I was drinking my coffee this morning, asking myself the same question I’ve been asking myself for the past several days: How am I going to make money this month? Or next month?
I know I’m not alone. Things have changed so fast in the past week. Here in Florida, like in many states, public schools are closed, and people are encouraged to work from home and not get together in large groups—or at all, if they can help it. Walt Disney World is closed. People are lining up at Costco.
It’s definitely not business as usual. We could call it business as unusual.
Which leads me to a different question: How can we make business as unusual work for us?
I think it’s safe to say that everyone is stressed, and it won’t be long before all the social distancing is going to wear thin. Most of us won’t be able to turn to our normal ways of dealing with stress, like hanging out with friends, going to the gym or yoga studio or indulging in a night out at a favorite restaurant. Even our business networks—which are also a social outlet—will shut down.
Or will they? If you’ve known me for long at all, you’ll know I love networking. I think it’s the key to bringing in consistent, high-quality business. I especially love networking events. I love the people you connect with, the relationships you build, the way a good network of people help each other.
Notice the things I’ve highlighted here: People. Connect. Relationships. Help.
Do those things have to happen in a room? Absolutely not! Are those things even important right now?
More than ever!
It’s Time to Reset Your Relationships
We’re always talking about how we need to slow down, take time, invest in ourselves and the people around us. Well, all these cancellations and closings are forcing most of us to slow down. What we have to do now is figure out what we’re going to do with this unexpected time we have. Someone said to me the other day that they think it’s an opportunity to reset our relationships, and I totally agree.
We all have people we’ve been meaning to follow-up with: prospects who have fallen through the cracks because we’re so busy with the day-to-day; former clients we haven’t checked in with in a while; potential partners we just haven’t found the time for.
Now is a great time to make a list of those people, reach out to them and start resetting and rejuvenating your relationships with them.
Reach Out and Touch Someone
Maybe you remember back in the 80s, when AT&T encouraged us all to “reach out and touch someone” by using a phone. These days, it seems like if we’re not face-to-face with someone, we’re only communicating through email, text or social media. But we all have this thing called a phone, and I think it’s time to pick it up.
It’s not the same as being in person, but a phone conversation has a lot of advantages over any communication that involves typing: If you say something funny, the person on the other end can laugh, and you’ll hear it immediately; if they sound worried, you can offer sympathy.
The other thing about phone calls is that I think people are more likely to pay attention to them right now. I’ve noticed in the past couple of weeks that my emails are going unanswered more often; that’s because people are taking in so much information that they’re full. They can’t read one more email. If someone calls me, though, I know I’m more likely to pick up. As we all spend more time physically distant from each other, we’re all going to be hungry for human contact. We can get that better through hearing someone’s actual voice than through texting them a heart emoji.
Remember What Networking is All About
The AT&T slogan said “reach out and touch someone,” not “reach out and sell someone.” One thing I always say about networking is that it’s not about selling. It’s about building relationships. It’s about getting to know people: what they need and want and how you might be able to help them get it. It’s personal.
I’m not saying people aren’t ready to buy right now. Maybe they really need your product or service. In fact, I picked up the phone over the weekend and called someone I hadn’t talked to in a while. He’s in an area hard-hit by the virus, and I wanted to make sure he and his family were doing okay. We talked for a while about how crazy and scary all this is, and before we hung up, he asked me to send him a proposal. It was the last thing I expected, but he’s taking this slow time to ramp up and get ready. When things get back to normal, he wants to be first out of the gate.
I’m glad to be able to help him with his business, but what really matters to me—the reason I made that call in the first place—is that he’s a fellow human being, and I want him to be okay. That’s always the connection I want to make when I network.
Don’t Sit at Home and Freak Out
We may have to sit at home, but we don’t have to sit at home and freak out. The best relationships are twoway: They’re mutually beneficial. So when you reach out and touch someone, they’re reaching back. When you call a prospect, a former client, a potential partner and ask how they’re doing, they’re probably going to return the favor and ask how you’re doing. You’re not just making them feel more connected, like they’re in all this mess with someone else; you’re making yourself feel that way, too.
That question How am I going to make money? is still important. We all have to pay our bills, after all. But what this is all bringing home to me more is how this is an opportunity for me to focus on what it is that I really value out of life: all the great people I know through life and business.
I’m typing this, and you’re reading it on my blog, because I wanted to share this with you. But I will also be picking up my phone and reaching out to check in with as many people as I can. I hope you will, too. I hope to find some of you on the other end of my phone. This is a worrying time. Let’s not go it alone.
Stay safe and healthy.