Become a Networking Catalyst

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no mechanic. In fact, when I was a kid, my father (who can fix just about anything) brought me out to the garage one day and said, “Son, you’d better go to college because you’re never going to make a living with your hands.” Well, that was great advice, Dad. I think things have worked out pretty well with that suggestion.

Fully acknowledging my lack of skills as a mechanic, I can, however, tell you how a catalytic converter relates to networking your business.

By definition, a catalyst is an agent that initiates a reaction. In networking, a catalyst is someone who makes things happen. Without a catalyst, there is no spark, and not much gets done.

So, what would it take for you to become a catalyst for your business and your network? Four things: initiative, intention, confidence and motivation.

Initiative. Catalytic people don’t sit still–they make things happen in all aspects of their lives. As networkers, they stay alert for a problem that needs solving, then spring into action, calling on someone from their network to solve the problem. They operate with a “get it done now” mentality.

Intention. Catalytic people operate with intent and are goal-driven. As networkers, catalytic people have both business and networking goals. They learn the goals of others in order to help people get where they wish to be.

Confidence. Catalytic people have confidence in themselves and in the players on their team. This helps to ensure that the task at hand will be accomplished with stellar results.

Motivation. Catalytic people are not only motivated themselves, but they also can motivate others to perform at their highest potential. These people excite others to contribute, sharing their energy and excitement through their words and actions. They are motivated by personal and professional rewards that they can’t wait to share with others, and they desperately want to help others succeed.

To set your network in motion toward helping your business, make it your goal to become a catalytic person. Think of your network as a row of standing dominoes. Each domino will remain standing until you act upon the first domino. As a catalyst, you must tap the first domino to watch the chain reaction of tumbling dominoes. Your network is standing in place, waiting for you to set the pieces in motion.

I Refuse to Participate in a Recession (Part 2)

Recessions come and go. Statistically, we have one every six years or so. This recession is a serious one. I get that. I also believe that the people who look for opportunities when times are tough will not only survive, they will thrive. I’ve been in business long enough to see it over and over again.

Given the recent developments with the U.S. economy, I thought I would refer my readership to a blog that I wrote back in April of this year, along with a link it to a telebridge recording that was recently done by a friend of mine, John Assaraf, CEO of OneCoach and author of “The Answer.”

Be a “thriver” not just a “survivor” in this recession.

Read my article from April: I Refuse to Participate in a Recession (Part 1)

Then, listen to John’s free telebridge recording: Thriving in a Recession–“What To Do Now.” The first two-thirds of this free call is all about staying focused on success while everyone else is panicking about the economy.

When you are all done, join us in “refusing to participate in the recession!”

Networking ROI

Have you ever wondered how effective networking really is for different types of businesses? I have. Consequently, I am assisting a university project that will establish the best approach to networking for companies of different sizes and types. The results will be published here when completed, and we need your participation!

By asking networkers across the globe about their businesses, marketing and networking strategies, and which types of approaches work best for them, we will discover some “best practice” marketing mixes for both small and large businesses. So be part of the process and take a few minutes (really, it’s just a few minutes) to complete this survey.

Take the Networking Survey Here.

Feel free to share this link with others! The survey will wrap up in October.

Thanks! If you take the survey, share with me what you liked and what you thought was missing.

Volunteer and Become Visible

One of the first steps toward networking your business is to become more visible in the community. Remember that people need to know you, like you and trust you in order to refer you. Volunteering can position you to meet key people in your community. It connects you with people who share your passion. It gives you opportunities to demonstrate your talents, skills and integrity, as well as your ability to follow up and do what you say you are going to do. It instantly expands the depth and breadth of your network.

People who volunteer demonstrate their commitment to a cause without concern for personal gain. Thus, you should be volunteering with organizations or causes for which you hold genuine interest and concern. If administrators or other volunteers perceive that you are in it primarily for your own gain, your visibility will work against you, and you will undermine your own goals.

Volunteering is not a recreational activity; it’s a serious commitment to help fulfill a need. To find an organization or cause that aligns with your interests, you need to approach volunteerism with a healthy level of thought and strategy.

