International Networking Week® 2011–New Video

The new video for International Networking Week® 2011, is now available on YouTube!

The short, eight-minute video, sponsored by NetworkingNow.com and the Referral Institute, discusses the history and significance of this exciting, celebratory week which will be recognized across the globe this coming February 7-11, 2011 (Mark your calendar now! :)), and it also explains a concept many networkers fail to recognize but which all networkers need to be aware of–the ‘networking disconnect’.

This is the fifth year for International Networking Week® and it is now recognized by many countries around the world, with thousands of events being held during the Week.  One of the main goals of the Week is to help businesspeople everywhere build their networking skills; don’t wait until the last minute to join in the celebration and start the year off as a better networker–watch the video now, find an event in your area, and come back and let me know what you’ll be doing to recognize International Networking Week®.

For additional information go to www.InternationalNetworkingWeek.com.

What Richard Branson Can Teach You about Networking

I recently had a phone conversation with someone who was asking me about the importance of eye contact when networking.  I answered his question with an interesting story about Richard Branson and I’d like to share that story with you here because I think it demonstrates a point that’s definitely worth remembering.

One of the many intriguing things about Richard Branson is that he has this laser-focus eye contact.  When he is talking to you, he’s not looking to his left, looking to his right, or anywhere else other than directly at you–he gives you his full attention.

I remember talking with Richard, one time in particular, about kids and raising kids.  I was telling him about my son, Trey, who was fifteen at the time and very sharp but not as committed to school as he could be.

Six months later, I saw Richard at a party and introduced him to my son.  Branson remembered who Trey was from our previous conversation, and I have this photograph of him, where he has this laser eye contact with my son (see picture at right), and he kept that laser eye contact with Trey for three or four minutes straight while he was talking to him. All these people were around, vying for Branson’s attention, but he was completely focused on my son during their conversation. Branson wasn’t intense in terms of his speaking—he was actually very relaxed—but he was impressively intense in his focus. The only person in that room, during that three or four-minute time span, was my son. Here’s a guy who never went to college, and he was telling my son. “Go to college. I spoke to your dad! You can do better. I have faith in you!”

Now, keep in mind, Trey doesn’t get impressed by anybody (or at least, like a typical teenager, he certainly doesn’t make a habit of showing that he’s impressed–if you have teenagers, I’m sure you’re more than used to being responded to with a shrug, a bored expression, and the words “it was okay,” or “yeah, (so and so) was cool, I guess . . .”   ;-)) .  Actually, I don’t think my son even understood who Branson was at the time of their conversation but I asked him afterward, “What did you think of that conversation?”  His very uncharacteristic response was, “That was amazing!”  I’m more than confident that what really did it for Trey, what really impressed him, was how, for those few minutes, he had Branson’s undivided attention.

I’ve had a chance to see Branson several times now, and he’s just a master at giving people his undivided attention. After his conversation with Trey, when he moved to the next person, the next conversation, he gave that person his undivided attention.

The thing is, giving people your undivided attention is one of the most important things you can do in order to become a master networker, and making a concentrated effort to maintain eye contact when engaging a conversation is imperative in order to demonstrate to somebody that they are receiving your undivided attention.

So, the next time you’re networking with someone and distractions surrounding you are tempting your eyes to stray from the person you’re speaking with, think of Richard Branson and remember to keep a laser focus on the person and conversation at hand–it’s one of the things that will make you a true master.

Do you have an interesting experience about networking and eye contact?  If so, share it here.

Being Right But Doing It All Wrong!

The business I’m in involves a lot of coaching and guiding of franchisees to teach them how to coach and guide entrepreneurs, salespeople, and professionals to generate referrals for themselves and others.  Sometimes this feels a little like ‘herding cats’; entrepreneurs hate being told what to do and it takes a real skill set to move them in a direction that involves a lot of hard work but will help them achieve the results they want.

