One of the most challenging parts of running a business is the networking piece.
If you aren’t doing it right, it could be taking a lot more time than you think it should.
And you might not even get results from it.
But it is a key part of your business building, because people need to know, like and trust you if they are going to work with you.
Especially when you are a virtual business owner – the online world can still be really scary for some business owners, and so the idea of trusting someone who works over the Internet might still be something they are struggling with.
You can make your networking work better for you (and them!) by focusing on these 5 tips:
- Make it about them. I say it often, that a customer only really wants to know two things: what you can do for them (specifically) and how much it will cost them. So make sure you know the answers to those two things. Talk to them about their business, their needs, their struggles, and you will build a more solid foundation from the start.
- Ask questions. A lot of them. You will get all of the information you need in any networking situation or sales conversation by asking the client questions about how they do things now, what they like about their current procedures, what they don’t like. When you are in a position of helping them make their business better, you need to understand the problems completely in order to let them know why you will be the best person to help them.
- Learn to listen very intently. A lot of the time when a new VA tells me about her networking efforts, I hear that the VA is doing a lot of the talking on the phone call or in the meeting. ‘I need to educate them on the VA industry.’ No you don’t! Trust me, they do not care about our industry. You need to listen to them. Don’t cut them off. When you ask a question, listen for the entire answer. And then ask another one. And listen again. It is so effective!
- Be genuine everywhere you go. If you are online or offline, be yourself. It’s so much easier, and as you get to work with your clients your personality will come out. It is often one of the main reasons my clients hire me, is my personality. So step forward with it in your very first conversation and you will probably even sign them as a client faster! Professionalism is obviously very important, but your personality is what makes you YOU, and being genuine and sincere in every interaction is just a great way to be.
- Share personal stuff. This one’s a toughie. Some VAs don’t like to do this, and I’m not saying to talk about really personal stuff, but let your normal life shine through. And ask about theirs. If you are all-business all the time the relationship may not grow the way you need to, to build a long-term relationship with your client. I don’t know about you, but I’m a lifer. I like to work with clients long-term. So for me it makes perfect sense – if I know they like golf or tennis, I will ask if they watched the Open or Wimbledon. If I know they have a family, I will ask where they are going for summer holidays. Surface personal stuff can show them that you are interested in their life – not just their business.
If you follow these tips from the start, your clients will get to know you, like you, and trust you a lot sooner. And they will also feel much more comfortable referring you to their colleagues (quickly!) when you start to work together. Give it a try! It’s easier than you think!
Tracey D’Aviero is a veteran VA and Founder of Your VA Mentor. Tracey trains and mentors professional women and men who are brand new to the VA industry or who have been struggling to make their business successful. Her mission is to educate professionals on how to build and grow successful and profitable virtual businesses in the VA industry by implementing systems and smart principles. Contact Tracey for speaking engagements, group training or private coaching at www.yourvamentor.com.
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