Lee, one of the few friends of mine that isn't in the tech industry, does all of his business face-to-face.
It's a successful construction business and it's based on handshakes and a huge amount of trust. He asked me the other day, "don't you need to talk to people to do business?"
My gut reaction was to say something like "Lee, there are so many tools we have today so we don't have to talk to people to do business. It's easier than ever!" But instead I thought about what he asked for a moment and had a much different reaction.
"You know, Lee? We do so much today with technology and digital tools that it can get pretty impersonal." I continued, "Now for a growing business and what we do at Dasheroo it would be impossible to talk to everyone, but I find when we do talk to people they're instantly sold." He simply said, "That's what I was getting at."
It plays out in any business. I was at a restaurant in San Francisco recently sitting right next to the owner. The owner's back was turned to us, he never greeted us or turned around and then "86'd" the fried chicken we just ordered. A "sorry guys, we ran out" would have gone a long way but instead he never even spoke to us. And I'll probably never do business with him again.
Are you out there talking to people in your business? You might find that is the place that makes the most sense for you to be spending your time. Here are four types of people you should be talking to in order for your business to grow.
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Industry influencers are a great group of folks to be talking to. You know these people, they do a lot of public speaking, they write books on their subject matter, they have thousands of followers and fans on social networks and they contribute awesome content on a myriad of sites.
When you get in touch with them and show them the power of what you do, you have the chance to impress them with your great product or service. An additional benefit to them is that you may be introducing them to something new, something they can talk about to the hoards of people they're in front of every day because you can't be. This way you leverage their power to get your message out and they look great because they're up on something new and cool.
Takeaway: Make influencers someone you regularly connect with and talk to; be on their minds all the time as the go-to for the problem you solve in your industry.
Talking to as many potential investors as you can is another great way to get in front of customers that need your product or service. Professional investors usually know a lot of people and have a ton of companies they've invested in that might just need what you offer.
Even if you don't think you're a perfect match for a particular investor, they might make some great intros to potential customers and even other potential investors.
Takeaway: It's not just about getting the money, skew your thinking to focus on the networking to grow your business. By talking to these super-networkers, you might find you'll get in front of people you never thought you would.
It's hard to talk to every customer, especially if you've got many thousands. But when they do write something nice about you or post to Twitter or Facebook, take notice and personally write something back. If they do email you with questions about your product, reply and make sure you don't sound too automated. You'd be amazed at what signing off with your real name in an email to your customers will do, especially if you solve a problem.
You might also send email campaigns or post to social networks a "behind-the-scenes" look at what's going on with your business. We have a weekly Track Our Startup email, blog post and social post campaign we do and we include customers, investors and influencers.
Takeaway: Customers love to know the people they do business with. You might not be able to meet them all, but you can let them into what your team is all about.
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This might sound obvious, but in a distributed company like ours communication between all of us is key. If your employees are not in one centralized setting, it is important to get some regular digital face-to-face time. Emails are great for defining an issue or solution because it's black and white but don't forget the value of voice—Zoom is a great tool for that. It includes free audio and video conferencing along with screen sharing that can bring a team closer together.
Takeaway: You want your people talking to each other to achieve the goals you set out for them. People achieve goals working together, not in a solitary confinement. Make sure you let that happen.
So take a look at what speaking to people does for your business then designate some time to practice it. Even a little conversation can go a long way.