The Hard Path is Easier

I am writing to you today from beautiful Vail, Colorado, while attending a meeting of the Transformational Leadership Council. TLC is a group made up of trainers and “thought leaders” helping to transform people’s lives in various ways.

During the five days of seminars and meetings, I had an opportunity to sit in on a presentation by Steve D’Annunzio that I felt compelled to write about. Steve spoke of many things, but one point that really resonated with me was his discussion of taking the easy path or the hard path in the decisions that we make throughout life.

He said, “taking the hard path often makes life easier and taking the easy path often makes life harder!”

I thought about how that applies to what I teach people in business. I’ve used a phrase for years: “It’s not net-sit or net-eat, it’s net-work! If you want to be successful in your networking efforts, you have to work the process consistently and regularly. I see people nod their heads in agreement and then go out and continue to go through the motions of networking and relationship building, refusing to do the hard work necessary to create a powerful network.

The real irony of this is that those are the same people who later say this “networking” thing doesn’t work for them, and they continue to struggle in business. They take the easy path, and business continues to be hard. On the other hand, I see many people who truly work hard at building relationships and going deep in their networking efforts. These are the people who consistently see great results over time. What seems like hard work at first leads to things being easier for them later.

He asked, “Are you practicing hard/easy or are you practicing easy/hard in your life?

A powerful question with significant meaning. So, I’d love to hear from you. What have you done in your life that seemed hard but made life easier or, what have you done that seemed easy but made life harder?

The Power of Authoring

Building credibility and recognition are two important pieces of the networking process that definitely help grow your network and your business. Becoming an author is a technique that has worked well to develop personal and professional credibility for many people I know. Authoring is an extremely powerful advertising and branding tool, because with each article and/or book you write, you are building brand recognition for you and your business.

As an example of how powerful it is to be labeled an author, just look at the way the media reacts to it. Let’s say you approach the media and ask them to interview you about your business. Nine times out of 10, they’ll tell you to take out an ad; but, over and over again, I’ve seen them interview anyone with a book!

 

If you’ve written articles or a book or you have something in the works and you don’t know how to get it in the public eye, I highly recommend a website called PromoteABook.com to help you with this process. There is some great content there for authors and budding authors.

‘Million Dollar Challenge’ for Entrepreneurs

If you have a great business or a great idea that you want to take to the next level, you don’t want to miss the opportunity to apply for yourBusinessChannel’s Million Dollar Challenge contest. The contest is the result of yourBusinessChannel’s upcoming, online TV series “The Million Dollar Team,” which features entrepreneurial advice and instruction from a team of business experts–which would cost more than a million dollars if they were hired in the real world.

Ahead of the show’s launch, its producers are calling for businesses to fill 25 “hot seats” to get direct input into their businesses from the Million Dollar Team.

I’ve been asked to sit on the team of experts alongside experienced and talented businesspeople such as Kevin Roberts (global CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi), Penny Power (Founder of Ecademy.com), Tom Smith (acclaimed social media expert from Universal McCann), David Meerman Scott (viral marketing guru whose online campaigns have sold more than $1 billion in products and services worldwide) and many others. These people are world-class experts in their field and, between all of us, we have helped thousands of businesses to prosper.

The Million Dollar Challenge is open to businesses of any size and stage, anywhere in the world. The key requirement is that they be businesses with real substance or promise that need an injection of leading-edge advice to grow to the next level, fast. I think this is a chance-of-a-lifetime opportunity. If you have a business with real potential, applying to receive free, extra-close attention from a “million dollar” team of world-class experts is a no-brainer.

Take a look here to find out more about the contest and to apply.

I have found yourBusinessChannel to be a tremendous resource for entrepreneurs and businesspeople everywhere. You can keep your eye out for more of the site’s great shows by clicking here.

Get Published Without the Hassle

I’ve always said that writing books and articles is a great way to help establish visibility and credibility in your networking efforts. Fortunately, it’s just gotten easier to “distribute” what you’ve written.

