Selling In A Crisis – Pete Evans

We’ve all faced an increased number of day to day challenges since we went into lockdown. Fundamentally, we’re all trying to figure out how to keep our cash flow going to ensure that we come out on the other side. . While we continue to find our way through these unprecedented times, I’ve put together a few useful tools for both sales leaders and sales teams to carry on doing what they do best, no matter what the circumstances. . 

Adaptability is key. 

Take everything you know about your sales process and flip it on it’s head. Sales leaders and sales teams across the country have had to make significant changes to the way they go about engaging their prospects. 

Firstly, fully embrace the technology you have available. Screen to screen selling is the ‘new normal’ for now, whether you’re B2B or B2C.  Consider that for some of your clients, this way of working might actually be preferable even after the lockdown measures are lifted. Therefore, it’s worth getting the practise in now and getting as proficient as possible. Just as you would with any face to face meeting, preparation and practise are essential

Try to create an appropriate environment for your meetings. Consider the background of your video, your clothes and any potential distractions (children, pets, poor connectivity etc.) Particularly for those who are   juggling work and small children, things will inevitably happen during the course of your meetings. There’s nothing wrong with a small disclaimer to your prospect that there may be some interruptions. We’re only human after all.

Communication is essential.

We can often be so focused on where we’re going, we forget to take stock of where we are. In times like these, it’s important to stay in touch with your existing clients, and more importantly, stay in touch on a human level with no hidden agenda. Maintaining rapport with your clients will help you to both effectively and honestly evaluate your positions and make an informed decision about how you move forward. 

Speaking of nurturing your clients, make LinkedIn your new best friend. Sales leaders and sales teams alike should be maximising their LinkedIn presence; connecting with new prospects and developing relationships with existing clients. Get involved in the activities available to you in your network. There are a whole host of online webinars, networking groups and coaching sessions available. Just because you’re working at home doesn’t mean you can’t still get your face and name out in the market. 

Realigning your focus. 

Sometimes it takes a crisis for us to evaluate the big things. In this instance, now is a perfect time to have a reality check when it comes to your pipeline. Where are the winnable deals? Who can you qualify out? Where is your time best spent and which deals are going to actively improve and help your cash flow? 

Take a step back and evaluate your position and where you can bring value to your clients. It might have changed dramatically in the last few weeks. And when I say value, I don’t necessarily mean in a monetary sense. It can be tempting to start throwing out discounts but I would strongly advise against this. There’s ways to be creative when it comes to value exchange – whether that’s through payment plans or through exchange of qualified referrals. 

This crisis could be a great opportunity for businesses to become stronger than ever. I think we’re all intrigued to see the inevitable differences to the working world once this is all over. Staying as proactive as possible will ultimately help us and our businesses. We have to embrace the change and turn it into something positive. Lockdown might just be the route to the continued evolution of your business.  

Find out more about Pete on his partner profile.

Will working culture change after COVID-19?

It’s safe to say the current climate we’re experiencing is completely (we’re going to say it!) unprecedented. Many of us have had to be creative with our adaptations, play a number of roles simultaneously and also take a step back to evaluate the important things. What we’re wondering is what the lasting impact of the pandemic will be on working culture when things return to ‘normal’. Will things fully go back to the way they were or will we see a sizeable change in working lives across the country?  

Realigning our mission, vision and values.

We know from speaking to a number of our partners over the past few weeks that many of us are finally ploughing through a to-do list we’ve been putting off for months. It might be finally sorting through that admin you’ve been avoiding or finally committing to a website revamp. 

But in addition to this, it’s been a great time for us all to have a hard look at who we are as a business. Mission, vision and values can often be throw away statements and not a true reflection of what we stand for. How have you handled the crisis? Does it fall in with your original mission, vision and values or have you found something else come to the surface? 

A fantastic example of this is the recent story from Great Western Hotels. When the time came to close the hotels to the public, GWH offered their rooms to key workers. Not only did this mean their staff could keep working but they also gave something back; fitting in perfectly with their values of service excellence and being a good member of the community.

Is it time for flexible working to shine? 

Seeing businesses large and small adapt to remote working over the last few weeks has been remarkable; with hoards of employees moving their entire desks to a corner of their living rooms, juggling work and family life in completely unique circumstances. 

