Four Strategies to Stay in Touch

People often ask me, “how can I stay in touch with people or get back in touch with people that I haven’t seen or spoken with recently?”

Start by making a commitment to improving this area.  There’s a great Chinese proverb that I really like – “When’s the best time to plant an Oak tree?  The answer is – 20 years ago.  When’s the second best time – now!”

So, here are 4 strategies that will help you improve in this area.  If you can’t do them all – do what works for you.

  1. Sort through your list of people. You can’t stay in touch with everyone.  Who do you want to make sure to stay connected with and why?  It could be personal, it could be professional, but create a list that you want to focus on.
  2. Use the system they use! It doesn’t have to be Facebook or LinkedIn – use Pinterest or other programs, Snapchat, What’s App – whatever they use.   Each of my children uses  different systems.  If I want to connect with them – I need to go where they are.  For my oldest daughter, it’s texting or a phone call.  For my second daughter, it’s What’s App or texting.  For my son, it’s an online game called Steam.  I have some business associates who only reach out to me on Facebook or LinkedIn.  Others are strictly email or a phone call.  The key here – is to go where the people you want to talk to, hangout.
  3. Use social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ or Twitter to your advantage by sharing news and reading updates without having to reach out to people on an individual basis. Social media is fantastic. Instead of starting your next call with, “What’s new?” you can jump to, “You cut off your hair!” “You have a new job!”
  4. From time to time, use snail mail! Yes, OMG, send a handwritten letter or a card.  It’s so “old school” and it’s almost guaranteed that someone will read it.

Next week I will share more tips.

Can You Quantify How You Strengthen Your Network?

connectionsHow are you tracking your business success? You’re probably not, which is fine, but can make it extremely difficult to not only expect, but quantify, growth and success. You’d be surprised the number of businesspeople I talk to from all industries who say they want to grow their business, but when I ask by how much, they simply stare at me. Even worse are the stares I get when I ask what they have actively done to grow your business.

You cannot expect change and growth without actively working to strength your network and business. It simply won’t happen.

Most people can name specific things they do to improve their skill at a hobby they are passionate about, but so rarely is that passion carried over into their own business. Below is a list of quantifiable things you can do to strength your network, improve relationships with referral partners, and ultimately help foster the growth of your business.

How many can you check off? Let me know in the comments!

  • Send a Thank You card – but make sure it is handwritten!
  • Call to check in
  • Arrange a 1-to-1
  • Offer a referral to someone without them having to ask for one
  • Include them in a regular newsletter for your company
  • Send an article of interest to your contact
  • Set up a group activity to bring together your networks
  • Attend a networking event (and bring someone with you!)
  • Display your partner’s brochure or flyer at your business

You should aim to do one to two of these things a week to consistently be developing your relationships with your network. And, of course, there are plenty of things you could do that aren’t on this list. What could you add?

The Power to Get Things Done

thepowerHow often do you hit a slump in productivity? Worse, how often do you know what you should be doing, but then fail to do it regardless? It happens to the best of us, but the good news is that this is entirely avoidable.

Steve Levinson, PhD, and Chris Cooper recently released a book titled The Power to Get Things Done, and in it, they tackle how to turn your good intentions into actions and ultimately results.

This is one of those books that I stand behind, because I really believe that strong businesspeople can benefit from the tools to help follow through. As I said in my foreword for the book, the ability to turn good intentions into action is one of the most valuable assets that anyone who is serious about achieving their goals can have.

For me, the most impactful tips of the book are the keys to maintaining follow-through mastery. Everyone has done it at least once – you work hard to perfect your ability with something, you reach a level where you are satisfied, and then immediately stop practicing because you reached what you saw as the pinnacle. The thing with skills, though, is that you lose your ability when you stop practicing, or striving for better. What this book teaches is to always have goals in mind, and to always strive for your goals – both valuable suggestions to all business professionals.

The Power to Get Things Done was recently released and is available on Kindle or in paperback.

What goals do you consistently set for yourself to help keep your productivity up? Share with me in the comments below!

Thoughtfulness always counts

Many spend their time at a networking event working the room, making meaningful connections with those around them, receiving and handing out business cards. As the event winds down, businesspeople go their separate ways, looking forward to their next event to grow their network.

It’s a nice story, but it really only covers part of your responsibility as a networker. Thoughtful, heartfelt follow up after events continues establishing those connections and makes your networking stronger. Your connections don’t have to be your best friends, but it certainly helps if they think you’re a caring person.

For those wondering, “Am I a thoughtful networker?” here is a quick checklist of three ways to be thoughtful. If you don’t already, try implementing these into your networking route.

