In-Person Spamming

At a recent Referral Institute®  conference in San Francisco, one of the organization’s top trainers, Tiffanie Kellog, took a few moments  to chat with me about the concept of in-person spamming. If you’ve ever encountered people who use networking as a face-to-face cold calling opportunity, so to speak, then you’ve been the subject of in-person spamming.

Watch the video now to learn why Tiffanie sometimes compares networking to speed dating and to get our combined take on the real point of networking, where people tend to go wrong in their networking approach, and how to know when it’s appropriate or inappropriate to give another person your business card.

If you’ve had an experience with in-person spamming, please share your story in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

Getting to the Referral Stage with a New Contact

People often ask me how to move a relationship with someone they just met to the point where the new contact feels comfortable passing them a referral.

I always say that the best way to get to this next referral-passing stage depends in part on how you came into contact with a person in the first place.  Let’s say you met while giving a brief presentation to a group of people who are in your target market.  Assuming you did a good job, then you absolutely have the possibility of receiving a referral, even though you just met.  Why? Because the presentation moved you from visibility to credibility in the new contact’s mind and now they’re probably willing to risk their reputation and recommend you to someone they know.

Photo Courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at

Photo Courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at


The same thing is true when you’re out networking.  If you have a good conversation with someone and truly add value to the conversation, then moving from visibility to credibility isn’t that difficult, and you’ll be in great shape for getting some referral-based business.  What’s more, it’s not terribly important whether the person is someone you might do business with directly.  Even if your businesses don’t match up, the other person might have information that’s useful or might know other people you’d like to get in contact with.  It’s often worthwhile to develop a networking relationship with people who have little in common with you because they can bring an entirely new network into contact with yours and broaden your business horizons.


Just bear in mind that even if there is a strong possibility that you’re going to do business with this new contact, it’s probably not going to happen there at the networking event, where conversations last anywhere from an eye-blink three minutes to a long-winded seven.  Instant business is not likely to be had.  But if you follow up with a quick note a few days later, you can make some one-to-one time and come up with ways the two of you can help each other.  That meeting is where you’ll have your best opportunity for a quick referral.


What has your experience been with moving to the referral stage with new contacts–do you have a tactic that seems to be particularly effective?  If so, please share it in the comments section.  Thanks!

How to Communicate Simply and with Specificity

Communication is always a challenge.  If it were easy, there would be no need for research, books, or training programs on the subject, and there would be far fewer divorces–and wars.  But communication is doubly vital in networking.  Your success in marketing your business by word of mouth rests mostly on your skills as a communicator.  The clearer and more concise your message, the more easily it is passed on by your marketing team.

Photo courtesy of stockimages at

Photo courtesy of stockimages at

Here are three common ways people miscommunicate:

  1.  They talk too much
  2.  They use jargon
  3.  They speak in generalities

Doing any of these things is a mistake that can cause your message to be lost, misheard, or ignored.  Worse, it can create misinformation or confusion, or even turn people against you, causing you greater harm than if you had not tried to communicate at all.  In a networking situation, remember that unless you are speaking with someone else in your industry, you must eliminate the jargon from your vocabulary.  Simplify your message so the average person can relate to what you’re saying.  When someone asks you, “What do you do for a living?” here are some examples of how to best respond:

  •  Instead of saying, “I do IT consulting and system hard drive analysis,” say, “I troubleshoot and tune up computers to keep them free of problems.”  It’s easy to relate to computers that are problem free, but terms like “IT consulting” and “hard drive analysis” are confusing to some.
  • Instead of saying, “I’m a marketing consultant,” say, “I help businesses become known in the community.”
  • Instead of saying, “I analyze telecommunications hardware and systems,” say, “I save businesses money on their phone systems.”

Notice how in these examples, the industry jargon is eliminated and then replaced with a benefit statement.  That is, we went from industry-specific, feature-related terms to less-specific, benefit-related terms.  In networking, it is also important to take care not to speak in too general of terms.  General requests are hard for people to fulfill, because they don’t bring to mind specific people or situations that the listener may know of.

Suppose you ask a realtor what kind of prospect he wants to meet and the realtor says, “Anyone who wants to sell a home.”  The chances of your knowing someone who “wants to sell a home” are slim, and if you do know someone who is putting her house on the market, she’s probably already dealing with a real estate agent.  But if the realtor says, “Empty nesters looking to downsize,” you immediately think of two or three couples whose last child has moved out.  This answer is more specific, and it makes you think of home owners who may be just starting to consider moving to a smaller house.