Many will have never had the chance to work like this before. For some, it may well be their worst nightmare, for others it may be a transformational way of doing things. In the extreme, months down the line, we may see completely new operational strategies from companies. There will surely be new challenges faced by companies if these things come to pass. The remote working resistance may ease, with workers taking back agency over their own schedules. The rise in coworking may well continue to increase as employees seek out productive work spaces closer to their homes. We talked more about the growing popularity of coworking in our previous blog

There’s no doubt that certain aspects of life as we know it will change forever after the pandemic. The extent of these changes remains largely unknown, but there are certainly interesting times ahead for all of us. At The Northern Affinity, we continue to support our existing partners and welcome new businesses into the fold. Whether you continue to work remotely, return to the office or change your working life completely, we’ll be here for you! Let’s see what the future has in store for us.

Social Media: is it worth it for my business?

Social Media is one of the biggest things to ever happen to marketing. Done well it can benefit businesses hugely; driving engagement, getting your brand out there and importantly, giving your business a personality. With over three billion users worldwide, the power of social media is not to be underestimated. But is social media worth it for my business? Let’s take a closer look. 

Get your brand out there!
80% of businesses using social media say their main objective is to increase their brand awareness. One of the main challenges we all face when we start a business is getting our name out there to key players in our field. We all rely on word of mouth and recommendations but why not utilise some of the biggest platforms around to put your business out to the world? 

Before you dive into your social media strategy, it’s a good idea to firstly sit down and create your brand strategy. One of our partners, Fliss Lee (Honest Folk) wrote a very helpful blog about what branding actually is. That way, you can be more confident that all your social media platforms will be consistent. You want your brand to be instantly recognisable, no matter where you are. 

Maximise your platforms to their full potential.
Similarly to if you were running a print, radio and TV ad simultaneously, think about how your approach might be subtly different on each platform. 

When designing your social media strategy, think about what your objectives are for each platform you’re using. For example, making a certain number of relevant connections on LinkedIn, how many retweets can you get on your latest campaign or increasing your website traffic by a percentage based on visitors from Facebook? 

Connect with current customers.
You’ve established your brand, you’ve set up your platforms, now what? Now is the time to have fun. Sprinkle your content with your personality. Give your audience a sense of you. 

Not only is social media an enormous marketing platform, it has revolutionised how businesses can run their customer service efforts. We can now engage with our customers like never before – getting direct feedback, finding out what services they want going forward, drumming up excitement about new projects. 

On the other side of the coin, your customers can get to know you – your values, your goals, your achievements. Be mindful of how much you decide to share with your followers. After all, this is your company social media profile, you want to make sure things are kept professional and strictly business. 

The world of social media can be a little overwhelming. How often do I post? What content do my followers want to see? If you have any questions, a number of partners within The Northern Affinity can help you to build the perfect social media strategy for you and your business. You can click here for more information on our partners.

Strategy: Business, Branding & Marketing

 

Our Partners Anna Short (Boo! Marketing), Brenda Etchells (Carduus Ltd) and Fliss Lee (honest Folk) sat down this week with Michael Edwards (The Northern Affinity) to discuss the vital connection between business strategy, brand & marketing that’s required for a strong & successful business. You can’t have any of these without the other, they work in synergy.

The outcome of this 25 min chat was that post-Covid19, businesses won’t be able to pick up where they left off with their strategy, they need to be rethinking this now, as the world & audiences’ mindsets are already changing. What worked before may not work in the near future – this places SMEs at an advantage as they can be agile enough to adapt quickly.

SMEs can capture the present situation to be relevant, adapt & refine in short stints. Long term plans just won’t cut it, so an ‘in the moment’, simple & practical approach will see you as prepared as can be.

The key takeaway here is to ADAPT NOW.

Make the simple connection between business goals, brand & marketing for a strong & consistent approach with deep-seated & meaningful values that you live & breathe.

Any questions let us know, we’re not an affinity for nothing, we’re here to support one another.

For more information about our featured partners click on their profile below;

Anna Short

Brenda Etchells

Fliss Gibbeson

The Northern Affinity Partners Meeting – Friday 28th February 2020

Last Friday, The Northern Affinity welcomed some new faces for the first time in an open partner meeting. Thank you to everyone who came along. It was great to meet new faces and catch up with old ones. The theme of the day was protecting and growing your business. We were lucky to hear from several of our partners who delivered insightful and interesting presentations. 

