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.

Are You Walking the Talk in Your Business?

I recently saw someone’s Twitter update telling me all about how his vitamin line will not only make me skinny and healthy, but will also make me wealthy. While there is nothing objectionable about any of these outcomes, the jarring reality is that the man promoting this wonderful opportunity is neither skinny, nor healthy, and he had just been posting updates about how he was desperately trying to dig himself out of debt!

Do you see the disconnect here? I’m sure you have seen people at networking meetings and events who will stand, introduce themselves, and deliver a promise-filled monologue about how their product or service will bring you all kinds of things which they themselves obviously do not have the benefit of enjoying.

Photo courtesy of marin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo courtesy of marin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What’s missing is congruency. When your professional message is not congruent with your personal situation, your networking efforts will not be effective. If you are promoting yourself as a wellness coach, and yet you are often sick and carrying 20 extra pounds, there is a jarring incongruence for which it will be hard for you to compensate. When I want to refer my colleagues to a wellness coach, I will refer one who is healthy, fit and obviously achieving the results she promises I will receive from participating in her program.

This may seem logical, but I often see people all over the world with incongruent messages. Ask yourself how congruent your message is.  If you’re a professional organizer, is your briefcase a disaster? If you’re a car detailer, how does your own vehicle look? If you have never done so, take stock today of your message. Evaluate what you’re saying the benefits of your products or services are compared to what you are showing people they are.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “What you do thunders above your head so loudly, I cannot hear the words you speak.” In his book Inside the Magic Kingdom, Tom Connellan calls this “walking the talk.” How are you doing when it comes towalking the talk in your business? It will have a definite effect on the success of your networking efforts.

Share a story with me about someone (don’t name names!) whose message was not congruent with their actions.  I’d love to hear other stories.

Referral Marketing Is Risky–It’s Also Rewarding

In a radio interview I once did, the host of the program asked me whether I consider referral marketing the safest form of advertising. Without the slightest hesitation, I confidently answered, “By all means, no.” Based on his response, I’m sure he was shocked by that answer.

Photo courtesy of Zuzzuillo at FreeDigtalPhotos.net

Photo courtesy of Zuzzuillo at FreeDigtalPhotos.net

I went on to explain that I believe very strongly in the tremendous benefits that word-of –mouth marketing can bring. However, there are unique risks associated with referral advertising that are not an issue in commercial or other forms of advertising.

When you give a referral, you give a little of your reputation away. If the business you’ve referred someone to does a good job, it helps your reputation. But if it does a poor job, your reputation may be hurt.

As I said, the payoffs of referral marketing are immense—when it’s done correctly.

But referral marketing involves a really big risk: giving away a piece of your reputation every time you give a referral to someone. When you tell a valued customer that a friend of yours is going to take good care of them, you must have confidence in that friend.

But what happens if your friend lets your customer down? It comes back to haunt you. Your customer begins to lose faith in you and, because of that loss of faith, you just might lose that customer down the road. This is why it’s so important to develop strong relationships with those to whom you’re referring business and vice versa. Once those strong connections are forged you can rest easy, knowing when you tell someone a business associate or a networking partner is going to take good care of him or her, that’s what will happen.

Do you have a story others might learn from about a time when referral marketing really paid off for you, or a story about how you experienced the unique risks associated with referral marketing firsthand?  Please share your experiences in the comment forum below.  I’d love to hear from you–thanks!

 

Classic Video Feature–Networking Faux Pas: Not Following Up

I have been doing video blogs for quite a few years now and a while back it occurred to me that some of the videos I’ve previously posted focus on timeless topics that deserve to be revisited and not buried way back in the video blog archive.  For this reason, I decided to occasionally feature a “classic” video blog from my blog archive and today I am sharing the fourth one–”Networking Faux Pas: Not Following Up”

In this video, I talk about the faux pas which I see happen most out of all the faux pas which can possibly occur in the world of networking.  It also happens to be the faux pas which frustrates me the most (Seriously–it drives me crazy!)–it’s when you give a networking partner a referral and they drop the ball and don’t follow up on it.

Remember, if you aren’t following up when your referral partners call you and/or aren’t following up on the referrals you’re given, you’re not just losing business . . . you’re also losing your credibility and that’s something which is extremely difficult to earn back.  So, for those of us in parts of the world who are currently starting a brand new year, why not make a vow right now to make following up our number one networking priority this year?  I guarantee it will pay off in big ways. 

