The Number One Way to Totally Fail at Networking

Who spends countless hours networking hoping to fail and see no results from their efforts?  That’s right, no one!  So, it blows my mind that I commonly see people single-handedly sabotaging their success–they guarantee their own failure by failing to follow up with the contacts they make.

Photo courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There’s a story I was once told by one of my employees which perfectly demonstrates this and I’d like to share it with you here . . . (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 floors me . . . 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.

3 Tips for Putting the Butterfly Effect of Networking in Motion

IvanRichardBethSome years back, I posted a blog detailing how my introduction to Richard Branson was completely the result of the Butterfly Effect of Networking.  In thinking about that blog post, it occurred to me that an important part of the reason I was able to make such effective and rewarding networking connections was the way that I thought about, and therefore went about networking. Here’s what I mean by that . . .

While it’s important to know the right things to do while networking, it’s equally important to start thinking the right way to make your networking efforts as successful and dynamic as they can be. This involves altering your mind-set. Here is an up-close look at some elements you’ll want to include in your mind-set to ensure networking success:

  1. The law of reciprocity or Givers Gain® approach.

Don’t approach networking thinking ‘I did this for you, now what are you going to do for me?’ Instead, remember the old adage Give and you shall receive? The law of reciprocity takes the focus off of what you stand to gain from the networking relationship, and in doing so, creates bonds based on trust and friendship. Put it to the test. You’ll be amazed by the outcome.

  1. Diversity in networking.

Look for groups that don’t target people just like you. In this way, you’ll broaden the net you seek to cast for referrals.

  1. Farming mentality.

It’s a long, drawn-out process to go from seeding a field to harvesting the crops and there’s no quick return. But, when you spend time and take care in building relationships, your networking will yield extraordinary results.

Approaching networking with a mentality that focuses on the process of cultivating referrals will create the results you desire. Make an effort to spend more time strengthening your friendships with those whom you wish to have as part of your networking circle and you will certainly make more and better connections.

Do you have any tips for developing a networking-friendly mindset which positions you for success?  I’d love to hear from you, so please leave your thoughts, comments, and ideas in the forum below.  Thanks!

Networking Is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

The fact is, networking truly is a marathon of an endeavor–it’s most definitely not a sprint.  I have met so many people who practice what I call ‘hyperactive networking’ and they mistakenly approach networking at the speed of an all-out sprint–they want to be absolutely everywhere and meet absolutely everyone and they go, go, go ALL of the time until they soon inevitably burn out, ‘collapse,’ and give up.

It’s a real shame because if these people would, from the beginning, just slow down and take the time to develop a networking strategy and understand that networking takes time, patience, hard work, dedication, commitment, and endurance, they would be reaping great rewards from their networking efforts instead of exhausting themselves with nothing to show for it in the end.

Networking at its core is about taking the time to build genuine, trusted relationships.  Sure, visibility is important, but without building trust right along with it, visibility won’t get you very far in the long run.  You can run around all day long going to networking events and shaking people’s hands, but if you’re not spending time following up and developing trust with the people you meet, then you haven’t really achieved much of anything that will actually give you results from your networking efforts–do not confuse activity with accomplishment. 

So, what are your tactics for pacing yourself in the marathon of networking?  What actions do you take to strategically build relationships?  I’d love to hear from you so please share your thoughts and ideas in the comment forum below–thanks!

8 Networking Tips to Ensure You Are Approachable

Scott Ginsberg

Scott Ginsberg

Scott Ginsberg, author of The Power of Approachability, has spent a lot of time researching the true meaning of approachability and how it affects our relationships.  You may have heard of Scott.  He’s also known as “the Nametag Guy” (he wears a name tag everywhere he goes).  He’s the author of several books, and he’s a professional speaker who helps people maximize their approachability, become unforgettable, and make names for themselves.

Scott emphasizes that approachability is a two way street.  “It’s both you stepping onto someone else’s front porch, and you inviting someone to step onto your front porch.”  Below are eight tips from Scott (I’ve modified them a little) on how to maximize your approachability.

1) Be Ready to Engage–When you arrive at a meeting, event, party, or anywhere many conversations will take place, prepare yourself.  Be “ready to engage,” with conversation topics, questions, and stories in the back of your mind, ready to go as soon as you meet someone.  This will help you avoid those awkward “How’s the weather?” discussions.

2)  Focus on CPI–“CPI” stands for Common Point of Interest.  It’s an essential element in every conversation and interaction.  Your duty, as you meet new people, or even as you talk with those you already know, is to discover the CPI as soon as possible.  It helps establish a bond between you and others.  It increases your approachability and allows them to feel more comfortable talking with you.

