Becoming a Notable Networker–Tips and Insights

If you really want to succeed at networking, take a look at the following tips and insights:

  • Notable Networkers are people who are skilled at networking and committed to the idea that givers gain. By helping other businesses get new clients or customers, they get new business sent their way.
  • The key to building a word-of-mouth-based business is mutual support, not necessarily friendship.
  • Organizations that network effectively provide opportunities to develop and exchange quality business referrals. Being a member of a well-organized network is like having dozens of salespeople working for you, each referring prospective clients your way.
  • A Notable Networker must have a positive and supportive attitude. Good networking involves providing a positive and supportive environment for other businesspeople.
  • A Notable Networker must have and use the right tools to network skillfully, including an informative name badge, business cards and a business card carrying case to hold others’ cards.
  • Networking is an acquired skill; it requires listening to CDs, reading books and articles, talking to people who network well, and practicing what you’ve learned.
  • Effective networking requires practice, practice, practice–and then more practice.

Is there a bullet point in this list you would like me to expand on? If so, leave a comment and let me know; I’m more than happy to oblige. 🙂

Using the Power of Networking to Go Global

We now live in a fully global society, and referral networking has become a prominent marketing strategy in this global society for one reason: It works. The idea of growing your business through word-of-mouth marketing is a concept that crosses cultural, ethnic and political boundaries because we all speak the language of referrals, and we all want to do business based on trust.

Referral networking is a cost-effective way to get in front of new clients worldwide, and it’s a much better way to keep a business prosperous over the long term (because it’s built on mutually beneficial relationships between you and your fellow business owners). Referral networking is powered by the oldest and most enduring principle of human society–Givers Gain–the idea that the good you do will eventually come back to you in one form or another.

Earlier this year I did a live telebridge interview with my colleague Paul Martinelli on the topic “Going Global via the Power of Networking,” and we had more than 500 people call in from all over the world. To me, this truly demonstrates the worldwide interest there is in global business building through networking, and it’s a testament to the fact that networking will only become more vital to business success in modern times.

If you’d like to get in-depth advice on how to use the power of networking to go global with your business, you can Click here to get free access to the recording of the interview I did with Paul Martinelli on the subject.

Think You Don’t Need a Network?–Think Again . . .

As a small-business professional or entrepreneur, how do you:

  • Get advice and help when problems arise
  • Gather the information you need for making important business decisions
  • Identify your markets and locate potential clients?

Unfortunately, most people get help in times of need from individuals or businesses they don’t know well. Instead of anticipating and planning for needs and emergencies, they are forced to react to every situation. They search the internet or ask friends and associates to help solve problems or recommend solutions, even though these people may not have the necessary expertise, and the sources they recommend may have little relevance to or experience with the business operation that is in need.

As a small-business owner, you don’t have the built-in resources to employ a management team to plan ahead, proactively problem solve, obtain and maintain ready access to vital resources–information, personnel, funding–and make informed decisions quickly in an emergency.  What you need is the functional equivalent of a management team and that is exactly what a network is for!

Your network is a systematically and strategically selected group of people on whom you can call as the need arises. It is a diverse, balanced and powerful system of sources–people from all facets of the business world–that will provide referrals, information and support in key areas of your business or profession, over both the short and the long term.

So, if you know someone who doesn’t want to put in the time and effort to establish a network because he thinks his business is just fine without one, do him a huge favor and explain why he needs to think again.

What is a Brand?

I recently ran across a very good definition of what a company “brand” is all about. It was written by Tilka Design. I really loved it, and I share it with you below:

A brand lives in the imagination.
Intuitively, we all know what a brand is. It’s far more than a logo. And it’s much larger than a product, service, idea or institution. A brand finds its home in the minds and hearts of individuals; it’s made up of stories and experiences that, over time, create feelings. When enough people share those feelings, the brand comes to life.

What a great definition! What would you add, if anything, to this description?

The Networking Disconnect

I was at a big networking event with more than 500 people in the UK this summer, and the person who spoke before me asked the audience: “How many of you came here hoping to do some business–maybe make a sale?”  More than half the people in the audience raised their hands. He then asked, “How many of you are here hoping to buy something?”  No one raised a hand–not one single person! This is the networking disconnect.

If you are going to networking events hoping to sell something, you’re dreaming. Don’t confuse direct selling with networking. Effective networking is about developing relationships. I know, I know . . . there’s always someone out there who says, “But, Ivan, I’ve made a sale by attending a networking event!”  OK . . . I’m not saying it doesn’t ever happen–it does.  I’m just saying it happens about as often as a solar eclipse. Face it, even a blind squirrel can find a nut. Any businessperson can stumble on some business at a networking meeting from time to time. However, when you have most of the people at an event trying to sell and virtually no one there to buy, you’re crazy if you think the odds are in your favor to “sell” at a networking event.

