When the economy is slow, new business is harder to get. What can I do to build my business in a challenging economy?
I’ve heard this question many times over the years. The fact is that every economy goes through cycles, and business slows down for some people. My recommendation is – don’t join the ranks of miserable complainers. Use the time to improve your networking skills.
If you want to do well and have business growth during economic challenges, understand that is does absolutely no good to complain to people about how tough things are. When you complain about how bad business is, half the people that you tell don’t care, and the other half are glad you are worse off than they are.
Six Ways to Improve Networking Skills
- Diversify your business network. If your network is a mile wide but only an inch deep, it is too shallow. You need to have networks that are broad and deep. Business networking groups such as BNI® are the deep part of that; they are where you build strong, mutually beneficial business relationships. You also want to participate in your local Chamber of Commerce & Industry, as well as in other professional organizations.
- Refuse to be a cave-dweller. Get out there and meet people at business events, especially during a slow economy. Go to networking events with a positive attitude and decide that you refuse to participate in a recession or in any negativity. Learn how to work the network meetings that you attend and put forth the effort to do so. It is not called net-sit or net-eat. It is called network.
- Learn networking systems and techniques that apply to the different organizations to which you belong. Focus your efforts on educating others about our business rather than trying to make a sale. Have a Givers Gain® attitude by asking how you can help others before asking them for referrals.
- Be prepared. Before a meeting, prepare effective introductions and presentations to share with your fellow members. Find ways to use whatever is going on in the economy as a way of marketing. Make it positive for your business, not negative.
- Develop your contact spheres. A group of business professionals who have a symbiotic, noncompetitive business relationship with you are more important than ever. A referral to one person in the group is often a referral to many because each member of the contact sphere has products or services that the client can benefit from.
- Establish a goal and reverse-engineer it. Know what you want to accomplish and share your goal with your networking group. Do the G.A.I.N.S. exchange with your referral partners. G.A.I.N.S. is from my book Business by Referral; it stands for Goals, Accomplishments, Interests, Networks and Skills.
Your Network is Your Advantage
When you are part of a trusted network that you have established over time, and consistently participate in a positive way, you develop a huge advantage over the competition. You are building your business through networking, through referrals, through word-of-mouth. Your competition is just going to have to rely on increased advertising, while you have a powerful network to draw upon. If the times are tough around you, look for opportunities to market and use your network as the vehicle to do that. Be creative about working with your business network.
I have seen thousands of businesspeople grow and prosper during economic challenges because they developed their networking skills and learned to build their business through word-of-mouth marketing.
Don’t let a slow economy be your excuse for failure. Instead, make it an opportunity to succeed. It is not what you know or who you know. It’s how well you know them that really counts. In a tough economy, it is your social capital that has value. Make good use of it. While others may struggle, you can thrive.
You can’t control the economy. You can’t control the competition. You CAN control your response to any situation. Referrals can keep your business alive and strong, even during economic challenges.