By Catherine Lang-Cline
If you have been in business for at least 15 years like us, or maybe even longer, you know that networking looks very different today. Today, it is completely different because of a world-wide pandemic and during a pandemic, no one wants to be sold to. What worked then doesn’t always work now and that leaves us with trying to reinvent a new way to network. So how does one continue to network when every in-person meeting, event, and convention has been canceled?
Let’s start with the basics, people like to be reached in a variety of different ways. In-person is out, but there are a few other ways that you can make contact, you may need to try them all in order to make an impression. Here are a few things that we have tried that you may also find effective in engaging with people:
Emails. An email can be very engaging if it is very customized to the recipient. Much like a networking event, you are meeting people one-on-one, having an individualized conversation, and an email should work the same way. A mass email is the equivalent of standing at the front of a room and yelling out your name and hoping to get your message to everyone. Trust me, they are not thinking that they want to engage with you with that approach. Mass emails are great for sharing information with a large group of people but not to network or build a relationship.
Phone calls. If you call, call with purpose, call to help, call to check-in. Right now, if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. Some businesses are desperate for work and some are desperate for help. Script your call to be able to help with both. Beware of starting with your standard sales pitch because no one wants to hear it. If done properly, you could be the call that they have been waiting for.
Virtual events. Hosting a virtual event can draw the people you want to speak with together. Choose a topic that is of interest and encourage people to join. If that is not possible, you can sponsor someone else’s event and ask for the opportunity to speak. Typically, you can deliver a message to a smaller group of people but it will be directed to the ones that will benefit from what you have to say. They can see your face and interact with you better than a phone call.
Social media. Rather than post a ton of content, try engaging in other people’s posts. Think about comments that can continue the discussion. Typically, everyone reads the comments and if you are engaging and helpful, you will be remembered.
Referrals. Referrals are the best and all you just need to do is ask. They are also great because a connection from a mutual person typically leads to follow up. Once you get the connection, follow up immediately and with enthusiasm. You need to make a good impression because the trust is out front for everyone. Remember that during this time, no one wants to immediately hear your sales pitch. No one. Times have changed! Give a brief description of what you do and ask how you can help. People are currently looking for business relationships, not salespeople, and that is a trend that could very well continue. If you make a great impression, they will remember you.
We are in very challenging times but businesses have been here before. We adapt, we grow, and we become better. And if your message is on point, you will become a great partner for your next client.