It may seem odd but the more specific you are, the wider the door opens in the listener’s mind.  To network your business effectively, think of yourself as a profiler.  The more accurately you profile your preferred client and the more specific your message, the better your referrals will be.  Being specific also helps when you ask someone to help you.  Let’s say you’re looking for a personal introduction to the CEO of Company X.  When you ask someone in your network to introduce you, be specific: “John, could you arrange a one-hour lunch meeting for the two of us and Ruth Sinclair, the CEO of Company X?  She’s someone I’d really like to meet, and since you know both of us well, it would be great to have you there.”  This request is specific; it gives John the details he needs to successfully complete the task.

A great way to get used to communicating your message simply and specifically is to practice delivering it.  Here’s the most-asked question in networking: “So, what do you do for a living?”  This week, practice your response to this question, and time yourself until you can answer it concisely and clearly in one minute.  Keep in mind that the question is what do you do for a living, not how you do it.  Another good way to work on your message is to identify ten jargon words that you’ve been using in your networking.  Make a list with two columns–title the first column “Jargon Words or Phrases” and the second column “Saying the Same Thing in Layperson’s Terms.”  A third thing you can do to practice your message is to write out a referral request before presenting it to the people in your network.  Make the request specific by using the name, company, and profile of the person you want to be referred to.  Create a clear image of what the people in your network should be looking for and what you want them to do on your behalf.  As an experiment, show your written request to someone close to you and ask him if it is clear, concise, specific, and devoid of assumptions.  Becoming an effective profiler for your business not only helps you clarify your messages, but it also helps ensure the success of your referral marketing efforts. -s

I’d love to hear about your experiences in practicing your message so please share your thoughts in the comment forum below–thanks!


How to Zero in on the Benefits of Your Business

Last week I wrote a blog explaining the importance of focusing on the benefits of your products or services (as opposed to the features of your products/services) when communicating with networking partners and potential customers.

Once you have a good understanding of the difference between benefits and features, you can begin zeroing in on the benefits of your business.  In order to do this, your first task is to focus on your best customers.  What problems were they experiencing before they came to you?  What problems did you solve for them?  How did you make their lives easier?  The answers to these questions will begini to connect you with their motives for buying your products or services.  You provided some value to them that was significant enough to cause them to spend their money.  What was it?

An additional task this week is to create a list of the features versus the benefits of just one product or service you offer.  On a sheet of paper, make two columns–one column with the heading “FEATURE of This Product or Service” and the other column with the heading “BENEFIT of This Feature.”

Once you’ve completed this list, begin to include the language of your benefits in your messages to your marketing team, to prospects, and while networking.  It would be a good idea to eventually complete this list for each of your products or services because the more you can communicate the benefits of your products/services, the more people will see the value of what your business provides.

Come back next week to learn how to simplify your message and make it more specific and, in the meantime, I’d love to hear from you in regard to any questions you may have about benefits vs. features and/or get your thoughts on what you may have learned or realized about the true benefits of your products/services through creating your features vs. benefits list.  Please share your questions/thoughts in the comment forum below.  Thanks!


Can You Pinpoint the Benefits of Your Product or Service?

Sales training often teaches us that customers make buying decisions based on (1) their emotions (“Sell the sizzle, not the steak!”) and (2) the value the product or service brings to them.  Marketing specialists capitalize on customers’ emotion-based buying habits.  Customers choose a product or service based on its benefits, not its features.  The features are simply the bare-bones facts–the elements or significant parts–of the product or service.  The benefits are its value to the customer–how it will solve their problems, eliminate their pain, and make life glorious.

Image courtesy of adamr at

Image courtesy of adamr at

To understand the difference between features and benefits, let’s think about a car:

Features of a car

  • V-6 engine, dual exhaust, front-wheel drive, sunroof, significant interior legroom, heated seats, heated glass

Benefits of those features

  • V-6 engine–ability to pull onto the highway without hesitation (and to impress your friends)
  • Dual exhausts–higher fuel efficiency and more power (and it sounds groovy and also impresses your friends)
  • Front-wheel drive–more interior room because of the lack of a driveshaft tunnel
  • Sunroof–the open feel of a convertible with the safety and security of a sedan
  • Legroom–greater comfort while driving long distances and more room for your growing family
  • Heated seats–cozy motoring on frigid days and nights; greater back comfort on long-distance trips
  • Heated glass–the convenience of not having to scrape icy windows in the winter

The more perceived value a benefit offers, the higher it gets ranked in your decision to purchase.  Objectively, a sunroof is not a significant feature, but if it makes you feel a bit like a race car driver, perhaps that benefit raises its value for you.  Heated seats are nice too, but they might not rank high in value for to people who live in a warm climate and wouldn’t strongly influence their buying decision.  The benefits of dual exhausts, however, might have perceived value for all buyers–better fuel efficiency, more power, and a sound like your beloved but departed ’57 Chevy.