 

handwritingSend handwritten cards

Thank you, happy birthday, condolences. There are plenty of excuses to bust out the stationary and send a handwritten card to a colleague or peer instead of an email. What makes this thoughtful? This effort involved. Emails are simple – you sat at your computer, typed a quick message, scanned it for typos and made necessary connections, and hit send. Done. Handwriting a card requires thinking through your message before you write it, and requires your attention to prevent errors. Not only that, but sending requires more than a click of a button.

 

Remember to follow up

Did you close your conversation with someone by saying, “Let me ask so-and-so about that and get back to you”? If you did, actually do it! You might forget that you promised to find out some trivial piece of information for them, but they certainly didn’t. Nothing could be more embarrassing for you than being called out for having forgotten to follow up on something you’d given your word that you would. As networkers, one of our greatest assets is our word – don’t let something as minor as a memory lapse steal yours.

 

Schedule time outside regular networking events to get to know them

This may seem like Networking 101, but it seems to be a frequently forgotten step of networking. Not only is it vital in helping you get to know your business connections (and vice versa), many will be flattered that you are interested in getting to know them better. Not only is this step thoughtful, it is critical if you want your connections to truly help you grow your business. People love to talk about themselves, and the more you learn about the new members of your network, the more they’ll want to know about you in turn.

What does thoughtfulness in networking mean to you? How many of the above steps do you do? What do you think is missing from this list? Let me know in the comments below!

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.

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!

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.

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!

Business Card Exchange: Top Tips for Making an Impact

In this video, Sandra Hart, one of Ireland’s top networkers (who also happens to be a good friend of mine), talks to me about her view on why business cards are of the utmost importance as a networking tool and how to use them for maximum impact.

The fact is, passing out your business card does absolutely no good if you haven’t made an impact on the person you’re passing it to–it’s just going to end up in the recycle bin.  So, how do you increase your odds of making an impression and having others hold on to your card?  Well, you can start by watching this video.  Sandra offers some really great tactics for making an impact when handing your card to someone so they will remember you and look forward to your follow up.

After watching the video, I’d love to hear what you think of Sandra’s tips on what to do and what not to do when passing your business card out at networking events or exchanging cards with new contacts you meet in day-to-day situations.  Do you have any additional dos and dont’s to share that you have learned in your networking experience?  Please let us know your thoughts.  Thanks!

The Three Step “Follow-up Formula”

Follow-up is one of the most challenging aspects of networking for many networkers and I often get asked the question; “What is a good system for following-up with the people you meet at networking events?”  In my opinion, here is one of the best ways to follow-up – it’s called the 24/7/30 system.

Image courtesy of Master isolated images / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Master isolated images / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When you meet someone at a networking event, drop them a note within the first 24 hours.  It can be a personal handwritten note or an email, just make sure to use whatever approach that you will do consistently.

Within 7 days, connect with them on social media.  Make a connection via LinkedIn or Facebook.  Follow them on Twitter or join them on Google+.  Find ways to connect and engage with them via the social media platform(s) you are most active on.  Do NOT do this as a way to “sell” to them, do it as a way to start to establish a meaningful connection with them.

Within 30 days reach out to them to set up a 1-2-1 meeting.  If you live near each other, meet in person (that is almost always best).  If you are far from one another, set up a meeting via Skype or by phone.  At this meeting find out more about what they do and look for ways to help them in some way.  Don’t make it a “sales call” make it a relationship building opportunity.

If you do the 24/7/30 approach to your follow-up, you will establish a powerful routine that will help you to make your networking efforts meaningful and successful.

Do you do something similar to this?  Share with me here any other suggestions you’ve got and what you think of this approach.

 

The Top 2 Things You Must Do to Succeed at Networking

Last week, I was asked a question by a young business owner who is quite new to networking.  She asked me what I believe to be the most crucial things a person needs to do in order to achieve the maximum amount of success in generating business referrals through word-of-mouth marketing.  In response to her question, I’d like to revisit a video I filmed a while back because in it I talk with Terry Hamill, a respected business networking expert based in Europe, and he  Terry explains the two most important keys for maximum effectiveness and success in business referral generation–preparation and follow up.

Terry advises that the true gold is in the follow up and that the most successful networkers use the strongest follow-up methods; he also offers a few important tips for preparation prior to attending networking meetings and events.

Do you have a favorite follow-up method or a highly effective preparation tactic that you use prior to attending networking functions?  If so, we’d love to hear about it!  What works well for you could really help other people in their journey to networking success so, by all means, please feel free to share your favored methods and tactics in the comment forum below. Thanks!

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