Ask for Written Testimonials

Last weekend, my wife Beth and I were on a weekend trip. We wanted to go out for a nice dinner but weren’t quite sure where to go since we weren’t all that familiar with the town we were in. As Beth perused a local magazine for restaurant reviews, I logged onto the internet to search for the top-rated restaurants in the area. We settled on a steakhouse that was a more than a little bit out of the way and not so easy to get to. Why? Because the restaurant had phenomenal reviews both online and in the local magazine. That was enough to convince us we should take our business there because we were likely have a great experience.

So it is in business. Before people come to you for a particular product or service, they often want the comfort of knowing what others have said about you. Testimonials carry a level of credibility because they come from someone who has direct experience with your product or service. Consumers generally place more trust in a testimonial from another consumer than in a business’s own marketing message. They believe the average person is unbiased and has nothing to gain from providing a testimonial. Thie business stands to gain–or lose–everything, so its own words are seen as less trustworthy.

Have you ever asked a satisfied client for a written testimonial? I recommend making this standard practice for your business.

Written testimonials can be used in many ways to enhance your credibility and set you above your competition. Here are some key ways to use testimonials:

1. Place them on your business’s website. Some websites have them strategically sprinkled throughout so there’s at least one testimonial on each page. Others have a dedicated page where a browser can view several testimonials at once.

2. If your business attracts a lot of walk-in clients, it’s helpul to display your written testimonials, each encased in a plastic sheet protector, in a three-ring binder labled “What our customers say about us” or “Client Testimonials.” Keep this binder on a table in your reception area, where your customers can browse through it while waiting for services. It’s a good way to connect with your prospects and enhance your relationship with current clients.

3. Include testimonials with your business proposals. This works best if you have a wide variety to choose from; you can include a section of testimonials that are most relevant to a specific proposal.

If you make it standard practice to ask clients and contacts for testimonials, you’ll build your credibility and your business.

Be sure to check back next week ,when I’ll present the three keys to successfully using written testimonials and explain how to ask for testimonials.

Networking with Confidence

You know, it continually amazes me how often I meet businesspeople who are at the top of their game in the business world, but who struggle with confidence when it comes to networking meetings.

How can these men and women–who are remarkably impressive performers in other areas of business–find networking so difficult?

It was this question which inspired me to make a new video, which you can watch here on

The truth is, there are a lot of reasons people struggle with networking. Sometimes it’s just confidence, but sometimes it’s organization or a lack of experience as well.

In the video, I give my Ten Commandments of Successful Networking, and I set out to give step-by-step practical guidelines covering everything you need to do to be a highly confident, successful business networker.

Here’s a little taste of what I recommend:

  • Teach yourself to listen and ask questions more. Be like an interviewer and ask questions that get other people to open up. A great networker has two ears and one mouth–and uses them proportionately!
  • Never push to close a deal at a networking event. Networking meetings are all about developing relationships with other professionals. They represent the beginning of a sales process, not the end.

Watch the video here for the remaining eight commandments.

How Do the Master Networkers Do It?

If you’re reading this blog, you’re obviously interested in networking. And if you’re interested in networking, then you’ll want to know about a fascinating international survey that was conducted recently.

Two thousand business professionals from all over the world were asked about their views on what contributes to social capital and what makes an effective networker. I discuss the survey results in my latest show on yourBusinessChannel, which you can watch here.

One of the most interesting things to come of the survey was a list showing the top 10 traits of successful networkers, ranked in order of their perceived importance to networking. The list clearly shows that successful networking requires a concerted effort over years to build social capital. It’s a long-term strategy.

Here are traits 10 through six (To hear the top five traits, watch the show here.)

10. Master networkers never miss an opportunity. They constantly busy themselves managing their contact database, passing on business cards, setting up meetings and whatever else they can do to work their network.

9. Master networkers are sincere, and they let other people know it by giving them their undivided attention when they are speaking.