Have you had an experience where you gave a referral to someone and they didn’t follow up on it?  If so, will you continue to give that person referrals?  Or, have you dropped the ball on following up on a referral before?  If the answer is yes, did you learn a lesson from it?  Please share your experiences 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 FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo Courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

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!

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!

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!

 

Using Social Media—“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.” 

TR-and-Ivan-Blue-Backgrou

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 12–the final post in this series. Enjoy.

TRBlog1VCPpic1

Using Social Media to Navigate the VCP Process®
(Part 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 6and 7 we even shared with you video trainings from the both of us.

In Part 9, 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 10, we addressed that ‘Mindset’ has as much to do with your success in networking as ‘Skillset’. And in Part 11 we addressed how to deliver effective Introductions & Short Presentations when Navigating The VCP Process® To Networking. And therefore, in this final installment of the series, we found it relevant to address “The Elephant in the Room” – Social Media.

Yes, as experts on Business Networking and Referral Marketing, we’ve been asked time and time again to provide our opinions on how Social Media fits into one’s own Business Networking Plan (…if at all).

So, today, let’s address this “The Elephant in the Room”. Let’s bring out into the open the question that still may be on the minds of many of our readers.

When asked about the topic of Online Networking versus Offline Networking, you may have already heard Ivan share his philosophy that “…it’s not either/or, it’s both/and when addressing this topic”.

Today, let’s dig a little deeper and give you a clearer picture on what’s meant by this, as well as deliver you actionable steps for you to take (as the title of this blog insinuates) to use Social Media to navigate the VCP Process® to networking.

Let’s get started.

An often overlooked tool to navigating the VCP Process® is using Social Media effectively. And, more specifically – Facebook.  Now please allow us to clarify. We didn’t say Facebook is overlooked! Lol.

ENTERTAINMENT vs. EXECUTION

We happen to believe that many people are actually addicted to Facebook and spend way too much time using it for ENTERTAINMENT. Whereas, they could actually be using it for the EXECUTION of a well thought out strategy.

Let’s face it. There are professionals out there who you want passing you referrals that are on many of the same Social Media platforms that you’re on. Yet, do you have a Business Networking Plan that addresses this?

Well, would you like to grasp a really quick concept that will help you address this?

For example, let’s assume an ideal referral partner for you is a CPA. And, you recently met a CPA at a monthly networking event such as a Chamber of Commerce mixer. What typically happens is that “life happens” immediately after that event and 30 days go by before you see that CPA again.

From our perspective, it’s going to take a long time to dig deep and build a quality, meaningful relationship and move through the VCP Process® with this person when you only see this CPA twelve times a year.

Therefore, today, we’re recommending you use Social Media to compliment your in-person, face-to-face networking efforts. Yes, if you take action and plan to make strategic “Touch Points” during the time between those mixers, you’ll actually be able to expedite the VCP Process®.

And, who doesn’t want to shorten the cycle from first meeting someone (i.e. Visibility) to building trust with them (i.e. Credibility) to finally getting an actual referral from them (i.e. Profitability)?

Yes, too many people are spending too much time on Social Media for ENTERTAINMENT purposes versus the successful EXECUTION of specific tactics of an overall strategy that will help them drive revenue to their business.

Today, we’d like to make a pretty good case that Social Media shouldn’t be ignored either. Social Media should be considered an intricate part of successfully following your particular Business Networking Plan.

HERE’S ONE SPECIFIC TACTIC YOU CAN USE IMMEDIATELY

Let’s assume an ideal referral partner for you is a CPA as noted above. By connecting with this person on Facebook immediately after meeting them and strategically LIKING or COMMENTING on some of their posts – you will create additional Visibility so that the next time you see this CPA it will actually FEEL like you’ve known each other longer.

Does this make sense?  We would love for you to leave your thoughts in the comment forum below.

 

Trust

Build Trust to Be More Effective

In this video, I speak with Charlie Lawson, networking expert and National Director of BNI® UK & Ireland, to talk about why networking isn’t a “get rich quick” scheme and how, quite to the contrary, it involves building long-term relationships based on trust.

The thing is, networking is more about farming than hunting.  In other words, instead of voraciously chasing people to gain business, you must nurture relationships in order to build trust.  Trust is what makes networks work. When trust is high among members of a network, there’s a wonderful cohesiveness and capacity to help one another generate effective referrals to mutually assist each other’s business growth.

However, when trust is low and relationships are plagued by suspicion, networks collapse and no worthy referrals will be given. If someone likes and trusts you, they are much more likely to give you effective referrals which will help generate more business for you.

Essentially, you must cultivate relationships with different business professionals in order to build confidence. If confidence is gained, trust can then come into play. Once you’ve gained trust, you are more likely to generate business through those relationships.

