Archive for June, 2011|Monthly archive page

Talking to the C-Suite—From The Sales Blog Mail Bag

In Uncategorized on June 22, 2011 at 6:28 pm

June 5, 2011 By S. Anthony Iannarino

I receive a lot of email, but more and more I am getting direct requests to write about some issue or problem that a salesperson is struggling to overcome. I don’t often take requests, but when something strikes me as interesting enough to answer and might also benefit others, I try to get it on the editorial calendar.

This is from today’s email:

“Nowadays, I am facing a problem dealing with high profile professionals (CEO, GM, MD), as they very rarely provide time for a meeting. If they do provide time, it is not very much. What is the best script to use, or what things should we keep in mind when dealing with these executives on sales calls?”

The Best Script Ideas

I always worry about questions like these. It presupposes that there is some magic bullet that, once known, will help you develop the respect and trust of C-level executives; there isn’t.

The fact that there isn’t an easy answer to this question is the reason I so often write about business acumen. If you are going to call on and sell to C-level executives you have to possess a higher than average level of business acumen, and you have to be able to distinguish yourself as someone that they can trust to help them move their businesses into the future. You must be able to help them think and act strategically. This is no mean feat.

That said, there are some script ideas that will help you.

The first is to develop a great opening for your sales call. Make sure that you have an agenda that lays out exactly what you are going to do with the time you have been given, what you hope to accomplish, and how you intend for your agenda to benefit your C-level dream client executive.

You also need a list of questions that demonstrate that you know how to find the areas where value can be created. This is where the business acumen is required. There are no statements that you can make to a C-level executive that will do as much to create value and develop your relationship as will great questions.

Questions that are focused on creating value in the way of real, measurable business results are worth talking about. Questions about helping your dream client to acquire and serve their customers are worth talking about. Questions that determine areas where you can help to create a strategic advantage are worth your C-level executive’s time.

Don’t even think about pitching your products, your services, or your solutions. Until you are trusted as someone who can help them to move the business forward, your pitch is dead on arrival.

Keep In Mind

There are some important things to keep in mind when calling on C-level executives.

First, they have tremendous demands on their time, and they are necessarily very protective of that time. They invest the time in producing business results, and they avoid anything they can that doesn’t further those ends.

If you aren’t getting enough time with C-level executives after getting them to a meeting, it is because you aren’t making it worth their while to spend time with you (which takes us back to business acumen and the dialogue you engage in when you are with a C-level contact).

Second, they aren’t looking for your products, your services, or your solutions. They are looking for strategic partners who can help them to increase their revenue, increase their profits, or lower their costs. They are looking for business partners who are going to own some outcome that helps them to better acquire and serve their clients or that gives them a strategic advantage.

Lastly, there isn’t a shortcut to developing the confidence and the business acumen that this requires. But there are lots of things you can do to develop yourself and to make a study of this as you move forward.


What makes conversations valuable to the C-level executives you call on?

What do they expect from you during those sales calls?

What costs you your credibility and trust?

What do C-level executives expect you to be able to do for them?


The Single Biggest Way to Be More Persuasive

In Uncategorized on June 22, 2011 at 6:18 pm

By Jeff Haden | April 29, 2011

First a confession:  I don’t like to be touched — loved ones excluded, of course.  Naturally that means I don’t initiate any casual touching.  Shake hands?  Sure.  Casual hugs, bro’ hugs, arm patting, or back slapping?


So while it may not be news to you, I was surprised by research showing how powerful nonsexual touch can be.  (Yes, I am aware sexual touch can be powerful too.)  Touch can influence behavior, increase the chances of compliance, make the person doing the touching seem more attractive and friendly… and can even help you sell a car.