8. Master networkers enjoy helping others whenever they can. This doesn’t just mean referring business–it’s the little things, too. Like helping someone move to a new office or sending on a news clipping that might be of interest.

7. Master networkers always thank people who have done something for them. They understand that showing gratitude is not only courteous, it cultivates relationships.

6. Master networkers are never off duty. Networking comes so naturally to them that they gladly seize every opportunity, whether it’s a networking meeting or the line at the grocery store.

Commit to Lifelong Learning

Since practically no college curriculum in networking exists (despite its importance in the world of entrepreneurial business), you’re pretty much left to your own devices to find training in the art and science of this set of skills. The fact is, if you want to be a successful networker, you need to commit to lifelong learning on the subject of networking.


This may sound like a huge task at first, but it’s actually not as daunting as it sounds. The truth is, networking is something you can train for on the job–in fact, that’s the best way. By putting it into practice, you not only learn how to apply and fine-tune your approach, but you also build your business at the same time. In many ways, it’s less work and more fun than some of the traditional approaches to building your business.

What’s more, becoming a master networker is a journey, not a destination. You might reach the 29 percent of people who are truly connected by becoming a master networker, but that’s not the end of your efforts because a master networker is one who is constantly improving his or her skills and learning new ones. Now the challenge is to stay in the 29 percent and learn to secure your footing.

So in your never-ending journey toward peak networking performance, I recommend you do three things:

1. Keep reading.

There are hundreds of articles and dozens of books out there on networking, word-of-mouth marketing and referral marketing. I strongly recommend reading Bob Burg’s Endless Referrals, Susan RoAne’s How to Work a Room and The Secrets of Savvy Networking, Robyn Henderson’s Networking for $uccess, Bill Cates’ Unlimited Referrals, and Jan Vermeiren’s Let’s Connect. Some of my own books that will help you develop your networking skills are Truth or Delusion, The World’s Best Known Marketing Secret, Masters of Networking and Business by Referral.

2. Practice! Practice! Practice!

Find networking groups that believe in education as part of their regular meetings. If they help by guiding you, you can practice the networking ideas you are continuing to learn as you participate.

3. Seek out reputable training programs on networking.

I highly recommend the networking content on, Brian Buffini’s referral training for the real estate industry, and the Referral Institute. Look also to your local business development and entrepreneur centers for workshops, experiential learning and in-depth training in networking and word-of-mouth marketing.

Lifelong learning continually sharpens and hones your skills. Would you trust the growth of your enterprise to someone who’s not skilled in one of the most effective ways to grow your business? Probably not. So take the initiative to continue your learning on the subject of networking by enrolling in a course, attending a workshop or reading the next book. Think about how the knowledge and skills you derive from these resources can continue to build and enhance your business by effective networking.

If you have a favorite educational resource on networking, please share it by leaving a comment.

Networking Lessons From Nature

Recently, when visiting our favorite Napa Valley winery, Chateau Montelena, my wife and I decided to take a tour of the agricultural side of the operation.  The vintner shared with us the technique the winery uses to ensure the quality of the juice from the grapes year after year after year regardless of the climate–a technique known as “dry farming.”

As he explained the benefits of dry farming, I began to see a business metaphor emerging for how referral marketing works for those businesses that understand doing business by referral.

When vineyards are dry farmed, they are not irrigated, dry season or rainy.  As a result, the roots of the vines must grow deep to get to the year-round underground supply of water, no matter the climate.  This reminds me of how we teach business owners to develop deep-water relationships between themselves so that they can support growth no matter the climate–the economic climate.

Doing business by referral truly is not about getting rich quick.  We want to be able to produce a bumper crop of referrals year after year after year regardless of the climate.

That is the gift of dry farming:  the stability of the juice’s quality.  Just like the dependability of Chateau Montelena’s wine, we feel that deep-water relationships ensure a dependability in our own business stability unavailable to the average business owner.

There is another metaphor from nature that helps to illustrate the strength of doing business by referral–that is the story of the giant redwood trees in Northern California.

