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!

Don’t Know What You Want to Be?–Stick Your Tongue Out and Wave It Around . . .

In this video, I talk about the often difficult question of what it is we truly want to do in order to make a living and contribute to the world.

When my kids were young, I often took them to get ice cream as a treat. When they had trouble making a decision about which flavor they wanted, I told them that if they stuck out their tongue and waved it around, the answer would come to them.

As they got older and had difficulty deciding what they wanted to be when they grew up, I reminded them of their tactic for finding an answer to the ice cream flavor conundrum. In reality, I was simply telling them to experiment and feel things out, so to speak, in order to figure out what they were passionate about and what they would truly be happy doing.

The fact is, if you do what you love, you’ll love what you do.  I think it’s so important and it’s an important message for us as business people if we want to have a balanced life–a harmony, as I call it. 

So, what helpful things have you done when talking to kids or others in regard to what they want to be “when they grow up”?  Please share your experiences in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

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What to Do If You Get a Bad Referral

Photo courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The best way to avoid bad referrals is to tell people when they’ve given you one.  Tell them tactfully, but tell them!  If you don’t, you’ll keep getting bad referrals and, to be brutally honest, you’ll deserve every one of them.  I continually run into people who say, “Oh, I can’t tell someone that the referral they gave me was no good.”  I say, You can’t afford not to tell them.”  Be direct, and don’t apologize.  They need to know the referral was bad.

Be positive, and make sure they know it was the referral they gave that was bad, and not their effort.  If you expect the best from people, you’ll usually get it.  If you expect less than the best, you’ll usually get that too.  The best way to ensure that you don’t get bad referrals is to teach people what you consider to be a good referral. This differs for each person, and especially for each profession.

For example, some professionals, such as consultants, counselors, and therapists, consider the opportunity to give a speech to a business group a good referral.  Others, such as printers, contractors, or florists, normally don’t.  You cannot assume that everyone knows what kind of referral you’re seeking.  You need to be very specific about what constitutes a good referral for you.

An exceptionally effective way of making sure you get good referrals is to monitor the referrals you get.  This helps you in many ways.  It tells you how often you get referrals, their sources, quality, status, and dollar payoff.  Having this information helps you focus on the groups that are giving you the best referrals and to reciprocate with the people who are giving you the most referrals.

Have you had to talk to someone about a bad referral they passed your way?  How did you handle it?  Please share your experience(s) in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

 

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!

James Barber–“The Networking Guru”

Just last week at the BNI® U.S. National Conference in Savannah, Georgia, I had the opportunity to have a brief chat with James Barber, author of The Networking Guru.  In this video, I ask James to offer a suggestion or two on how networkers can stand out during weekly presentations in their networking group in order to increase their effectiveness at consistently obtaining referrals from their networking partners.

James reveals his top tip for helping your fellow networkers (i.e., your sales team) to focus and really narrow in on how they can refer you, and he tells a powerful story about a North Carolina business woman who used his top tactic and was so successful that he still finds it amazing when he thinks about the results she got.

Watch the video now to learn how you can stand out and be remembered in order to make it easier for those with whom you network to refer you.  I guarantee that if you incorporate James’ advice into your networking presentations and interactions, you will start to see a significant improvment in your referral marketing results and a noticeable increase in the amount of referrals you’re able to generate.

After watching the video, please share your thoughts.  And, if you’ve had previous experience using the tactic we discuss for generating more referrals, I’d love to hear how it worked out for you–please share your story in the comment forum below.  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.

A Little Good Advice Can Go a Long Way

AdviceHorn

Photo Courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s no secret that we all want to do business with people whom we know and trust.  So, how do you build rapport and create trust with new contacts at networking events?  By offering value-added advice–solid, helpful information provided out of a genuine concern for another person.

Let’s say you’re a real estate agent talking with someone at a networking event who, although not ready to buy a home today, is heading in that direction.  You could say something like this:

Well, I know you’re not interested in buying a home right now.  But, when you’re ready to start looking, I highly recommend checking out the north part of town.  A lot of my clients are seeing their homes appreciate in the 10 to 20 percent range, and from what I understand, the city is thinking about building another middle school in that area.

