As the Company of Master Jewellers gears up for its bi-annual members buying event, Professional Jeweller caught up with executive director of business development and marketing, Lucy Reece-Raybould, to hear about her top tips for working the room and using industry gatherings to build business.
How can networking really benefit a jeweller/retail business?
Whether you’re a sales assistant, director or store manager, talking to other people who are encountering similar challenges or trends can bring a great sense of synergy and even relief, knowing that you are not alone. Meeting like-minded people is very reassuring.
When we get people around the table at a CMJ regional meeting or Conference, the topics of conversation are never exhausted! From HR, staffing or recruitment conversations to sharing ideas on how stores and individuals are marketing their business on social media or other types of promotions to discussing expanding business, investing in new stores or refurbs. Swapping contacts, ideas, processes and best practice can make such a difference and offer huge reassurance.
And don’t forget the down time. Early in my time at the CMJ I learnt that an awful lot of business gets discussed in the bar at the end of the night. In fact one retailer told me that it was essential to stay over at any CMJ event as it was in the evenings that he learnt the most about trends in the trade. I’ve witnessed discussions over breakfast between store managers or business owners from different parts of the country who have helped to solve a problem for the other just by talking it through.
What are some of your top tips for successful networking?
My number one tip is you’ll get more if you give more. And number two is that old adage “we have two ears and one mouth – use them in that proportion”. Be open to talking about yourself and your business, ask questions and be ready to listen. By talking about what you do, perhaps sharing challenges, being honest and listening to other peoples’ experiences, conversations are organic and generally people want to help. Taking mental notes of solutions or taking contact names, swapping email addresses and keeping up contact once you’ve made it.
In my role at the CMJ I’m constantly talking with our members and suppliers who are updating me on what’s been going on in their business, the pitfalls they’ve encountered and overcome, successes they’ve enjoyed, staff leavers and joiners, or generally how they are doing. The next day, week or month I will find myself talking to another retailer and they’re experiencing similar challenges or looking for a new member of staff and very often I can suggest a name or someone they should talk to or tell them about a new innovation or piece of equipment, that’s networking.
How should jewellers/retailers best approach networking prior to a specific event? What preparations should they make?
Find out who the other delegates or attendees are and think about whether there is anything you want to ask them or pick their brain about; focus on networking with the most relevant groups and people. Look at their locations, type of business, website and achievements. View the social media pages for both the person and their business, you can learn a lot about a person on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter; making reference to what you’ve read shows others you are interested in them and will elicit even more information sharing.
How can they make the most of their time when they are at the event?
Whatever event we are putting on at the CMJ, our attendees can request contact with specific people or ask to be put in touch with someone who has experience in an area they need support. Or they can give me a ring and I will make sure they meet the right people to network with.
If you are attending an event outside of the CMJ, then create an agenda of which seminars or talks you may want to attend, which speakers you may want to talk to and other delegates you want to meet. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself early and be prepared to pencil in a chat later if that person is busy. Don’t leave it too late or to the end of the day, pace your conversations and time. Ad-hoc conversations or being in groups at coffee breaks and lunch times is a great way to network and often you can learn things from being part of other peoples’ conversations.
What are important considerations when it comes to networking?
It’s important to be prepared, ready and permitted to share your information with whoever you are talking to. If there are a number of topics you wish to seek advice about or discuss, try to pre-select one person or group you want to network with, i.e. so you’re not doubling up and asking multiple people the same thing. Consider whether your topic and questions you have are relevant to the group you are with. You have to appear credible and concise.
“And don’t forget the down time. Early in my time at the CMJ I learnt that an awful lot of business gets discussed in the bar at the end of the night”
What are ‘no nos’ when it comes to networking?
Make sure you give as well as take. Be professional and courteous and don’t not just ask for help then walk away once you have what you wanted; be prepared to give back and be a ‘helper’. Networking is a two-way street, even if you feel you have nothing to offer the person or group that has helped or advised you, there’ll be other people who can benefit from talking to you!
What are the best ways to follow up after a networking event?
Try and find out a bit more about the person you met or spoke to, look at their company or website and even LinkedIn. Be sure to follow up with the information that you learned from the first meeting and have a genuine reason for making contact with them. If you’re making contact with someone you’ve been referred to as a good source for what you need, be professional, explain how and why you’ve been given their details and make sure it’s a convenient time for them to talk. And always conduct yourself with integrity and acknowledge the contribution that your interaction with that person has made to your business.