What does all this have to do with your referral marketing message?  Simply this:  Most businesspeople, without thinking about it, talk in terms of features.  As professional experts and salespeople, that’s what they’re most familiar with.  They’re not accustomed to looking at their products or services from a customer’s perspective.

In formulating the message you want your networking partners to convey, your challenge is to put yourself in the customer’s place.  What are the benefits of your product or service?  How will it make the customer’s life or business easier, more comfortable, more satisfying, more profitable?  How can you shorten and simplify your message so that others can communicate these benefits more clearly and surely?

Now that you have a good understanding of the difference between features and benefits, I hope you’ll come back next week to read the follow-up blog post I’ll be doing which will teach show you exactly how to zero in on the benefits of your business.  Until then, if you have any questions about features vs. benefits or any thoughts you’d like to share regarding this post, please leave a comment in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

The Power of Being Specific

In this video, I explain a great technique for getting your referral partners to really hone in on and start passing you more and more of the exact type of referrals that you ideally want. The technique is simply to focus on being as specific as possible.

In order to demonstrate just how powerful specificity can be, I take you through two 10-second exercises which clearly convey how results can be significantly greater when we take care to be specific. You’ll need a pen and a piece of paper to participate in the exercises so be sure to grab those two things before watching the video and please feel free to leave a comment sharing your thoughts on this video and/or any effective strategies you may have which help you focus on specificity with members of your network.

It Never Hurts to Ask . . . Right?

How many times have we heard people say that it never hurts to ask? Surely more times than we can count. 

Well, in this video, I explain why it definitely hurts to ask sometimes–especially if you ask to soon!  I share a personal story of a recent time when a stranger contacted me via LinkedIn wanting to connect and accompanied the connection request with a note asking me something which I found inappropriate to the point that I decided right then that I was never even going to consider connecting with her.

Watch the video to hear the story and to find out why I flagged the woman’s LinkedIn request as problematic on three significant levels.  Let me just say that this is ‘Networking 101’ and if I were her teacher, she would have gotten a failing grade–this is not the way to network!  Whether you frequently participate in face-to-face networking, online networking, or both, you’ll definitely want to hear this story so you never make the three mistakes that this woman did.

I’d really love to hear your feedback on this.  What are your thoughts?  Also, please share any similar horror stories you may have in the comment forum below–I’m looking forward to hearing from you.  Thanks!

What Is Your Unique Selling Proposition?

When someone asks you what you do, what are the first words out of your mouth?  If the words aren’t ready to roll off your tongue, then read on . . .


Image courtesy of artsamui at Free Digital

When someone asks you what you do, make sure you’re ready with a response that is succinct but memorable. The attention span of the average adult is only 20 seconds; a long, drawn-out answer to the question isn’t going to work.

Focus on creating a unique selling proposition (USP)–a mini commercial that you can readily use while networking. I think of this as a personal answer to the age-old “Whattaya do?” question, which we’ve all been asked about a million and a half times.

Here’s an example. When someone asks what you do, don’t reply with a bland, general statement such as “I’m a consultant.” Half the world could say that, and it doesn’t tell anybody anything. Instead, you could say, “I work with small to medium-size businesses to help them attract more clients than they could possibly handle.”  This is short, powerful and informative.

A USP is obviously something you’ll have to tailor to your specific business, but can you see how it packs more punch than just telling people you’re a consultant? Whichever 12 or 20 words you choose, make sure your answer is quick and informative without sounding rehearsed or contrived.

So, make it your goal this week to come with a USP. Not only will this make you much more effective at networking events and functions, being prepared in this way will also make you more comfortable with introducing yourself to new people because you’ll have the confidence of knowing exactly what to say.

Once you’ve used your new USP a handful of times, come back and leave a comment letting me know what kind of response you got from people and how it worked out for you overall. As always, I’d love to hear from you!

How and When to Deliver Your Business Card

Last week I posted a blog entitled “Leverage Your Smallest Billboard” about how to make the most of one of the most powerful marketing tools you have available to you–your business card.  A few days after that post went up, I received an e-mail from one of my blog readers asking if I could offer some details on the best way to go about distributing business cards when networking.  She specifically wanted to know if there’s any way to tell when it’s the right time to offer your card to a new contact.  So, in answer to her request, today’s blog post is all about how and when to deliver your business card.