See how it’s possible to offer some value-added advice without being too salesy?  A statement like this acknowledges that your prospect is not currently in the market (first sentence) but still demonstrates your expertise, so he will remember you when he’s ready to move.

This model works for consultants, CPAs, accountants, financial planners, coaches–just about anyone in a service-based industry in which knowledge is the main product. If you’re concerned about giving away your intellectual capital for free, look at it this way: few people are going to sign up to do business with you if they’re not sure you can do the job.  In the absence of a tangible product, you have nothing but your technical expertise to demonstrate that you have the goods.  And when you think about it, that makes sense.  Whenever you’re ready to buy an automobile, it doesn’t matter how much research you’ve done on a particular model, you’re probably not going to write your check until you’ve taken the car for a test drive.

The same is true for your prospects.  Give them a little test drive to show how it would feel to do business with you. If you’re a marketing consultant, give them a couple of ideas on how they can increase the exposure of their business.  Don’t go overboard; maybe offer a technique you read in a magazine or tried with one of your clients.  Just give them something they can try on to see if it works.

Not only will this open up a good conversation with new contacts while you’re out networking, if you play your cards right, whom do you think they’ll go to when they’re in need of your kind of service?  When it comes to building rapport and creating trust, nothing does it better than offering value-added advice.

It’s Not What You Say . . . It’s How You Say It

The business I’m in involves a lot of coaching and guiding of franchisees to teach them how to coach and guide entrepreneurs, salespeople, and professionals to generate referrals for themselves and others.  Sometimes this feels a little like ‘herding cats’; entrepreneurs hate being told what to do and it takes a real skill set to move them in a direction that involves a lot of hard work but will help them achieve the results they want.

Photo courtesy of stockimages at freedigitalphotos.net

Photo courtesy of stockimages at freedigitalphotos.net

One of the biggest challenges I have in this process is not with the actual entrepreneur or salesperson but with the individual I’m coaching to be able to guide the entrepreneur or salesperson. These people have gone through many hours of training, tend to have a fair amount of field experience, and have support manuals that exceed a thousand pages of documentation to assist in the process.   They are true expertsI’ve discovered, however, that sometimes expertise can actually be a problem. Just because your expertise may arm you with the knowledge to recognize the solution to a problem or challenge, it doesn’t mean other people are going to automatically ‘believe’ you know the solution and/or want you to actually tell them the solution.  I know that sounds counter intuitive; however, if you’ve ever raised a child, you know that this is often times absolutely true!

So, let’s say you’re an expert.  You know you’re an expert.  You know that you can help someone else.  You also know that this “someone else” is a grownup who runs their own business or is an independent sales rep who chose their particular career for good reason . . . they like the freedom of being independent.  How do you move these people in the right direction?

I had a person who worked for my company who once went into one of my locations and was appalled by how badly things were being run by the members of the group.  She let them know in no uncertain terms what they were doing wrong and how they needed to turn it around. Her assessment of the situation and the solutions she proposed were spot on but her presentation of them was all wrong. She was so blunt with the group’s members that she received a very negative reaction from them and ended up leaving the place an even bigger mess than it was when she first walked in.  When I met with her to talk about how she might have done things differently, she grew furious with me for not supporting her since she was right and the members of the group were wrong.  I wasn’t arguing that she was right–she was.  The problem I had was how she handled the situation–in that area, she was completely wrong. I tried to explain this to her by sharing one of my favorite sayings relating to the dilemma:  “Don’t burn down the barn to roast the pig.” In other words, don’t make things worse than you found them when you were trying to fix them in the first place.

She could never really wrap her head around the concept that people may not welcome her advice with enthusiasm and agree with her stance on an issue when she was clearly right.  She didn’t work for me for much longer (make of that what you will) and, eventually, we got an expert to work with that group who ‘listened’ to their issues,  Built relationships with the group members, and then coached them into achieving the greatness they had within them.  It’s important to note that this process took time and patience.

