Get Connected

If you are not yet familiar with Lisa Nichols, she is one amazingly inspiring woman. She’s one of the stars of the hit DVD movie The Secret, co-author of two Chicken Soup for the Soul books, author of the recently released No Matter What!–9 Steps to Living the Life You Love, and she is a great friend of mine.

Lisa is one of those rare public speakers who is able to develop a connection with each person in the audience no matter whether she’s speaking to a group of 25 people or a crowd of 500. She has a real gift for connecting with people and motivating them to take action toward positive and lasting change. For this very reason, I invited Lisa to be the keynote speaker at the BNI U.S. National Conference this past April, and she blew the entire audience away with her presentation on how anybody can overcome any and every obstacle in front of them in business and life. More than a few of the conference attendees said she was the best speaker they’d ever heard, and people still come up to me and tell me she was the highlight of that conference (Hmmm . . . I seem to recall giving a speech at the conference as well–should my feelings be hurt? :)).

Why am I telling you all of this about Lisa? Because she’s going to be speaking at an event called “Get Connected to Lisa Nichols & Friends” in Minneapolis , Minn. on Sept. 23, and if it’s at all possible for you to attend the event, I highly recommend that you go. Not only will you get to hear Lisa’s presentation, you’ll also hear from three more great speakers who also happen to be good friends of mine: Bob Burg, Roxanne Emmerich and Janet Attwood. It’s going to be one powerful event, and I encourage anybody who can make it out to Minneapolis to attend–I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

Seating is limited, so if you’re interested check out the event website now to get more details and register: GetConnectedEvent.com.

Learn to Persevere

My good friend Julien Sharp is a brilliant editor who has worked on a countless number of writing projects for me and done a top-notch job. She is also founder of Stylo Creative Communications, a fantastic networker and businesswoman, and an exceptional author who contributed a great article entitled “From Mickey Mouse to Cruise Ships” to my 2007 bestseller, Masters of Sales.

The article talks about her early childhood dream to be a musical performer on The New Mickey Mouse Club, how that transitioned into a desperate longing to become a cruise ship entertainer, and how she went from a kid growing up in rural Indiana to a successful cruise ship entertainer performing in exotic locations like the southern Caribbean.

Although Julien’s story is certainly an interesting one, the reason I bring up her article is not to detail her journey from Mickey Mouse to Cruise Ships, but to focus on the main points in her article, which explain how she achieved success.

Julien says that even today, she’s never forgotten a quote she read as a young girl from Lee Iacocca: “You’ve got to say, ‘I think that if I keep working at this and want it badly enough, I can have it.’ It’s called perseverance.”

This idea became the mantra that guided Julien to success. She says, “I had to have the perseverance to finish what it took to achieve my goal, and I had to realize that perseverance virtually never comes into play without the first two words in the quote: ‘I think . . .”

As a result of making Iacocca’s quote her mantra, at an early age Julien learned:

1. To convert her dream to a specific goal

2. How to research her target market

3. To create an impassioned sales presentation, and

4. To sell with passion.

Julien’s all-encompassing goal was to sing on a cruise ship, so she researched her client (cruise ship companies), rehearsed her presentation (created a demo cassette, packaged with the most professional photo she could afford, and included an introductory letter detailing her experience, education and the absolute passion she had for achieving her goal), used her enthusiasm as her best selling tool (all her money and every ounce of emotional desire went into 12 demo packages destined for various cruise lines in Miami), and persisted in chasing her goal. It’s no surprise that she achieved that goal, and now she continues to achieve.

So, what’s your goal this week? This month? This year? If you really want to achieve your goals, remember the Iacocca quote, take a lesson from Julien, and learn to persevere.

Is Your Follow-up Strategy Helping or Hurting You?

I had a conversation with an associate recently who was surprised that she’d gotten flack from a referral source for taking five days to follow up with a prospect that the referral source had referred to her. My associate explained to me that she doesn’t like to follow up with prospects for four or five days because she doesn’t want the prospect to feel like she’s too eager. I told my associate that I strongly disagree with her follow-up strategy and my reasons why are outlined in the following paragraphs . . .

When building relationships, it’s always important not to let much time lapse without following up the first contact. Within seventy-two hours, send your prospect a note expressing your pleasure in communicating with her. It’s still too early, though, to send business literature or make any move toward sales promotion.

Follow up early, but don’t push beyond the prospect’s comfort level. Once the prospect has expressed an interest in your products or services, provide information about them, but don’t force it on her. Continue presenting your products or services, but avoid the hard sell. Focus on fulfilling her needs and interests. Your goal should be to keep your prospect aware of your business without annoying her.

Remember, to secure the long-term loyalty of your prospect and convert her into a customer, you must first build a relationship, and that relationship must develop through the visibility, credibility and profitability stages. It may take a while, but if you’ve selected and briefed your sources well, you’ll speed up the process.

