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Virtual One on One

Eric Byrd April 13, 2020 1520

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Now is a time to play at a higher level. Focus and bring your best skills to the task of staying connected, relevant and meaningful to your networking partners and customers.

Episode 017: The COVID-19 pandemic drags on another week and we are all confined at home. But that doesn’t mean we are not communicating and trying to interact with each other. More people are using technology, both familiar and unfamiliar, to try to stay in touch. Unfortunately a lot of us are trying to communicate the way we always have, and the messages we use in “normal” times don’t have the same meaning they do now. This can cause problems in keeping your networking relevant and meaningful. In this episode Eric talks about ways to determine how best to connect with people and some tips on having productive one-on-one meetings with your referral partners and networking groups. Following some simple guidelines and by asking some logical questions, you can determine what to talk about and how to make the most impact. This can be a time for supporting each other and building relationships… we just need to watch out for the creeping anxiety to ‘do something’ that isn’t helpful or useful for the other people in our network.

If you are not coping well with despair and it is starting to get the better of you please, PLEASE call the National Suicide Prevention Helpline at (800) 273-8255. Don’t give in to darkness, there are people who care and who will help you.

What do you think?

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This episode we don’t have an infographic. Instead here are some reputable links to get information about the coronavirus and COVID-19 outbreak.

World Health Organization Workplace Readiness (pdf)

Centers for Disease Control Resources for Businesses (website)

Centers for Disease Control Guidelines for Large Community Events (website) 50 State Health Department Resources (website)

Episode Text:


Eric (00:02):
Leverage this as an opportunity to practice forgetting about you as an expert and putting yourself in the other person’s situation,

Cordanna (Announcer) (00:12):
Helping you make the most of your lead share or referral group. It’s the adventures and networking podcast. Here’s your host Eric Bird. The irony is that I’m doing a podcast on networking in a time when people are isolated, interacting at least physically less than ever. Bates me damned challenge accepted

Eric (00:43):
So over the last few weeks I have been interacting with lots of people as we all are virtually using video and lots of telephone and lots of emails and electronic stuff. But I did notice a couple of things and one of those is that people are still talking to each other. People are still interacting. There’s lots going on. Some days, frankly, too much going on. I had a moment this past week, I have to admit where I thought my forehead was going to detach itself from my head from all the information, but I’m very heartened to see that there is networking happening and there are lots of groups out there who are continuing to meet. The world does continue to spend. Thank goodness, and I had the privilege of meeting with one of those lead share groups this week and I very much appreciated their good attitudes and feedback and the conversation that we were able to have.

Eric (01:45):
Maybe you are in one of those groups. I certainly hope so. If you’re not, maybe you want to find one. I also noticed that lots of groups are opening up. It’s easier than ever to meet with each other in one context and that you don’t actually have to travel anywhere to get to the meeting. That does seem to be having the effect of increasing guests at lots and lots of different meetings, which I think is fantastic, so kudos to you. Keep it up. Also this week on the downside maybe I noticed that the outreach on LinkedIn, especially a little bit on email, but especially on LinkedIn has stepped up and as I have said here in the past, unfortunately it’s as unimpressive and generic as ever and that got me thinking a little bit. So I wanted to share some tips based on some conversations I’ve been having with folks about their struggles and what they’ve been thinking about as they try to continue meeting with each other and also some of this lack of ability to connect with each other it seems when we’re trying to reach out and do prospecting and I want to frame the conversation around a one on one networking conversation because that just seemed right to me somehow and I want to share some tips that actually are useful all the time but seem especially poignant and relevant to me right now.

Eric (03:20):
Maybe it is that now we have an opportunity to practice at a new level. We get to increase our skill base. Now, a lot of these things are based on or are driven by the fundamental relationships and structures that makes business work in the first place. These are very easy to forget. As a business coach, I repeatedly have this conversation or talk about these things in conversation with my clients and so I offer them now as a reminder and maybe to bring in some normalcy to this strange world we’re in at the moment and perspective on how we may be able to work a little bit better to help each other all the time, but to have a better conversation to figure out, well, what it is, and there’s a couple of core concepts under this before I dive into some specific questions and parts of conversation you can have.

Eric (04:22):
The first is that the purpose of your business, whether it’s your business personally or whether you work for someone else who owns the business, the value you create for certain groups of people is ultimately the purpose of that business. The purpose of a business is to create value for certain groups. Not everyone. You can’t create value for everyone. You can however, identify specific groups of people and create value for them. Now, one important thing to know about that and that is that your opinion of value is not important here, at least not important. Primarily what you think is important about what you do is far less critical than what your potential client thinks is important or doesn’t think is important in some cases. During this time, I want you to leverage this as an opportunity to practice forgetting about you as an expert and putting yourself in the other person’s situation.