There are two things I try to teach people in this situation.

First, people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” If you want people to listen to you when you are coaching them or re-directing them, they have to know that you care about them and want them to succeed.  If they don’t know this down to their core – they will not listen to your advice.  Ever.

Second, is a saying given to me by mother on a paper weight when I was about 16 years old and I was running an uphill battle for a student council race.  My mother gave me this paper weight (which is still on my desk in my home to this date).  The paper weight says: Diplomacy is the art of letting someone else have your way.” When she gave me that, she explained that I had to learn how to work “with” people – not “through” people.  She said that even if I did know the answer to a problem – it did no good if no one else believed me.  That advice helped me win the election and it has helped me many times throughout my life.  I have to admit that I don’t always use it as well as I can – however, when I do use it, things almost always go more smoothly.

The bottom line is this: being right doesn’t help much if no one is willing to follow you.

What are your thoughts on this issue?  Maybe you can share a story . . . but, remember to keep it positive.  Let’s focus on positive outcomes more than just horror stories.

Follow the Money Trail

How many businesses would you say you’ve supported over the years by being a loyal customer?  Think about it, you could have been solely responsible for the new wing your veterinarian added to her office last year, just from all the money you’ve invested in your pet’s care over the last ten years.  For some businesses, not only may you have been a customer–you may also have recommended them to other people.  When was the last time those businesses returned the favor and helped your business succeed?  There’s a strategy I like to call “following the money trail” which shows you how to leverage the law of reciprocity with the businesses you have financially supported.

Before you read on and get deep into this strategy, go find your checkbooks–both personal and business.  I’ll wait . . . There, now that you have your checkbook(s) in front of you, it’s time to follow the money trail.  Scan your checkbooks for local businesses that you have paid.  You may notice regular expenditures, such as your hair stylist, veterinarian, physician, lawn care service, housecleaning service, dry cleaners, day care, pet resort, or grocery store.

First, let’s put this money trail into perspective.  Start by analyzing just how much you have invested in these businesses.  Get out a piece of paper and draw a table like the one shown below.

29PercentGraphReviewing these figures will help you realize just how much you’ve invested toward the success of some of your favorite businesses.  Staggering, isn’t it?  Now, what can you do with this information?

The law of reciprocity states that if I help you, you will, in time, help me in return.  I would venture to guess that most of these establishments have never been approached by their customers with a request of reciprocity.  What would you say to them?  How would they react?  Why bother?  You might wonder: What could a hairstylist do for me–or for a financial planner–other than style hair?

Seeking reciprocity begins with your willingness to ask the question.  Your request needs to be specific and needs to be supported by how much you have invested in their business over the last year or so.  Are you willing to approach your favorite businesses and ask them to support your business in some way?  If yes, let’s start with the example below and then consider what you could do for your business.

Example: Financial Planner Seeks Reciprocity from Hairstylist

First, the financial planner needs to take the hairstylist–let’s call her Joan–to lunch or coffee and engage her in conversation.

Financial planner:  Thank you for joining me for lunch.  I wanted to get some time with you away from the salon so I could talk with you about your business–and to ask for some help with my own business.  I’ve enjoyed being your client for the last five years, and I’m glad I was able to refer four other people to your salon who have become clients.  I wanted to ask if you might be willing to help support my business as well.

Joan:  I have very much enjoyed you as a client, and I really do appreciate your referrals.  What do you have in mind?

F.P.:  As a client, I receive your quarterly newsletter.  I see that you often have advertisements from community businesses.  Would you give me space in your newsletter for an ad for one year?

J:  Sure, but that would cost about $500 for the year.

F.P.:  I was hoping that you would give me the space for no charge in return for my past referrals and for being such a loyal customer, even after moving twenty miles away.

J:  I see your point.  No one has ever asked me to do anything like this before.  But it makes sense to me since you are actively supporting my business.  The least I could do is give you ad space.  Sure.  I’d be happy to help you.  Is there anything else you’d like me to do?