One of the biggest challenges I have in this process is not with the actual entrepreneur or salesperson but with the individual I’m coaching to be able to guide the entrepreneur or salesperson. These people have gone through many hours of training, tend to have a fair amount of field experience, and have support manuals that exceed a thousand pages of documentation to assist in the process.   They are true expertsI’ve discovered, however, that sometimes expertise can actually be a problem. Just because your expertise may arm you with the knowledge to recognize the solution to a problem or challenge, it doesn’t mean other people are going to automatically ‘believe’ you know the solution and/or want you to actually tell them the solution.  I know that sounds counter intuitive; however, if you’ve ever raised a child, you know that this is often times absolutely true!

So, let’s say you’re an expert.  You know you’re an expert.  You know that you can help someone else.  You also know that this “someone else” is a grownup who runs their own business or is an independent sales rep who chose their particular career for good reason . . . they like the freedom of being independent.  How do you move these people in the right direction?

I had a person who worked for my company who once went into one of my locations and was appalled by how badly things were being run by the members of the group.  She let them know in no uncertain terms what they were doing wrong and how they needed to turn it around. Her assessment of the situation and the solutions she proposed were spot on but her presentation of them was all wrong. She was so blunt with the group’s members that she received a very negative reaction from them and ended up leaving the place an even bigger mess than it was when she first walked in.  When I met with her to talk about how she might have done things differently, she grew furious with me for not supporting her since she was right and the members of the group were wrong.  I wasn’t arguing that she was right–she was.  The problem I had was how she handled the situation–in that area, she was completely wrong. I tried to explain this to her by sharing one of my favorite sayings relating to the dilemma:  “Don’t burn down the barn to roast the pig.” In other words, don’t make things worse than you found them when you were trying to fix them in the first place.

She could never really wrap her head around the concept that people may not welcome her advice with enthusiasm and agree with her stance on an issue when she was clearly right.  She didn’t work for me for much longer (make of that what you will) and, eventually, we got an expert to work with that group who ‘listened’ to their issues,  Built relationships with the group members, and then coached them into achieving the greatness they had within them.  It’s important to note that this process took time and patience.

There are two things I try to teach people in this situation.

First, people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” If you want people to listen to you when you are coaching them or re-directing them, they have to know that you care about them and want them to succeed.  If they don’t know this down to their core – they will not listen to your advice.  Ever.

Second, is a saying given to me by mother on a paper weight when I was about 16 years old and I was running an uphill battle for a student council race.  My mother gave me this paper weight (which is still on my desk in my home to this date).  The paper weight says: Diplomacy is the art of letting someone else have your way.” When she gave me that, she explained that I had to learn how to work “with” people – not “through” people.  She said that even if I did know the answer to a problem – it did no good if no one else believed me.  That advice helped me win the election and it has helped me many times throughout my life.  I have to admit that I don’t always use it as well as I can – however, when I do use it, things almost always go more smoothly.

The bottom line is this: being right doesn’t help much if no one is willing to follow you.

What are your thoughts on this issue?  Maybe you can share a story . . . but, remember to keep it positive.  Let’s focus on positive outcomes more than just horror stories.

"New Year’s Resolutions and Networking"

A friend of mine, TR Garland (pictured with me in the photo at right), just wrote a great blog entry which contains some very timely information for many people across the globe and I’d like to take the opportunity to share it with you today as a guest blog.  Enjoy . . .

“New Year’s Resolutions and Networking” by TR Garland

In about 30 days, the majority of people around the world are going to be faced with the same thing we’re all faced with once at a certain point every single year.

No, I’m not talking about keeping a smile on your face while spending the holidays with your in-laws (wink-wink).  I’m talking about setting New Year’s Resolutions.

Every year, one of the top resolutions is to “get in shape.”  The truth of the matter is that most of us already know how to get in shape:

1.  Design a nutritional plan and stick to it

2.  Design a workout schedule and stick to it

3.  Track your actions and results daily and recalibrate if needed

The problem is, a large percentage of people don’t reach their goals because:

1.  They don’t write out a formal nutrition plan or workout schedule

2.  They don’t hold themselves accountable

In other words, life gets in their way.

So what can be done about this?  Well, there’s something about human psychology that pushes us to not let someone else down. Because of this, people who invest in a personal trainer to help keep them accountable tend to achieve desired results much more consistently than they ever would by attempting to get in shape on their own.

It’s important to note that this same concept holds true for business networking and referral marketing.