3)  Give Flavored Answers–You’ve heard plenty of “fruitless questions” in your interactions with other people–questions like “How’s it going?” “What’s up?” or “How are you?”  When such questions come up, Scott warns, don’t fall into the conversation-ending trap of responding, “Fine.”  Instead, offer a “flavored answer”: “Amazing!” “Any better and I’d be twins!” or “Everything is beautiful.”  Your conversation partner will instantly change her demeanor, smile, and, most of the time, inquire further to find out what made you answer that way.  Why?  Because nobody expects it.  Not only that, but offering a true response to magnify the way you feel is a perfect way to share yourself, or “make yourself personally available” to others.

4)  Don’t Cross Your Arms at Networking Events–Even if it’s cold, you’re bored, or you’re just tired and don’t want to be there–don’t cross your arms.  It makes you seem defensive, nervous, judgmental, closed-minded, or skeptical.  It’s a simple, subconscious, nonverbal cue that says, “Stay away.”  People see crossed arms, and they drift away.  They don’t want to bother you.  You’re not approachable.  Think about it, would you want to approach someone like that?  Probably not.  So when you feel that urge to fold your arms across your chest like a shield, stop.  Be conscious of its effect.  Then, relax and do something else with your arms and hands.

5)  Give Options for Communication–Your friends, colleagues, customers, and coworkers communicate with you in different ways.  Some will choose face-to-face; some will e-mail; others will call; still others will do a little of everything.  Accommodate them all.  Give people as many ways as you can to contact you.  Make it easy and pleasant.  On your business cards, e-mail signatures, websites, and marketing materials, let people know they can get in touch with you in whatever manner they choose.  Maybe you prefer e-mail, but what matters most is the other person’s comfort and ability to communicate with you effectively.  There’s nothing more annoying to a “phone person” than to discover she can’t get a hold of you unless she e-mails you.

6)  Always Have Business Cards–At one time or another you’ve probably been on either the telling or listening end of a story about a successful, serendipitous business encounter that ended with the phrase “Thank God I had one of my business cards with me that day!”  If you recall saying something like that yourself, great!  You’re practicing approachability by being easy to reach.   If not, you’ve no doubt missed out on valuable relationships to get their supply reprinted, or change jobs.  Always remember: There is a time and a place for networking–any time and any place!  You just never know whom you might meet.

7)  Conquer Your Fear–Do you ever hear yourself saying, “They won’t say hello back to me.  They won’t be interested in me.  I will make a fool of myself”?  Fear is the number-one reason people don’t start conversations–fear of rejection, fear of inadequacy, fear of looking foolish.  But practice will make this fear fade away.  The more you start conversations, the better you will become at it.  So, be the first to introduce yourself, or simply to say hello.  When you take an active rather than a passive role, you will develop your skills and lower your chances of rejection.

8)  Wear Your Name Tag–I’ve heard every possible excuse not to wear name tags, and all of them can be rebutted: “Name tags look silly.”  Yes, they do.  But remember, everyone else is wearing one too.  “Name tags ruin my clothes.”  Not if you wear them on the edge of your lapel, or use cloth-safe connectors, like lanyards and plastic clips.  “But I already know everybody.”  No, you don’t.  You may think you do, but new people enter and leave businesses and organizations all the time.  “But everyone already knows me.”  No, they don’t.  Even the best networkers know there’s always someone new to meet.  Your name tag is your best friend for several reasons.  First of all, a person’s name is the single piece of personal information most often forgotten–and people are less likely to approach you if they don’t know (or have forgotten) your name.  Second, it’s free advertising for you and your company.  Third, name tags encourage people to be friendly and more approachable.

So, what do you think of Scott’s never-leave-home-without-your-name-tag strategy?  Do you have any own tips or tactics for making yourself approachable?  I’d love to hear your thoughts so please share them in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

Quantity Is Fine, But Quality Is King

Photo Courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo Courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One of the biggest misconceptions I’m aware of in regard to networking is the notion that it’s an “all you can eat” affair.  In other words, people go to an event, work the room in an effort to meet everyone there, and then judge their success by the number of cards they accumulate.  Although I see a certain superficial logic in that, there’s only one fatal flaw with this kind of thinking:  it assumes that the more people you meet at an event, the more successful your networking efforts are–and that’s simply not the case.  Instead, the quality of the connections you form is much more significant than the quantity of connections you make.