Most of us get into business because we want to turn our passion into a reality. But that doesn’t always mean we’re the experts on everything to do with business. Luckily, we have partners who are on hand to help.

Firstly, we heard from Alex and Andy from ABL Business who gave us a practical guide to cash flow and why it’s important. Anita and Andrew (I Credit Management LTD) took us through how to keep your cash flowing to keep your business breathing. We then heard from Jeff Dunn of Spencer Hayes Group. His case study explored the importance of making sure you have the right commercial insurance. Finally, Gary Lumb (Yorkshire Rose Financial Planning) and Martin Hibbert (Alexander Calder) gave an insightful presentation on how you can protect you, your business and your future. Thank you to all of you for your time and expertise. 

Thank you to Aspire Igen who provided a fantastic buffet lunch for the event. Aspire Igen is a Yorkshire based social enterprise committed to helping change lives through access to education and work. You can find out more on their website.

The Northern Affinity News

We are planning to host a large number of future workshops, networking and training events at The Northern HQ and at least one other venue. These sessions will be £20 per person for two hours. Those interested in hosting a workshop should contact Michael for further details.

The Northern Affinity will also be expanding our services and switching up how we can help our partners going forward. More details of this will be unveiled at the April partners meeting.

Had a big breakthrough? Won a great new client? Please tell us! We want to hear all your good news. Please email Michael with any updates and we will help you share the news on social media.

The next meeting will be another open meeting on Friday 27th March 2020 at The Northern HQ

March Events and Workshops: 

Strategy – Business Plans and People Plans – Wednesday 4th March 2020

Introduction to The Northern Affinity – Thursday 5th March 2020

In Business – Marketing for busy small business owners – Thursday 12th March 2020

Declutter and Digitalise Your Workspace – Friday 13th March 2020

In Business – Networking – Tuesday 17th March 2020

Social Media Audit Masterclass – Friday 20th March 2020

Effective Leadership Skills – Wednesday 25th March 2020

Co-working open day – Thursday 26th March 2020

For further details on The Northern Affinity, becoming a partner or any upcoming events, please contact Michael.

Why are is the number of self-employed workers still rising in 2020?

The number of self-employed workers has been on the up in the UK since 2001. They now account for around 15% of the working population. The figures dramatically increased after the 2008 recession forced a lot of larger companies to downsize their teams. Suddenly a ‘job for life’ wasn’t such a guarantee. But why is the number of those taking the leap in to self-employment still on the rise in 2020?  

Addressing the work-life balance.
Life should never be all work and no play. The phrase ‘work-life balance’ still feels like a bit of a buzz word but an increasing number of studies show that it is something to address. With burnout in the workplace causing a rising number of serious physical and mental health issues, the WLB is not something to ignore.

Becoming self employed is not without its challenges. According to statistics, those who are self-employed tend to work more productively and gain greater gratification from their efforts. Flexible working hours allow you to tailor your day to best suit your body clock and life commitments; allowing you to be more productive during your working day. 

I want to take control of my work.
For a long time, the ‘side hustle’ wasn’t seen as a viable option for making a living. Nowadays it’s celebrated. More people than ever are choosing to follow their passion in life and turning it into a career, even if it means facing more challenges than they would have done in employment. 

Studies suggest that autonomy makes for more satisfied and productive workers. That’s what makes being your own boss so desirable. As well as being able to decide what projects you do and don’t take on, choosing your own hours in which to do those projects can make your working life much more gratifying. 

The growing popularity of apprenticeship schemes and training programmes gives young people a better sense of ownership over their work. Entrepreneurship is encouraged from a young age. Social media is largely held accountable for the large rise in young people becoming part time self-employed. Whilst it isn’t a traditional career path, the new age of digital advertising and influencer culture is a huge market. It means an increasing number of young people are able to make money from the comfort of their own bedrooms. 

Looking after mental health and wellbeing has become a bigger priority. Part of that is negotiating the best working life possible. With this in mind, it’s hardly surprising the number of people choosing to step away from the traditional 9-5 continues to rise. Technology advancements and the development of coworking spaces have made it easier than ever to start a business anywhere at any time; allowing more people to follow their career dreams and make them a reality.

