Relationships Are Currency

How many times have you seen an entrepreneur (maybe even yourself) go to a networking event, meet a bunch of good people, then leave and never talk to them again? Too often, right? And it’s not because he doesn’t like them or that he never wants to see them again; it’s because he’s a busy, busy person with so much going on that he can’t even remember what he had for breakfast, let alone reconnect with individuals he just met.

It really is a shame, because such new contacts are where future business is born.

Don’t be misled; it’s not the number of contacts you make that’s important–it’s the ones you turn into lasting relationships. There’s quite a difference. Try making 10 cold calls and introducing yourself. OK, how well did that go?

Now call five people you already know and tell them you’re putting together a marketing plan for the coming year and you would appreciate any help they might be able to provide, in the form of either a referral or new business.

Better results behind Door No. 2, right? Of course. You already had a relationship with these folks and, depending on how deep it was, most of them would be glad to help you.

So, here’s the question: How can you deepen the relationships with people you already know to the point where they might be willing to help you out in the future?

Here are four quick steps to get you moving in the right direction:

  1. Give your clients a personal call. Find out how things went with the project you were involved in. Ask if there’s anything else you can do to help. Important: Do not ask for a referral at this point.
  2. Make personal calls to all the people who have helped you or referred business to you. Ask them how things are going. Try to learn more about their current activities so you can refer business to them.
  3. Put together a hit list of 50 people you’d like to stay in touch with this year. Include anyone who has given you business in the past 12 months (from steps 1 and 2) as well as any other prospects you’ve connected with recently. Send them cards on the next holiday (In the U.S., it would be Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, etc.).
  4. Two weeks after you’ve sent them cards, call them and see what’s going on. If they’re past clients or people you’ve talked to before, now is the perfect time to ask for a referral. If they’re prospects, perhaps you can set up an appointment to have coffee and find out if their plans might include using your services.

See how easy that was? After a few weeks, you’ll have more than enough social capital to tap into the rest of the year.

Social capital is the international currency of networking, especially business networking. If you take as much care in raising and investing your social capital as you do your financial capital, you’ll find that the benefits that flow from these intangible investments will not only be rewarding in themselves, but they will multiply your material returns many times over.

‘Relationships are Irrelevant!’ Really?

Last week I wrote a blog called “Premature Solicitation,” which was about a situation where someone whom I had never met and didn’t know asked me to introduce him and his product to a very important connection of mine.

I shared this blog in a couple of venues, including one of my favorite online social networks.  A great dialog ensued with most people sharing their horror stories and frustrations about people who pounce on them at networking meetings asking for business even though they’ve never met the person before.

Every time I start to think this is an almost universal feeling of distaste for that approach to networking, I am brought back to reality by the minority of people who still think that this is actually a good networking technique.

To my astonishment, someone on the forum actually wrote:

“I don’t happen to believe that you need a relationship with the person you are asking first. What you must have is a compelling story or product/service that would genuinely benefit the referral . . .

The fact that you had not cultivated a relationship with the person has become irrelevant because, more importantly, you had been in a position to help [your contact] benefit from the introduction.  If it’s of genuine benefit to the person being referred, I don’t see the problem . . .

It’s about the benefit of what’s being referred rather than the relationship with the person asking for the referral . . .

Who am I to deny my contacts of something good?”

Wow.  What can I say?  The “relationship” is irrelevant! All you have to have is a good story, product or service and I owe it to any stranger (who says he or she has a good product) to introduce him or her to a good contact of mine!  Really? People really think this way!? According to this writer, it doesn’t matter if I actually know or trust the person wanting the business.  As long as the person has a good product (or so he says), I should refer that person because I would “deny” my contacts “something good!”

Networkers against Premature Solicitation unite!  We need to teach people that this is NOT a good way to network.  After reading my blog, a good friend of mine, TR Garland, started a Facebook page called: Facebook Users Who are Tired of Premature Solicitation (Oh My)! Take a look at it and sign up!

Also–tell me here in this blog what you think about the quotes above.  Do YOU want to get hit up by people at networking events this way?  Please tell me I’m not alone!  Networking is about relationship building–not “pouncing” on people because you think you have something good to sell them!

Five Common Social Media Mistakes To Avoid

Below are the top five common mistakes that businesses make when it comes to social media networking–avoid all of these.

  1. Spending too much time on sites you enjoy and not fully evaluating whether that particular site is the most effective one for your efforts.
  2. Going onto a site for “work” and then running down rabbit holes getting distracted by friends who may have posted something interesting or something that requires a response.
  3. Not being able to properly define when it is more cost-effective to delegate certain social media responsibilities to someone else to handle.
  4. Setting up a blog, Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter page and then not keeping it populated–consistency and fresh content are key.
  5. Forgetting that social media is about engaging in the conversation and not just about selling.

What other mistakes have you seen? Share them here.

Premature Solicitation

Have you ever been solicited for a referral or for business by someone you didn’t even know?  Michelle Villalobos, a BNI member in Miami, calls this “Premature Solicitation.” [Say that fast three times and you might get in trouble!]

I agree completely with Michelle, and I’ve been a victim of “premature solicitation” many times.  I was recently speaking at a business networking event and, before my presentation, someone literally came up to me and said, “Hi, it is a real pleasure to meet you.  I understand you know Richard Branson.  I offer specialized marketing services and I am sure his Virgin enterprises could benefit from what I provide.  Could you please introduce me to him so that I can show him how this would assist his companies?”

