw away your business card, and move to solely digital representation of yourself, an e-card? Is environmental responsibility, or technology key to your branding? Don’t cards cost us trees? Why would any business want to be represented by 19th century technology? Isn’t that the definition of old school?
Business Card, 1895

When offered an e-card, it’s convenient for me to skip the paper step, but I watch the faces of the people who aren’t familiar with e-cards. They immediately feel excluded when they’re told a business contact doesn’t “use cards anymore.”

In businesses where innovation and technology are the essence of the product, it makes sense not to lead with a paper business card. Nothing gets an early-adopting tech shopper revved up like thinking they’ve missed an important tech development, after all! Environmental groups and agencies should definitely move in that direction, setting an example in every way they can. But if the client asks you for a card, what then? “Electronic, or physical card?” might be a good response. Many business people just need to be introduced to the idea to go along. When you offer your e-card, explain why your company is moving in that direction.

Anytime you’re asked for a card, hand one out, electronic or paper. If you’re thinking of moving to an e-card, do some research. Your e-card can behave like an app, and have your customers able to dial your number or get directions to your office by pressing a button. Your e-card can have the exact same look as your paper card. Using hyperlinks is popular, letting people navigate to specific parts of your website, or send you an email directly through the e-card. Some website designers include e-card design in their packages. Choose functions and a design that will work for your customers. And don’t throw away your business cards. Keep a few with you at all times. After all, your phone battery might die someday!