I recently had an opportunity to spend the day “telling stories” with an old friend, Mark Victor Hansen (co-author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series). It had been a long time since we had spoken, and we did a little reminiscing about our past experiences.

We also talked about our recent projects. Mark spoke about his goal to help people share their books and articles with the world. As a result of that effort, he helped create YouPublish.com, a website that enables anyone to publish his or her books or articles online. (Mark’s wearing a YouPublish.com hat in the photo, in case you wondered why he’s pointing to his head.) The great thing about the site is that you can produce and release new works quickly, distribute your library of unpublished works, expand your readership base and get introduced to international markets.

The website allows you either to distribute your material for free or to charge for the content if you wish. It’s up to you. YouPublish handles all the administration, which makes for a user-friendly and hassle-free site. I’m really impressed with YouPublish, and I think it provides a much-needed, extremely useful service. Since talking to Mark about the site, I’ve personally uploaded a number of my books and articles for distribution via this digital format at YouPublish.com/Networking.

Take a look. There’s no upfront cost, and the site offers a great service. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Afraid of Public Speaking?

Public speaking is one of the best ways to build your network by making yourself visible to large groups of people. Unfortunately, to some degree, many people are afraid of public speaking. I’ve stood in front of groups of people and given speeches and presentations all over the world, and I’ll be the first to admit that standing in front of an audience and talking while all eyes are on you can sometimes be intimidating. That’s no reason to miss out on the amazing opportunity to grow your network through public speaking.

Here are five suggestions for people who are nervous doing presentations at their networking groups or otherwise:

1. Prepare an outline of what you want to say and practice it.

2. Be specific and only talk about the things you know best.

3. Use handouts, visuals or PowerPoint slides to help carry you through the talk.

4. You’re the expert–think of ways to show it that aren’t threatening to you.

5. Be creative and think of ways you’re comfortable with to communicate your information.

The Word of Mouth Manual

I just ran across a good e-book on word of mouth that I definitely think is worth a read. The book is called the Word of Mouth Manual by Dave Balter and is available free as a downloadable here. You can also buy a hardcopy version of the book from Amazon.

The process of word-of-mouth marketing and networking are, in many ways, inextricably tied. I teach people how to network to build visibility and credibility in order to generate referrals (word of mouth). Although this book doesn’t really talk about networking, it thoroughly covers the process of word of mouth, primarily from an advertising and marketing perspective. However, it offers several valuable insights for both networking and word of mouth.

Here are a few key points from the book:

  • There is a growing emergence of the “shared collective experience.” People love to share their experiences–good, bad, and otherwise.

  • What is a word-of-mouth conversation actually worth monetarily? One study says it’s “worth 1,000 times more than a standard ad impression” (arguably a high estimate). Dave offers a formula on page 33 that is worth consideration.

  • “From the outside, word of mouth seems like an awfully easy channel to tap into . . . But the reality is that the power of the medium is affected by the most subtle of social norms. It’s about how we talk to each other and what makes us willing to share our opinions, which makes it a more flexible and fluid medium than any other.”

I don’t completely agree with the comments about word of mouth and cultural differences. Often people point to the fact that every culture is different and, therefore, there are concerns about “word of mouth” transcending cultural differences.

In my opinion, what is generally overlooked is that word of mouth in different countries doesn’t happen outside the cultural context; it happens inside the cultural context. Cultural differences become an issue when Americans are trying to work with Brits, Brits are trying to work with Scandinavians, Scandinavians with Malaysians or Malaysians with Australians, etc. But word of mouth tends to work well when it happens primarily within a specific cultural context (There’s a whole blog I can do on this subject!).

Suffice it to say that I’m not in complete agreement with Balter on this issue, but I completely recommend the book as a valuable read to anyone who wants to build his or her business through word of mouth.