F.P.:  As a matter of fact, there is.  Could you leave one of my newsletters in your waiting area for your patrons to read while they wait?

J:  Of course–that would be no problem.

In this example, Joan was willing and able to help the financial planner expand her visibility.  Most people, once it’s pointed out to them, understand that the law of reciprocity goes both ways.  If they seem reluctant to help you, it’s time to reconsider your loyalty.  Should you continue to support someone else’s business when he or she flatly refuses to help your business in return?

As a client, you’re giving a lot to someone else’s business.  It’s not unreasonable to ask for something that supports your business in return.  Now think about your business and the businesses you support.  What can you ask of them?  Can you contribute to their newsletter?  Will they display your pamphlet?  Will they post your business announcements?  Can you leave a stack of business cards on their coffee table?  Will they pass out your business’ coupons to their customers at the register?  Will they sponsor your next event?

Make it a point this week to approach at least one establishment for help with promoting your business.  After all, when you follow the money you’ve spent on other people’s establishments, isn’t it about time some of it came back around to you?  Also, I’d love to hear about your experiences with this so please come back and share your thoughts and experiences in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

 

 

Top Etiquette Tips on Doing Business & Networking Globally

We’re constantly becoming more of a global community and we’re receiving more and more opportunities to network worldwide right alongside cultures which are very different from our own. This makes it very important to know what to do and what to say when it comes to respecting cultural norms, boundaries, and traditions–more importantly, we need to know what not to say and what not to do (trust me, by the personal stories you’ll hear in this video, you’ll realize that I learned this lesson the hard way).

At a recent 2015 Referral Institute® conference, I had the pleasure of speaking to my friend, referral marketing trainer Tiffanie Kellog, about cultural etiquette and why it’s so important to be aware of it.  I offer my top tips on doing business and networking globally and also reveal one of my favorite online educational resources which deals with this topic.

Do you have a story about an experience doing business and/or networking globally which stands out in your mind?  Please share it in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

Introducing Yourself at Networking Events–Top Tips for Overcoming Anxiety

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If the thought of giving a brief introduction of yourself and your business at networking meetings makes your palms sweat, read on . . .

When participating, even as a guest, in various networking meetings or functions, the fact is that you will be required to introduce yourself sooner or later.  Preparing a script for introducing yourself will improve your results.  One of your scripts should be an overview of what you do.  Other presentations can address various aspects of your product or service.  Here’s the script sequence I recommend:

  • Your name
  • Your business or profession
  • Brief description of your business or profession
  • Benefit statement of one of your products or services
  • Your name again

Your name and your business profession are easy enough.  A brief description and a benefit statement can be separate items,  but more often they are intertwined in your message.  It’s fairly easy to combine your business with the benefits of your product or service.  I suggest telling people what you do, as well as what you are:

“I’m a financial planner and I help people plan for their future” or “I’m an advertising and marketing consultant; I help companies get the most out of their advertising dollar.”  These explanations are more effective than saying, “I do financial planning,” or “I plan advertising campaigns.”

In many situations, you’ll be introducing yourself to only one or two people at a time.  Some networking organizations have all the members stand at each meeting, and in round-robin fashion, give a one-minute overview to the entire group.  If you’re a member of a group like this, it is vitally important to vary your presentations.

Many people who are in networking groups that meet every week have a tendency to say the same old thing, time after time.  From what I’ve seen, many weekly presentations are done weakly.  If you don’t vary your presentations, many people will tune you out when you speak because they’ve already heard your message several times.  Your best bet is to give a brief overview, then concentrate on just one element of your business for the rest of your presentation.

If you prepare your brief introduction using these techniques, you will begin to get much more confident at introducing yourself and, what’s better, you’ll begin to get better networking results.  If you try introducing yourself in this way at your next networking meeting or function,

I’d love to hear how it turns out for you–please come back and share your experience in the comment forum below.  Or, if you’ve already done some things to help you with this issue – please share your tactics with us.  Thanks!

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