Always, always, always remember to follow up with people, in any situation, at the very least within seventy-two hours. There’s a reason people commonly say that the fortune is in the follow up . . . when you follow up quickly with people, your reputation will benefit, your business will benefit, and eventually your pocketbook will benefit as well.

Networking vs. "Notable Networking"

Networks are coalitions of business professionals who, through a mutual support system, help each other do more business. Notable networking, when done right, is anything but superficial. On the contrary, it benefits all parties, not just one. If you want to build a word-of-mouth-based business, it must be based on the concept that givers gain; that is, if you want to get business, you have to give business to other business professionals. I believe the evidence to support this philosophy is overwhelming. People who are willing to give business will get business.

With Notable Networking, many of the people with whom you network may be friends or become friends. The key to building a word-of-mouth-based business is mutual support, relationship building, and the development of lasting professional friendships. Members of a network are there to further their own business by helping each other. By meeting regularly, networks allow business people to get to know each other. It’s through this exposure that people learn more about each other’s businesses and feel comfortable about referring one another.

There is also a network that extends beyond the members of a networking organization. Each member of a network knows dozens of people who, in turn, know dozens of others, and so on. As such, a group of thirty to forty may know thousands of other people throughout the business community. Thus, networks often have a greater impact than their size may initially indicate. This is especially true in tight-knit groups that meet regularly and track the quantity and quality of referrals given.

No matter what networking situation you may find yourself in, always strive to be a notable networker by remembering that the key to building a word-of-mouth-based business is mutual support, relationship building, and the development of lasting professional friendships. Do this and you can’t go wrong.

3 Common Delusions About Referral Sources

If you want to create meaningful relationships and maximize your networking efforts, read below for three pitfalls that you must avoid in order to be an effective networker.

Delusion No. 1: You should always get a referral when you’re in front of the referral source.
If your strategy requires you to be present in order to get a referral, you’re putting severe limits on your potential business. Referrals happen when you’re in front of the referral source only if your system is dependent on your asking for the referral and getting it at the same time.

In a strong, fully functional referral system, most of the referral process is going to happen when you are not present. You don’t want the system to shut down when you’re not there; you want your referral partners to be out looking for opportunities to refer you at all times. You want them to be in the habit of recognizing good opportunities for you and persuading prospects to contact you. If they don’t think of you when you’re out of their sight, you haven’t done a good job of training your clients or selling yourself to your referral partners–which probably means you haven’t been doing them much good, either.

You should make it your job to equip your referral partners with information about you that can be easily communicated to prospects. You should be making sure they’re motivated to refer you when you’re not around. And you should have a tracking system that can tell you what happened when you weren’t there in person.

Delusion No. 2: To maximize your chances of getting good referrals, it’s best to move from one networking group to another at regular intervals.
This is called “scorched-earth” networking, and it’s about as friendly as it sounds. The scorched-earth networker burns and pillages for new business. He’s a hunter at business meetings, more interested in bagging the big sale than in building relationships and helping others.  He does everything we say not to do if you want to build your business through referrals. He represents the absolute worst in networking.

The scorched-earth networker is constantly dissatisfied with the quantity and quality of the referrals he’s getting, so he moves on. He flits from one networking group to another, doesn’t establish any roots or relationships, networks relentlessly with everyone he meets (often inappropriately), believes that being highly visible is the key to referral success, and expects referrals from others even though he has done nothing that would make anyone else want to help him.

Serious networkers understand that, in order to build mature, healthy and mutually profitable relationships, they must devote a lot of time and effort to growing those relationships.  Have you heard the old saying, “Time equals money?” This is never truer than when it comes to membership in a referral-networking group. The longer you are committed to building the relationships, the greater the results you will experience.

Delusion No. 3: Your best source of referrals is your customers.
The reason people sometimes fall into this delusion is that they’ve been trained to believe it and have never pursued any other source of referrals. The only referrals they’ve ever received are from customers.

Don’t get me wrong: Customers and clients can be a good source of referrals; we know that. However, many businesses (especially big corporations) are out of touch with the fact that other referral sources are available that can be extraordinarily powerful. Clients, although often the most readily available sources, are not necessarily the best or steadiest sources of high-quality referrals. The best sources in the long run are likely to be the people you refer business to. When you help another businessperson build his or her business, you’re cultivating a long-term relationship with someone who’s motivated to return the favor by bringing business to you, who shares your target market and who will work systematically with you for mutual benefit.

Small but Mighty

So many times we take our business cards for granted, and we so easily forget to carry and use this compact, energy-efficient, low-cost, low-tech instrument–a self contained device with no gears, springs or batteries that keeps working hours, weeks, years and even decades after it has left our hands.

