Why Be Involved

I met someone today via phone that came through an introduction by the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce. We have very similar businesses and yet quite different. We came away from the conversation agreeing that we will complement each other’s services quite nicely and we expect to be doing business together in the near future. That’s networking at it’s finest!

However, in the course of our conversation she asked an interesting question. Why are you so involved at the Greater Miami Chamber? And it gave me pause because there isn’t just one answer. One, I do like to give back to my committee and being a business person it fits that I can help other businesses with their development. Secondly, I have gotten a lot of business from my membership. But it’s more than that. I enjoy it. I enjoy meeting new people and introducing them to others.

Yes, I spend a good deal of volunteer time with the Greater Miami Chamber. I am on the Board of Directors, a Trustee member, Chair of Business Excellence (that overseas three important task forces), an Ambassador and on the membership committee. Whew. That is a lot! But to me it is time well spent.networking

For one, I enjoy the camaraderie of the membership. I’ve met some amazing and inspiring people. Many of them have become friends. I enjoy the interaction with other business people. I enjoy learning from them and from the programs the Chamber puts together. I like staying well informed about my community.

We talked about the time spent. Yes, at times it can be quite a bit and at times it can be overwhelming to me. But in the long run I get so much more out of it. My business benefits from it and so do I.

If you are in the South Florida area and want to check it out, let me know. I’d be happy to help. If not, I encourage you to get involved with your local Chamber of Commerce. And once there and involved, don’t forget to ask for the business!!

Thank Those Who Refer You

If you’ve ever read this section of our blog before, then you probably know that the Gossett Marketing team is very involved with networking. We do so through our local chamber of commerce, running and golf groups, and more recently via Twitter and other online channels. You get it: we’re out there, we network, and we want you to do the same! So what if you are already a networking pro? How can we help you take it further?

Well, if you are networking successfully then certainly you are getting referrals. You’ve met so many business contacts through your efforts and you have made such a great impression on them that they want to help you grow. I sincerely hope that this is the case, and if it is, then kudos to you! Other than assisting the individuals and companies to whom you’ve been referred, what do you do when you’ve received a glowing recommendation from a business contact? One thing that I like to do is to say thank you with a hand written note and a gift – nothing extravagant, just a token of appreciation that makes me stand apart from the pack.

One gift that I’m loving right now is a nice metal pen inscribed with my referrer’s name. Sure, you can give them something that is imprinted with your company’s logo, but personalizing the pen helps to ensure that they do not lose it, plus it shows that you took the time to think about them – you’re not just giving out a promotional product that is taking up space in your gift closet.

If you know your referrer very well, then you can give him or her something more personal. Does he enjoy wine? Then what about a pretty corkscrew or bottle stopper? Or if she’s a golfer, then a ball marker would come in handy. Maybe she talks about her dog all of the time – get Fido a colorful bandana! The world is your oyster, I’d just be sure to have any of these items imprinted with your company’s name to keep you top of mind.

If an individual takes the time to refer you and your services to his or her business contact, then certainly he or she deserves a thank you. If a thank you and a smile go far, then think about how much your referrer will appreciate a thank you and a gift! And every time they use that present, you and your company will come to mind.

referral

Preparation: The Key to Networking

Shaking Hands I believe in being prepared for networking events. Think of them like a job interview. The first thing you want to do is sell yourself in your elevator speech (click here to read my previous post on that topic). Then it’s important to learn about the person with whom you are connecting: does it seem like he or she will benefit you or vice-versa? It’s like figuring out whether a position in a new company will work for you. Then it’s time for the end of the interview, when my least favorite question arises. Much like I find, “Do you have any questions for us?” to be a stumbling block, when a new contact asks, “What can I do for you?” I sometimes have a hard time answering immediately.

To get over my fear of “What can I do for you?” I’ve come up with a couple of stock answers that work for me. My go-to is to ask for referrals. As you know by now, Gossett Marketing is a creative promotional products distributer. While I believe that every company needs some sort of promotional products, not every person within that company is going to be buying them. Let’s say I’ve just met a doctor from the Jackson Memorial Hospital. When he asks what he can do for me, I’m not going to tell him I’d like a free yearly physical; instead, I’d ask him to please refer me to his department’s marketing director. Or if he seems to know several people at the event, I’d ask him to introduce me to them right then and there.