Here are a few examples from a summary of research on the very cool PsyBlog.  When touched, people are:

  • More likely to provide help. 90% of strangers who were touched lightly on the arm helped the experimenter pick up dropped items.  If not touched, only 63% helped.
  • More likely to comply. 81% of participants agreed to sign a petition if touched, while only 55% agreed when not touched.
  • Even more likely to comply if touched twice. Researchers asked strangers to fill out a questionnaire.  People who were touched twice were more likely to agree than those only touched once.  (Here’s a shocker:  Results were highest when females touched males.)
  • More likely to generously tip. Waitresses who touch customers are more likely to receive a bigger tip.  (From a 1984 study, before the non gender-specific word “server.”)
  • Able to perceive unspoken emotions. Participants in a study tried to convey twelve different emotions by touching another blindfolded participant on the forearm.  The rate of accuracy for perceiving emotions like fear, anger, gratitude, sympathy, love, and disgust ranged from 43% to 83%.
  • More likely to buy a car (maybe). Researchers approached random men shopping for used cars.  Half were touched for one second, the other half were not touched.  Those who were touched later rated the “toucher” as more friendly, honest, and sincere.  Would creating that perception help a salesperson make more sales? You would certainly think so…

Sure, you can misuse the power of touch.  Touch can help improve the likelihood of compliance, so a couple of strategic pats on the arm might, for example, help you talk a hesitant employee into accepting a crappy assignment.

So use your new powers for good, not evil.  Since touch helps convey sincerity, when you congratulate employees make direct eye contact and shake hands.  Or pat them lightly on the upper arm.  Show your sincere appreciation not just with words, but with actions as well.

And start hugging your mother more often.  She deserves it.

The Only Business Networking Guide You’ll Ever Need part 5

In Uncategorized on June 22, 2011 at 6:15 pm


Determine How Much Time You Can Afford to Spend

What’s the easy answer to how much time you should spend networking? 

Not much.

The majority of your marketing efforts should focus on direct sales.  Networking takes time.  You need sales and revenue a lot more than connections that may someday pay off.

Many people fall into the trap of over-networking since networking is like playing the lottery:  You never know when the next connection might pay off big.  Plus when you network you typically don’t hear the word “no” like you do in sales, so networking is more fun.  In networking you plant seeds and hope they grow… planting and hoping are fun.

But most networking seeds don’t grow.  You can make lots of connections, but you only successfully network when those connections become mutually beneficial.

Think about your current networking results.  Some businesses gets lots of referrals from vendors, partners, etc.  If that’s the case, spending significant time on networking probably makes sense.  If you get very few referrals — even though you work hard to create those connections — either your approach is wrong or you’re in a business where referrals are less likely.

Here’s an example.  In law school most lawyers are taught to network with their local bar but those efforts rarely pay off.  A friend of mine is a lawyer and spent years attending Bar Association events, having dinner with other lawyers, basically networking his butt off… but the only referrals he received were cases other lawyers didn’t want.

Good lawyers keep the good clients for themselves; they’re not going to dole any out to those (lawyers) less fortunate.

So he took another approach.  He does a fair amount of real estate work and decided to network with local real estate professionals instead.  But he didn’t just send a letter and a card:  He referred a few of his clients to one of the more successful local agents.  She appreciated the gesture and sent some work his way.

Mutually beneficial: He needs clients, she needs a lawyer who will delivers on time since hanging on to a closing date is often the bane of an agent’s professional existence.

Mutually beneficial is your goal too.  Otherwise business networking is a waste of time.

So how much time should you spend?  Twenty minutes a day or a couple of hours a week.

Feel you have plenty more time on your hands?  Fine. Use that time to sell.

I know twenty minutes a day doesn’t sound like a lot of time, but if you identify the right targets, segment them appropriately and provide something of real value, a few minutes a day will pay off a lot more than the time you currently waste collecting business cards, playing golf, and no-purpose schmoozing.

Read more:

The Only Business Networking Guide You’ll Ever Need part 4

In Uncategorized on June 22, 2011 at 6:13 pm


Determine What You Should Provide

A continual focus on “giving” might seem odd or off-putting, but remember:  Networking is based on a mutual exchange of value.  An exchange requires giving and receiving. By giving first you set the stage.