I’ve said this many times before. But since I haven’t blogged about it in a long time, I thought it’d be a good time to reiterate that the business card is the most powerful single business tool, dollar for dollar, that you can invest in.

Your business card serves a multitude of functions–none of which goes into action until the second you give it away!

BENEFITS OF THE BUSINESS CARD:

  • It tells people your name and the name of your business.
  • It provides your address, telephone number, fax number, e-mail address, website and other ways of contacting you.
  • It lets people know who you are, what you do, what your qualifications are for doing what you do, how the things you do can help them and, perhaps, even what you look like.
  • It demonstrates in text and graphics why a person should consider doing business with you rather than somebody else.
  • It can give others a taste of your work, your style, your personality–even your voice.
  • It can persuade the person you give it to that you are intelligent, creative and resourceful.
  • It can be so unusual, attractive, strange, charming or funny that it sticks in the memory like a great radio or television ad.
  • It can present the same messages to anybody who gains possession of it, long after it has left your hands for the last time.

WHAT’S MORE . . .

  • It never needs repair or maintenance.
  • It requires no license to own or operate.
  • It can be carried by the dozens in your shirt pocket or purse.
  • It fits easily and unobtrusively in your hand and starts working automatically the instant you hand it to someone.

Here’s the bottom line: this amazing little tool, this tiny advertisement that keeps working and working, is the most cost-efficient promotional device you can own. If you haven’t given much thought to your business card lately, or have been neglecting to hand it out at every opportunity, now’s the time to start paying attention to your business card and utilizing it to reap the great benefits.

Your Support Network

Whether you’re a master networker or you’re new to networking, we all face challenging situations at times, and sometimes we need to rely on the help and encouragement of others.

I’m a big believer in learning to rely on the people who respect, admire and love you. Theirs are the purest motives for helping you. They are genuinely interested in you, mostly accept you as you are and will usually do whatever they can to help you achieve any goal. They may not have all the knowledge or information you need or the ability to bring you new clients, but if you direct their willing efforts, they can give you emotional, spiritual, physical or financial support.

The gift of time can be a valuable resource. Members of your network’s support component can help you at crucial times in your business. They can perform essential tasks, lend you money, encourage you, work for you, help you deal with an emergency, serve as a sounding board for your ideas, even fill in for you for a couple of hours. To make the most of this resource, learn about the talents, knowledge, and contacts these friends and supporters have to offer.

CATEGORIZE YOUR SUPPORT NETWORK MEMBERS

1. YOUR MENTORS
People who are or have been your mentors genuinely believe in you, care about you and your success, and can be counted on for honest feedback and encouragement.

2. PEOPLE YOU HAVE TAUGHT OR MENTORED
These people are usually excited to hear from you and will remind you of how much they appreciate your support. They also open doors to business opportunities by constantly spreading positive word of mouth about you.

3. PEOPLE YOU HAVE HELPED
People remember people who have done something for them. Can you identify people to whom you have donated money, time or other gifts? Most will go out of their way to support you.

4. YOUR CO-WORKERS, COLLEAGUES, ASSOCIATES AND CLASSMATES
Friends you have made in the course of your schooling and career are often friends for life. You know, like and respect each other. Of course, you may be reluctant to call upon a friend for help because you don’t want to admit you need it. But don’t let your ego get in the way; use these sources. A true friend will be eager to help and will not think any less of you, nor make you feel diminished for asking.

5. YOUR FAMILY AND CLOSE FRIENDS
You may take your family and personal friends for granted, but they are perhaps your most reliable source of support. Don’t ignore them. Keep in mind, however, that some may be more reliable than others.

6. OTHER MEMBERS OF NONBUSINESS GROUPS
People you have worked with outside of business–members of neighborhood watch groups, apartment associations, community youth programs–may be willing to support you in activities outside the group’s normal scope. Join, participate, donate generously of your time, and let others help you in your endeavors.

7. YOUR FORMER MANAGERS, SUPERVISORS AND INSTRUCTORS
These people are often familiar with your work habits, ethics, values, character abilities and interests. They know what it takes to get you to perform at your highest level. Often, like surrogate parents, they feel responsible for your success. Should you take advantage of this parental instinct? Of course!

8. YOUR CHURCH LEADERS, MEMBERS AND GROUPS
If you belong to a religious organization, you are bonded to others through a shared faith. It would be a mistake not to seek the backing of your church leaders and other members. If on occasion you need them, don’t hesitate to use the church’s support services and groups.

Just Ask. Right? . . . No

The following article was written by my friend and partner in the Referral Institute, Mike Macedonio. I wanted to share it with you here because it mentions some very important points regarding asking for referrals. After you read the article, I’d really like to hear what you have to say in response, so please feel free to post a comment.

