Don’t Analyze What’s Wrong–Look for What’s Working!

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It’s a fact: change is not easy!

So, how do you keep business on the up and up amidst a constant onslaught of challenges that require you and your business to change and adapt?

Watch this short video for some powerful tips from my good friend and author of The Solutions Focus, Dr. Mark McKergow.

You’ll learn, like I have, that one of the most important things a business owner can do to strengthen and grow their business is to operate on a daily basis by focusing on solutions.  Mark always says that if a company focuses primarily on problem, they become an expert at problems–instead, they need to focus on solutions!

After you’ve watched the video, come back and leave a comment to let me know which of Mark’s tips was the most valuable for you.

The Referral Process–Steps 1 and 2

Last week, I wrote a blog explaining that referral networking is a system –when it comes to the actions of generating, developing, and closing a business deal through a referral, there is a well defined, systematic process.

The good news is, this process can be broken down into eight easy steps and today I am going to explain steps 1 and 2.

  • Step 1.  Your Source Discovers a Referral

The referral begins with an event that is outside your direct involvement: your referral source uncovers a referral opportunity for you.  This occurs without your direct involvement, but it happens because you have laid the groundwork for it by cultivating a mutually beneficial relationship with the person who is going to be motivated to bring you the referral and by making sure she can inform the prospect about the benefits your business can provide.

  • Step 2.  Research the Referral

Your referral source tells you she has a referral for you.  At this stage, your impulse might be to call the prospect immediately–you know, strike while the iron is hot!  But that would be a mistake.  In fact, it’s the most common mistake people make, and in many cases it’s referral suicide.

Don’t let your excitement cloud your judgment about the opportunity.  As soon as you get the call from your referral source, and before you even think of picking up the phone and calling the prospect, you should start digging to find out everything you can about your prospect and his company.  How old is the company?  What is the prospect’s main line of business?  How successfully does it compete?  What is the company’s market valuation?  What products or services of yours might be of most use or interest to the company?  What is its track record with vendors?  Does it deal fairly and straightforwardly with suppliers and clients?  Is it in good financial condition?  Will you be competing with other vendors for its business?

Can you think of any other questions that would be good to consider when researching a referral in Step 2 of the referral marketing process?  If so, please share it in the comment section.  Also, be sure to check back next week to read about Step 3: Checking Back in with Your Referral Source.

Success Is the Uncommon Application of Common Knowledge

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Have you ever wondered what it is you need to do in order to be successful?

In this video, I talk to Jack Canfield about what it takes to be successful and how I came to the conclusion that success is the uncommon application of common knowledge.

Take a look at this short video and let me know what you think . . . do you agree with this concept?  What are your thoughts on success and how to achieve it?

Go JackCanfield.com for information on Jack’s Inner Circle Club where you can watch the full video he did with me and many other experts.

The Referral Process – 8 Easy Steps

Much of what I write about networking and referrals emphasizes the circuitous, sometimes mysterious nature of referral networking.  In a deep, broad-based, mature referral network, where you spend a lot of time doing good things for others without looking for a direct reward, and where the good that you do winds its way through the system and eventually comes back to you in the form of referrals, it may seem odd to describe referral networking as a system.  But that’s what it is, and when it comes to the actions of generating, developing, and closing a business deal through a referral, there is a well defined, systematic process.

What is a referral?  It’s not as simple as it’s sometimes made out to be.  We leave college and go into business knowing little about referrals, because referral marketing is rarely part of the curriculum.  We know what a great thing it is to get a referral, because it generally means lucrative business with a reliable client.  We often think of it simply as a connection to someone we can call on to do business with or, if it’s not our kind of business, someone we can refer to someone else.

We understand that referrals are the best kind of business.  What we don’t understand is how to make them happen when we want them and, when they come in, how to get the best results from them and make them last.  The referral process is a system that has a lot of feedback built into it.  If you follow it for every referral, you will get predictable results: more closed business deals and a never-ending supply of referrals.

I have broken the referral process down into eight easy steps:

  • Step 1–Your Source Discovers a Referral
  • Step 2–Research the Referral
  • Step 3–Check Back In With Your Referral Source
  • Step 4–Meet With the Referral
  • Step 5–Report Back to Your Source
  • Step 6–Your Source Gets Feedback from the Referral
  • Step 7–Your Source Reports Back to You
  • Step 8–Close the Deal

I’ll  be breaking these steps down in detail in several different blog entries over the coming weeks so if you’re interested in getting specific guidance on how to execute each step in the referral process, be sure to check back in weekly.

FREE is Good!

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In this short video, I talk about the vast array of educational content relating to business and networking offered on NetworkingNow.com and Mary Funk, the Web Coordinator for this online library, announces a code for a FREE six month subscription to the site.