Start by asking yourself the nine questions below.

1. What do you enjoy doing for yourself in your spare time?

2. What hobbies do you enjoy?

3. What sports do you know well enough to teach?

4. What brings you joy and satisfaction?

5. What social, political or health issue are you passionate about because it relates to you, your family or your friends?

6. Based on the answers to the first five questions, what are three organizations that you can identify that appeal to you? (Examples: youth leagues, libraries, clubs, activist groups, church groups, homeless shelters) Choose the one that most appeals to you, and research the group online and in the community.

7. Now that you’ve researched this group, will it give you an opportunity to meet one of your professional or personal goals? If so, visit the group to “try it on.”

8. Now that you’ve visited this group, do you still want to make a final commitment of your time?

9. Are other group members satisfied with the organization? (To learn this, identify three members of the group to interview in order to assess their satisfaction with the organization. Consider choosing a new member, a two- to three-year member, and a seasoned five- to six-year member to interview.)

Once you’ve done the research required to satisfactorily answer these nine questions, join a group and begin to volunteer for visibility’s sake. Look for leadership roles that will demonstrate your strengths, talents and skills. In other words, volunteer and become visible. It’s a great way to build your personal network.

Create Your Networking Future

I had a conversation this week with a florist who was bemoaning the commitment he’d made in becoming a member of a local referral marketing group. He complained that he had never considered himself a natural networker and had assumed joining the group would jumpstart his networking efforts. But after five months, he still felt uncomfortable trying to build relationships with people he considered to be virtual strangers. He still felt like he had no real networking experience and that he didn’t have a clue how to develop the necessary networking skills that would make his membership worthwhile. He said it would probably be better for him to stop wasting time and just quit the group.

Here’s what I told him: It’s never too late to start creating your networking future. You can make a new start right here and now, no matter what wrong networking moves you may have previously made.

Start by taking stock of your networking strengths and weaknesses and use that knowledge to make goals and plans for yourself. Implement weekly networking strategies and be clear with yourself about what you need to work on to improve your networking skills. Just as in building a new house, you need a strong, stable foundation on which to construct your “networking home.” First things first: You must set goals, develop a plan and start accomplishing networking steps.

If you feel a lot like the florist when it comes to the current status of your networking efforts, here are seven keys to create your new, successful networking future:

1. Start by setting networking goals. Networking goals are vital. They keep you focused on the steps needed to network your business every day. Careful attention should be paid to this process.

2. Block out time to network. Carve out time in your weekly schedule for networking. To meet your goals, you must dedicate time to networking.

3. Profile your preferred client. Describe your preferred client in very specific and strategic terms. Knowing exactly whom you want to attract to your business as a client or customer–and being able to clearly, concisely and quickly describe that preferred client to everyone from your mother all the way down to the CEO of a Fortune 500 firm–is a vital step for networking success.

4. Recruit your word-of-mouth marketing team. Begin recruiting the individuals who will serve as your ambassadors. They are critical to your success. Why? Because networking, by definition, is a team sport. You win only when others are winning alongside you.

5. Give to others first. There is tremendous power in te law of reciprocity in networking. You will find that there are great benefits to giving to others in your network first, before expecting anything in return.

6. Create a network relationship database. Organize the people you know into a network database. An organized network database saves you time and energy in the long run.

7. Master the top 10 traits of a successful networker. Set a high bar for yourself by aiming to master the top 10 characteristics that define a master networker. This gives you something to aim for and a way of assessing where you stand now, relative to that goal.

Empty Your Purse Into Your Head

Most entrepreneurs pay lip service to education! OK, maybe not you . . . you’re actually taking the time to read an article on business. I’m talking about the average entrepreneur.

Ask a number of businesspeople if they’d be willing to attend a seminar on building their business, and three-quarters of those in the room will raise their hand and say yes! Tell them that it is four weeks from tomorrow at 7 p.m., and only a handful will actually sign up!

