In the perfect world, if all our clients and prospects lived within a five kilometre radius of each other, it would be great – we could visit and service them face to face regularly and grow our business in minimal time.
Reality is – most businesses have clients and prospects scattered way beyond the five kilometre mark. State wide, national and international clients pepper our client base.
So what are our options in today’s busy world to connect and stay connected?
1.Skype: A brilliant invention – low cost/no cost ways of staying connected in a face to face medium and I find it a great tool for staying connected with interstate and international connections as well as interstate and national connections.
2. Face to Face: This is the way that we are used to connecting and for some business owners – it’s this way or nothing. Yet I see this as a very limiting practice. And would encourage them to reconsider this potential time sapper (due to travelling to the meeting place, parking costs, etc.) and consider other options:
- Combine your face to face meetings with your attendance at WNA networking events. The trade table display people are usually at the events at least 30 minutes before the official start time. At a number of the WNA events I have attended I encourage the LinkedIn WNA Group Members to arrive at the meeting 30 or 60 minutes before the official part of the WNA meetings start. This enables everyone to put a face to the name of the person they are connecting with in the group discussions, and by getting to know that person a little better, increase their understanding of each other’s businesses, and expand their network. The obvious next step is to have a LinkedIn group table at the WNA meeting – again further time to connect.
- For those who are unable to arrive early, why not arrange to stay late – and arrange a face to face meeting with someone attending, again who do you want to get to know better? Thinking ahead and planning your networking time will really increase your return on attendance at your next WNA event.
- Originally from Sydney, I have been based on the far north coast of NSW for the last 8 years. So a trip to Sydney is an hour flight, plus expenses and a drive to Brisbane is 75-90 minutes depending where the meeting is held. With careful planning, I can arrange back to back meetings at a central location, close to inexpensive parking. I normally arrange a one hour meeting with a 10-15 minute space between meetings, so that even if a person arrives early, there is a bit of a buffer. Yes this is face to face – and I make sure that I maximise the time with multiple meetings. Occasionally some cancel at the last minute, and often I can either extend one meeting or bring another forward.
Hands Free Phone Calls: Although there are occasional black spots where the phones drop out – I find setting up phone meetings a valuable investment of time, particularly when I am going to be driving for an hour or more and when the person has many questions e.g. “I want to become a professional speaker” or “I am writing my non fiction book and I am stuck, help” Often these people just need a sounding board. My rule of thumb here is that the person asking the question and seeking your knowledge pays for the call. This would apply to a general enquiry, not a client or prospect situation.
Tele-Coffees: Tele-coffees are a great way to commit to undivided attention from two people needing to have a conversation about a specific topic/s. This also works really well for people who are managing virtual teams. In this email era, it is very easy to “cc” the world with a long email – and there is often serious room for error with someone’s understanding of an email. Tele-coffees are arranging an informal meeting over the phone at a set time, with coffee/tea or water in hand, and a set agenda with a specific time frame. e.g. “let’s have a tele-coffee next Tuesday – would 10.15 a.m. suit you. You grab a coffee I will phone you at 10.15 a.m. and I will email you the couple of points I would like to cover. I imagine 15 minutes maximum should be sufficient.” And if by chance the other party is not available at 10.15 a.m. send a voice message or text and offer to reschedule the tele-coffee. Personally I find these really effective and for those contacts, who I speak to regularly, I will often say, let’s put it on the tele-coffee list. And at that pre-arranged 15 minute mark, I always check in that it is okay to extend the time. And if not, reschedule another time.
Depending on the circumstances I believe all of these options serve a purpose. It’s up to you to identify the best method for connecting depending on the outcomes you’re wanting to achieve. And of course there are video conferences, teleconferences, twitter etc.
At the end of the day, your client’s preferred way of connecting must be considered and hopefully together you can create effective, productive and time efficient connections.