By Mia and Andy Torr
You’re working from home and so is everyone else you know. On the plus side, videoconferencing allows for a more relaxed dress code. On the downside, it’s just not possible to meet people in person right now.
So how do you continue to build your book of business while everyone is socially distancing?
This extraordinary time calls for a special focus on building relationships. You can still meet new people, and you can still reach out to the people in your network. And you can do it all online.
Here are our top seven tips for continuing to build your network while working at home.
1. Be visible and participate.
If networking events and trade shows are cancelled, should you get on LinkedIn and send your elevator pitch to everyone who will connect with you?
It’s tempting to hide behind your keyboard. But the best relationships are still built face to face, so forget about sending unsolicited messages to people you don’t know on LinkedIn.
Instead, turn on your webcam and join an online networking event. You’ll build more powerful relationships by participating in real discussions with dedicated communities of like-minded people.
If you’re used to being a fly on the wall, commit to becoming more active in your online communities. If you’re already an active participant, step into leadership and guide new people. Either way, help others make connections, and ask for the connections you need (remember, not everyone is a potential client).
2. Attend or host online events.
Look for online networking events that help you make real-life introductions. They’ll be full of other people who want to meet new people and have great conversations. You can learn more about someone in a brief video chat than you can from scrolling their social media. Conversation builds trust and allows you to get a real sense of the person behind the business.
Hosting your own online events? Focus on serving, not selling. Be a connector of people, and help make introductions to others.
3. Support other business owners.
The small business community is coming together now more than ever. Spend time in online communities of self-employed people. Get to know other business owners and support what they do. Find out how you can help each other. The energy and camaraderie you put out there will come back to you in unexpected ways.
4. Remember the rest of your network.
Networking is not just about meeting new people. Most of the work (and reward!) in networking is about nurturing relationships with people you already know. The majority of us are feeling isolated at home, so the relationships you nurture now will have the greatest impact in the long run.
Who are the people in your network? Who do you want to forge a strategic relationship with? Reach out to 10 to 20 of your most important business connections, and find out how you can help them.
5. Check on your clients.
Take some time to see how your clients are coping with all the uncertainty and fear out there. Reach out like a human being, just to connect. Have a conversation to let them know you’re thinking about them. A bit of human contact and moral support during difficult times will strengthen your business relationship.
6. Reach out to warm contacts.
Are you behind on following up with people you’ve met at networking events? If you’ve been saving those piles of business cards for a rainy day…now’s your chance to reach out to those people.
Start by sorting your business cards. With whom did you have a great conversation? Who leaned in and asked questions when you talked about your business? Who do you think might make a good referral partner or collaborator? Reach out and schedule a call with those people to learn more about their business and find out how you can help each other.
7. Use the downtime to fine-tune your messaging.
If you have more downtime in your business, it’s a great time to work on your business. Does your business pitch need a polish? Do you need to get clear on your ideal client? Does your follow-up system need a tune-up? Is the language on your website and LinkedIn profile current? If not, spend the time to update your messaging to better reflect how you serve your clients.
Amidst all the uncertainty in the world, a few things remain true. We are still in a relationship economy. You still need to build trust to grow your business. And people still don’t want to be pitched at, whether it’s online or in-person. Keep those real conversations flowing, and enjoy the dividends when we can all enjoy meeting in person again.
Mia and Andy Torr are the co-founders of Authentic Networker, an international business community with more than 26,000 members in five countries. Register for our free online networking events at authenticnetworker.com/online.