Business Card

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at

How many times have you been to a networking function and had people come up to you and literally push their cards into your hand or pocket?  Such behavior is business card abuse, and it warrants a phone call to the business card police.  I call these people “card pushers.”  They come directly from the school of power networking, where they’ve been taught to “Sell! Sell! Sell!”–and to do so at networking events by forcing their cards on every person they meet.  Their goal for each networking event is to get rid of as many cards as they can, under the illusion that simply having a card automatically makes you part of their network.  They make no real effort to develop relationships.  Being on the receiving end of such aggressive card mongering feels awkward; you are being directly sold to, with no consideration of your interests or needs.

Does this sound like a cold call to you?  It is–except for one thing.  The seller is not safely out of reach at the other end of the line–he’s breathing in your face and grabbing your hand.  It’s a situation you’d like to avoid, right?  Then make every effort not to impose it on anyone else.  Don’t hand out your business card unless someone asks for it.

That’s right.  You read correctly.  I’ll say it again to make the point.  The best way to use your business card is not to give it out if people don’t ask for it.  If you practice this rule while networking, you’ll be amazed at the impact you’ll have on others.  You’ll find it refreshing, liberating, and, most important, controlled.  You are now assured that peoople who ask for your card actually want your card.  As a bonus, you save money and trees!

So, you may be asking yourself, what happens if I want to give someone my card but they don’t ask me?  It’s simple . . . ask them for their card.  More than likely, they will then ask you for yours as well.

After reading this, what do you think?  Do you agree that this is the best way to hand out your business card when networking?  Do you have any creative tactics for getting your business cards in the hands of others outside of the networking event environment?  If so, how have these tactics paid off for you?  I’d love to hear your thoughts so please share them in the comment forum below.  Thanks! 



Is It Appropriate to Network Anywhere–Even at a Funeral?

In this video, ask you to consider whether or not you think it’s appropriate to network anywhere, any time, any place . . . even at a funeral.

What do you think? Do you think networking at a funeral is a good idea?  Chances are, most people reading this will answer with something along the lines of, “Heck no!  Passing out business cards at a funeral would be completely inappropriate–not to mention offensive”

Though I certainly agree that passing out business cards at a funeral would likely be one of the worst networking faux pas one could make, I am not necessarily in agreement that it would be inappropriate to network at a funeral.

What do I mean by this?  Well, you’ll have to watch the video to find out but I will tell you that you very well may change your thoughts on the appropriateness of networking absolutely anywhere after you hear the personal story I share about networking at a church function.

Do you have any stories, thoughts, or experiences relating to forming significant networking connections in places that at first seemed to be inappropriate networking venues?  If so, I’d really like to hear what you have to say.  Please leave a comment in the discussion forum below.   Thanks!


I Don’t Need Your Card

Imagine handing your card to someone at a networking event and having it handed back to you with “I don’t need it.”  Well, that’s exactly what happened to Juan Vides recently.  Juan found this pretty insulting, and he wrote to me to ask how I thought someone should respond in this situation.

Business Card

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at

First, let me talk about giving and getting business cards.

  • A business card is a tacit invitation to make a future connection.  How you handle that connection afterward will determine how responsive your new contact will be.  So be respectful with what you do after someone gives you their card.
  • You should always have plenty of business cards with you.  It still amazes me that people go to networking events and knowingly don’t bring cards with them.  I recently read a blog where many people said they didn’t bring cards so that they wouldn’t get spammed by people they meet.  Really?  Have they never heard of a spam filter?  I use it regularly with unwanted spam.  Besides, that argument is like saying I don’t want to advertise because someone might read the ad and cold call me?  What kind of logic is that?  Buck-up, dandelion, bring cards.  It is a “networking” event!
  • The ideal scenario is to have a meaningful (even if brief) conversation with someone where they ask for your business card (how to do that is an entirely different blog).  However, that doesn’t always happen.  When it doesn’t, it is still ok to offer your business card to someone.  There is nothing wrong with that.

Refusing to take someone’s offered card is just plain bad form and it’s probably too late to send them back to Mom for retraining on how to play with the other kids in the sandbox. 

So what do you do if this happens to you?  Pick the correct choice below:

  1. Squash a cupcake on their nose and say “take that, you dandelion.”
  2. Say “Really, you [bad word, bad word] dirty [bad word], I hope I never see you again at one of these events.
  3. Let’s go outside and finish this (like someone I actually know did at a networking event!)? or
  4. Realize that some people just have little or no people skills and move on to someone who does.