If the person with whom I am networking does seem to be someone with whom I’d do business, then my “What can I do for you?” answer is always the same: I suggest that we schedule a meeting. We generally do not set a date then and there, but it opens the door for a future appointment. I also make sure to follow up with that person the next day – don’t drop the ball when someone wants to meet with you!

Those are two really easy stock responses to what I find to be a difficult question. Of course, if you are a networking pro who doesn’t get tripped up when put on the spot, go ahead and be daring with your answers! But having these two in my back pocket makes me infinitely more comfortable when meeting new people – like a job interview, in networking preparation is key.

Quality – Not Quantity – Networking

Quality Quantity

In my mind networking is less about quantity and more about quality. Yes, if you attend an event you want to meet several people, but what’s more important than simply exchanging business cards is actually connecting with someone else. You want to get past the perfunctory, “My name is Lillian Osborn and I am an Account Executive with Gossett Marketing…” elevator speech and have an actual conversation. Ask questions, answer questions, have a laugh or two! When you really engage a new contact that is when he or she is going to remember who you are, what you do, and how you can do business together.

When I follow up with the individuals with whom I’ve really connected at networking events, I always find them more receptive and willing to continue that connection. It generally ends up with a meeting, referrals, and increased sales of promotional marketing products.

Do you really try to engage others at networking events? Or does a quick introduction and business card exchange work for you? The latter has never been successful for me, but if it does well by you, please let me know in the comments below – I’d love to learn your tricks!

How to get Yourself to Network if You Hate it

photo from notjustyogurt.com

photo from notjustyogurt.com

The government might be shut down for the time being, but as businesspeople we certainly cannot do the same! No, unlike our elected representatives, we have to keep our businesses up and running, and, ideally, growing. That growth, of course, comes from networking – expanding our web of business contacts by attending events, meeting people online, and, well, from a lot of hard work.

I know that there are people out there who positively despise networking. They find it awkward to go to an event, introduce themselves to a bunch of strangers, then to continue to follow up with those individuals in order to somehow gain business (from those people directly or via referrals). I get it – it can be weird to network at an event. I always suggest to people who are hesitant to attend such gatherings that they network online – LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+ are great resources through which they can connect with other professionals. However, I don’t necessarily think that doing all of your networking online is the best idea: sometimes, face-to-face interactions are more powerful than interacting through a computer screen.

If you are someone who positively hates attending networking events, but who knows that going to some might behoove you, what do you do? Well, to be perfectly honest with you, I’ve grappled with this in the past. It’s not that I totally abhor networking, but sometimes it interferes with my life. Frankly, there have been many an evening where I’d rather be at home binge-watching shows on Netflix than schmoozing with strangers, so I’ve had to really talk myself into attending events! One trick that helps me get to networking events when I really, really don’t want to go is to reward myself for going. I tell myself that if I go to a cocktail reception on a rainy day, then I get to have frozen yogurt for dinner. Or I’ll give myself a networking goal for the week – attend 3 functions and make 5 follow up calls – and give myself a treat when I accomplish it. A manicure/pedicure is always a nice gift to myself in that situation!

Networking takes effort, and for some people it gets easier and more comfortable as they go. Others – myself occasionally included – never get over that hump and learn to enjoy it. If you’d rather be on your couch watching TV, at the dentist, or even hanging around with your nagging mother in law than attend a networking event, then you might consider treating yourself for going. I know that I’d often rather watch Orange is the New Black than spend my precious evening talking business to total strangers, but by rewarding myself when I attend, I actually get myself to networking events! The present you give yourself might not be a frozen treat, but if it’s something that you love, then you might just get yourself to go out and network.

How do You Feel about Cold Calling?

photo from apartmenttherapy.com

photo from apartmenttherapy.com

Gossett Marketing has been around for 20+ years, and as an established business in Miami we are fortunate to be able to gain virtually all of our new business through our networking efforts – yay for referrals! We love it when a happy customer thinks enough of the job we do to refer members of their network to us for their promotional products needs. Fortunately, in my five (!) years here at the company, I’ve never had to cold call anyone for new business leads. But that doesn’t mean that cold calling is necessarily a bad business strategy. Or is it?