But what you give doesn’t have to cost a lot, even though it’s valuable:

  1. Appreciation. Few people receive enough praise, so unsolicited accolades make a memorable impact.  (Just like flowers you send a loved one when it’s not a special occasion.)  Watch for something a target has accomplished or done well and congratulate them.  Keep it simple, to the point, don’t ask for anything, don’t mention what you do or how they can help you… just say “well done” or “thanks” and make sure your contact information is at the bottom of the email or note.  I guarantee they’ll check you out on their own.
  2. Advice. Providing advice must be handled gracefully because unsolicited input can easily sound like a sales pitch:  “You may not realize it but email marketing can boost your sales by 20%!”  Instead find a way to give truly helpful advice.  A friend runs an ad agency and sent a target a note:  “We recently conducted a traffic survey while conducting market research for a client and determined 25,000 vehicles pass his location (and therefore yours) between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. each weekday.  Since your sign isn’t lit, thousands of potential customers don’t see it…”  He didn’t close with the typical “Call us if we can help you…” line because valuable advice serves as its own calling card.
  3. Assistance. The best tangible assistance is a by-product of something you already do; otherwise it’s a sample.  Photographing wedding cakes for our couples is a standard function but also one we can leverage since bakers appreciate great photos of their work. Think about what you do internally or for customers and determine how you can leverage those existing efforts to benefit your networking targets.  With a little creativity you’ll find plenty of possibilities.  Just don’t stray into the “sample” zone, because then in effect you’re doing work on spec.  Always leverage what you already do.
  4. Referrals. Making referrals should also be handled gracefully.  Don’t say, “I’m referring a client to you so by gosh you better send some work my way in return.”  Instead call to give a heads up and provide useful information about the referral.  For example, I might call a wedding planner we respect and say, “We gave a client your number because we know you do a great job.  They want a fairly traditional and slightly understated reception, but their ceremony will be more complicated than usual and getting the details right is really important to them….”  Then planner benefits in two ways: They get a solid referral as well as plenty of time to prepare so they can make a great impression when our client calls.

Think about what potential networking partners need.  What will they appreciate?  What can you provide that is beneficial?  What can you do that actually helps them?

Reach out and provide real value and you will quickly establish positive relationships.  But it’s also easy to go overboard on making those connections, so let’s make sure you don’t spend too much time networking.

Read more:

The Only Business Networking Guide You’ll Ever Need part 3

In Uncategorized on June 22, 2011 at 6:11 pm


Identify the Best Approach

Here are the three most important aspects words in networking:  Provide, provide, provide.

In a few cases you’ll ask for what you want, but most of the time you will only provide.  (Whether or not you ask depends on how you categorized the target.)

We’ll use the wedding example again.  When we photograph a wedding our sole focus is to create beautiful images for our client, but later we can leverage the work we’ve already done for networking:

Easy: Brides love their bouquets so we work hard to create striking photos.  We don’t need to, but it’s okay to ask for what we want when we reach out to a florist:  “We’re going to send you images of your awesome bouquet… in return all we ask is that you credit us and provide a link.”  No florist ever turns us down because our photos are always better than theirs.  The total cost to us is a phone call.  Will we receive anything in return besides an inbound link?  Probably not, but that’s okay.  Sometimes being nice is its own reward.

Medium: Every wedding planner needs help keeping their portfolio up to date.  We don’t ask for anything in return (although occasionally we could); we just offer photos.  Because we’re on the same “level,” great wedding planners almost always say, “I would love to get images from that wedding… and you guys did such a wonderful job I’ll definitely refer my clients to you.”  When you provide something of value to a connection at your level, most will automatically offer to help you out in return.  If not, cross that person off your list.

Reach: Never ask for anything in return.  And make sure what you provide is something they could not easily get themselves.  For example, The Carlyle in New York City doesn’t need our photos.  While they have used several striking and unusual images, offering anything less would waste their time and ours.  We didn’t ask for anything in return because contacting Reach targets requires a very delicate touch:  Just plant a great seed and leave that seed alone.  (Reach targets always water and cultivate their own gardens.)  If you later come up with more great seeds you can plant them too, and in time maybe a relationship may begin to bloom.


