The world keeps getting smaller, the Internet keeps growing larger, and staying on top of it all keeps demanding more and more time. No matter how small our business, in some ways we all compete globally. Larger reach means stiffer competition, and so to be successful in business and widen our customer base we must continually pursue new ways to be found, seen, and heard - never mind influential! - in an ever-growing digital marketplace. It’s daunting, but it’s reality, so we work tirelessly to find an in, be the first, get a lead.
Cut throat and cutting edge.
But it was not always this way.
For a long time, not that long ago, things were done quite differently. Business was conducted face to face, contacts were made person to person, and deals were struck with a handshake and a smile. Rather than being driven by the ravenous demands of a digital, social media, “me out” world, where we tout our job-related achievements on LinkedIn, announce our upcoming events on Twitter, and post our personal milestones on Facebook, smart businesspeople strove to be “you in” instead. In other words, rather than celebrating themselves in a calculated attempt to enlarge their social network, they celebrated their customers in a calculated attempt to make them happy. They strove not just to be known, but to be known for excellence.
So in a nod to the simple, but effective, sales tactics of yesteryear, what follows are a few suggestions for the weary blogger/poster/networker.
Pick up the phone.
There is no way around it, whenever you communicate electronically you run the risk of conveying something you did not mean to, or want to, convey. Conversely, there are nuanced sentiments you can’t possibly convey electronically that you may desperately want to get across to someone. So call!
Yes, the phone seems to have become time-worn and burdensome by today’s standards, but the truth is that for nearly everyone in the workforce today phone conversations have temporally been more a part of their lives than not, so it’s not as strange a tool as we make it out to be. Plus, it is often the far more efficient way to go. There is no way I am the only one who has at times sent and received more than a dozen emails or texts over the period of a day or more to set up a meeting that I realized afterwards I could have arranged much more easily if I had just picked up a phone.
Offer a free sample of your product or service.
When I first opened my acting studio in Connecticut nearly ten years ago, I went around to local schools, introduced myself to area theater teachers, and offered to come in and conduct free workshops for them at their convenience. It was an extremely effective selling tool that resulted in my forming lasting and mutually beneficial relationships with my contemporaries, who referred students to me for years afterwards. Yet, when I relocated back to Connecticut this past year, all my efforts to re-establish myself as an acting coach in this area centered around the building of my website and the enhancing of my Internet presence.
One day, my husband asked me why I was not reaching out to area schools and theater programs like I had done in 2005. It was a good question to which I had no good answer, except to say that all the conferences and training and expos I attend nowadays only teach me how to enhance my online presence and improve my SEO, and so I had forgotten how to get out there and pound the pavement the old-fashioned way. I have since acted on his good advice, and am happy to say it is yielding good results, which begs the question, does inbound happen online or in-person?
Follow up with a thank-you note.
We all like to feel appreciated, especially if we feel we have gone out of our way in some fashion. So whether you’re the person creating an opportunity for someone to make a pitch, or you’re the person working diligently to craft a pitch that is worth hearing, you deserve to be thanked. Electronic notes are good; handwritten notes are even better. Expressing your gratitude is not only good form, it might just make the kind of impression that differentiates you from the pack in a way that even the cleverest tweet just cannot.
Now and again figure out ways to make it about someone else.
Most of us agree that the salespeople we find the most pleasant to deal with are the ones who show more care for us and our needs than they do for the bottom line and their sale. But when so much of our marketing is done so indirectly, and when so often our buyers are personas rather than people, it can be hard to focus on “the other guy.” What makes it even more complicated is how narrowly focused and isolating our work can be.
We’re all encouraged to think outside the box. I propose we be encouraged to think outside ourselves as well, to abandon our agenda in the service of something fascinating, to genuinely and selflessly let someone else shine, to promote an excellent product or talent rather than our own. You may be surprised at the payoff, both personally and professionally. Some people call it paying it forward; some people call it good karma. Either way, taking a break from self-promotion to do a good turn for someone else can develop and nurture a possibility so fortuitous you can’t even imagine it just yet.
And remember, if you find yourself on the receiving end of that good turn, make sure you say thank you with a card… and perhaps a phone call as well.