OK, so what I was thinking was:

Are you completely insane?  I’m going to introduce you, someone I don’t know and don’t have any relationship with, to Sir Richard, whom I’ve only met a few times (here’s the story of the first meeting)so that you can proceed to attempt to sell him a product or service that I don’t know anything about and haven’t used myself?  Yeah, right.  That’s NEVER going to happen.

I am pleased to report, however, that with much effort, I was able to keep that little monologue inside my own head, opting instead for a much more subtle response. 😉

I replied… Hi, I’m Ivan, I’m sorry–I don’t think we’ve met before, what was your name again? That surprised the man enough to make him realize that his “solicitation” might have been a bit “premature.”  I explained that I regularly refer people to my contacts, but only after I’ve established a long-term strong relationship with the service provider first.  He said thanks and moved on to his next victim.

Networking is not about hunting.  It is about farming.  It’s about cultivating relationships.  Don’t engage in “premature solicitation.”   You’ll be a better networker if you remember that.

Ask Ivan Misner–Free Teleseminar Feb. 16

In late January I posted a blog calling for question submissions for AskIvanMisner.com.  I got a fantastic number of responses, and I’d like to say a big thank you to all of you who wrote in and asked a question.

I’ve selected several great networking questions from those that were submitted on AskIvanMisner.com. I’ll be addressing them on the next Ask Ivan Misner free teleseminar at 10 a.m. (Pacific) next Tuesday, Feb. 16. 

Everyone is invited to participate in this upcoming free call, which is hosted by my friend Alex Mandossian and me!  All you have to do to access the call-in instructions  is log onto AskIvanMisner.com and either submit a networking question or just type in “no question,” and you will be given the call-in number and free teleseminar code.

If you’re not familiar with AskIvanMisner.com or with the accompanying regular teleseminars, CLICK HERE to find out more!

 

Become an Information Exchange

Networking involves constant interaction with people from all walks of life and, if you keep your ears open, you can learn a heck of a lot.

And, guess what?  Knowing a heck of a lot makes you smarter.  Guess what’s even better?  Being able to communicate what you know and using it to help people get what they need makes you a valuable contact and a master networker.  It makes you an information exchange.

Start by listening to everything. Train yourself to listen to conversations you might ordinarily tune out, and to evaluate every issue you hear with an eye to how it fits into the pool of talent, expertise and resources your network represents.

One way to enhance this skill is to write down a list of your networking contacts and their products, services and special capabilities. Read the list every day, keep it up to date and respond quickly when something you hear connects up with something else on the list.

Learn as much as you can about the special terminologies of your contacts’ businesses. When you’re referring someone with a problem to someone with a possible solution, it adds to your effectiveness and credibility to speak the language of both.  It also helps you recognize the connection.

Last but not least, always follow these tips when communicating information to those in your network:

  • Speak simply, clearly and  in plain language whenever possible.
  • Keep the message short and relevant.
  • End with your offer to help.

What’s Important When You Refer People?

I just finished a survey of more than 12,000 businesspeople from all around the world on the subject of networking. One of the questions we asked the respondents was Which of the following is most important to you when referring business to others?” The choices were:

  1. Knowing a person’s character.
  2. Knowing a person’s level of competency.
  3. Using the person’s product or service myself.
  4. Knowing a person’s success.

Not surprisingly, “knowing a person’s character” ranked No. 1 in the survey. Interestingly, “using the product or service myself” ranked third out of the four choices! This is important to understand when building your own personal network of people referring you because it shows that people are definitely looking at more than just the quality of your products and services when they think about referring you to other people.

Often, we think that the best source of referrals must be our clients, customers or patients.  Although they definitely are a good source, they are not our only source.  In fact, based on this survey, personally using and experiencing another person’s product or services before referring business to that person was not as important to the respondents as other factors.

What this means to you is–you need to build your credibility with people who know you (whether they’ve used your business or not).  If people trust your character and competency, they are likely to refer you regardless of whether they’ve actually used your products or services.

This is an important paradigm shift for many people.  It means that many of your referrals may actually come from people other than your clients–if you learn how to network effectively.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Welcome to International Networking Week!

Welcome to the fourth annual International Networking Week (Feb 1 to 5)!

There is no better time than now to focus on what we can do to promote our own business growth, and International Networking Week presents the perfect opportunity to make powerful connections and learn new ways to grow your business through networking!

International Networking Week is about celebrating the key role that networking plays in the development and success of business around the world. It’s about creating an awareness of the process of networking.  Not just any kind of networking, but what I call “relationship networking,” an approach to doing business based on building long-term, successful relationships with people through the networking process.

Last year, International Networking Week was recognized by tens of thousands of people around the world, and it has garnered acknowledgments from several governmental agencies across the globe. It’s expected that the number of people participating in this year’s worldwide celebration of the week, through hundreds of large events and thousands of smaller events, will be double what it was in 2009.

If you belong to any networking groups, be sure to tell them that this is International Networking Week, and let them know they can visit InternationalNetworkingWeek.com for more information.  Let’s join together in celebrating how we can promote global prosperity!

Watch the 2010 International Networking Week video by clicking here! Share the video with anybody and everybody, and feel free to show it at your networking meetings during International Networking Week.

So what will you be doing to recognize International Networking Week?  Share it with us here–we’d love to hear about it.

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