At mConnexions, we work with a variety of businesses and individuals — all of whom are feeling the impact of COVID-19. So we have launched a special series of live interviews on Facebook to address all of the changes and challenges that we are all facing with coronavirus.
In this virtual chat, Membership & Growth Strategist, Shari Pash talks about how to sustain business relationships while working from home and following social distancing guidelines.
Julie: Good afternoon! Welcome to our special Facebook live series or welcome back I should say. We just saw you a couple hours ago this morning. We’re calling the series expert connexions as all of us adjust to this new norm that we’re dealing with right now. We’re calling on the experts to talk with us experts in business and health and wellness and so thank you for joining us today. Give me a thumbs up if you can hear me. Let us know that the stream is coming through loud and clear. I am Julie Holton. I am the founder and principal strategist of mConnexions marketing agency. At mConnexions we work with businesses of all sizes and a variety of industries all of whom are being impacted right now by the coronavirus and so we have launched this special series of live interviews right here on Facebook to help all of us as we navigate these changes and challenges related to COVID-19. So far we have talked with a professional biohazard expert from PuroClean, about how we can all be keeping our homes and businesses safe and clean. So you can check that out on our video tab on our page. We’ve also talked with the health and wellness expert about keeping our own personal health and well-being in check. Also a business organizational expert from our team for those of you who are now working from home especially with kiddos at home. You can check out her tips there and then yesterday we talked to a community activist about what’s being done here in the greater Lansing area in Lansing Michigan to help those who maybe need access to food and care and supplies. This morning we talked with Ashlee Willis about all of the events being postponed and canceled and what businesses and organizations can do as they’re making those very difficult decisions. This afternoon right now we have joining us to talk more about the business aspect, we have Shari Pash who is a member expert. Hi Shari thanks so much for joining us. um Shari is the founder of strategic solutions for growth. She is a membership and strategist and coach and she talks with clients actually normally is speaking with clients all over the US and Canada. A lot of that travel is postponed right now so we are so lucky to have her with us today to talk with us about some of these changes we’re seeing and specifically, Shari talking about how you’re guiding your clients right now and this kind of new norm we’re adjusting here. So thank you for joining us.
Shari: Thanks Julie this is so awesome that you’re doing this series and I’m just excited to be a part of it. Thanks for inviting me and I’m glad everyone’s online to listen and do some virtual discussions with us so thanks again.
Julie: Yes, and feel free to join the discussion with those of you who are tuning in. I can see Nathan and David are both online, hi guy’s thanks for joining us. Feel free to say hello and join the conversation. If you have questions as we go along Shari will be more than happy to answer them. So let’s dive right in. So Shari I want to first just give a little bit of a background for context. So you work mostly with chambers of commerce, nonprofit organizations, associations all across the US and Canada and you help them focus on membership and growth strategies which I know right now is a really difficult thing as we’re all staying home and we’re working remotely. Definitely they’re networking events have been cancelled. So I want to start by asking you for those that are in the business development that use these networking events for FaceTime with clients and customers, how can we sustain these relationships or even create new relationships right now while we’re dealing with coronavirus?