Just Ask. Right? . . . No.
By Mike Macedonio

I was recently attending a BNI National Conference and there was a lot of effective networking going on. With the culture of “Givers Gain” there were participants offering to help one another and make connections. On several occasions I was also watching some businesspeople walk up to people who barely knew them and ask to be referred to their valued relationships. I felt a sense of awkwardness in the conversation.

I think what I was actually feeling was deja vu. I’ve been on the receiving end of the “referral ambush” before, when someone I may hardly be in the “Visibility” phase with is asking me to expose my reputation by referring them to one of my valued relationships. In some cases, I was even asked to promote them or their company to my entire database.

During the BNI Conference, there was one participant who approached the main speaker and introduced themself. Shortly into the conversation, they let the speaker know that they understood the speaker knew an internationally known personality and that they would like an introduction to that person in order to pitch their business to him. WOW . . . that was a big ask. So why did it feel inappropriate? Part of the reason is the stage of the referral process, or the VCP Process, that the attendee and speaker were engaged in.

VCP is the acronym Ivan Misner uses for Visibility, Credibility, and Profitability. In the Visibility stage, two people simply know of each other. If both people can state the other’s name and business, that would be considered a qualified Visibility relationship. Credibility is when the relationship between two people has developed and both parties hold a mutual trust for one another. Profitability is the ultimate referral relationship goal. In this stage, both parties are reciprocally referring each other business.

In the situation I observed at the national conference where the conference attendee asked for the referral to the internationally known personality, the attendee was merely in the pre-visibility stage with the speaker. It’s true that the attendee might have mistakenly felt that they were in the credibility phase with the speaker, maybe felt that they knew him, since they had been watching him connect with the audience repeatedly over the course of the three-day event. However, it’s important to always remember that credibility is something that is established over a substantial period of time–not just a few hours, days or weeks. It takes months and, in many cases, years to develop real credibility with someone.

In closing, let me clarify that yes, I do believe that in order to get referrals we need to ask. The key, however, is to know how to ask and when it is appropriate to make the request. When is the right time, you ask? The right time to ask for a referral is when BOTH parties are in the Credibility phase of the referral relationship. Networking should not be a system that ends up alienating your friends and family. Be conscious of the deposits you make into your relationships before you start “writing checks” or, in essence, ASKING for referrals from those you have relationships with.

Anchor Your Networking Group with Strong Relationships

Today’s blog is a unique one because normally you only hear from me; but this entry, which talks about building relationships, was fittingly co-written with my wife Beth, the person in my life with whom I have the strongest relationship.

This summer, our family took a multi-day, small ship tour of the Great Barrier Reef. The first night we noticed that the anchor being used to secure our small ship in the middle of the Coral Sea was quite small compared with the size of the ship.

The second night we were anchored off Hope Island, some very strong winds began to kick up. Our captain started the engines and backed the ship up, letting out more length of chain to the anchor. Curious (and admittedly a bit concerned), we asked him how it was possible for such a small anchor to hold the ship in place with the winds blowing against it so agressively.

“It’s the chain that’s holding the ship, not the anchor,” he informed us. Apparently, after the anchor is lowered, the captain looks to the first mate, who signals from the prow which direction the chain is lying on the bottom of the sea. The captain can then maneuver into the right position and let out the necessary amount of chain to hold the ship according to the particular conditions at that time.

This particular night, with the winds growing stronger, the captain realized that he needed to let out more chain.

It struck us that this dynamic is relevant to networking groups. You see, a networking group’s anchor is its system, its process of doing business. However, it’s not actually the anchor (the system/process) that dictates the strength of a networking group.

Take a look at your networking group and think about the links, or relationships, you have formed with the individual members. How many “links” does your chain have? Do you have strong relationships with all the other members in the group, or are you closely linked with some but disconnected and detached from others for whatever reason?

So how do we go about adding more links (aka building more relationships) so we can let out more chain during times when the economic winds have strengthened against our businesses? We need to get serious about developing stronger relationships with every member of our networking group, even the ones we might not think have the contacts we want, or perhaps are in a business that isn’t exactly symbiotic with ours.

We naturally form relationships with those businesses that are closely related to ours, but what do we do about those members whose businesses are totally out of sync with ours, our members who seem to be unable to provide qualified referrals to us? Try scheduling one-to-one meetings with those members. Spending the time to have one-to-one meetings with each and every member of your group helps you develop a longer and stronger chain of relationships. Each person in your group is one of the links that lengthens that chain.

The wisdom of laying down a longer chain to strengthen the ability of the anchor to hold strong is critical for the success of yournetworking group.

So starting this week, try making it your main focus to develop your relationship chain within your networking group. We guarantee it will be what anchors your business and your networking group for longevity, despite economic flucuations.

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