Businesspeople unfamiliar with referral networking sometimes lose track of the fact that networking is the means–not the end–of their business-building activities.  They attend three, four, even five events in a week in a desperate grasp for new business.  The predictable result is that they stay so busy meeting new people that they never have time to follow up and cultivate those relationships–and how can they expect to get that new business from someone they’ve only just met?  As one of these unfortunates remarked to me, “I feel like I’m always doing business but rarely getting anything done.”

I certainly agree that meeting new people is an integral part of networking, but it’s important to remember why we’re doing it in the first place: to develop a professional rapport with individuals that will deepen over time into a trusting relationship that will eventually lead to a mutually beneficial and continuous exchange of referrals.

When meeting someone for the first time, focus on the potential relationship you might form.  As hard as it may be to suppress your business reflexes, at this stage you cannot make it your goal to sell your services or promote your company.  You’re there to get to know a new person.  A friend of mine told me something his dad always said: “You don’t have to sell to friends.”  That’s especially good advice when interacting with new contacts.

This certainly doesn’t mean you’ll never get to sell anything to people you meet while networking; it does, however, mean that you’ll need to employ a different approach.  Networking isn’t about closing business or meeting hordes of new people; it’s about developing relationships in which future business can be closed.  Once you understand that, you’ll stand out from the crowd with everyone you meet.

When you’re networking like a pro and treating new contacts as future referral partners, you’ll absolutely blow away any competitors who still feel compelled to meet as many people as they possibly can.  Why?  Because when you call your contacts back, they’ll actually remember who you are and be willing to meet with you again.

Keith Ferrazzi: Build Trust by Breaking Bread

As most of you who read this blog are avid networkers, it’s highly likely you are already familiar with Keith Ferrazzi.  If you aren’t, however, I can tell you that if the dictionary had a photo to accompany the definition of “master networker,” the photo would be of Keith.  He is absolutely the epitome of a master networker, and he has the most diverse group of contacts of anyone I’ve ever known.

Keith’s first book, Never Eat Alone, is a bestseller and the entire premise of the book is that networking over a meal is an absolutely amazing way to build rapport and trusted relationships with people.  After I read it, I found myself constantly referring to it in conversation and recommending it to people because it really is true–something magical and companionable happens when people break bread together.

I wanted to share this video with you today because, in it, Keith talks about his own key strategies for hosting networking dinner parties, and I think the “dinner party tactic” is one that not a lot of networkers have dabbled with.  I would love to see networkers around the world, both novice and seasoned, experience the amazing, relationship-building power that hosting a purposeful dinner party can have.

Keith believes that the strongest links have been forged at the table.  Because of this, he has mastered the art of throwing a networking dinner party and, in his networking content, he consistently emphasizes the power that throwing a dinner party can have in creating memories and strengthening relationships.  He is quick to mention, however, that if we continue to have dinner parties with the same people, our circle will never grow.  His solution is to identify and invite “anchor tenants” to your party.  These are people who are related to your core group but who know different people, have experienced different things, and thus have much to share.  They tend to be the people who have had a positive influence on your friends’ lives.  It’s akin to inviting the CEO to the manager’s table, as Ferrazzi says.  Soon other executives will want to be there too.

I had the opportunity to experience one of Keith’s networking parties firsthand and the anchor guest that night was the legendary author Gore Vidal.  Providing the entertainment was America’s oldest collegiate a capella group, the Whiffenpoofs of Yale.  Clearly, not all of us will be able to get Gore Vidal and the Whiffenpoofs at our networking party, but I’m guessing that Keith didn’t have them at his first party either.  However, the strategy is sound and I encourage you to try out the concept as a way of building your visibility in the community.  Keith has paid close attention to how a meal can most appropriately be leveraged for a business networking opportunity; the primary focus should always be on developing the relationship–learning about each other, helping one another with problems, and giving ourselves.

I invite you to visit KeithFerrazzi.com to learn more about Keith, and I highly encourage you to check out his content on networking–it’s absolutely fantastic!

If You’re Only Talking Shop, You’re Selling Yourself Short

Photo courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

People often think that networking is all about talking business and exchanging cards, but that’s a definite misconception.

In a networking group, you should talk about more than just business. A referral relationship is more than just, “I do business, you do business, let’s do business.” A much better approach is to find common ground on a personal level, then relate your business to it.

The longer I’ve been involved in networking, the more I’ve seen the power of personal interests in making connections. Networking is about building personal relationships. If you remove the personal from the equation, you limit the amount of business that can happen.

In one networking group I worked with, I introduced an exercise called the GAINS Exchange, in which people share personal and professional information about themselves. Two of the participants in this group had known each other for more than a year but had never done business. During the exercise, they discovered they both coached their sons’ soccer teams. They quickly became close friends and were soon helping each other conduct soccer practices. After a few months, they began referring business to each other–two guys who had barely spoken to each other the first year because they seemed to have so little in common.