Shari: Yeah that’s so true Julie. I’ve been in sales my whole life and that’s what we’re talking about really. Membership development, volunteer development, corporate sales development, all of that is based on relationships right and when you think about it you go into your different industry events, going to business networking events, even having those business luncheons and breakfasts where you meet clients and customers. All that’s put on hold and when I think about all the sales activity I’ve done through the years and now I’m a coach and trainer so that’s not as high but I had a full-time job, full-time sales and I’m sure a lot of you who might be listening to this also are in that boat. So we want to talk about how do we get back to some of that normal sales work that we need to do right now because you still need to be earning that income, you still need to be helping your clients and customers and a lot of this what we’re doing sales is helping right. So to stay in front of – we have to get virtual right. We have to be able to do this from our home or if you’re still in your office perhaps and I love LinkedIn. Anybody who knows me knows I love LinkedIn and it’s just an amazing tool that is free. You can use a free version of this and do a lot of what we’re gonna reference here but you want to start to get in front of mind with your customers, your clients, your members, whoever your constituents are that you need to be in front of. We want to think about one, when you think about your LinkedIn profile are you using it as a sales tool? Think about when you used to go up and shake hands with somebody at a networking event. Can I go to your LinkedIn profile and shake hands with you and get to know you so we want to make sure that our LinkedIn profile is working for us during this time. Make sure that as it’s talking why a customer or client wants to talk with you. What can you do for them? So let that virtual work be being done for you. Are you ready to connect with your clients and customers on LinkedIn? If you’re not already connected to them, yeah first get your profile where it’s you’re proud of what it’s saying and then get connecting with your clients and customers because we want them to see you and stay front of mind with them and again some of your customers and clients may not be on LinkedIn it may be other platforms so wherever it is but I like LinkedIn because it’s a true business platform and I think within that you know what’s your strategy? What groups should you be hanging out? So there’s a lot I think virtually we can talk about. We can go into that a little bit more yet but I also think that if you start to watch your organizations. I know a lot of chambers of commerce who have taken their networking events and move them virtual. We’re going to start seeing a lot more zoom meetings and different google hangouts and things like that. So make sure you can be a part of those things and if you’re going I’m just not very tacky this is a great learning time then because you’ve got the time now and it’s going to be critical that we go virtual because we don’t have the in-person ability right now. So I think with more events going now virtual that will help. I like LinkedIn. I also know that there’s times where you need to be meeting with a customer or client for lunch right. So why not order a takeout meal that they’re offering delivery have it delivered to your client, you know talk to them in advance and then let’s have lunch together still. We can zoom that. we can do a zoom lunch meeting. I think this could be so fun, breakfast, coffee because we do know that there’s a connection when you’re sharing food and you’re having a relationship. That’s the best way to do it and then you’re also supporting your local business right. By supporting and maybe it’s your clients in another city even. Find out who’s their favorite restaurant that you could help support. Order them a lunch to be delivered to their office and have lunch. What a great idea. I love that and then it’s kind of a two for one. You’re supporting that local business that’s now making deliveries instead of having dining in and you’re still connecting with your business connection through a virtual meeting.
Julie: What a great idea. In fact, I was just talking with one of my clients about doing that I’m doing that as well and turning that into it and in our team we’re talking about having you know a virtual happy hour and or joking about having that happy hour at 9:00 a.m. maybe that’s the time for a coffee happy hour.
Shari: Think of that. That whole social part of it. We’re going to see ourselves starting to have happy hour with our friends over zoom or FaceTime or like what we’re doing here today. I mean Julie’s the epitome of this. I mean this is fantastic what you’re doing with your Facebook lives and helping to educate and share information and you know bringing exposure to other parts of this situation more or less. So yeah I mean look how fun this has been and how easy it is to work with us being able to talk like this you know. So again I think the biggest part is how do we get virtual? How do you build relationships? When you have here different platforms, we’ve got to make sure we have pictures on them, we’ve got to have videos, we’ve got to connect with people on a real level and make that relationship come through that screen that you’re looking at. We don’t want just static information. We just want lists of things to check off and do so.
Julie: Absolutely and Shari I want to talk for a moment on messaging because I’m gonna tell you I have received a few emails and LinkedIn messages that I’m ready to just delete the contacts because the messaging right now has changed. This is not business as usual for many businesses and I think we need to keep that in mind that yes we are all working to sustain these relationships and to reach out and make these connections but I think we need to do so while acknowledging what we’re all going through. So now is not time to be very transactional when you’re sending these messages and you’re reaching out. So Shari what are your tips for making sure that you’re actually authentically connecting with people instead of just making it about the sale.