In summary:

Easy: Feel free to ask for something in return.  But make sure what you provide has real value.

Medium: You shouldn’t need to ask for something in return so the classy approach is to simply provide something of real value.  Consider the response you receive and proceed accordingly.

Reach: Never ask for something in return, and make sure what you provide is not only valuable but also unique.  Otherwise your attempt at a connection is just one of thousands.

Speaking of value, let’s determine what you can and should provide.  Fortunately, providing is easier and cheaper than you think.

Read more:

The Only Business Networking Guide You’ll Ever Need Read part 2

In Uncategorized on June 22, 2011 at 6:00 pm


How to Segment Your Networking Targets

First break down the people you hope to network with into three broad categories:

  • Easy: Establishing a connection is unlikely to gain you much but should definitely help them.
  • Medium: Establishing a mutually beneficial relationship is fairly straightforward; what you can provide and what they can provide is relatively equal.
  • Reach: Establishing a connection with these folks is at the far end of possibility; you have little to offer compared to what they can provide.

We’ll use the wedding photography business as an example since it’s an industry I know a lot about.  In addition to ghostwriting I’ve been a wedding photographer for years.  We’ve won awards, been published in major magazines, done high profile weddings, etc. (I only mention all that to set the stage for what follows.)

In networking terms here’s how we can segment our targets:

Easy: Local florists, cake shops, carriages, venues, wedding planners, etc.  These vendors are delighted  when we offer them photos or other “stuff.”  What do we get in return?  Realistically, not much; couples don’t tend to ask their florist for a wedding photographer recommendation.  If you like to prioritize, you could put florists and cake shops at the “least potential return” end of the scale and wedding planners and reception venues at the “greatest potential return” end of the scale, since couples do occasionally ask wedding planners and venues for advice about photographers.

Medium: Sought-after venues, respected wedding planners, etc.  These folks are, for want of a better way to put it, “at our level” because we tend to serve clients in the same spending demographic.  Venues like the Congressional Country Club, the Boar’s Head Inn, The Greenbrier, The Jefferson… they’re in our wheelhouse.  They appreciate, for example, getting photos from us to use for promotional purposes since the images are great and the connection reflects well on them.  We benefit for the same reason.  Plus they’re happy to provide referrals because they know we’ll come through for their clients — as we know they will for ours.  Work hard on this list (you’ll see why in a moment.)

Reach: Our work has appeared in bridal magazines but we’re by no means a go-to source for the top wedding media outlets.  We land occasional features, but being seen regularly in, say, The Knot or Martha Stewart Weddings would be difficult since thousands of other wedding photographers are dying for the opportunity as well.  High effort, low odds of return.

You should segment your targets the same way.  Think of where you currently stand in your industry and market and make lists of Easy, Medium, and Reach targets.  Then feel free to prioritize each segment in terms of potential return.

Then allocate the time you spend to networking each segment like this:

  • Easy:  20%. It doesn’t take much time to connect with easy targets.  That’s a good thing since you’re unlikely to receive much in return.  But occasionally you might, and you can also feel good about helping other entrepreneurs.
  • Medium: 70%. Connecting takes a little more time and the return is definitely worth it.  Establishing mutually beneficial connections is what networking is all about, so spend the bulk of your time here.
  • Reach: 10%: Go ahead and go after the Seth Godins if you feel you must, but don’t expect any return.  (He’s a nice guy but he doesn’t need you.)  Cultivating a relationship with reach targets takes a long time so there’s definitely no need to hurry.

Keep in mind some of the people in your Reach segment will naturally shift into your Medium segment as your reputation and business grows — and some of your Mediums will slide into the Easy zone.  The privilege of connecting with influential businesspeople is earned, not given.  As your business grows, so will your list of Medium and Easy targets.

Once you’ve segmented your targets, it’s time to make contact.

Read more:

The Only Business Networking Guide You’ll Ever Need part 1

In Uncategorized on June 22, 2011 at 5:40 pm

By Jeff Haden | June 1, 2011

If effective business networking is so important, why do so few people see any benefits?