Eric (05:47):
Think about what it’s like to do what they do. Think about what they care about. Think about what are they potentially need and want, not what could they want or care about or what you think they should care about or want based on your expertise and therefore what you bring to the table, but what’s actually happening in the real world for them right now and what makes you think that that is important to them? What’s some evidence that you have that the value proposition that you are sharing is actually valuable? Now in sales, we talk a lot about features and benefits and things like that, and don’t just sell features. You have to sell benefits. Here’s the trick about that. It’s not a benefit if I don’t think it’s valuable as the customer, so if the customer doesn’t feel they benefit from it, it is not actually a benefit.

Eric (07:07):
And so what I saw this week in these interactions is people offering services and sharing that they think they’re perfect for me without actually understanding my situation. Why would they think it’s perfect? Because the message they delivered to me about why it was perfect was way off. Now I get it. They’re throwing spaghetti on the wall and hoping that it’ll stick and they’re sending out masses of emails trying to get somebody’s attention to get into a conversation, and then they’re hoping in that conversation to be able to uncover some pain point or some trigger or some value that I see that happens to align with them. Here’s the problem with that strategy. Why would I take that meeting? If they don’t understand enough about what I do to be able to tell me how they’re going to help me, then I’m likely to see that as a potential waste of time and I’m not going to take the meeting now.

What do you think?

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Eric (08:14):
Yes, that creates the classic sales catch 22 which is if you can’t get the meeting, how do you find out what they need or want? Yes, that is correct. That’s why you have to do some homework. Now in this case we’re going to shift gears and approach that problem from the perspective of a one on one meeting in your network or specifically in your referral networking group. So when you are doing a one on one meeting, that is an opportunity for you to start uncovering a what are the topics that people care about right now and to what is some evidence that lets you know that what you are doing is valuable, which elements of that are valuable so that you can then key on those and focus on those as you are interacting with other people, including your referral partners. So a couple of simple things that you can be talking about in a one-on-one now as always, what do they do?

Eric (09:21):
Who do they do it for? When you get into the what do your potential customers need, so if you feel like this person you’re talking to might need your services directly, what is it that they need and want? In other words, what has value for them right now? How can you help them get what they need right now? The reason is because what people need at the moment and probably for the next couple of months are very different potentially than they ever have been. If you are working directly with a client and you sell a service, for example, the elements of that service that are going to be most important to them may look very different right now than they did before. I was speaking to someone about different kinds of insurance earlier this week. Some of the value of some of those policies took time to manifest. What might be valuable for somebody in two, three, four, five, 10, 15 years is not necessarily going to be top of mind for them in the middle of a pandemic when everybody’s wondering what’s going to happen next week.

Eric (10:46):
So instead taking a look at those products and services and wondering what’s going on with the people who may need them or want them, and what is maybe more immediate right now, how can those help them? Now, keeping in mind that it isn’t always a physical value or physical benefit that you are addressing, sometimes it’s a mental or emotional benefit. What makes them feel more secure right now? How are they interpreting their situation and how do you help them not worry or be as concerned or addressed themselves so that they feel more comfortable with the uncertainty that surrounds all of us? That becomes the thing that is valuable to people. So take a look at the features and benefits for your products and services and anything that is relevant for four years from now. Ask yourself, who is it in your client base? Who’s actually going to care about that four years from now?

Eric (11:58):
Potential benefit or value and if you run into one of those, by all means talk about that, but how likely is it that you’re going to run into one of those people at the moment when we are all so focused in the now and what’s going to happen tomorrow and next week and next month seems like a really foreign concept, so what’s immediate about what you do, how do you help them more immediately and it’s possible that how you help them immediately isn’t actually by selling them anything or having them sign up for whatever it is you do right now. The value you bring may be that they know that you are actually there. That might be your value right now and that by the way also works for your referral partners. Touch base with your referral partners. Find out what’s going on with them and their client base or their customer base.

Eric (13:06):
What do they need? What kinds of things are they running into? How hard is it for them to get things delivered to their customers or to get their customers to continue with those services or with those products? Restaurants are a prime example right now. They are struggling mightily because how we normally interact with them and how we pick up their product and consume it is not allowed in many, many places. You can’t go sit down and eat and some places it’s hard to go pick it up and bring it home and so now their entire distribution network and delivery process is extremely appended. It’s different. Their production process may not be very different. Again, these are questions to ask people in your network. What’s going on with you right now? What is different about now than normal? How can I help you right now? Keep in mind the answer may be you can’t do anything specific right now.