The free subscription is a gift from BusinessNetworking.com and all you have to do is enter the code (“freesixmonths”) on NetworkingNow.com to gain access to the entire library of content!  Please note that you will be required to enter a credit card number on the site but you will not be billed for the free six month membership.  You will need to end your subscription if you don’t wish to be billed for the second six months.

Please leave a comment and let me know what type of downloadable content you most like to access on sites like NetworkingNow.com:

  • Video?
  • Audio?
  • PDF Articles?
  • Digital Books?
  • Something Else? If so, what specifically?

Sick of Politics and Power Trips?—You Might Be an Entrepreneur

BNIBusinessIndex.com has released its worldwide business survey findings for the first quarter of 2011.  Almost 1,500 business people participated in the survey—people from every populated continent around the world—and the results (see graph on the right)  indicate that, overall, the global economic state is improving.  69.4% of the respondents for the first quarter of 2011 feel that business is growing or growing substantially (compared to this time last year).  This number has increased since the prior BNI Business Index Survey which was conducted during the last quarter of 2010—respondents to this same question at that time weighed in at 67.8%.

Furthermore, half of all business people who took the survey (see the pie chart below) for the first quarter of 2011 (50.2%) said that they would, or possibly would, be hiring people over the next few months.  The retail sector (not shown here) responded with a strong 61.2% to this same question.  This is definitely good news for the global economy and certainly a move in the right direction for the recovery.

What was most interesting in this survey however, were the hundreds of comments offered up by business people and entrepreneurs around the world.

I’ve broken these comments down into six primary categories:

  1. Government Regulation
  2. Changing Target Markets
  3. The Credit Crunch
  4. The Yo-Yo Effect
  5. Natural Disasters
  6. Creative Responses

Government Regulation
Frustration relating to government regulation was adamantly expressed by many respondents and this topic was commented on by more people than almost any other.  A particular comment from one of the survey respondents summed up the frustration best.  This business owner said, “I’m tired of politics and power trips!”

This type of frustration was mirrored by many individuals who complained forcefully about “tax increases killing business . . . serious government intervention . . . the loss of tax credits . . .  mismanagement of government programs . . . and serious regulation.” It’s significant to note that these complaints were not limited to simply one or two parts of the world; on the contrary, these comments were echoed by entrepreneurs based on virtually every continent.  Business owners everywhere unanimously expressed great frustration with taxes and government intervention.

Changing Target Markets
The need to change one’s focus in the marketplace is another theme that cropped up in the recent survey responses.  As one respondent put it, “I’ve changed my target market to one that has both a greater need and a willingness to do something differently.”

Another entrepreneur said, “(Although) business is growing, the comfort zone of (keeping) a client has been lost.  There is a feel of uncertainty for business in the next quarter. The style with which the world does business is changing fast.”

This respondent went on to describe how some businesses are tweaking their target market in order to add on new “market segments” for additional revenue streams.

The Credit Crunch
Many observations were made about the credit crunch.  One was a complaint that seriously resonated with me.  The respondent stated, “I have great credit but Amex has still dropped my credit line by more than 50% in the last two years!!! It’s hard to run a business without a proper credit line.”

Another business owner said, “(There are) still not enough cash reserves or (enough financing) from banks” to support the business.  One individual put this a little differently, stating: “This is just another (line) in the chorus of ‘it is really hard to get loans.’ We tried to get a business loan and got rejected despite great credit because of our lack of a track record. We are only three years in business and were not considered a good risk. Instead, we are taking out a personal loan and will be lending the money back to the business ourselves. Strange but true.”

The Yo-Yo Effect
Many entrepreneurs spoke of the Yo-Yo like market place—business starts looking up and then things slow down.  Things start to go up again, only to fall back down the following month.

One person said their “billable hours more than doubled late last year” only to see them drop during the first quarter.  They went on to say that things are moving upwards again.

Another respondent said, “The adjustments and contractions are still occurring and it has naturally forced many of us to change and adapt. We’re not out of the woods yet.”

Natural Disasters
The long series of natural disasters have been a big issue mentioned by many entrepreneurs.  In North America, one person lamented, “My area has been getting pounded with snow, more snow, sleet, and freezing rain which has certainly had an impact on store traffic.”

A survey participant from New Zealand said, “Business here is incredibly tough, particularly since the earthquake – everyone is traumatised and there is a ripple effect through to all corners of the country. However, we are a resilient bunch, and there is an amazing ‘can do’ culture here- so we will overcome this tragedy.”

Many people from Australia wrote about the flooding in Queensland and challenges created because of weather in the country that has dramatically impacted their business.   One respondent stated that the natural disasters in the country have made “people much more reluctant to spend money on services that they perceive aren’t absolutely necessary.”