So why go?  You go because networking is more about farming than it is about hunting. It’s about developing relationships with other business professionals. Sometimes you go to a networking event to increase your visibility, sometimes you go to establish further credibility with people you know, and sometimes you may even go to meet a long-time referral partner and do some business. In any case, the true master networkers know that networking events are about moving through the VCP Process and not about closing deals.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Yeah, But I’m Different

An old friend of mine, Don Osborne, shared with me some material he wrote many years ago about how many of us use the “I’m different” syndrome to simply avoid doing something we don’t want to do. I’ve revised it a bit and am sharing it with you here today.  I hope you find it interesting.

When it comes to ourselves, we’re always the exception.  Everybody else should do what’s been proved to work. Personal development works as soon as we stop treating ourselves as the exception. True, everyone is unique–but not different when it comes to self-development. 

 Perhaps it’s only procrastination that leads us to declare that we’re “different.” Or our “circumstances” prevent us from agreeing to follow proven methods of self improvement. Maybe it’s the fear of success or failure in making changes. There are all kinds of legitimate concerns, but none is an adequate excuse for not engaging in self-development activities. There is no good excuse for not following the basics. 

Everybody who has achieved success has succumbed to the basics. In fact, many success stories talk about fighting the urge to reinvent the wheel and sticking to what’s been proved to work. Why we fight city hall on “I’ll succeed without doing what’s been proved,” I don’t know. But it’s a fight you’re going to have to lose if you want to win the battle for an improved lifestyle.

It shouldn’t take a tragedy or a major event to send you down the road of self-development.  True, most of the success stories we hear about or grab the headlines are like that. You could wait for, or create, a spectacular situation to spur you on. Most stories of success go untold because they weren’t born out of tragedy. Rather, they were born out of frustration, and being sick and tired of being “sick and tired.”

The reality is that most of us are living out our own story in quiet desperation. A story sufficient enough to make you different. The kind of different that qualifies you as unique and, therefore, a candidate for the tried-and-true methods of self-development.

Stop hiding behind the excuse of “I’m different.” Accept what all who have succeeded know: The basics work, no exceptions.

Success Is Not an Entitlement

Yesterday, I received a rather disturbing email message from someone berating me for sharing what he felt were some aspects of my success via my FaceBook Fan page (mostly relating to discussions about my business travel and corporate meetings I did from my lake home over the summer).   I have to say it brought me down a bit so I went to my library and picked up a book I wrote about 7 years ago called Masters of Success.  I read a piece in it that I wrote called “Success is Not an Entitlement” which I hoped would re-focus my mindset after receiving this vitriolic piece of email.

I’d like to share an excerpt from it with you here today in my blog.  I’ve updated some of the material in brackets.  The excerpt at the end about “being lucky” goes out to my email critic.  I hope everyone (including my critic) can see some value in this message.

Everyone wants some degree of success. We might want it in different forms, but I’ve never met anyone who didn’t want to be successful at something important. This is good. I believe everyone is entitled to pursue success.

But success itself is not an entitlement.

Not long ago I was talking to someone I’ve known for years about my personal success, the growth of my business, and some other personal goals I’ve recently met. He said, “Man, you’re lucky! It must be nice.”

 “Yeah, I’m lucky,” I responded. “Let me tell you the secret of my luck.  First, I went to college for ten years. During that time, I started several businesses, and for the next [twenty five years] I worked really, really long hours.  Along the way, I mortgaged my house a couple of times for one of the business and I wrote [twelve] books.  If you apply that kind of effort to whatever you do, you too, can be just as lucky.”

 He laughed and said, “Okay! Okay! I get it!”

 Did he really get it? I don’t think so, because he hasn’t changed his behavior or started making different choices.

 For about twenty of my twenty five years of hard work, I didn’t feel very lucky or incredibly successful. It took time, effort, hard work, and decent choices before I felt a modicum of success. The problem is that many people want to go from point A to point Z and bypass all the challenges in between. They work hard, so they “deserve” the success they want.  And they tend to resent the success that other people have!!!

 Success is not an entitlement. It’s not a right or a claim that we should have. Yes, people have the right to pursue success, but that’s it. Success is most often earned, not handed over because you are entitled. If being successful were that easy, everyone would have the success he thinks he deserves. I think I was in my thirties before I truly understood and internalized that idea.

I’ve been trying to instill this wisdom in my nine-year-old son [now 17] by teaching him my “mantra of success.” [Years ago] I asked him, “Trey, what’s the secret to success?” He said, in a young boy’s slightly bored singsong tone: “The secret to success without hard work and good choices is still a secret, Dad. Can I go out and play now?”