Many people are spending a lot of time networking by just chatting away with others and maybe grabbing others’ business cards.  By doing this, they then expect results; they expect that the people whom they’ve met and exchanged business cards with will eventually pass a referral to them.  This mindset is called being reactive ( . . . and hoping for the best!).  Being reactive is an employee  mindset or mentality that, in my opinion, gets placed into the same category as punch cards, guaranteed smoke breaks, assembly lines, benefits entitlement, and cubicles.  In other words, this mindset is something that isn’t really that viable anymore in today’s economic environment.

If you don’t believe me, look around and note which businesses are thriving and hiring.  I’m confident you’ll discover that the businesses which are doing well are those that do not have a reactive mindset and, instead, maintain an entrepreneurial mindset.

An entrepreneurial mindset is one that takes ownership and focuses on being proactive versus reactive.  Just like the “getting in shape” example above, being proactive and accountable in your business networking and referral marketing efforts is a sure-fire way to get results–plain and simple.

So, especially if you’ll be out attending holiday parties in the coming 30 days with your spouse, significant other, family, or friends, remember to be proactive with your networking efforts.  Go to each event with a purpose (in addition to your goal of having fun).  Don’t simply gather business cards, that’s not what I’m talking about.  Instead, set relevant and realistic networking goals and ask the person you went with to hold you accountable to your goals.

And, of course, there’s a time and a place for everything.  You need to respect the event you’re attending and if the environment doesn’t warrant you achieving certain networking goals . . . grab a celebratory beverage and some festive treats and remember, there’s always next year!

* TR Garland is a Referral Marketing Strategist for the Referral Institute® in Orange County, California where he is a consultant to top performers and entrepreneurs on maximizing their ROI/ROT from business contacts and networking.  Starting in 2011, you can follow TR for his tips, tactics, and techniques on effective networking at his newly launched blog located at www.BeABetterNetworker.com.

 

A Networking Trick for the 21st Century

Years ago I wrote about a great technique to get people to come to me for their referral needs.  However, I recently saw a modern twist to this great idea that I’d like to share with you today.

Here’s a little background information on the original concept:

Since the late ’80s I’ve been training people to use a little networking trick that will enable them to give referrals to more people (which of course leads to getting more referrals for themselves).  I talk about this trick in one of my early columns for Entrepreneur.com as well as a blog I wrote last year entitled: Use This Networking Trick to Increase Business.

In a nutshell, the technique is to compose a letter that you give to your clients and contacts which states that an important part of your business is to give referrals to people looking for services that you recommend (you can find a more detailed explanation, along with a sample letter, by clicking on the link given above).

Here’s the interesting, modern twist:

Terry Burkot has created a 21st century version of this same networking technique by adding video to the equation.  She still sends a personal message to all the people in her network; however, she doesn’t write a letter, she instead sends a video message which really utilizes the tools we have available to us in this world full of constantly-evolving technology.

Terry used my idea (which was so last century :)) and really improved on it.  Well done, Terry!

I’d love to hear your comments on what you think of this modern twist to networking.

How’s Business?

I’m taking a survey on how business is today compared to a year ago.Blog2010

If you have a few minutes, please answer these three short questions.  I’ll publish the results next month here on my blog.

Take the Survey Here

Use this link to pass on to other people so they may take the survey:

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/BNIBusinessIndexDecember2010

The Five Key Competitive Strategies

A few weeks back, I encouraged you to assess your company’s competitive position and find out whether you’re positioned for success or if your competitive position is in dire need of improvement.  If your position happens to need some help, read on . . .5KeyCompetitiveStrategies

Your competitive strategy consists of the approaches and initiatives you take to attract customers, withstand competitive pressures, and strengthen your market position.  According to Arthur Thompson and A.J. Strickland in Strategic Management: Concepts and Cases, there are five competitive strategies you should consider:

