You can't squeeze an onion online

Something that people ask me a lot is whether online networking and social media will mean that there is no need for real life networking in future. Whether business networking has, will or should, move completely online.
I try to explain it to people and then, out of the blue, a friend of mine called Martin Warrillow got talking about his shopping habits on Facebook.
To cut a long story short, Martin was asked why he doesn’t do his grocery shopping online and his response was that his wife says that “you can’t squeeze an onion online”.
So what’s the relationship between online onions and business networking?
You can achieve SO much these days using social media and online marketing. You can assemble your crowd and create and nurture your prospects. You can research and engage with people you might want to do business with.
But you can’t squeeze an onion online. For so many of us, what we sell needs us to have a relationship with our clients. Our clients need to have seen the whites of our eyes and got to know us a little bit before they are ready to do business. That feeling of knowing the person, rather than just the proposal, is what can often make the difference. That trust that comes from meeting someone in real life and getting a “gut feel” for them makes every other conversation so much easier.
For all of you who now tell me that you don’t need to meet people and you conduct all your business online, I completely accept that. I maintain though that there are plenty of businesses where you do need to squeeze the onion, where you do need to meet someone, shake their hand, have a coffee and get to know them before any business will progress.
Would you use an accountant or solicitor you didn’t know and trust? And there are loads more professions and businesses where the same applies. Particularly those who give professional advice.
That is, to me, why business networking is such a shortcut. So much of our other marketing activity is designed to put us in the position where we are in direct contact with a prospect. Networking cuts straight to the point and puts you in touch with the people you want to meet straight away. Often sat opposite them at a breakfast table where you have a chance to build the ‘warm’ relationship before you move onto business.
But what if it isn’t the right people in the room? I want to make sure I get straight to the decision makers!
When you prospect do you always get to the right person straight away? Or sometimes do you have a few wasted ‘phone calls and even meetings first?
A networking environment puts you in the position where you can tell a lot of people about your business (advertise) and then actively target the people you want to speak to both in the room (in 121s) and outside the room (referrals).
Network enough, and effectively enough, and you’re giving people an opportunity to squeeze the onion before they buy it.
PS – you will find Martin Warrillow, who inspired this post, over on 4Networking. He’s a writer and a top guy who can help you find the book you’ve always wanted to write. His 4N profile is here – Martin Warrillow.

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