Why Do You Network?

I have a series of surveys on networking up at my company website. One of them asks, “What is your primary objective for networking?” I have to admit I’m a little surprised that 75 percent of the responses were for “new business” (see below). I would have guessed that would be the largest percentage, but I didn’t expect it to be that high.

I understand that most entrepreneurs and salespeople network to some extent for all three reasons (new business, education, career advancement), but I didn’t realize that most networked primarily for new business.

What are your thoughts about networking for new business, education or career advancement?

Should You Network on the Net?

Over the past few months, I’ve been doing quite a bit of research about online networking. And the more I read (and work on the net), the more I realize that if you’re in business today, you definitely need to be on the net (in addition to good, old-fashioned, face-to-face networking)! The problem is, an entire technology, vocabulary, culture and marketplace have been born in only a few short years. This has left many business owners at a loss about what to do and how to do it when it relates to the internet and their business.

If you’re finding it hard to grasp ways to utilize the net to network your business, spend some time checking out social networking sites (particularly business-related ones such as Ecademy.com and LinkedIn), along with various bulletin board and chat room communities. These sites and communities allow people to connect on a regular basis, exchange information and ideas, and get to know one another a little better. By browsing through some of these sites, you’ll get an idea of how others are using the net to build social capital and promote their businesses, and you’ll no doubt come up with some ideas of how to do the same for yourself.

The internet flattens the communication hierarchy while broadening people’s access to ideas, information, products and services. Understanding how to network on the net is quickly becoming a must. I’d recommend starting out by Googling “social networking sites”–and then start clicking!

Simple Rules for Successful Networking

While reading an older edition of an online newsletter affiliated with my networking organization, I ran across an article that stood out to me because it creatively compares networking to swimming and gives some useful advice on how to network successfully at events. Michael Goldberg, the author of the article, is a speaker and writer who founded his own consulting business. I’ve paraphrased his 12 very simple rules for successful networking (You may also CLICK HERE to read the full article).

1. Dress appropriately.
2. Always equip yourself with business cards and a pen.
3. Network only–no selling allowed.
4. Be prepared to ask questions–about them.
5. Greet and introduce others with passion.
6. If there is a connection, ask for his or her business card.
7. Hand out your business card (when asked).
8. Have a buddy system, and help others.
9. Know your purpose, and only share it when asked.
10. Spend more time listening, and less time talking
11. Know when the conversation is over, and mingle with others.
12. Make a friend (or two), and have fun.

To learn more about Michael, visit www.MichaelGoldbergspeaks.com.

Networking is Simple But Not Easy

Networking is simple; it’s just not easy. If it were easy, everyone would do it and do it well… and people don’t! This not a blog piece about the step-by-step process you need to employ to network effectively. No, this is to get you to stop and think about all the articles, books, blogs, podcasts and audios that you have read or listened to and aren’t following. This is an article to get you to stop and think about what you should be doing rather than what you know (or should know).

I do presentations around the world talking about how to apply networking to your everyday life. Sometimes I have someone come up to me and say, “I’ve heard people talk about some of those things before.”  Hearing it for a year versus doing it for a year are completely different things. Success is about the “doing,” not just the “knowing.” In fact, I believe that ignorance on fire is better than knowledge on ice! The only thing more powerful is knowledge on fire.

There are so many things in life that look simple but are, in fact, not easy. Cooking is one of those for me. It always looks so simple. My wife can go into the kitchen and put a gourmet meal together in 30 to 40 minutes. Then I get into the kitchen and burn water.

Small repairs around the house–these things look so simple. Then I pick up a hammer and, well, it’s just not pretty. That’s when I’m reminded that I’m missing the”handyman gene.” It skips a generation in my family. My dad can fix anything. He’s incredibly capable with a toolbox. I’m not. When I was 17 he brought me into the garage and solemnly said to me, “Son, you’d better go to college, because you’re never going to make a living with your hands!” Good advice, Dad. Thanks.

