How’s Business? Turning an icebreaker into an opportunity

By Niki Wheeler, Director, Launch,

How’s business? The question of the urbane networker at a drinks party or conference, over dinner once you’ve done the ordering or before you talk specifics in a meeting.

This opener is the corporate equivalent of ‘how are you?’,  more professionally geared than ‘what have you been up to?’ and the direct gambit of someone who is genuinely interested in the word on the street.

It is also the polite form of ‘why should I work with you?’, ‘will I be in good company if I’m in your gang?’, ‘what are your trade secrets?’ or ‘should I cross the line and see you as a supplier rather than a friend?’.

If you’re prepared for it – it is the perfect opportunity to launch into an elevator pitch or to information gather yourself when you ask the question by return.  So, while the nuances of your answer might vary depending on whether you’re talking to a client or prospect, candidate, competitor or journalist – generally everyone says it is ‘good, great, busy or interesting’ whatever the weather.

Perhaps networking would be like a masterclass if people shared the real low down when times are tough. Richard Branson once said ‘the best businesses come from people’s bad experiences’ and we learn loads from turnaround case studies.

Tony Robbins is right when he says that ‘business success is 80% psychology and 20% mechanics’ though. People want to work with successful people. We’d all rather go to a buzzy restaurant with a cool crowd than somewhere where we’re the only customer.

When I got asked for the lay of the land this week, I said things were good. We’ve got ambitious growth plans and can list great new wins, healthy organic growth and important client retention milestones this year. There is no room for complacency though.

These are ‘interesting’ times and while it is great to celebrate success and enjoy the feelgood moments, no-one can afford not to deliver great thinking, honest counsel, stellar results and ultimately added value and ROI for clients.

We’re ten years on from the banking crisis, Brexit uncertainty rumbles on and our client BDO’s High Street Sales Tracker marked last month as the sixth in a row with negative in-store LFL sales and the tenth month where growth has failed to exceed 1% for bricks and mortar retailers.

Testament to this is the recent demise of House of Fraser and ToysRUs. Even John Lewis is feeling the heat in a climate of constant discounting.

For everyone in the comms mix these challenges also provide undoubted opportunities. The pound is going further for overseas clients, high street names need reappraisal if they’re to gain share of pocket and said deals must be promoted to bargain hungry, quality conscious shoppers across channels.

So, how’s business? No-one has a crystal ball. Change is inevitable – but no-one can sell their services in the twilight zone between business and pleasure like a comms person asked the right question.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

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