  • A low-cost leader strategy: striving to be the overall low-cost provider of a product or service that appeals to a broad range of customers (a couple of examples are Sam’s Club and Southwest Airlines).
  • A broad differentiation strategy: seeking to differentiate the company’s product offerings from rivals’ in ways that will appeal to a broad range of buyers [a couple examples are Nordstrom (known for customer service policies and personnel) and Whole Foods (emphasis on health foods and organic groceries)].
  • A best-cost provider strategy: giving customers more value for the money by emphasizing both low cost and upscale difference, the goal being to keep costs and prices lower than those of other providers of comparable quality and features (a couple of examples are the Honda and Toyota car companies with customer satisfaction ratings that rival those of much more expensive cars).
  • A focused, or market-niche, strategy based on lower cost: concentrating on a narrow buyer segment and outcompeting rivals on the basis of lower cost (The Gap is a good example).
  • A focused, or market-niche, strategy based on differentiation: offering niche members a product or service customized to their tastes and requirements [examples are Rolls-Royce (sells limited number of high-end, custom-built cars) and men’s big and tall shops (sell mainstream styles to a limited market with specific requirements)].

So, which one of these strategies is best for your business?

Lessons Learned Wearing a Nametag for 10 Years

Scott Ginsberg is celebrating his tenth anniversary. He’s been wearing a nametag for 10 years in a row. He has never taken it off. That’s right, 10 years = three thousand, six hundred and fifty days = 87,600 hours = 5 million two hundred fifty six thousand minutes = 31 million 531 thousand seconds and counting. He’s the world record holder. He has even tattooed his nametag on his chest and is the only person in the world who has made a career out of wearing a nametag.

Scott developed the nametag profession as a way to teach people how to overcome their shyness and the awkwardness of making that first introduction. In the process, he has become the authority on how to be approachable and turn being approachable into being profitable.

And now he’s taking a crack at trying to jumpstart the whole of humanity to evolve to a whole new realm of human ability.

 “-able is the title of his newest book. In it you will find 35 strategies for increasing the probability of success in business and in life including:

  •  How to be more findable than a smile at a nudist colony
  •  How to be more referable than an attorney hopped up on sodium pentothal
  •  How to be more salable than a case of Coors Light at a Colorado Rockies tailgate party.
  •  And more advance-able, more book-able, more brand-able, more buzz-able, more callback-able, sought-after-able and unstop-able in everything you are trying to achieve in life, and much more.

Scott Ginsberg theory is this: The only thing in life that you have control over is yourself, and that you can’t make anything happen — but you can greatly increase the probability of that thing happening … by making yourself more –able.

In –able, Scott Ginsberg offers up a collection of life-learned practices for advancing things along with wit and humor and wisdom that will have your head spinning in no time flat.

Here are some examples directly from Scott’s book:

1. Ideas are free; execution is priceless. Anybody can wear a nametag. But not anyone can leverage a simple idea into a six-figure enterprise. Lesson learned: Your biggest advantage is when nobody can keep up with you. You have to be dangerously prolific. And refuse to slow down long enough for anyone to catch up. That’s how you out-execute the competition. And here’s how: First, executional velocity. Take action quickly. Second, executional volume: Take action prodigiously. Third, executional value: Take action exquisitely. Finally, executional vitality: Take action consistently. Are you an idea person or an execution person?

2. Never be stopped by not knowing how. Accept that the planets will never be aligned. Don’t wait until everything’s perfect. Don’t wait until you’re experienced enough. Don’t wait until you know what you’re doing. Don’t wait for overwhelming evidence to trust yourself. Heighten your impatience; enter into the heart of action and jump off the high board hoping there’s water below. Otherwise procrastination -– the redneck second cousin of patience –- will rob you of the motivation you need to carry in the cavalry charge. Finished is the new perfect. How will you leverage impatience as fuel for your motivation?

3. Ambition without focus is bankruptcy. How you spend your day -– literally, hour by hour -– will determine how much money you make, how happy you are, how healthy you are and how successful you become.  You almost have to force yourself to create a typical day. Otherwise you get cabin fever and your time not only manages you, it drives you insane. I’m not suggesting you choreograph every waking hour of your life. The challenge is designing a typical day for you, which enforces (some) structure and predictability, while still leaving room for spontaneity and playfulness. As long as you constantly ask yourself if what you’re doing -– in this moment -– is consistent with your No. 1 goal. Have you pictured your ideal day yet?