It used to surprise me when I heard that 50 percent of all businesses fail in their first three years. Now that I’ve been in business for several decades and have seen many entrepreneurs come and go, I’m somewhat surprised that 50 percent actually make it past three years!

Maybe I’m being a little harsh . . . but not much. One thing I’ve learned is that most successful entrepreneurs embrace a “culture of learning” in order to excel. Personal and professional self-development is a journey–not a destination. It’s always a work in progress. Often, businesspeople get so caught up working “in” their business that they forget to spend time working “on” their business. Part of working “on” a business is one’s professional development.

Benjamin Franklin once said; “If a man empties his purse into his head, no one can take it from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the highest return.”

With that in mind, here’s an action item for you this week. Look at your financials (or checkbook, or credit-card statements) for the past year. What have you spent for any type of ongoing business education? If you aren’t “emptying some of your purse into your head,” take a few minutes to think about what you want to learn to help you build your business–and sign up for something this week! Don’t put it off any longer.

If you want to earn more, you need to learn more! Oh, and reading this blog from time to time won’t hurt, either.

Go the Extra Mile

On a daily basis, I am surrounded by people who know that connecting with others to network their businesses is extremely important. However, I am often surprised at how many people don’t put enough effort into purposefully strengthening their network relationships. The fact is, you want to be in solid with the people who constitute your network, and vice versa. You want to be the first name that comes to mind when those in your network scratch their heads and wonder, “Hmmm . . . Whom could I go to with that problem? Who would be a good fit for that referral?”

Going the extra mile provides you several ways to stand out and be positively memorable. Focus on things that you can do to demonstrate the unforgettable value you bring to the table as a network member. Even though our networking is about business, not social relationships, you have to admit that people like people who help them. If you help someone, he or she, in turn, wants to help you.

Take the initiative in developing a relationship with someone who could be of help to you in networking your business. Here are some strategies on how to do this:

1) Be a value-added friend. Focus your attention on the kind of value you bring to the relationships you form.

2) Become a catalyst. Take the lead and be the person who makes things happen.

3) Find an accountability partner–a person to whom you can be accountable, responsible and answerable, and who cares whether (and how effectively) you implement networking strategies and meet the goals you set for your business.

4) Volunteer as a way of building visibility for your business.

5) Send thank-you cards. This is a simple but powerful two-minute activity.

6) Timely follow-up is extremely significant and it is tremendously important in pushing a relationship forward.

Going the extra mile with the people in your network not only expresses your sincerity, but it also opens the door to accept what the law of reciprocity has to offer you and your business.

Santa Claus, Easter Bunny and Six Degrees of Separation

I am pleased to announce that my new book, The 29% Solution, 52 Weekly Networking Success Strategies has just been released! Below is an excerpt from the book.

What do Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and “six degrees of separation” all have in common? They are all urban legends! I wouldn’t do an expose on Kris Kringle or the egg-laying rabbit. I don’t want to stir up any trouble. What I do want to take issue with is the six-degrees thing.

You’ve heard that there are “six degrees of separation” between you and anybody else on earth that you would like to meet. Right? Amazing, isn’t it? Unfortunately, it’s just not true! I know, I know–you’re thinking, “What? That can’t be! It’s common knowledge that we are all separated by six connections to anyone in the world.” Well, I hate to burst your bubble, but the idea that we are all connected through six degrees of separation is rooted in myth–not in fact.

The legend originally stems from several “small world experiments” conducted by Stanley Milgram in the 1960s and ’70s. These experiments involved sending folders or letters from a group of people in one part of the country to a specific person (whom they did not know) in another part of the country. The people were told to get the material to someone who might know someone who would know the individual to whom the material was to be delivered. This process formed a chain of connections linking the people together. It was, in fact, found that the letters or folders that eventually arrived in the right person’s hands took, on average, between five and six connections or degrees. This part is true; however, if you look closer, you will discover the problems that exist within the blanket statement that “we are all connected by six degrees.”

