A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, we made sure we had a firm handshake to match our strength of character. We met our clients for coffee in crowded cafes, where we squeezed into a tiny table with one wonky leg. We made small talk at networking events and handed out our business cards at conferences. And now? My how the world has changed.
With around a third of Aussies working from home since the outbreak of the pandemic, we have had to adapt quickly and invent new ways of connecting, maintaining current client relationships and forming new ones. Luckily, APSO virtual offices have all the facilities you require to stay in touch and move forward.
Just because you are working from home, doesn’t mean you can afford to be unavailable. You might be finding it tough to take work calls with the dog barking in the background, the two-year-old throwing a tantrum because their sandwiches were cut into squares instead of triangles, and your eight-year-old practising on the recorder.
If this is the case, using the professional receptionist, administrative and secretarial services of a virtual office might be a wise investment. This way, you can spend more time focusing on work without worrying that you will miss an important client call.
Find ways to value-add
Good communication is the cornerstone of a successful client relationship. Now is not the time to drop the ball. So, what is the best way to keep in contact with current and potential clients? Send them useful information that will make their life easier. You could share tips relating to your area of specialty. For example; tax time tips from an accountant or helpful productivity hacks for working from home or getting the most from a mobile app.
People will be much more receptive to a quick email saying “I thought you might find this useful” rather than a sales pitch. This approach is relevant for new clients as well as existing ones. If you can strike up a conversation with someone via LinkedIn or email, in which you offer genuine value or advice to someone, they will be much more receptive to an ongoing chat.
Find new (or old) ways to connect
Have you replaced all of your face-to-face meetings with video calls? There is value to connecting to people face-to-face, but you need to find some balance. There is a fine line between connecting from home and being completely drained from back-to-back video calls. People are finding that they have less downtime while working from home because there is no chit chat with colleagues throughout the day. Instead, people are going straight from task to task and meeting to meeting.
With Zoom fatigue being the new First World Problem, it is time to get creative about the way that you connect with clients. Maybe you could invite a client to have a virtual coffee and brainstorming session using a visual online platform like Sketchboard or Miro. Ask them if they would prefer to receive updates “face-to-face” or via phone or email.
Get in tune with non-verbal cues
There’s an adjustment period when you start taking meetings online rather than face-to-face. You need to watch extra closely to catch facial expressions and body language as they are much harder to gauge via video than in real life. However, there are still some cues that you can watch out for
If someone is fidgeting or seems to be looking at other screens on their computer while talking to you, you are probably losing their interest. If they are mirroring your body language, the conversation is most likely going well, and they are engaged with what you are saying.
Now more than ever, it is essential for us to find ways to connect not just on a professional, but also a personal level. People are struggling to cope with the isolation and fear of the unknown, so we need to take opportunities to connect where we can.
For the time being, you might want to avoid asking “how are you?” We know that it is a challenging time for most people, so this simple greeting can come across as being insincere. Instead, check-in to find out how others are coping and share some stories about your own experience. Don’t worry too much about interruptions to your online meetings – now is the time to embrace toddlers and dogs joining in Zoom calls. They can inject humour into a long day and break the ice to help you connect more genuinely with people.
Ask current clients for referrals
One of the best ways to get more work is to leverage the outstanding job you have already done! There are many ways that you can go about this. Why not try one of these approaches:
- Ring your clients directly to let them know you are open to new work
- Ask them to write a testimonial for your website
- See if they can leave a review on Google or social media
- Get them to give you a recommendation on LinkedIn
Word of mouth is still the best form of advertising. All of the above are great ways to build social proof that will reassure new clients you are reliable, professional, and capable.
Hopefully, these tips will help you network with confidence.