The problem starts with expectations.  

Most people approach networking as a key driver of sales.  (”Networking is like advertising… but networking is free!”)

While networking can occasionally lead to a sale, when selling is your primary intent you fail because potential clients instantly realize your attempts to “network” are just a poorly-veiled sales tactic.

But networking can work if you take the right approach.  Let’s start by defining what networking really is (I promise it won’t be boring).

The Four Basic Principles of Business Networking:

#1:  Networking Always Starts With Giving

The ultimate goal of networking is to connect with people who may be able to help you:  A direct sale, a referral, a contact, an endorsement, a job interview… something tangible that helps you reach a particular goal.  It goes without saying that when you network you want something.

But you can’t ask for what you want — at least not at first, and maybe not ever.  Forget about receiving and focus on providing.  Your ultimate goal may be to receive, but your short- and medium-term focus must be on giving.  That’s the only way to establish a real connection and relationship.

Focus only on what you want and you will never make a valuable connection.

#2:  No One Cares What You Need or How Badly You Need It

A joint venture with a major player in your industry could transform your company.  A writeup in the New York Times could generate the publicity you need to drive significant sales.  An endorsement from Guy Kawasaki on his blog might kick-start your consulting business.  Or maybe your startup will soon run out of cash without a desperately-needed infusion of capital.

All great reasons for you to connect with people, but no one cares.  Nor should they.  Your needs are your problem.

Never expect people to respond to networking efforts based on your needs.  Everyone has needs.  Others may feel your pain but it is in no way their responsibility to help you.  People care first about how you can help them.  Embrace that premise and you’ll go far.

Plus, keep in mind networking is a little like dating. The more desperate or needy you are the less likely you are to connect with someone worthwhile.

#3: Networking is Highly Targeted — Just Like Sales

Some people like networking events.  I don’t; they’re too unfocused.  A much better approach is to identify someone you can help, determine whether they might be able to help you, and then approach them on your own terms.

Always select your targets.  Then go after them.  Don’t expect to find them at a networking event.

#4: The Higher You Reach the Less You Should Expect

Say you’re trying to network with Guy Kawasaki or Seth Godin or Malcolm Gladwell.

Great — get in a very long line.  Half the world is actively trying to network with them while the other half is still looking for their contact information so they can try as well.

Effective business networking creates a mutually beneficial relationship, with major emphasis on “mutually.”

Say you’re a writer or “thought leader” (whatever that is):

  • What can Malcolm Gladwell offer you? Plenty: Contacts, endorsements, advice, mentoring, etc.
  • What can you offer Malcolm? Nothing. Be realistic.  You may believe you have something to offer, but you really don’t.  (Don’t feel bad, I don’t either.)

You may desperately want to connect, but making a worthwhile connection with your dream networking target will take a very long time.  The right to connect is not based on need.  You must earn the right to connect.  Always keep that in mind.

Now that we’re clear on what we mean by networking, I’m going to give you the basic steps on how to do it; follow them and the time you spend networking will actually pay off:

Step 1: Segment your networking “targets”
Step 2: Identify the best approach to each target
Step 3: Determine what you should provide
Step 4: Decide how much time you can afford to spend on networking

Read more:

Three Ways to Raise Prices Without Losing Customers

In Uncategorized on June 22, 2011 at 5:27 pm

Charging more for your products and services can be easier than you think.

By Dan Kennedy and Jason Marrs   |   June 6, 2011

For many business owners, linking price and product seems natural. Consumers, however, are often willing to break this link and pay more for a product or service, if given sufficient motivation.

Put it this way: If product and price were tightly linked in consumers’ minds, companies such as Starbucks Corp. or Rolls Royce Motor Cars would never sell their products over the cheaper generic equivalents on the market. But Starbucks isn’t just about coffee and Rolls Royce isn’t only about transportation. Instead, these products are about a brand identity that adds to price, but adds little or nothing to intrinsic value.
The point is that the association between your product and the price you’ve assigned it most likely is not fixed in your consumers’ minds the way it might be in yours. Business owners can and should think creatively when it comes to pricing their products and experiment with various price points that are different from what they initially think they can charge.