By finding a common interest and starting with that, we can make connections that have a very good chance of turning into business. Try this strategy out for a while and then come back and leave a comment to let me know what your experiences have been–I’d love to hear about them!

Meeting for the First Time?–10 Questions to Ask

When meeting someone for the first time, do you ever find yourself getting tongue-tied or feeling lost when it comes to knowing what questions you should ask to get a conversation going? Help is here! . . .

In this video, I list 10 questions that I personally use when I’m meeting someone for the first time.  Most of the questions shouldn’t be too surprising to you because what you’re trying to glean from an initial conversation with someone is usually pretty standard.  However there are two questions that I really, really love.  One of them will allow you to get an idea of what someone is truly passionate about when it comes to their business.  The other will create a powerful opportunity for you to make a real connection and begin building a lasting, mutually beneficial relationship.

As you’re watching the video, think about what questions you ask people during an intial introduction.  Do you have any different or unusual questions which you’ve found to be particularly helpful in your conversations?  I’ve told you what questions I use and I’m very curious to hear what questions you’ve had success with, so please take a moment to share in the comment forum below.  I read every single comment left on my blog site and I’m really looking forward to hearing from you–thanks so much!

Who’s the Best Networker You Know?

 Today, I’d like to ask you a very straightforward question: “Who’s the best networker you know, and why?”

In this video, I talk about the best networker I personally know and, interestingly enough, she comes from the world of academia–not the world of business. She is the president of an esteemed university and she is, without a doubt, an incredible networker!  So, what makes her the most standout networker I know?  I’m glad you asked . . . 😉

There are some very specific qualities she possesses which set her networking capabilities and effectiveness far above most people:

  • She knows how to establish common ground with absolutely anyone
  • Once she establishes common ground, she asks authentic, relevant questions
  • She’s extremely focused and always gives her undivided attention to individuals with whom she’s conversing
  • She genuinely cares about and listens to the information others offer and the answers they provide
  • She makes a point to remember what people say and to bring up things they said the next time she sees them

After watching the video, think about who you consider to be the best networker you personally know. Once you decide who that person is, please share with us in the comment forum below what it is about them that makes them such a great networker. I’m really looking forward to hearing your thoughts, so thanks in advance for participating!

Unexpected Referral Sources

Sometimes good referrals come from sources that you least expect.  Many business people I meet want to network exclusively with CEOs and corporate presidents.  They tell me they don’t want to join most business groups, because top executives aren’t members.  If you’re waiting to find a group exclusively for CEOs and top managers, don’t hold your breath.

Even when you find such a group, it probably won’t help.  You see, they don’t want you!  They’re hiding from you.  Top business executives insulate themselves from those they think might try to sell them products or services.  However, if you develop a word-of-mouth-based business, there’s no problem.  Through word of mouth you can increase your volume of business because you know a hundred people, who know a hundred people, who in turn know a hundred people, and so on.  You are potentially linked to a vast network beyond your own, and you never know who may be in this extended network.

The owner of a drapery business told me about one referral he received in this way.  A friend referred an elderly woman to him because the friend thought that he could help her.  The woman, who was in her late seventies, had sought the help of many drapery companies to no avail.  She wanted to install a pull blind on a small window in the back door of her home; she feared that people going by could look in.  The woman explained that normally her son would take care of this but that he was on an extended business trip.  No area drapery company would help her because it would be expensive to come out and install a small blind like that.  The businessman agreed to help her because she was referred to him by a mutual friend and because she was obviously worried about the situation.

About a month later, the businessman was working in his drapery warehouse/showroom when he noticed an expensive stretch limo pull up in front of his commercial building. Curious, he watched as the chauffeur got out and opened the door for a man dressed in an expensive suit.

The man came into the businessman’s showroom and asked for the proprietor.  The businessman introduced himself and asked how he could help the gentleman.  The man asked whether he remembered the elderly woman for whom he had installed the small blind.  The businessman said he remembered her well.  The man said that he was impressed that the businessman did this job, because he knew that there was no money in it.

Photo courtesy of stockimages at freedigitalphotos.net

Photo courtesy of stockimages at freedigitalphotos.net

The woman, he said, was his mother, and she had raved about how nice the businessman was and how he had helped her when no one else would.  She had instructed her son to use the businessman’s service whenever he could.  The son told him that he had a new, 6,000-square-foot home by the ocean.  He asked the businessman to go out and take measurements, because he wanted to install window coverings throughout the entire house.