OK, maybe nine was a little young to start the training. But maybe not.

————————–

True success is the result of hard work, period.  I love my business, I love helping people, and I’ve achieved a level of success doing both.  I am very grateful for my success and proud to have achieved it in a way that benefits others and helps them grow their businesses as well.  I am also very blessed to be able to open my home and a large part of my life to the people from my companies, and to give back to the world through the BNI-Misner Foundation

From time to time, I share comments about these things on my social media sites and true friends are most welcome to share in the positive conversation about these things.  If it troubles anyone to read about these things, however, I certainly won’t be offended if they unfriend me.

Networking Minus Follow-Through Equals a Waste of Time

Smart, enterprising businesspeople know the importance of networking and how it is a huge opportunity to increase word-of-mouth and gain business referrals. However, one of the biggest mistakes people can make is failing to follow through.

One of my employees recently told me a story that should serve as an important lesson to all of us on how networking without follow-through is nothing more than a waste of time.

Note: The names in this story have been changed to protect the innocent . . . and the guilty.

My employee, whom we’ll call Winnifred (since she’d like to remain anonymous and it’s the most unfitting name for her that I can think of . . . well, aside from maybe Gertrude ;-)), was in need of a graphic designer to assist her with the creation of a website for her father’s business. She attended a local networking mixer where she met a graphic designer, “Blake,” who seemed excited about the project and claimed he could accomplish exactly what she needed at a very reasonable price.

They exchanged contact information and connected the next week by phone to discuss the project in further detail. Winnifred was pleased with Blake’s ideas and liked the examples she’d seen of his work. She told him he seemed like the perfect person to help her with the project and that she’d like him to send her a price quote as soon as possible.

A week went by and Winnifred heard nothing from Blake.  When she called him, he said he was working on a quote and gave some lame excuse about being busy. Another week went by and, again, nothing from Blake. Frustrated, but willing to give Blake another chance because she really did like his work, she sent him an e-mail and left him a voicemail saying that she would love to give him her business and was really anxious to hear back from him.

After two weeks went by without hearing back from him, Winnifred found another graphic designer. To this day, Blake has never responded.

Here is what blows my mind . . . I know for a fact that this guy, “Blake,” is still frequenting local networking mixers (which cost money to attend, by the way) trying to drum up more business. Yet when he had money practically sitting on the table in front of him, he failed to follow through. No matter what his reason was for not getting back to Winnifred–being too busy, too lazy or whatever else–he shouldn’t be out there networking if he can’t follow through on what he claims to be able to deliver. He’s wasting his time (and money) and, more important, he’s wasting other people’s time–which is earning him nothing more than a bad name.

The moral of this story: If you aren’t prepared to follow through, networking is no more than a big waste of time.

If you have a “Blake the Flake” story of your own, I’d love to hear about your experience. Please feel free to share your story in the comments section.

A True Givers Gain Achievement

In 1998, my wife Elisabeth and I co-founded the BNI-Misner Foundation, a nonprofit program supporting charitable causes. We created the foundation because we truly believe in the philosophy of Givers Gain, on which we founded BNI, our worldwide business networking organization. Simply put, Givers Gain means that if you help others, others will want to help you in return (think “what goes around comes around”).

Now, thanks largely to the generosity and kindness of BNI members and directors around the world who also believe firmly in the Givers Gain philosophy, as of May 2010, the BNI Foundation has contributed more than $1 million to charities around the world since its inception 12 years ago.

The foundation has a focus on children’s educational programs but allows donor-directed contributions as well. Looking back on the significant contributions the foundation has been able to make, I am continually inspired by the willingness of BNI members worldwide to give of themselves to help others. They made it possible to donate more than $100,000 to the 9/11 relief effort, $72,000 to tsunami relief, more than $25,000 for Haiti earthquake relief and tens of thousands of dollars for Hurricane Katrina relief. The foundation has built preschools in India, built preschools and a library and put tin roofs on schools in Indonesia, bought school uniforms for students in Kenya and stocked a library in South Africa with books.

Why am I telling you all of this?  I’m sharing these things with you because I truly believe that the more people genuinely give to others, the more successful they will be themselves. I fully attribute the worldwide success of BNI and its members (read some of their stories here) to this very concept. When you give to someone else because you want them to succeed, everybody wins, and you’re setting yourself up for success because the more good you do for others, the more good others want to do for you.

Starting this week, make a continuous effort to conduct your networking efforts, your business and your life with the philosophy that Givers Gain. Help people because you can and because you want to, and you’ll be amazed by the things you can achieve for yourself as a result.

To find out more about the BNI-Misner Charitable Foundation, click here.

Become a fan of the BNI-Misner Charitable Foundation on Facebook by clicking here.

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