Do you have any specifically effective ways of building trust with the professionals with whom to network?   If so, please share them in the comment forum below.  If not, make it your goal this week to come up with some ways to do so–you have nothing to lose and a whole lot of trusted, long-term relationships to gain!

What Makes Someone Referrable?

I had a great conversation a while back with my business partner in the Referral Institute, Mike Macedonio (pictured to the right).  He was explaining why he feels there are only a few criteria that must be met to make people referrable by him.

The first criterion is that the individual must be an expert at what he or she does.  He looks for people who have invested in learning their trade and continue to invest to master their trade.  Do they specialize in a certain area?  What achievements have they attained in their area of expertise?

Another one of Mike’s requirements is that the person is passionate about what he or she does.  This especially makes a lot of sense to me because if you’re not passionate about what you do, how can you expect other people to get excited about working on your behalf?

Mike’s last criterion stipulates that the person he is referring understands and honors the referral process.  More specifically, Mike wants to ensure that the person receiving the referral understands his or her number-one responsibility.  To quote Mike, “The number-one responsibility when you receive a referral is to make the person who gave you the referral look great.”  As long as the people Mike gives referrals to are doing this for him, Mike can remain confident that his reputation will be protected.  It also compels him to continue giving these people referrals.

Mike’s list of qualifications that make a person referrable is short, yet very powerful.  After discussing it, we both agreed that we should expect others to evaluate our referrability by these same criteria.  Are we invested experts, and do we continue to invest in our trade?  Are we passionate about what we do?  Are we practicing what we preach?  Do we make our referral sources look great?  I’m glad to say that I’m confident we both do all of these things.

So what makes people referrable by you?  I’m sure many of you have some great ideas in response to this. I’d love to hear them, so please feel free to leave a comment.

Do You Have Excessive Helper Genes?

I recently met with several members of my company’s Executive Management Team in Croatia and it was there that I had the opportunity to film this quick video with Frederick Marcoux, a good friend of mine who is also the National Director for BNI in Australia.

Frederick has an interesting concept that he likes to call “Excessive Helper Genes” and in this video, he talks about why this concept is at the very core of networking.  Frederick explains that having Excessive Helper Genes is a key trait in those who excel at networking because they are constantly building trust and goodwill with those in their network.

I really like this concept because networking at its center is built around helping others; if we maintain a focus on helping, we can network absolutely anywhere at any time.

So, do you have Excessive Helper Genes? . . . Do your Excessive Helper Genes perhaps need a boost?  What can you do this week to strengthen your focus on helping others?  Please share your thoughts in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

 

How to Get People to Refer Business to You

Over the years, I’ve run into countless people who believe that joining groups and organizations and becoming active by volunteering, taking on responsibilities and working side-by-side with other people on a common goal will cause people to get to know them and refer business to them.  However, this is not how things work.

(Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

(Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Granted, it’s easy to think that if you rub elbows with someone long enough he or she will spontaneously start sending you business opportunities. But that’s really nothing more than an entitlement mentality.

Getting referrals usually takes three things: visibility, credibility and profitability.  Ordinary participation in an organization, even a strong-contact referral group, will get you visibility and perhaps some credibility; it won’t automatically get you profitability.  That takes a much more focused approach, along with some explicit talk about the kinds of referrals you want.

By nature, referral relationships are rewarding and valuable when they are created purposefully and by design. If you are assuming that the idea of giving you referrals is going to pop into someone’s head spontaneously if you hang around long enough, you are definitely misunderstanding what a referral relationship is supposed to be.

Woody Allen once said that “90 percent of success is just showing up,” but he wasn’t talking about referral marketing.  “Just showing up” will get you a seat at the table, but you have to pass the food to others and snag your own steak whenever it comes around.  It’s not “netsit” or “neteat“–it’s network!”  If you want to build your business through referrals, you have to learn how to deliberately work the networks to which you belong.

You see, participating in a group is one thing; performing is another.  To get referrals, you have to perform.  If you don’t perform–talk specifics about your business, your specialties and your ideal referral, and refer business to others in your group–how are they going to know what you do and what you need?  You have to take specific actions to let people know how they can refer business to you.  Being a good citizen is the right thing to do, but it’s not enough to get you the referrals you need to run your business by word-of-mouth marketing–you need to actively feed and water your referral relationships, so to speak, in order to significantly grow your business through referrals.

So, what specific actions can you take this week to let people know how to refer business to you?  I’d love to hear your ideas–please share them in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

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