The sooner you break free of rigid pricing models, the easier it may be for you to sell more to affluent customers and, ultimately, make more money. Here are three ways to charge more for your products or services.

1. Target more affluent customers. Who is buying the product is an important factor when it comes to pricing a product. Different people often buy the same product or service at different prices because of who they are, rather than what the product is. For example, an ambitious mid-level executive might prefer to drink Starbucks coffee at work rather than a coffee from a less-regarded brand. Some people refuse to shop at stores like Walmart even though it likely carries the same brands they purchase elsewhere for considerably more money.

Another factor is life stage. For example, parents often spend more money on their first baby than on their second or third. Price is automatically separated furthest from product if you are selling to them while the couple is pregnant with or raising their first child compared to later children.
2. Become a leader in your field. Who is selling a product or service can makes a big difference to many customers. A seller’s reputation, financial stability and leadership position in its market have been made more valuable as competitive assets than they were several years ago. Customers often prefer trendy, talked-about restaurants over others to the extent that the prices at those restaurants, and the prices at other restaurants, are sometimes made irrelevant. In the financial services sector, recent investment and banking fall-outs have caused a number of customers to seek out trustworthy institutions over those that only claim to be able to make the most money.

As a business owner, your goal should be to make your company the go-to authority in your industry or area.

3. Upgrade your venue. The importance of context when it comes to buying can’t be underestimated. The difference in price between a face cream sold at a Walgreens Co. store and one sold in the home by Mary Kay, or at a cosmetic counter at higher-end stores such as Saks or Neiman Marcus, or at an exclusive Parisian boutique can be disproportionate to the difference in the product’s ingredients. The price is governed by the expectations of the consumer largely based on where they are buying it, the brand and the expertise of the salesperson — not the product.

Also consider changing presentation. A chiropractor, for instance, relocated from a small, messy office to a well-appointed professional office, and switched his attire from casual to conservative clothes. These two minor changes allowed him to increase his average fee from $2,000 to $5,000, with no change to the end product.

Considering these three aspects can help you separate price from product — and hopefully make more profits in the process.

The Biggest Time Saving Tip Of All

In Uncategorized on June 22, 2011 at 5:25 pm

By Laura Vanderkam | May 31, 2011

Everyone seems to be busy these days. And so, we’re all looking for some life hack that will free up time and make our lives run like well-oiled machines.

In the year since my book, 168 Hours (out in paperback today), was published, I’ve been asked for my fair share of these tips. Should I run my errands in a certain order? Should I file emails a certain way? Should I buy a quicker washing machine?

Well, you can. If you really want to achieve a time breakthrough, though, you can try this. When I talk about my book, I give the audience a copy of a spreadsheet with 168 hours on it. That’s the number of hours in a week. The sheet is blank. The idea is that the person will fill in the cells with her schedule over the next few days. But first, I tell the audience to ponder the sheet’s emptiness. Why?

Because the next week is as much a blank slate as that piece of paper.

Time will pass. It will be filled with something. You have to sleep and eat. But in our free and prosperous society, what else transpires during that time will be a choice. It will be a result of a choice you make during that week, or the result of a choice you made at some point in your life and are executing on now.

Realizing this is the most important time management tip there is: minutes and hours are choices. If you are unhappy with how you spend your time, you can, over time, choose differently. There may be serious consequences to different choices — socially, economically or otherwise — but that doesn’t mean they aren’t choices.

Realizing this changes how you view time. If minutes are choices, no longer do you fantasize about the wonderful things you’d try if only you could find another 15 minutes in the day. An extra 15 minutes in a day comes out to 169.75 hours per week instead of 168. If you’re already choosing those 168 hours, why would the extra 1.75 be any different? You no longer try to “find” that extra 15 minutes, perhaps by doing your errands in a different order, and squeeze the life you want into that space. Instead, you start by filling your 168 hours with the things that matter to you and those you care about — those high-impact activities that nurture your career, nurture your family, and nurture yourself — and spend as few of your 168 hours as possible on anything else.