First off, though the average number of links for people who got the material through to the final contact was five or six connections, the majority of the connections that were made ranged from two to 10 (the average was five to six). This means that roughly half took more than six and roughly half less than six. Well, you say, that’s the average and I would agree that there’s nothing wrong with addressing this concept by the average, but there’s one small problem. The overwhelming majority of people in all of Milgram’s studies never got the material to the intended recipient at all! In Milgram’s most successful study, “217 chains were started and 64 were completed–a success rate of only 29 percent.” That’s right–a success rate of less than one-third of the participants! So what this means is that 29 percent of the people in Milgram’s most successful study were separated on average by six degrees from the final contact person. However, that means that 71 percent were not connected at all!

But wait, I’m afraid it gets worse. This was Milgram’s most successful study. In another of his studies, only 5 percent of the participants completed the chain, which means that 95 percent of the people in the study never made the link to the person they were supposed to connect to at all–ever! Don’t shoot the messenger, but I am afraid to tell you that we are not “all” connected with everyone in the world by six degrees of separation. We’re just not . . . not all of us.

So why would I, someone who has devoted most of his professional career to business networking, be telling everyone about the Achilles heel of this iconic concept upon which a lot of networking pros hang their hat? Well, there are two reasons. First of all, I believe this myth creates complacency. The thought that everyone is absolutely connected to everyone else on the planet by six degrees gives some people a false sense of expectation and thus lulls them into a sense that the connection is bound to happen sooner or later, no matter what they do. Second, and most important, the studies’ findings indicate clearly that some people are better connected than others. I believe that’s important because it means that this is a skill that can be acquired. With reading, training and coaching, people can develop their networking skills, increase their connections and become part of the roughly 29 percent of people who are, in fact, separated from the rest of the world by only six degrees.

Milgram’s work was revolutionary. It opened up a whole new world of discussion and understanding. It has, however, been romanticized. The mythical version of his findings does no good for anyone. It gives people a false sense of security or an erroneous world view of the networking process. I believe we do live in a “small world” that is becoming smaller and smaller; and I also believe it is possible to be connected to anyone in the world by only six degrees. I just don’t believe that “we are all” connected by six degrees, and Milgram’s own findings support that.

The good news in all of this is that it is possible to be part of the 29 percent through education, practice and training. We can be connected to anyone through the power and potential of networking. In fact, by understanding that, we can set ourselves aside from our competition by knowing that being able to make successful connections is not an entitlement. Instead, it is a skill that only some actually develop. As for the 71 percent of people who are not connected and yet still believe in the six degrees of separation concept–keep the faith. You’ll always have Santa Claus.

Books are now available at your local bookstore or from Amazon.com. I’d love to hear your thoughts about the book and/or the general concept.

The Number One Networking Requirement

So many times, I hear of people joining networking groups and then becoming disillusioned because the referrals don’t immediately start pouring in. The fact is, whatever you pay to join a referral/networking group is only an admission price–it gets you into the room where opportunities may come your way, but it doesn’t entitle you to referrals. It’s not enough to simply show up and participate. You must perform to make the most of these opportunities and new contacts.

Despite the built-in structure and focus on referrals, a strong-contact group member can fail to generate referrals or to receive referrals for himself or herself. Networking skills are the number one requirement for generating more referrals. Being in the setting of a networking group simply makes it easier to use these skills. Simply being a member of a strong-contact group does not entitle you to expect or receive referrals. Nor does being a member of a casual-contact group limit the number of referrals you can generate or receive, if you have the skills and use them.

Develop the skills of a master networker by constantly looking for ways to help or benefit your networking partners and earning a reputation as someone who can get things done, no matter what the organization or situation. For example, one extremely savvy and successful networker I know records the names and cell phone numbers of every member of her networking group, and when new members join, she adds them to her “tele-rolodex” immediately. She has found that she has a better chance of seeing closed business between her contact and the person to whom she makes the referral when she can introduce them immediately–right when she learns her contact’s needs.

For more information on developing the networking skills that will help you make the most of your networking opportunities, click here. For even more on networking skills, click here.

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