Shari: That’s right you know really with that we have transactions we have to do, but we’ve gotta back up put the relationship into a – the empathy we have that word in business it’s a part of how we do business or should be. First, empathize with where your customer or client is. You know every business is going through this in a different way. So how do we make sure that we understand? First we have to educate ourselves to understand what is our customer, our client going through? What are they experiencing? So that in our conversation we can truly talk to them about that, but we don’t want to, we want to try to let you know we talk in different ways, our emails, our voicemails. I’ll give an example. I work with a lot of membership organizations and it might be you know we’re calling to talk about renewing your membership but no we’re calling to talk about how we might remain a part of your business strategy this next year, we know that strategy is changing, we want to be at the table with you to find the solutions that are going to help you go forward. So we want to talk more about that you might be somebody who’s calling to check on if someone’s ready to sign an agreement with you perhaps. Now we want to start to think of things differently. If you’re maybe in the finance industry you know are you ready to begin earning the highest interest? Then are you ready to move your investment over to us? So we’ve got to make sure it’s about what they need and want. You know, kind of another example might be this. I make some notes there’s so much changing every day here but is this the time for you to use our tools to increase production in your plant or is this? So we always want to make sure that when we’re talking we’re talking about what’s important to them and what’s important to them has changed 180 degrees in the last week. So we’ve got to make sure we understand and know what’s important to our clients and customers. Get in and listen to the conversations that are happening online. Just like what you’re doing here Julie. People are listening. What’s going on and make sure you’re relevant with your customers when you’re talking to them.
Julie: Absolutely and you know Shari isn’t it interesting that I have a feeling that these are many of the tips that you are giving your clients and your businesses that you work with before all of this, but now we’re all gonna get really good at it really fast because the message should never be about us the message should always be about our clients or our members and so that helped us put that into focus really quickly to change that messaging.
Shari: I know that’s something cause you’re right this isn’t new stuff we’re talking about. If a lot of you are on this call you’re probably thinking, we know that that’s good stuff we know that we’re doing or are we doing it because we get relaxed sometimes writing the reminders and refreshers. You’re right we’re just talking still solid relationship sales and how do we now change the messaging though to really be empathetic to what’s going on today.
Julie: Yes, absolutely and so we have a question here I’m gonna bring because it ties in perfectly. David says how can business owners who are running negative right now connect and not be transactional while getting the sales that they desperately need to keep paying the bills?
Shari: Yeah isn’t that true. That desperation. How do we not let that desperation come through and I think that’s where we go back to again understanding the customer and client. What their timing is, what do they need and really make sure that when we’re talking with them we’re hitting the value points of what’s gonna be important. We have to know what’s the buy factor and you may have some deals already in process David right now even. How do we close on those right now? How do we try to follow up with people when oh my gosh they’re just trying to stay afloat themselves? So I always like to go back to during the sales process thinking about what were the yeses that you got from that particular prospect you were talking to. Where did they show the most excitement? what was going to be the decision-making factors that they used and when we’re following up right now make sure we’re coming back to those bring them back to that high they we’re on when you were talking with them the first time and how do we then help them see the need for what your product or service is that. How can your product or service help them in this specific time right now? and that’s the thing just getting in front of them is how do we relationally if they’re not answering their phone, they’re not replying to their emails, go to the social media try to get on there but you’ve got to have a message about your product or service it intrigues them. Why do I need you right now and there’s got to be a reason that they need you right now, but also for the long term? We don’t want to just sell everyone on just short term right now here’s how we get through this. We also want to say for long-term success it’s important that we don’t just disrupt everything that we’re doing right now. For long-term success because our hope is the future comes back and so we’ve got to take them and show them that vision and how this investment right now needs to still happen.
Shari: I hope that helps.