The giant redwoods average a height of 85 meters or 250 feet!  You’d think that with such an amazing height they would also have a deep, deep root system.  But they don’t.  They actually have a fairly shallow root system, much like our California eucalyptus trees.  The California eucalyptus trees tend to blow over easily in heavy winds, but not the giant redwoods.

You see, the giant redwoods also use an amazing technique to remain upright when those around them fall.  They intertwine  their roots with the roots of their neighbor, thereby supporting one another when the winds come.  When one is under the direct pressure of the wind, the others help to hold it in place, not allowing it to succumb to the destructive forces of that wind.

Relationship marketing puts you in a similar position as those giant redwoods.  When you learn the intricacies of doing business by referral, you begin to metaphorically intertwine your roots with the roots of those with whom you are networking.  When the economy pressures one member, the others help hold him in place!

This is why networking and relationship marketing are so important–especially in a tough economy.

Presenting at Networking Meetings is Nothing to Fear

I had an interesting experience with a BNI member some time ago that has really stuck with me. She was scared stiff of having to give presentations each week at her networking meeting; in fact, she found it so stressful that it was seriously affecting her networking activity. She was losing great opportunities to tell her fellow members about what she did, and it was keeping them from giving her referrals.

I suggested to her that rather than approach her next 10-minute presentation as a speech, she should approach it as if she were giving a test.

She liked my advice, and when it came time for her to give her presentation, she started by asking the audience 10 true or false questions about her area of specialty, tax law. The questions provided more of a discussion forum where people were engaged in communication with her, and she was able to talk more comfortably because all eyes weren’t solely on her. The presentation was a great success and, best of all, by the end of it she felt completely at ease.

By finding a way to approach your presentation that you are comfortable with and that is creative enough to make the session engaging for your audience, you will take much–if not all–of the fear out of presenting.

You’ll hear me tell the story of how this BNI member overcame her fear of presenting on my latest business TV show on and you’ll also get a detailed explanation of how to give powerful, creative presentations with these five practical tips:

1. Prepare well

2. Focus on what is important

3. Make use of visual aids

4. Remember that you are the expert

5. Be creative

The story above illustrates each of these points very well. Watch the show to hear me outline exactly why.

Ask Ivan Misner

I’ve spoken to tens of thousands of people and written many books and articles on networking, referral marketing, sales, business and success.

I’ve had many questions on these topics over the years and I have recently decided to compile the best questions and my answers to them as part of a project that I am doing with my good friend Alex Mandossian.

If you could ask me just one question about networking, referral marketing, business or success, what would your most important question be?

Post it here on this blog.  I’ll be answering your questions as part of my project with Alex as well as here on this blog site.

OK, what are you waiting for?  Post that question while it’s fresh in your mind.


A Great Tip for Networking Events

At networking meetings and events around the world, I often meet people who are uncomfortable with introducing themselves to new contacts. For some people, the barrier is a feeling of inadequacy (“Why would anyone want to meet me?”), but mostly the problem is the sheer awkwardness of approaching a stranger and saying “Hi.”

One of the best ways to put yourself at ease and overcome this awkwardness is to act like the host of the event. This approach is recommended in Dr. Adele Scheele’s book, Skills for Success, and I cover it in a new (free) show hosted by yourBusinessChannel.

The idea is that by acting as if you are the host of an event, you learn to behave in an active way, not a passive way. All of a sudden, it seems natural not only to introduce yourself to people, but also to introduce people to each other, to watch for lulls in conversation and prompt further conversation, and so on. In other words, you are acting just as you do when you are the host of your own party or event.

This is a great trick for improving your networking abilities, and you can even take it a step further by not just acting like the host but by actually being the host. What I mean by this is that most networking organizations, BNI included, have a position available in their networking meetings for a person to be the host for a given meeting and welcome new people.

I believe  it’s often the lack of context that makes it awkward to introduce yourself to new people at a networking event and, by being the host, you provide yourself with proper context.

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