‘Mastering the World of Selling’

When one of your business relationships passes you a referral, don’t assume that the prospect is ready to hear a presentation on your product or service. When an associate passes you a referral, say thanks . . . then start digging for more information.

You will want to determine whether what you offer is a fit for what the prospect needs.  Taking the time to do this upfront saves a lot of time and energy–for both you and the prospect. Exactly what does the prospect do? What products or services does he want from you? Will your offerings truly fulfill his needs? What is his behavioral style? What are his business goals? How large is his company?

Even with the referral in hand, don’t skip steps in your sales process. Before you approach the prospect, decide on a strategy based on whatever you can find out about him–the same as you would when preparing for any sale. Although the prospect was referred to you, all you’ve really received is an opportunity to approach the prospect with a favorable introduction. (This is not a bad thing–a single referral can open the door to a prospect it may have taken weeks, months or even years to connect with–if you even could at all.)  But whether the prospect becomes a client or not depends on how well you convince him that what you offer, at the price and under the conditions you offer it, will fulfill his needs.

It’s always a good idea to consistently hone your sales skills and strategies. If you need a good sales resource, look no further than Mastering the World of Selling.  It’s a brand-new book by Eric Taylor and David Riklan, and it contains one of the greatest collections of sales training wisdom for the 21st century that I’ve ever come across. It features sales strategies and advice from 89 of the world’s top experts including Brian Tracy, Zig Ziglar, Tom Hopkins, Jeffrey Gitomer, yours truly and more. 🙂  To find out more about Mastering the world of Selling, click here.

Do you have any dynamite sales wisdom that you’ve picked up over the years?  If so, I invite you to share it here by leaving a comment–there’s no such thing as too much useful information.  Thanks!

Census Survivor

logo_censusYour first thought after reading the title of this blog might have been . . . “Census Survivor,” what’s there to survive?”  Well, for one medium-sized suburban district office of the 1980 census, not that much . . . unless you count six dog bites, three car accidents and 11 attempted assaults (two at knife point, four at gunpoint, two with a baseball bat and the rest merely by hand), as well as a census worker who fell down a flight of steps, another who had a door slammed on her hand and, of course, the census worker who fell in a hole in someone’s front yard.

These were but a few of the challenges I ran into when I was the field operations supervisor of the 1980 Census in Covina, Calif.

The battlefield of suburbia was not the greatest problem faced by enumerators. Maintaining their sanity in the face of adversity was the greatest challenge.

We had water ballons dropped on enumerators at a local university, we did a set of interviews at a nudist camp (OK, in all honesty, the Census taker in that situation didn’t mind it too much), we had enumerators being propositioned–a lot–and we even got informaton about residents from dog tags!

My favorite tactic was used by a woman who would go to particularly unwilling individuals and sing Happy Birthday To You to the unsuspecting person, who would say, “It’s not my birthday,” to which the enumerator would say, “Really? When is your birthday?” The resident would blurt out the date and the enumerator got some basic information.  Generally, the resident thought that was so clever, he or she would then cooperate.

I’d like to say that I miss this experience but . . . I don’t. It was trial by fire. That said, I am very glad I went through it. It gave me an opportunity as a young man of only 24 to manage and supervise a crew of more than 300 people. I hired (and fired) more people in six months than I did in the next 20 years of my career. It was an experience I will never forget and always be grateful for . . .  mostly. 

The majority of the census for 2010 is over. However, there are probably a few diehards out there who haven’t cooperated. If someone shows up at your house and starts singing “Happy Birthday” and it’s not your birthday–cut her some slack. It’s probably a census taker.

Being ‘in Sync’ With Your Networking Partners

My wife, Beth, and I were in South Africa recently on safari at Camp Jabulani in the Kapama Reserve. Camp Jabulani has a beautiful suspension bridge between the main lodge and the guest suites. If you’ve ever walked over a suspension bridge, you know the feeling of the springiness under your feet as you walk. It was almost like wearing those Moon Boots I got for Christmas as a boy!

As we made our way over the suspension bridge, we noticed pretty quickly that when we did not walk in sync, the bridge’s flexing and bending jarred both of us as we tried to walk across. When we walked in sync, it was much easier to walk in a way that didn’t make us look like drunken sailors!

This started me thinking about networking relationships and the importance of being in sync with our referral and networking partners.

When I think about walking in sync with other businesspeople, I think of collaboration, cooperation, and maintaining a focus on how we can help each other (what I call Givers Gain). These three elements are critical for successful relationship marketing.

In order to build the kinds of mutually beneficial relationships you desire, it’s important to keep in mind what I call the proximity effect–networking is a contact sport. You must stay in contact with each other in order to benefit from a collaborative relationship. Profiting from a business relationship without staying in contact with one another is like getting a haircut over the phone—I have never seen that done!

