Some 35 years ago a good friend and I were having a conversation regarding the art of selling. We were young and in jobs that weren’t going anywhere. We’d both been looking for a part-time job that could grow into a full-time business and stumbled into Amway. It doesn’t matter if you do or don’t know what Amway is and it doesn’t really matter for this Blog, but suffice it to say Amway was in the networking business. The idea was to call friends and family and let them know about my new business and hope they would try the products, like them and refer me to their friends and family. It wasn’t working for me. My rejection rate with family and friends was high and I certainly wasn’t getting any referrals. My friend was doing much better with his business and when I asked him why he made the comment, “You can’t give a hair cut through the mail”. He went on to explain that he found that he needed to meet with people face-to-face in order to connect with them in such a way that they were willing to try the products. Think about it … if our own friends and family won’t conduct business over the phone what would make us think that referrals would.
The Amway business ended up not going anywhere for either of us, but it wasn’t due to the products we were trying to sell. Rather, it was too difficult to juggle a full-time job, a part-time business and other social and family commitments. Ironically, today both my friend and I own successful businesses. He owns an insurance company and me a real estate firm. While direct marketing, print advertising and web sites all have their place in our firms marketing strategy we both continue to rely upon networking to build our businesses because you can’t give a hair cut through the mail.
I believe the growth in social media has been largely due to the declining success rate of other marketing programs. Social media allows business executives the opportunity to get an introduction which leads to a face to face meeting where the executives explain their firm’s products and services and see if there is a fit not only for their firms but also their current customers. That’s right referring customers when their need is compatible to another firm’s ability to provide that service. I find it very interesting that while social media is growing, the number of people willing to take a meeting hasn’t increased. People don’t understand the full power of social media, settling instead to get an email introduction and then email or call their new contact to communicate their services. While I do email or call a new contact it is only to arrange for a face-to-face meeting. After all … you can give a hair cut through the mail.