The correct answer is number four however, for the record, I kind of like number one a lot. 

Don’t Make a Mess of Your Message — “Navigating the VCP Process® to Networking” Series

TR Garland (pictured with me in the photo below) is a friend of mine and co-author of one of my most recent #1 best-selling books called Building The Ultimate Network

For some time now, we’ve both observed a need to drill down on one of the most important and foundational concepts to networking – The VCP Process®.  A while ago, we started a much-anticipated 12-part series of blog posts which addresses this and contains some very timely information for networkers across the globe. Today, we’re proud to share with you Part 11 of the series. Enjoy.



(Part 11 of 12 of the “Navigating The VCP Process® To Networking” Series)

In Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 , Part 4, and Part 5 of this series, we introduced and re-introduced the concept and steps of The VCP Process® to Networking for our readers through brief anecdotes, relevant comparisons, and sometimes even humorous situations. For Parts 6 and 7 we even shared with you video trainings from the both of us.

In Part 8, we suggested some behaviors that you can use on a weekly basis to increase the number of referrals you receive. And, as a result, we got a couple phone calls complimenting us about how that particular blog post clearly outlined what type of behaviors a successful networker should be practicing on a weekly and monthly basis – and we were asked to provide more. We fulfilled that request in Part 9.

And, in Part 10, we addressed that ‘Mindset’ has as much to do with your success in networking as ‘Skillset’.

Today, we’re going to build upon all of the varying topics and techniques we’ve used to help you understand how best to Navigate The VCP Process® To Networking.

Let’s begin by asking you a very important question–What is the MOST famous speech in the history of the United States?  (Yes…we understand that many of our readers are internationally-based. We appreciate that very much. With that said, please bear with us and you too will be pleasantly surprised by the end of this post at what you’re about to learn.)

Okay. Now back to the question. What’s the MOST famous speech in the history of the United States?  Anyone? . . . Anyone?  Was it President John F. Kennedy (i.e., JFK) in which he said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”?  Was it Dr. Martin Luther King (i.e. MLK) in which he said, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal’.”?  Or, was it Abraham Lincoln (i.e. Abe) in the Gettysburg Address in which he said, “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”?  Have your voting ballots been placed? Are you ready for the answer?

Well, it was the Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln. Yep, the Gettysburg Address.The SECOND most famous speech was Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” and the THIRD most famous speech was John F. Kennedy’s “Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You”.

Now, here are another 3 questions for you:  How long was MLK’s speech?  It was 1,651 words.  How long was JFK’s Inaugural Address on January 20th, 1961?  Well, it was 1,366 words.  How long was the Gettysburg Address? . . . Anyone?  It was only 272 words. It was only 2 minutes long. It was only 10 sentences.  Therefore, one could interpret that it was CLEAR, CONCISE, and COMPELLING. And, by being all three of these, the audience who was listening “got it” the first time Abraham Lincoln delivered his speech.  Did you know that there was actually a Featured Speaker that same day that spoke for over 2 hours? We didn’t. And, most people don’t know that either. His name was Edward Everett and this proves our point today.

So, our recommendation to each and every one of you reading this today is to tell this story to your BNI Chapters, Chambers of Commerce, and other Networking Groups you’re involved in.

We understand that many of you are from a variety of different countries. Yet, this doesn’t matter. It doesn’t dilute the important point that’s been made. After you tell your BNI Chapters, Chamber Members, and others whom you network with this story, let them know that you are going to work with everybody to make sure that their “messaging” is CLEAR, CONCISE, and COMPELLING.  Because, if it’s not…it simply won’t be as effective in today’s networking environments.

When people are concerned (i.e. fuss and complain) about what to do when the time allotted for their introductions (in BNI they’re called Sales Manager Minutes) gets cut down to 45 or 30 seconds due to a growing group or Chapter….reference this story.  When people are concerned (i.e. fuss and complain) about their Keynote Presentations getting cut down from 12 and 10 minutes to 8 and 6 minutes….reference this story.

In closing, let’s take a very valuable lesson from the History Books. If Abraham Lincoln could make such a difference and be remembered decades & decades later after delivering only 10 sentences, what are YOUR 10 SENTENCES that will make a massive impact on your network?
We thank you for reading today’s post and extend an invitation to be on the lookout for next month’s contribution to this series – Part 12 called “Using Social Media To Navigate The V-C-P Process®.”


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