Staying in touch can include holding one-on-one meetings with each other to learn more about each other’s business and referral needs, and to ask, “How can I help you?” Having a Givers Gain focus is the most effective way of supporting your referral partners.

We all need to make a commitment to maintain a focus on how we can help each other in business. This is a new thought pattern for most business owners. We aren’t schooled or trained in thinking “How can I help you?” when it comes to those with whom we are in a particular business community. More often than not, we think, “What can I get out of this relationship?” If you do business with a Givers Gain mentality, you will turn that thought pattern on its head.

Relationship networking is a good way to get business; it’s an even better way to do business. As you walk in this rhythm, you will find others getting in step with you, and everyone will do better business as a result.

Results Talk. Everything Else is an Excuse.

I had a conversation with a franchisee a few weeks ago and I’ve been thinking about it for some time since.  We were talking about a marketing strategy that has proven to be very successful for many franchises within his company for many years.

When I asked the franchisee why he wasn’t participating in the program he said, “I don’t want to do that.  I don’t think it works.”  I said, “Really?  The top three franchisees around the country use it– just what about the technique is it that you don’t think works?”  He said, “I think the technique reduces client retention.”  I pointed out that the retention of the top three franchisees mentioned above was HIGHER than the client retention of his franchise.   He said “Yeah, but I just don’t think it would work in my area.”

I still can’t believe he really said that.  This is an intelligent individual who gave me one of the lamest answers I’ve ever heard for not doing something that works.

The bottom line is that the marketing strategy in question is in fact, hard work.  I believe that he just didn’t want to do all the hard work necessary to implement the strategy and he rationalized his position with half-baked excuses.

When a strategy works in many places and yields big results then all the excuses in the world for not implementing the strategy are just that–excuses!

Have you ever had a conversaton with someone like this?  If so, I’d love to hear about it and find out out how you handled it.

Entrepreneur Magazine’s Winning Strategies for Business Conference

Entrepreneur magazine’s Winning Strategies for Business Conference is being held in Long Beach, Calif., on Oct. 5. If it’s possible for you to attend, I highly recommend that you go. This event offers serious educational value, plenty of opportunities to network and, best of all, registration is FREE!

I’ll be giving the keynote presentation, “Networking Like a Pro,” during the morning session and I’ll be talking about how to create, maintain and serve a wide network and enjoy great business and personal rewards as a result.

If you can make it out to the conference, I’d love to have the opportunity to meet you, so please take a moment to introduce yourself during one of the networking sessions or after my presentation.

The focus of the Winning Strategies for Business Conference is to show you everything you need to know about how to go further and achieve more by teaching you proven tactics that will impact virtually every aspect of your business. Bruce Kimbrell of Disney Institute will be giving the afternoon keynote presentation, “Disney’s Approach to People Management,” and there will be a handful of other dynamic speakers presenting on topics such as SEO, social networking and PR, fundraising, launching a new business, brand building, driving sales and more.

There will also be a one-of-a-kind opportunity for you to pitch your business to Entrepreneur‘s editors for a chance to have your business featured in either Entrepreneur magazine or on Entrepreneur.com

(Now that is a great opportunity!)

Hope to see you at the event! CLICK HERE TO REGISTER FOR FREE or to get more information on Winning Strategies for Business.

How Soon Should You Expect Profitability from a Relationship?

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve written a few blogs on the VCP Process® of networking and, since I’ve already covered visibility and credibility in detail, today I’m going to tell you what you need to know about profitability, the third and final phase of the VCP Process.

The mature relationship, whether business or personal, can be defined in terms of its profitability. Is it mutually rewarding? Do both partners gain satisfaction from it? Does it maintain itself by providing benefits to both? If it doesn’t profit both partners to keep it going, it probably will not endure.

The best piece of advice I can give you in regard to when to expect to get to profitability is to be patient. The time it takes to pass through the phases of a developing relationship is highly variable.  It’s not always easy to determine when profitability has been achieved: A week? A month? A year? In a time of urgent need, you and a client may proceed from visibility to credibility overnight. The same is true of profitability; it may happen quickly or it may take years, but most likely it will be somewhere in between. It will depend on the frequency and quality of the contacts and especially on the desire of both parties to move the relationship forward.

Shortsightedness can impede the full development of the relationship. Perhaps you’re a customer who has done business with a certain vendor off and on for several months, but to save pennies you keep hunting around for the lowest price, ignoring the value this vendor provides in terms of service, hours, goodwill and reliability. Are you really profiting from the relationship, or are you stunting its growth?  Perhaps if you gave this vendor all your business, you could work out terms that would benefit both of you.  Profitability is not found by bargain hunting. It must be cultivated. And, like farming, it takes patience.