4. Anonymity is biggest barrier to success. I wear a nametag 24-7. I literally have zero anonymity whatsoever. I’m not suggesting you do the same. In fact, I strongly suggest you do not wear a nametag 24-7. About a fourth of the time, it’s a flat-out pain in the ass. But consider the adverse relationship between anonymity and profitability. A good start would be to throw away your marketing plan and begin writing a visibility plan. Because it’s not who you know –- it’s who knows you –- and, whose life is significantly better because they know you. How are you making people aware of you?

If you read Scott’s new book, let me know what you think.

Personality in a Deck of Cards

Everyone wants to learn about their personality style.  This is especially true with people who understand the value of networking.  But most people don’t like taking boring written quizzes and assessment.PPoker-book70

Enter “Personality Poker” – what I think is a fun and interactive way to learn about your personality.

Personality Poker is played with a specially designed deck of cards. They look like regular poker cards except they also have words printed across the faces. The words are personality descriptors like organized, analytical, empathetic and creative.

For those who know poker, Personality Poker is played like 5 card draw. Participants receive 5 random cards and swap/trade cards until they get a hand with words that best describe their personality. Based on the suits, the colors, and numbers that they end up with, the player will learn everything about their personality.

The suits represent the four main styles:

Spades. These are the analytical, data-oriented people.

Diamonds. These are the stereotypical “creative” individuals. They like ideas and experiences.

Clubs. These are the people who “plan the work and work the plan.” They’re more about structure and action. Bottom-line results are critical.

Hearts. These people are all about relationships. They make decisions based on what others think and are more empathetic and supportive.

The numbers represent the “energy styles” and provide deeper insights into the personalities.

The 2, 3 and 4 cards represent the unproductive behaviors associated with each style. For example, being “organized” is great, but being “anal retentive” may be less desirable.

The 5 – 9 cards represent the “introverted” styles. Although these individuals may prefer more solitary work, taken more broadly, introversion also includes a tendency to be more easily overwhelmed by stimuli that are deemed too intense. They prefer predictability and a low likelihood of risk.

The 10 – A cards represent the “extroverted” styles. They thrive on higher energy activities. Although they may not be as good at focusing on single tasks, they get energy from action rather than reflection and are known for their ability to motivate others to get things done.

The last dimension of Personality Poker is reflected by the colors that symbolize the two primary “thinking styles.”

Rational/Analytical. The black cards (spades/clubs) are more rational and are the ones who put the “no” in innovation. Knowledge and expertise are a cornerstone of their thinking style.

Relational/Creative. The red cards (diamonds/hearts) are more relational and are the ones who put the “fun” in dysfunctional. While employees enjoy their leadership style, the business could end up in the “red” if someone with red cards is in charge as they are not as organized or focused on the bottom line.

What is particularly fun is to “gift” cards to others. That is, find cards that describe people you work with and give them those cards. It is an interesting insight to see if you see yourself differently than others see you.

Although Personality Poker was primarily developed as a tool for driving innovation in corporations, people enjoy finding out about themselves in a fun and interactive way. You may never look at yourself–or your co-workers–the same way!

Click here to find out more about the book.

For those of you who read the book and play the game, please come back and leave a comment letting me know what you think about it!

Taking Charge

The best word-of-mouth programs I’ve seen happen by design, not by accident or wishful thinking. Unfortunately, many businesspeople view word of mouth somewhat like the weather: “Sure it’s important, but what can I do about it?”

Based on more than two decades of research, observation, and practical experience, I’ve found that in addition to focusing on the important issue of customer service, the average businessperson has much to do in order to build a referral business.  Word of mouth can be planned and nurtured.  Anyone, including business owners, entrepreneurs, sales representatives, staff employees, even individuals serving in a volunteer capacity in any field, can accomplish plenty with a well-structured and systematically executed word-of-mouth plan.

All too often I have seen businesspeople waiting for business to walk through the door. They think because they are good at what they do, people should be flocking to them.  I’m afraid the truth is, it doesn’t work that way!  You have to take charge, no matter what business you’re in or how good you are, and bring the business to you.

I once saw a cartoon strip of two large, ravenous-looking vultures perched on a tree limb, overlooking a dry desert plain.  After quite a while, one vulture turns to the other and says, “Wait for something to die?  Heck, let’s kill something!”  So it is with word-of-mouth marketing.  You can’t simply wait for people to come to you.  If you do, one of your competitors who also provides good customer service will most likely find them before they show up at your doorstep.