Julie: Yeah Shari I’ll add to it. I think looking at it strategically. I mean we in business and in marketing and in business development we need to be ready to have our strategies be fluid. You and I talk about that a lot and this is one of those situations where we don’t know how long this will last. We do know it’s not going to be over tomorrow and so being able to take our strategies now makes it a priority to adjust your strategy. What can you do right now to change your methods? I mean if you have an email campaign that just runs on auto, stop it. If you have social media posts that you scheduled you know two weeks ago, stop them. These are these are things tactically that you can do because we need to be able to adjust on the fly and these are things I know my team’s been working on for the last two weeks with our clients but stop that business as normal mode and sit down, take the timer it feels like you don’t have time I know that especially when it matters most it feels like you don’t have time, but take that time. Take an hour to sit down, look at your plans and look at okay how can I adjust those social media posts? What posts can still run? How do I just adjust the language to let people know that we’re thinking of you we’re here for you and this may be a solution to help you. Things like that suddenly spending that hour is gonna feel like you’re able it’s gonna pay off in the long run and then you’ll be better positioned to continue to adjust and flow and go with the flow. We have another — go ahead Shari
Shari: I was just going to say really quickly because that’s such a great message because there were a couple posts I’ve seen come through from cities and states they came from but where they were posting about coming in for dining specials there to whatever night special it was and they’re closed right now. So you’re right going back and looking at those plans and keeping them fluid and how do you alleviate their worry? How can your practice service alleviate the worry that your customer and client has?
Julie: Absolutely and Terri England just posted a comment, she says building a caring relationship trouble client and that that says it all in one sentence. It sure does Terri. boil it into one sentence. That is it we need to genuinely and authentically care for our clients and then tell them that tell them show them how we’re there for them. So Stephanie has a great question, as a member of my local Chamber of Commerce how can I still stay connected to my chamber while staying home? It’s a great question Stephanie and Shari I’m gonna ask you to even kind of flip it around and talk about from Stephanie’s perspective how to stay connected but also how you are advising your chamber clients to stay connected.
Shari: Yeah because that’s what the Chamber of Commerce is all about so much of our industry experts are talking about here in the chamber world too. So as a member you know how can you still want that exposure you still want to be connected that’s where it goes to their social media go to their LinkedIn groups where you can actually post information as well as read information. Engage with what they’re posting on their social media like, comment, and share what’s happening within their realm. Offer your services as a help to other members. Almost all chambers have a page that you can go into that allows you to offer member to member discounts or deals. They want to put news out and such. So there’s still putting their e-newsletters out, give them something to talk about but definitely think about kind of outside of yourself what could you do for other members right now and that’s the message they want to get out there. How are we helping each other? I think it’s really cool if the chambers of commerce to stay connected can really share the good news that’s happening out there. What are people doing that’s helping each other? How is this company helping that company? Share that news with your chamber so they have things to talk about because they also want to be in the middle of supporting and growing and changing and I think that it’s really important for both sides the member and the chamber or any Association, state associations, local associations, nonprofits, charity organizations everybody wants connected to their volunteers to their customers to their members and that’s where if we can’t pick up pick up the phone for one right just pick up the phone and have conversations. That email took us away from that for so long and I love sales in relationships on the phone. Pick the phone up and talk to the people you want to talk to you. Give them a way to gather digitally, virtually so that people can come together. Have open forms where people can share information. So and I think when you go back to your organization’s again make sure that you’re your enhanced profiles almost all your soft membership software for the member side and the organization side have these areas that you can go in and post videos and more information help companies understand who you are. Look it goes back to what you said Julie, messaging. How do we make sure the right message is your brand? It’s your response to this situation. What do you want your brand to be out there and make sure your messaging is going with it? Are you supporting or are you causing challenge you know more or less? You know we don’t want those people who are gonna picking apart oh my gosh you’re not doing this for me you’re not doing that for me let’s all work together what can we do for each other during this time. I think that’s one of the reasons you know we find ourselves in weird situations like we are right now maybe there’s a good better good this was to come out of all of this.
Julie: Absolutely a better good that can connect all of us and keep in mind too Stephanie is as an additional answer to your question chambers of commerce provides so many resources that I’ll be honest I know I don’t take full advantage of the resources and so now is a time that we can use our chambers of commerce to connect with other businesses. How do we provide our support for other businesses who are going through the same things that we’re going through right now too?