Golf. Looks simple, right? I’m not talking about professional competition, I mean just going out and smacking the ball around some grass. Looks simple. I’ve learned however, that it’s not easy.

There are so many things in our lives that look simple but are not easy. Networking is one of them. It’s a skill. A skill that takes commitment and effort to learn and apply consistently.

So I’m giving you an assignment (sorry, my inner professor is coming out). Your assignment after reading this blog today is to think of one idea in a book, article, recording–anything–that you’ve read or heard over the past year or so that you wanted to apply to your life but never got around to doing. Your assignment is to find that article, locate that “something” you wanted to do and do it within the next seven days. If it’s something you do on an ongoing basis, then find a way to incorporate it into your life and/or your business. All excuses are equal – just do it.

Success is the uncommon application of common knowledge. You have the knowledge. Now apply it with uncommon commitment. It won’t be easy. But I assure you it’s simple.

Storytelling and Business? Absolutely!

I was invited to a very unusual event recently. It was a meeting about “storytelling.” It was hosted by Peter Guber. Peter is an Academy Award-winning producer of movies, including Rain Man, The Color Purple and Batman. He is the past CEO of Sony Corp. and currently chairman and CEO of Mandalay Entertainment.

Peter is clearly passionate about the power of “story” and considers it the “secret sauce” that has enabled him to achieve his success. Consequently, he decided to create an opportunity for a diverse group of experts to come together to exchange ideas–be inspired, enlightened and enriched–but, most important, to share stories!Story Telling Summit

Peter invited about 16 people (including “yours truly”) along with individuals such as Warren Bennis–one of the world’s foremost experts on leadership; Keith Ferrazzi–author of “Never Eat Alone“; and Mark Victor Hansen–co-author of the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series, as well as many other “storytellers” from various businesses, backgrounds and areas of expertise.

Effective storytelling is an important part of one’s emotional intelligence. I’ve always believed in using stories to make a point but never really gave a lot of thought to some of the “hows” and “whys” of their effectiveness. There were a number of “take-aways” for me from this meeting that I would like to share with you.

Storytelling is about tapping into a passion about some topic. It is about taking the listener to a place that is visceral, visual, concrete, emotional and possibly unexpected. One of the participants, Dr. Mark Goulston, said that “a story is a portable storage unit for one’s dreams, fears, hopes, humor and sorrows that people visit–or visits people–from time to time for them to stay in contact with their humanity.” [The group really liked this definition, and so did I.]

Mark Victor Hansen said that when the authors were working on the Chicken Soup series, they were looking for stories that gave or gave people:

  • God bumps or goose bumps
  • Happy tears
  • A change in perception
  • Weakness in the knees
  • Change in your life

One of the best comments of the day came from Peter, who said, “what if” is more powerful than “how to” in a story. Very true, indeed. Getting people to think of the possible rather than simply look at the present can truly help make a great story.

After spending an entire day talking about what it takes to make a good story, I verified the fact that it is very difficult to describe to someone “how” to tell a good story. However, you sure know one when you hear it!

10 Traits of a Master Networker

The number one thing entrepreneurs need to remember relating to networking is that people who take the time to build their social capital are the ones who will have new business referred to them over and over again. Based on a survey of more than 2,000 business profesionals (published in Masters of Networking), master networkers possess the traits listed below (ranked in order of descending importance). If you follow their example, you will master the art of networking, as well.

  1. Follows up on referrals
  2. Has a positive attitude
  3. Is enthusiastic/motivated
  4. Is trustworthy
  5. Has good listening skills
  6. Networks always
  7. Thanks people
  8. Enjoys helping others
  9. Is sincere
  10. Works his or her network

See a trend with these 10 points? They all tie in to long-term relationship building, not to stalking prey for the big kill. The key is to build mutually beneficial business relationships. Only then will you succeed as a master networker.

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