- New coworking members tend to make the common mistake of always selling their business, instead of introducing themselves.
- The best approach to begin nurturing relationships in a coworking space is to show genuine interest and curiosity about other members.
- When meeting fellow coworking members, you need to build the relationship first if you later want to make a business sale.
Part 2 of 2
In Part 1, we spoke with engagement consultant Joy Stephan, an expert in workplace strategy and organizational development and founder of 20Chairs, about how operators of coworking spaces can optimize the onboarding process for new members.
For Part 2, we talked with Joy about what members can do to make the most of their coworking experience.
Allwork.Space: What are some of the mistakes new members make when they join a coworking space?
Joy Stephan: The biggest mistake that members make is that they forget the social protocols when they’re trying to launch their business. They put too much pressure on themselves to tell people about what they do, rather than asking other members about them.
For example, when they introduce themselves they try to sell their services. There’s a fine line between telling people what you do and inviting them to purchase what you do.
It’s definitely NOT the Glengarry Glen Ross model of “Always Be Closing.”
What do you find is the most productive approach?
Coworking really requires a different set of skills. I call it ‘ABC 2.0.’ Always be curious.
The best thing new members can do is to be curious about other members and about their businesses.
While it’s possible that you will see somebody you have been hoping to work with and want to seize the moment to capitalize on the opportunity, it’s best if you first take the time to learn about their business and their preferred method of work. Only then will you have formed a valuable bond that will allow you to better assess if doing business with them will provide you with a win-win opportunity.
So, instead of trying to ‘close the deal’ on that first encounter, wait for the next one. Alas, if you’re both members of the same coworking space, you are bound to encounter each other more times. Next time you see them, ask about their favorite work experiences and things like that. Learning more about how they work and who they work well with will help you decide if your workstyles are a fit.
How should a member handle the day-to-day process of meeting new people in the space?
People try to forget that when you work from a coworking place, you’re going to run into these people over and over and over again.
There really isn’t a need to constantly be pitching and closing. Coworking spaces are much more relationship-based. And you’ve got to put the relationship before the sale.
There are more organic ways for people to learn about what you do and discover how you might be able to help one another than by giving your elevator speech. The more pleasant conversations you have with people about anything, the more productive in the long run.
I always say it’s one cup of coffee at a time. It’s not like you only have once chance to talk to them. It’s getting to your long story by building it up day by day.
For example, Day 1 you say “Hi.” Day 2 is “How’s it going?” Day 3 could be “Hey, what are you working on today?”
That natural development between members happens when there’s more time and it also helps take some pressure off from networking.
So they need to look beyond the short-term payoff, and more for the long haul?
People need to approach their coworking membership like an investment in their business and in their wellbeing. If they’re approaching it as a paying for marketing or networking, they’re going to be disappointed. A community membership is a long-term investment.
It’s about being honest about the expectations and what they’re getting when they join.
For me, personally, I’ve received my fair ‘ROI’, if you will, from my coworking space, as I have found significant business leads from being a coworking member. In fact, I don’t believe my practice would have been sustainable had I not joined a coworking space.
The introductions that I got through my fellow members were invaluable, but they didn’t happen in the first six months or even the first year after joining. Most of my relationships have developed while waiting for coffee to brew or in the kitchen while eating lunch. That’s where casual conversations happen.
Any other tips?
Always leave them wanting a little more. Say you’re having a good conversation at happy hour. Tell them you had a great time talking with them but you’re sure they need to say hello to other people. Tell them “I’ll look for you in the lounge. Maybe we can set up time to chat when it’s quieter.”
You know. Over coffee. One cup at a time.