Finding your business tribe – the benefits of networking.

Maybe we’re biased, but we think networking groups are a pretty good idea. Whether you’re a regular at your group’s weekly meeting or part of a social media message, there’s a community out there for everyone. There’s many benefits to joining a group; we think we can sum them up to three main wins. 

Business

Whenever starting a new business, it’s important to be visible. A community can help get your business on the map and get your name out to a whole range of new clients. Some argue that visibility is as equally important as ability. Never underestimate the power of a word of mouth referral! 

There are many opportunities for business collaboration when you join a networking group. Your product or service might be the missing ingredient for someone else’s growth. Utilise your new connections to get a fresh perspective on business challenges and get lots of fresh ideas on how to move forward.

Education

Once we get older, we forget that we have a lot to learn. There are many opportunities to share knowledge when part of a network. Often groups will have guest speakers specialising in their particular field. You might even realise that that speaker is the key player in helping you implement your latest idea. 

Take advantage of the variety of different businesses you meet. You might meet the person who can help you elevate your business to the next level over a cup of tea! Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Chances are, you will be able to get an answer to every question from your new connections. 

Social

Working from home or on your own, whether you’re self employed or not, can be lonely. One of the most obvious benefits to finding your business community is the social life that comes with it. 

Business can be a tough game. It’s important to know you have others around that understand your challenges and can offer support when times get tough! Networks will often hold events for their partners. You can catch up with your connections and hear from many inspiring people in other fields. The Northern Affinity’s next partner event will be held on Friday 28th February and is open to non-partners so if you’re looking to find your business tribe, please book a place today. 

Finding your community in business boasts many different benefits. Whether you’re aiming to make new connections, learn something new or just looking to make some new friends, there’s something for everyone. If you’d like some more information about The Northern Affinity and how we can connect your business to other like minded professionals, please get in touch and arrange a meeting today.

The Northern Affinity Partners Meeting – Friday 31st January 2020

We enjoyed a fantastic partner event on Friday. It was a great opportunity to connect and share valuable knowledge. We will be hosting these events on the last Friday of every month at the Northern HQ

Business and Brand Strategy

Distinguishing a clear business and brand strategy can be confusing. However, we were lucky enough to hear from Brenda Etchells (Carduus Ltd) and Fliss Lee (Honest Folk) about combining the two to find the ‘sweet spot’ where your business values meet your customers values to create one cohesive strategy.

We have all experienced a business who don’t seem to practise what they preach when it comes to company values. We discussed at length the importance of defining your values; not just by using positive buzz words you think your customer wants to hear, but by delving in to what really matters to your customers and ingraining these in the way you run your business. 

Using some interesting examples, we learnt more about what makes up branding (it’s more than just a logo!) and how making some simple changes can strengthen your brand and help towards achieving your business goals.

 

Sales Mentality

In the afternoon, we welcomed Pete Evans (Ventas Sales) who took us through the sales process, with a difference. Identifying your sales mindset and knowing where your weaknesses are will ultimately improve your performance. Even simple things like putting your phone away before a pitch can make all the difference to your mindset when entering the room. 

One thing we often forget with sales is the importance of practising the process. Grab a friend or your business partner and go through your pitch so you’re confident before stepping into the room with the big players! There were lots of useful things to take away and I think we will all be spicing up our sales process and improving our mindsets to make sure we achieve our goals in sales.

The Northern Affinity News

Yorkshire Meetups

We are very grateful that many of you travel from far and wide to come and connect which is why we’re looking into arranging some future sessions in both Huddersfield and Harrogate to expand our community at The Northern Affinity. 

Dates for your diary: 

Our second round of peer group taster sessions will be running on Wednesday 26th February.
There will be a free open-day for hot deskers on Wednesday 27th February. Please share this with your connections who may be interested in trying out the co-working environment.
Sarah Bradley will be running a HR clinic on Wednesday 27th February for anyone wishing to discuss their HR strategy.
The next peer group coaching session for The Northern Affinity partners will be taking place on the morning of Friday 28th February before the next partner meeting. This meeting will be open for non-members to attend so please invite your connections along. Please contact Michael to reserve a space. 

For further details on The Northern Affinity and any upcoming events, please contact Michael.

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