Visibility and credibility are important in the relationship-building stages of the referral-marketing process.  But when you have established an effective referral generation system, you will have entered the profitability stage of your relationships with many people–the people who send you referrals and the customers you recruit as a result. It’s an essential part of successful relationship marketing and networking.

Moving from Visibility to Credibility

In last Thursday’s blog, I explained that visibility, the first phase of the VCP Process®, brings the opportunity to build credibility and that credibility is what will ultimately get you to profitability, where you’ll actually benefit from your networking and relationship building efforts.

So how do you move from visibility to credibility?  Well, once you and another individual achieve visibility with each other, meaning you’re aware of each other and the nature of each other’s business, you begin to form expectations of one another; once those expectations are fulfilled, your relationship can enter the credibility stage.  If each person is confident of gaining satisfaction from the relationship, then it will continue to strengthen.

Credibility is the quality of being reliable, worthy of confidence.  Credibility grows when appointments are kept, promises are acted upon, facts are verified, and services are rendered.  The old saying that results speak louder than words is true.  Failure to live up to expectations–to keep both explicit and implicit promises–can kill a budding relationship before it breaks the surface of the ground and can create visibility of a kind you don’t want.

To determine how credible you are, people often turn to third parties.  They ask someone they know who has known you longer or perhaps has done business with you.  So, how credible are you?  Would the people in your network vouch for you by saying that you are reliable and honest, your products and services are effective, you keep your appointments, act on your promises, deliver results as expected, and can be counted on in a crunch?  If you’re not sure, now is the time to make a strategic effort to build your credibility; without credibility, you can forget about achieving profitability.

If you’re interested in learning more about profitability (If you’re in business, it’s safe to assume you’re very interested. ;-)), the third phase of the VCP Process®, and when you should expect to achieve it with your contacts, be sure to come back and read this Thursday’s blog.

Farming for Referrals

If I could impart one piece of wisdom regarding networking and getting more referrals, it would be this: Networking is about farming for new contacts, not hunting them.

It’s a point that needs to be made, because most business professionals go about networking the way our cave-dwelling ancestors went about hunting food–aggressively and carrying a big stick.

You’ll see them at any gathering of businesspeople. They’re so busy looking for the next big sale or trying to meet the “right” prospect that they approach networking simply as an exercise in sifting through crowds of people until they bag the ideal client, the big customer who can turn their business around. They don’t have time for regular people like us; they’re stalking the director of marketing, chief operating officer or other high-octane connection, looking for the big kill.

“Farmers take a different approach. They don’t waste time looking for the right person; instead, like those who plant seeds and patiently nurture their crops, they seek to form and build relationships wherever they can find them. If they get an immediate payoff, that’s fine, but it’s not their principal goal. They know that the effort expended upfront will pay off in a rich harvest later on–much richer then the hunter’s quick kill–and that truly profitable relationships can’t be rushed.

Share your thoughts OR experiences relating to farming vs. hunting in your networking activities.

The First Phase of the VCP Process–Visibility

Last week I wrote a blog explaining the VCP Process, which is a huge part of the foundation of networking. Because this process is so crucial to effective networking, I promised to write a blog entry for each of the three phases (visibility, credibility and profitability), and today I’m going to talk about why it all starts with visibility.

The first phase of growing a relationship is visibility: You and another individual become aware of each other.  In business terms, a potential source of referrals or a potential customer becomes aware of the nature of your business–perhaps because of your public relations and advertising efforts, because of your social media presence or perhaps through someone you both know. This person may observe you in the act of conducting business or relating with the people around you. The two of you begin to communicate and establish links–perhaps a question or two over the phone or via e-mail messages about product availability. You may become personally acquainted and work on a first-name basis, but you know little about each other. A combination of many such relationships forms a casual-contact network, a sort of de facto association based on one or more shared interests.

The visibility phase is important because it creates recognition and awareness.  The greater your visibility, the more widely known you will be, the more information you will obtain about others, the more opportunities you will be exposed to, and the greater will be your chances of being accepted by other individuals or groups as someone to whom they can or should refer business.  Visibility must be actively maintained and developed; without it, you cannot move on to the next level, credibility.

I’ll talk more about credibility next week, but it’s important to understand that visibility brings the opportunity to build credibility, and credibility is what will get you to profitability, where you’ll actually benefit from your efforts. So many times people try to jump straight from visibility to profitability, and that’s not real networking; it’s just an obvious ploy to get something from your new contacts. That’s nothing more than a bad attempt at direct selling and a big waste of time.

So, how do you go about creating more visibility for your business? What are some strategies that have really worked out well for you?  I’d love to hear your comments.

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