If you want to succeed, you have to go get your business, or better yet, have someone else get it for you through referrals.

The Importance of Knowing Your Products and Services

When your referral marketing plan is working well, prospective customers buy from you the first time because they have been referred by your sources. They may continue to buy from you because they trust you and develop a good relationship with you.  But whatever the reasons they come and whatever the reasons they stay, they are your customers primarily because they need your products and services.

A clear idea of your range of products and services is something your sources need to communicate to prospects. For each product or service you plan to market during your referral marketing campaign, you must be able to articulate for your sources the answers to the following questions:

  • What is the purpose of your product or service?–What needs does it satisfy?
  • How would you describe it?–What are its shape, size, functions, key features, principal activities, benefits?
  • How is your product or service delivered to the customer?
  • How much does it cost and under what conditions?

There are other questions concerning your products or services that you should answer for your own strategic purposes. Is your product becoming obsolete?  Is there a newer or better way to provide the same service?  What are the social and environmental effects of your product or service?  Will economic or regulatory trends force you to change your products or services or the conditions under which you provide them?  In the long term, will you be satisfied to continue to offer these products or services?

Knowing the answers to the questions above will help you clearly communicate your products and/or services to your referral sources.  This is extremely important because only when you’re able to do this will your referral sources be able to effectively refer business to you.

Global Entrepreneurship Week

More than 1,300 U.S. organizations in all 50 states -– including top universities, nonprofit organizations, successful entrepreneurs, government agencies and corporate sponsors -– are collaborating to celebrate Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) 2010, Nov. 15 to 21. Globally, there are expected to be more than 20,000 partners.

The week will bring together aspiring and inspiring entrepreneurs in more than 100 countries around the world, helping them embrace originality, imagination and ingenuity through local, national and global activities. Co-founded by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the world’s largest foundation dedicated to entrepreneurship, and Enterprise UK, a business-led, government-backed campaign in the United Kingdom, Global Entrepreneurship Week helps current and would-be entrepreneurs gain knowledge, skills and networks to inspire and enable them to grow sustainable enterprises.

“Global Entrepreneurship Week has become a worldwide celebration of entrepreneurship, with an expected 10 million people participating this year, thanks to these partners,” said Carl Schramm, president and chief executive officer of the Kauffman Foundation. “The organizations participating in GEW are responsible for transforming lives by sparking entrepreneurship among people of all ages and from all walks of life.”

Global Entrepreneurship Week events are diverse and creative, including virtual and face-to-face activities, large-scale competitions and intimate networking gatherings. A list of activities can be found on the interactive activities calendar on this website –- www.gewusa.org/event-central — where visitors can search by keyword or location.

Every U.S. state is participating in Global Entrepreneurship Week in some way. The most active states are: California (106 partners); Michigan (100 partners); Pennsylvania (63 partners); Massachusetts (53 partners); New York (53 partners); Texas (52 partners); Florida (46 partners); Tennessee (46 partners); Missouri (44 partners); Ohio (43 partners).

Two prime examples of partner-driven events are:

Movers and Changers, a nationwide business plan competition run by mtvU and NYSE Euronext to uncover creative capitalists who will launch profitable and sustainable ventures that also provide something positive to a community, the country or the world. Finalists will give their business pitches to a panel of judges, with $25,000 in startup funds awarded to the top idea.

  • The 7th Annual Creativity World Forum, run by Oklahoma Creative Frontiers, brings together entrepreneurs, knowledge workers and policymakers from around the globe to listen to inspiring speakers, exchange ideas and experiences, and, of course, network. This year will feature an extraordinary lineup of more than 65 speakers and presenters, including some of the world’s most respected thinkers on creativity.

Organizations supporting Global Entrepreneurship Week/USA include DECA, JA Worldwide, The Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO), Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), National 4-H Council, National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization SM (CEO) and National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE).

For more information on plans for the week throughout the United States, visit www.gewusa.org. To view a complete list of participating countries and organizations, or to learn more about what is happening around the world during the week, visit www.unleashingideas.org. Click here to view a video on Global Entrepreneurship Week 2010.

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