Creative Responses
Despite the obvious anxiety that exists, many entrepreneurs were hopeful.  People said: “There is greater optimism out there, it is noticeable with clients and prospects . . . since I’ve spent much more time networking I’ve felt the results more than double.” One person said, “I am on track to match last year’s revenue in the first quarter of this year!!!”

Another individual stated, “Consumers are willing to start spending more . . .” He went on to say that he has really focused on building a stronger referral-based business.  He said, “What was good enough three years ago is not good enough today.  This recession has motivated me to get better.”

The following statement from one particular respondent sums up the situation well: “I believe that it is important to not get caught up in what you are being fed. That doesn’t mean hiding your head in the sand, but not getting caught in the hype. Things are always changing, so stop and think how you can be a part of it. Reinvent yourself if you can, or think outside the box. Refusing to participate in the recession and looking to where you can grow are important strategies. If you don’t get caught in the negative (aspects) of change, sometimes you can see opportunity.”

Despite some of the written responses expressing negative perceptions of the economy, the survey results are promising.  With 69% of the respondents saying that business is better today than a year ago, things definitely appear to be moving in the right direction.   Now, if only the government and the environment would cooperate!

What are your thoughts about the results of this survey???

Also – take the 2nd Quarter 2011 BNI Business Index Survey Here.

___________________________________________

Disclaimer:  The views expressed here are based on survey results from BNIBusinessIndex.com.  The data, information, opinions, and comments documented here are not necessarily the views of BNI, its franchisees, members, or this author.

Eliciting Excellence Entrepreneur Expo 2011–FREE Teleseminar

I am pleased to announce that I will be participating in an educational teleseminar event which is being offered FREE of charge and hosted by Business Strategist and Executive Coach Michael Beck (pictured at right).

This online event, the 2011 Eliciting Excellence Entrepreneur Expo, will feature insights and strategies from 15 entrepreneurial experts (including yours truly) and I encourage all to attend who are interested in this free opportunity to learn about powerful income-boosting strategies, marketing insights, and personal effectiveness secrets to grow business.

The event begins on April 11th and runs for two weeks–Monday through Friday.  Each one-hour presentation will be packed with practical, useful content and will be available for 24 hours on its scheduled day.

CLICK HERE to learn more about the event and to REGISTER FOR FREE now (free bonus package of gifts is provided to those who register).

A Life in Leadership

Last week I had an opportunity to go out to dinner with Dr. Warren Bennis after his presentation at the University of La Verne.   It was a true pleasure to spend time with him in a small group.  Dr. Bennis sat on my doctoral committee at the University of Southern California and I had a chance to study under him for a brief period while I was there.

For those few people who may not know who Warren Bennis is, let me suggest that you pick up almost any major book on the subject of “leadership” and I can almost guarantee that Bennis either wrote it or will be quoted in it.

His latest book is called: Still Surprised, A Memoir of a Life in Leadership. I highly recommend this book to you. Bennis is a master story teller who teaches by telling interesting and relevant stories interwoven with tangible and applicable advice.

His presentation last week took me back to my graduate school days.  I sat in the audience at the foot of an icon in the field of leadership and I took copious notes as he spoke to the group.   Here are some of the things he shared in his presentation and at dinner later that evening which impressed me:

He started his presentation by stating that “an organization is not about the buildings, it’s about the values that are passed on.”  He shared four key values relating to leadership:

  1. Showing respect is very important.  In fact, it is critical for great leadership.  We forget how sensitive people can be.  Simple things like saying hello or thank you.  Making other people feel important.  These are small gestures that can yield great results.
  2. Admitting mistakes. If you make a mistake, say “’boy’ I screwed up, but I’ll make this right.”  Telling the truth about mistakes makes us stronger.
  3. Adaptive capacity (This was my biggest takeaway of the night!) He said that it is important for us to develop the contextual intelligence to deal with challenges.  NO, we can never conceive of all the potential problems in any given situation.  This means that one’s ability to adapt is truly an important key to being a great leader.
  4. You have to want it! Being in the role of leader is something you must truly want.  If it’s not something you are passionate about – you’re in the wrong place.  Also, it is important to abdicate your ego to the needs of the organization.

During the evening, he quoted a couple of characters from Shakespeare, the first being Glendower who said, “I can call the spirits from the vast deep.” To which the second character, Hotspur, replies, “Why so can I, so can any man.  But, will they come when you call for them?”

Bennis concluded by saying that a defining characteristic of great leaders is that they have inspired followers–people who are inspired to come when called upon by a leader.

Dr. Bennis, it was an honor to spend some time with you last week.  I sincerely hope our paths cross again.

For my readers – which idea above resonates most with you?  Oh…. and pick up this book.  It’s really that good!

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