Shari: Really quick on that too Julie I want to add one more thought. You all belong to industry organizations, chambers of commerce whatever that is call them up and ask them how can you help. How can you get more exposure or just what can I do for you right now to also help you? They’re are small business as well and when we work together I mean they might have 300 members, 800 members, a thousand members, they can’t pick that phone up and call every one of you that quickly but you as one person could call them and say hey what can we do together.
Julie: Great tip Shari. Okay next question for you. When sales teams really need to follow up on deals maybe there were business transactions that were already in the sales cycle before this started and Dave had kind of alluded to this earlier in his question how do we kind of stand above that stress? Any tips to make sure that that we’re heard and that we stay in connection?
Shari: Yeah I think again it goes back to one and this kind of goes back that sales process. Do we know what this customer – are we just following up to get that contract signed? Are we following up to help them experience this this or this? So it’s going back to that conversation where we don’t just follow up on what’s important to us, we’re following up on their priorities and motivations. Are you ready to do this next step because if we’re making it just about us to check off that I tried again to get that contract in or I made that follow-up call. The more we just do it as a check off they kind of know that. It goes back to the authentic word you use Julie. We’ve got to make sure that our follow up is relevant to them. That they need to reply to your e – right now emails, voicemails, are inundated with challenges. If you can be that solution and you’re following up on their value points not on you getting your contract in or your agreement in, that’s the biggest piece. When you continue to show your value in your follow ups and not just simply a quick touch base follow-up. Get that relationship back into it. That really is one of the strongest things that we can do is to really make sure that we understand what’s important to them and we are following up on that reason.
Julie: What a great time to be inventive too. I mean if you are looking to make follow ups and you want to stay connected perhaps you’re not able to provide the solutions they need right now. That could more reality for some of us. So how did we – are there other solutions we can offer them? Can we work in support of them? Maybe it’s just an encouraging email to say I’m still here when you’re ready. Thinking outside the box and thinking creatively on that and making sure that I mean we’re all people at the end of the day right at the end of the day we are all being told to stay home as much as possible or not go into the office not go out unless you absolutely need it and so when you’re communicating with the business on the other end of that email think about the person who’s receiving that email they are probably at home. They might have running around them, they might have dogs barking in the background, they might have a spouse that they’re you know they’re ready to kick out to another house in the neighborhood, you know they’re dealing with all of these stresses and anxieties that we are and so let’s connect as people person the person.
Shari: I would make sure and I’d make sure that follow-up is simply checking on them first. You may even just do some simple checkup emails that you sent to your closest customers and clients and you know business friends. Do some checking up on them. Simply see how this is impacting them, then once you get that information back you’re gonna have a much more strategic follow-up perhaps next week.
Julie: I love that. Great advice there. Shari this has been so helpful. Is there anything that we haven’t talked about that you think it’s fine that we should mention to our audience?
Shari: Well you know there’s so much always that we could just go on and on with and I go back to your roots of sales development. The basics understanding your customer and client what they’re going through being empathetic, understanding. So I think you give them a way to gather digitally you know if you’re an organization, connect where your customer is. Connect where they’re at from all levels. Physically where they’re at, to mentally where they’re at, emotionally where they’re at and where they’re at in your sales cycle more or less. So I think that just showing them that you are there. You’re there to help. What can you do as a good outreach that has nothing to do with your sales? What else can you do? So I think that that comes down to it, so relationship. I hope that you know there’s other questions Julie you could have saved them up and you and I can do some quick emails out to people but I hope everyone picked up I know there’s some real sales experts on these calls too so I hope you guys picked up just a reminder or a tip or two todays.
Julie: Oh Shari this has been really helpful and before we go I want to mention you have not one but two webinars coming up that’s you talking about you know adjusting on the fly, you’ve created these you know in response to this. Well the first I’m gonna put your website up here on the screen so people can connect with you. Connect with Shari at her email is [email protected] You can also go to her website, she’s got resources there, blogs and information. You can connect with her there as well and also register for these two webinars so the first Shari is tomorrow. Tell us about this one tomorrow.