Of course, none of this means the process is easy. Getting to a place where you are happy with how you are choosing to spend your time takes work. You may need to change jobs or careers. You may need to renegotiate family roles. You may need to say no to things you’ve long been saying yes to, or say yes to things that sound risky.

But there’s little point in trying to save minutes when you’re wasting hours. I also think the fact that we can choose how to spend our hours makes us incredibly blessed. Rather than complain about our busyness, we can build the lives we want in the time we’ve got.

Have you ever made a big change in how you spend your time?

Read more:

5 Ways to Get Off Facebook and Into Someone’s Face

In Uncategorized on June 16, 2011 at 7:37 pm

By Donna Fenn | May 16, 2011

Last week, I was in New Orleans for my daughter’s graduation from Tulane University and had the pleasure of hearing New York Times columnist and author Tom Friedman (The World is Flat; Hot Flat and Crowded) deliver the commencement speech. He talked about the youth-driven democracy movements in the Middle East, and he told new grads that while it may now be wildly difficult to get a job, it’s never been easier to create a job of your own (yep, my heart beat a little faster at that point). But my ears really perked up when he told them that “your lives may be digital, but politics is still analog…So get off Facebook and into someone’s face.”  It was a call to good old-fashioned political activism, of course, but I couldn’t help thinking that it’s also a rallying call for entrepreneurs. The digital world enables and empowers so much that it’s frightfully easy to become enslaved by it: we forget that much of what goes into building a sustainable organization is still “analog.” So, with a nod to Tom Friedman, I suggest that you step away from your digital devices and get into someone’s face. Here are few suggestions:

  • Schedule face time with your team. These days, many companies are run by teams that are either totally or partially virtual. You Webmaster lives in Kansas City, the sales team is in Cleveland, the CEO lives in Boston. Sure, videoconferencing and instant messaging works well on a day-to-day basis. But every six months or so, you need to get everyone together in the same room with just one goal: they should get to know and respect one another enough to feel invested in one another’s success and  in your company’s future. That doesn’t happen online.
  • Go to an industry trade show.  But here’s the catch: let it be in someone else’s industry, not yours. If your company makes software, go to an apparel show; if you have an architecture firm, head over to a food show. Why? Because you won’t be burdened with trolling for new customers or sussing out your competition,  so your mind will be uncluttered and open to new ideas. You’d be surprised at how much you can learn from people whose businesses look nothing like yours.
  • Create a community presence. This is easy enough to do if your business has a local focus and is physically visible in your community. But what if your company’s focus is business-to-business services, or you’re squirreled away in an office park making widgets or staring at a screen all day?  Join a local business alliance, organize your employees to volunteer at a local not-for-profit, serve on local boards, host community events at your office if you have the space.  Why?  Only face time can give your company the kind of brand identity that will help you retain and recruit employees, keep you abreast of local business issues that may impact you, and open your eyes to new opportunities that may be hiding in plain sight.
  • Practice management by walking around (MBWA).  Haven’t heard that in a while, have you?  But MBWA, which was a standard practice at Hewlett Packard and was chronicled by Tom Peters and Bob Waterman in In Search of Excellence, is still relevant. The idea is that if you’re the CEO of a company, no matter how small or large, you should wander around and strike up random, impromptu conversations with people on a daily basis. You’ll learn a lot more about your employees and what’s really going on in your company than you would in a formal meeting.
  • Network, but not how you think. A few weeks ago, I attended a dinner hosted by master networker Keith Ferrazzi (Who’s Got Your Back?), who assembled 30 or so friends in a Manhattan restaurant. We were all strangers, and Ferrazzi gave us just one ground rule for the evening: find something to like about everyone you talk to. Forget being impressive (”because everyone here is more impressive than you,” he warned), or making potentially useful business connections. Just find one thing to like about everyone.  Think about the people who you value most in your business life: didn’t every lasting relationship start with “like?”

What do you do to make sure you have enough face time with your employees, your customers, and your community?