The businessman told me that it was the most profitable job he had ever received, and it came from a little, old woman who needed a small blind on her back door.  Ironically, the “great referral” you receive is probably not going to come from a CEO, but from someone who knows a CEO.

An architect in Las Vegas told me about a window washer he met in one of his networking groups.  He said he saw the window washer every week for over nine months before the window washer gave him his first referral.  This one referral, however, was worth over $300,000 to the architect!  You never know where a good referral may come from.  It may come from a little, old lady, or a cab driver, or a window washer.  So don’t ignore the possibilities of the contacts that other people have or can make for you.

Do you have or know of a story about a remarkable referral that came from an unexpected source?  Please share it in the comment forum below–I’d love to hear about it! Thanks!

Are You Hearing What Isn’t Being Said?

Peter Drucker once said, “The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.”  This is so true and extremely important because the quality of our relationships depends on the quality of our communications; and when it comes to sales for your business and growing your business through referral marketing, this concept is a cornerstone for success.

Photo Courtesy of Ohmega1982 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo Courtesy of Ohmega1982 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Of course, not all sales transactions require incredible relationships or communication (e.g., online shopping), yet even big box stores like Wal-Mart–not known for warm customer relations–illustrate the value they place on communication and relationships by employing a visitor host to greet customers at the entrance of their stores.

Sara Minnis, a friend of mine, has often dealt with a phobia many sales people face within the sales process by coaching salespeople who are afraid of being rejected by a prospect or customer.  She says, “Sales ‘phobics’ might have an unrealistic fear of being rejected during cold calling, during the closing phase, or on a phone conversation.”  This, she suggests, is because the phobic salesperson tends to focus their communication on the emotional fit between themselves and the customer.  She explains, “The real business of selling can’t begin until the sales phobic feels that the prospect likes him or her.”  To avoid this, she says, “The professional seller directs her communication toward finding a fit between her product and the buyer’s need.  Focusing on being liked only enhances fears of personal rejection, while attending to the customer’s needs drives the transaction toward a closed deal.”

Sellers in strong relationships with their clients have a competitive advantage because the client feels connected or bonded to the seller.  The single most important tool sellers use to establish a connecting bond with another person is communication.  In fact, building a bonded relationship is completely dependent on having quality communications with another individual.

The art and science of communication is more than talking and hearing words.  There are many strategies and techniques aimed at earning the right to have your message heard.  If you can communicate at a level that matches the customer’s style rather than your own, you will be well on your way to masterful sales conversations.

Masters of sales today assume more of a consultative perspective to their selling work.  In fact, many box retail stores use the term “sales consultant” to describe the store clerk of yesterday.  Master sales consultants know that their ability to communicate is critical to selling client solutions, because rapport and trust, the cornerstones of selling, are built or lost based on communication.

So what can you do this week to improve your communication skills in order to speak to be heard and hear to know how to speak (e.g., joining a Toastmasters club, reading books like Dr. Mark Goulston’s Just Listen, etc.)?  I’d love to hear your ideas in the comment forum below.

Where to Start When Starting Your Own Business

I recently got asked a really great question: Where do I get connected with people who can help me open a business?IvanOldSchool

Though there is evidence that business is currently on the rise and the economy is moving in a positive direction, the recent downturn in the economy prompted many people who found themselves unemployed to tap into their entrepreneurial spirit and consider starting their own business.

This begs the question above–are there efficient ways to get in touch with people who can help you start your own business?

The answer is yes, and here are my three recommendations:

1) Go through your contacts and talk to people you personally know who have started a business. Set an appointment.  Let them know what you are doing and ask if they’d give you an hour of mentoring.  If possible, meet with them in person.  Show up with specific questions written out in advance.  Send them the questions prior to the meeting so they have a good understanding of what kind of information you’re looking for.  When you meet, focus on those questions, write down the answers, and stick to the time frame you promised.  If the conversation goes well, ask if you can meet with them in the future.  Follow this process with two or three people who have opened a business successfully.  I guarantee you will find this to be very valuable.

2) Find a business coach who has experience with start-up businesses. Hire them to coach you through the process.

3) Read, read, read!  There are a lot of books out there on opening a business. I have personally reviewed many of the books published by Entrepreneur Press on starting a business and they are excellent.  Go to EntrepreneurPress.com to see some of them.

I strongly encourage anyone genuinely interested in starting their own business to pursue the endeavor. I have owned my own business for thirty years (that’s a picture of me at top right, when I first started my company, BNI, and was running it from my house and garage with only one other employee in the mid ’80s) and it continues to be an amazing and fulfilling journey. I don’t think I would ever go back to working for someone else.

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