I don’t know what it is about this office, but we get a lot – and I mean a lot – of cold calls. Vendors that we’ve never used ring us up to solicit our business. Job seekers give us a buzz to see if we are hiring. We get a number of rapid-fire inquiries in Spanish and Portuguese every day too (it is Miami, after all). Sometimes we’ll take these calls because we are genuinely interested in what the person has to offer us (discounted graphic design? Yes, please!). But I must admit that those are pretty rare occasions because if we are busy then you’d better believe that we’re hanging up the phone lickety split. And when the same person or company calls and calls and calls after being rebuffed, I just get downright annoyed.

While I do know that cold calling can work, I just don’t have it in me at this point – I know that I would take the rejection personally after a while. But what do you think about the practice? Do you use it? How effective is it? I’m honestly curious, so please do leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Why Communication Matters After Meetings

photo from gazellesystems.com

photo from gazellesystems.com

As Account Director at Gossett Marketing, a promotional products distributorship, selling promotional items is my main responsibility. My day-to-day activities involve servicing my accounts – reaching out to people who have ordered in the past to see if they want to re-stock their inventory of logoed items, branching out within those organizations through referrals, etc. I write a lot of emails, I make a lot of phone calls, and I end up having a lot of meetings with customers both old and new. By the time I get to the point of meeting with a customer, it’s pretty much a done deal that they are going to buy something – usually I go to their offices to show them samples of the items so that they can nail down their order. They are usually pretty happy with what I bring them, and generally express excitement at the prospect of ordering and receiving their logoed product. And that excitement makes it so weird when I try to follow up after these appointments and am met with a total lack of communication.

Does that ever happen to you? You have a seemingly-successful get-together with a client that you feel will further your business together, but when you follow up afterwards to nail down final details the communication just isn’t there? I know that in my case, I’m trying to get people to spend their budgets on my promotional items, and although they get excited by what I show them, they often quote it out to other vendors to see if they can get better pricing. I think that imbues them with a sense of guilt, which is why they avoid me for a time. Once they realize that our pricing is competitive, then they go ahead and send me their purchase orders. I suppose I understand why they avoid communicating with me for that period after our meetings, but it sure is a frustrating time for me – and it ultimately only serves to delay their orders.

Personally, I think that after you have a meeting with someone – whether you are trying to sell your business to a customer or whether someone is trying to sell something to you – it is important to keep communication lines open. In my case, if my customer picks up my phone call after I meet with him, then I can keep him posted as to whether my supplier is running low on inventory, production time, etc. Particularly if your order/your business is time sensitive, make sure you tell your vendor or your customer what you need by when. Don’t just cut off contact – communicate after a meeting so that you can take care of business!

Stop Networking Snobbery

photo from heidishome.ca

photo from heidishome.ca

Networking is an important activity for any businessperson. It is an effective way of increasing the number of business contacts that an individual has – contacts that could end up as customers, sounding boards, or sources of referrals, all of which broaden that individual’s professional horizons, and hopefully his company’s bottom line. So of course people want to fill their own business networks with quality individuals: people with big titles whose assistance could instantly catapult careers forward. Because of this, I think that many people attend events with the idea that they just need to connect with those revered individuals, which is why they fall into the trap of networking snobbery.

I’m sure that everyone reading this article has been a networking snobbery victim at some point in their lives. I know I have, so I’ll use myself to expand on my newly-minted term. As an Account Director at Gossett Marketing, it is my job to sell creative promotional marketing gifts – the items that keep your company’s logo in front of potential clients 24 hours a day. Well, I have my “elevator pitch” that expands upon that a bit, and I tend to use that pitch when I meet someone at a networking event. It’s a quick way to share a bunch of information. Not too long ago, I approached someone at a luncheon and he told me that he is an attorney at a firm here in town, the type of law he practices, etc., and I started to give him my spiel. He actually put up his hand and said, “I’m going to stop you right there – I don’t do that kind of thing, let me give you your card back and I’ll take mine.” Talk about rude – it was a total Kanye West man-diva moment! And what a stupid way to behave. This person obviously wanted to talk to bigger fish at the event, but he didn’t give me a chance, so how did he know that I didn’t have a juicy referral that I wanted to send his way? It was complete and utter networking snobbery!