Shari: Tomorrow at 3 o’clock we are doing a LinkedIn hands-on webinar. I’ll be live and LinkedIn showing you how you can use your profile as a real sales tool, a business development tool, and membership development. We’re going to show you how to engage with current connections, how to find new connections, how to truly even do some true prospecting so who do you want to start to build business with. So you can do all this homework and be ready so when it’s true sales time again you’ve got some great new prospects but really engaging right now how do I say front of mine and connected and we’re going to go through all parts of LinkedIn and really show you that so. I hope you guys can pop on there and register. This one of my most popular conference sessions I do is LinkedIn because it’s free and it’s an amazing tool.
Julie: And one or two people I saw commented that LinkedIn is an area where they need to grow. Now is the time. Now that we have time, now that we’re stuck at home, join Shari tomorrow at 3 o’clock Eastern. All of that information is on her website. We will post the link here under this video as well and then Shari I know that also for your chamber and organizations you’re doing a webinar next week as well to talk about some of these things as well for them.
Shari: Yes, it’s going to be kind of how does the whole team impact engagement during this COVID – 19. Different things that all the staff members or volunteers that a chamber can do. How do we now again, what is engagement mean to our chamber members? So this is going to be very chamber or even Association oriented, could jump in on that one as well and that one’s going to be March 30 I believe yes on my website there but I’m focused on tomorrow’s right now everything’s moving so quick so I just moved one from next week to Friday it’s so urgent that this statewide group gets some time so. Just head to Sharipash.com and we’ll see what we can work out there and I’d love to see more of you on those, but the LinkedIn one tomorrow really gonna be a fun one.
Julie: And I’ll post the links here so that you won’t have far to go. I’ll post a link to Shari’s website and also to both of those webinars and then Shari I will be talking with more experts as the week goes on. You were you are teasing me today about this busy schedule which you know this is just one way thinking creatively outside the box to help make these connections right. So tomorrow – You could see you could teach this you’re doing amazing work with people. Thank you Shari hey you know what it’s kind of my own therapy. It’s my way connecting with people and trying to act as a resource to give back so in between running crisis communications for my clients and helping them with their strategies the best way I know how to respond to this is to be able to connect people in our community so I’m really glad that people are finding value in this. Tomorrow morning you’re all gonna want to join us because normally you hear this woman from behind the podcast mic. Tomorrow morning eleven o’clock Eastern Audrea Fink my co-host for think-tank of three. She will be joining me in front of the camera. I think this is going to be kind of that virtual coffee hour we’ve been talking about. Where we can talk about life the pros and cons of what we’re more cons than pros I don’t know what we’re going through personally and professionally. So Audrey will join me tomorrow morning at 11:00 then at 3:30 I’m gonna double check the time but I think it’s 3:30 check our Facebook event events page. Joyce Marter, she’s a psychotherapist out of Chicago. National public speaker and author, she will be joining us to talk about how to get through this from a mental health perspective. I’m really looking forward to that conversation as well and then Friday we have an attorney from Foster Swift law firm. John Mashni will be joining us to talk about how to minimize some of the legal issues perhaps that could be surrounding COVID-19 so businesses you’ll want to and organizations you’ll want to tune in for that and then we have coach and consultant Nora Luke joining us Friday afternoon to round out our coverage for the week and so full line of experts and I’m so grateful for all of them including you Shari who have donated your time this week to our audience. So keep an eye out on the events page for that and if you have any questions for Shari guys please feel free to keep commenting here and reach out to her on her website. Shari thank you so much.
Shari: Julie thank you and truly this what you’re doing this week is such an example for so many organizations and companies. It’s amazing what you’ve accomplished this week.
Julie: Oh thank you, right back at you. So hang in there everyone and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning. Thank you.
Shari: Bye bye.