Eric (14:30):
If you can’t, then now is the time to offer support and develop and build relationship. Maybe make a connection with somebody else, maybe help promote their business on social media to get somebody else to notice them. Develop some Goodwill. Now that’s a good idea. That’s always a good strategy, but especially now let’s band together. There’s lots of businesses in my little town of Leesburg, Virginia here who have come together to help each other promote their businesses. A lot of them, frankly, competitors with each other, especially in the restaurant business, they are all trying to help each other to figure out how to do delivery and curbside pickup and to get a website stood up online to make sure everybody knows how to buy food online and get it delivered. It’s very moving. I have to say. It’s very creative, so when you are interacting with people and they agree to meet with you, how do you need me to help you with that?

Eric (15:40):
What can I do and if the answer is nothing, then let them know you support them and get out of their way. Let them focus on something that’s more important, which is sort of what I noticed this week about some of my interactions online is that people reached out to me offering something that really wasn’t necessarily helpful and they kept offering it and they are running the same repetitive multiple touch campaigns and outreach that they were running before. And to be honest, I don’t really necessarily have the patience for it right now because it’s just hard enough to figure out what my core business is looking like today. Much less having all of this other noise that I now have to sift through and to think about and have determine whether it’s a priority or not and when it isn’t, can be a little irritating. A friend of mine this week shared that her thresh hold for almost everything is just a little bit lower than it normally is.

Eric (16:51):
A little less patience, a little more irritable at times. It’s much easier to get tired, right? So let’s keep that in mind with each other. Let’s be kind to each other and don’t be pushy. Now, there are ways that you can deal with your own uncertainty and your own emotional reaction to the lack of activity and being concerned that there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s totally legitimate. We all get it, but that doesn’t mean that you’re actually going to help yourself if you are trying to be too insistent or too pushy or get too focused on having some kind of interaction and response from somebody who is already just trying to figure out how to make it through the day. So let’s cut each other all a little bit of a break here. We’re all in the same boat, so as are asking people to do one on ones, do some homework before you reach out to somebody.

Eric (17:56):
Even if it’s somebody you know, ask some questions of some other people who know them. See if you can gauge what’s going on or how their business may be doing in advance. If they have a restaurant right now, you kind of know what’s going on with them. Give some thought to that before you reach out to them. If they have a practice that requires physical contact with anybody, you’re probably going to be able to determine just by thinking it through what’s going on with them. That’s what I mean by put yourself in their shoes. Think about what’s going on for them. And their business. Then reach out to them and maybe offer something or just let them know that you’d like to ask some very simple questions. Maybe you don’t do an hour long one-on-one. Maybe you do a 15 minute one-on-one and it’s only focused on them.

Eric (18:54):
Don’t be afraid to experiment and play around. Ask other people, do you know of something this person might need that I might be able to bring to bear? Watch their social media posts. What are they posting about their business and about themselves and then you can interact with them there and you can maybe find a way to make a connection there and see how you might be able to help out. Maybe there’s a way to do it directly, maybe not. Then you can send them something in response or share their posts and again, the whole key is what will they find valuable, especially right now and it may be a very specific subset of the things you normally do so quickly as you can try to hone in on what are the specific things that they might be interested in that you can help them with.

Eric (19:47):
Right now that has an immediate impact. Then you can circle back around to all the other stuff later and if there isn’t anything specific, then maybe you don’t need to be talking to them right now. Find somebody else to talk to. I hope that helps. It’s very much what I believe you ought to be doing in one-on-ones anyway that I tried to do, but even right now it’s just amped up just like everything else a little bit more as we all work together to contain this coven 19 outbreak it, it occurs to me that we’re also in containment ourselves and that inherent irony can have some very strange effects on many of us. We’re finding out that we’re doing things we never knew we actually could do or that was possible as we cope was staying at home, working remotely. Maybe some of you are schooling remotely.

Eric (20:49):
You may be discovering things about yourself that may be new to you. Some of them may be very surprising in a good way, in a pleasant way. How resilient you are, how much stress you can actually handle or how well you have learned to handle stress and not completely fold. Maybe how often you can answer your kids questions when you’re also trying to do a call for work or how forgiving you can be for those goofy little things. When you’re a pet comes in the room and make strange noises on a video call. You may be experiencing that. There are things that you’re not so happy about that are not so pleasant. Maybe how irritable you get, how much your kids or spouse or family do get on your nerves when you are all forced together 24 seven for days on end. The fact that you didn’t realize how much you crave interaction with other people.

Eric (21:53):
These are all things that you may be learning about yourself and experiencing. You may be learning how much you like your job, you know the one you complained about over and over and over and now you see in a different light. So these are all new discoveries for us. And again, it’s all normal. This is an opportunity for reflection and to learn some new things. So let’s learn some skills, reset some priorities. Let’s expand ourselves and stretch ourselves. So keep moving forward. And remember, it’s all part of life, the uncertainty, the surprises, the good ones, and the bad ones, and all of these discoveries that you are making. So until next time, keep in mind the little things that keep you going. And remember, life is one big strange but wonderful adventure. So keep exploring. Stay well.


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