If you ask me, a better way for this man to behave would have been to hear me out, take my card, and move on. Then if he happened to decide that he needed promotional items or if one of his clients did, then he could have had a resource in his arsenal. Plus, he wouldn’t have left me with a bad taste in my mouth towards both himself and the firm that he represents. Because if I do come across someone seeking legal advice, you can darn well know that I’m going to tell them not to work with him or any of his partners!

Look, I know that the key to successful networking is making quality contacts – not connecting with the largest-possible number of people – but don’t be a jerk about it! If you meet someone and decide that you are unable to assist them in any way, just blow them off after the event by ignoring their follow up. Don’t treat them like a lesser person. It’s awkward, it’s rude, it’s networking snobbery.

If you don’t know what I mean by a man-diva moment, click on the YouTube video below to watch the awkwardness unfold:

Start Surprising & Spoiling Your Customers

surprise
As an Account Director at a promotional marketing products distributor, I always practice what I preach. That is, I give out promotional products to my customers and potential business contacts because I know that having an imprinted item that they can touch and feel on their desk will keep Gossett Marketing’s name top of mind, meaning that they will call me when they need more giveaways. Generally, the items I give my customers are small but useful – lately I’ve made the rounds with a ruler filled with paperclips, a gel highlighter, cinch bags, and notebooks – and I think that my customers look forward to these little leave-behinds.

While I love to give little promotional items to the majority of my customers, sometimes it’s nice to up the ante with those who order the most or who give the best referrals. That’s why the crew here at Gossett Marketing recently ordered leather-wrapped travel tumblers with our logo debossed upon them that are wrapped beautifully and come with a bag of M&M’s. The plan is to stop by their offices when we know that our most exceptional customers will be there and surprise them with an unexpected, nicer-than-usual gift. I can’t think of anyone who dislikes getting a present out of the blue and by hand-delivering these treats, we will have another reason to interact face-to-face with these special customers.

Some of you are probably thinking, “but my customers are all over the country!” So mail them their gifts with a hand-written note. If they have any sort of common courtesy, they will either pick up the phone to thank you or at least send you an e-mail. Either of these responses by your clients will open a dialogue between you and hopefully spark some business.

Give promotional products whenever the opportunity arises because it will greatly enhance your marketing. Then when you build a special relationship with a customer, surprise him or her with a promo item that is a step or two nicer than your usual giveaway. It will make him or her feel recognized, it will give you another excuse to communicate, and hopefully it will lead to even more business in the long run. So start surprising and spoiling your customers with promotional marketing products!

And because I like surprising and spoiling you, my readers, allow me to share the following YouTube video – a cute kitten acting surprised!

Be Interested When Networking

interestedI just read a great post about by Nancy Matthews on WPNGlobal.com called “Business Networking Tips For Women Entrereneurs.” My favorite line in the piece was the last one, “Remember, it’s better to be INTERESTED than INTERESTING when you do business networking.” What a great way to express the truth about networking – people like talking about themselves, so if you let them then they’ll probably like you!

I don’t want to say that networking is a popularity contest, but in a way it is. It’s all about going out, meeting new people, and starting a relationship with them. Now, it’s easy to meet people – it’s the latter half of the previous sentence that is tricky. You might meet and give your card to 100 people at a networking event, but if you want to business with or get referrals from them, it’s important that they actually see some value in getting to know you. The easiest way to do that is to have a conversation with them, about them – people think that they are interesting and they want you to be interested in them. By giving your new acquaintance your undivided attention for 5 minutes at a networking event and actually listening to what he has to say, you’re making him feel good and like you; thus, when you call him later in the week, he’s actually going to pick up the phone to further the relationship.

Networking events can be overwhelming – you are surrounded by people who can potentially help you grow your business, so it is tempting to just throw your cards at people and walk away. But that’s not the way to create a lasting relationship with a potential new customer. A better plan is to find someone with whom you really think you can do business (or to whom you can refer business or who can do so for you) and actually pat attention to what he is saying. Resist the urge to lose focus (put down that cell phone!) and be INTERESTED!

To read the post by Ms. Matthews, click here. It’s short, sweet, to the point, and definitely worth perusing.

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