Is It Possible Your Follow-up Tactics Aren’t Doing You Any Favors?

I once had an interesting conversation with an associate who was surprised that she’d gotten flak from a referral source for taking five days to follow up with a prospect that the referral source had referred to her.  My associate explained to me that she doesn’t like to follow up with prospects for four or five days because she doesn’t want the prospect to feel like she’s too eager.

I told my associate that I strongly disagree with her follow-up strategy.  My reasons why are outlined in the following paragraphs . . .

When building relationships, it’s always important not to let much time lapse without following up the first contact. Within twenty-four to forty-eight hours, send your prospect a note expressing your pleasure in communicating with her. It’s still too early, though, to send business literature or make any move toward sales promotion.

Follow up early, but don’t push beyond the prospect’s comfort level. Once the prospect has expressed an interest in your products or services, provide information about them, but don’t force it on her. Continue presenting your products or services, but avoid the hard sell. Focus on fulfilling her needs and interests. Your goal should be to keep your prospect aware of your business without annoying her.

Remember, to secure the long-term loyalty of your prospect and convert her into a customer, you must first build a relationship, and that relationship must develop through the visibility, credibility and profitability stages. It may take a while, but if you’ve selected and briefed your sources well, you’ll speed up the process.

Always, always, always remember to follow up with people, in any situation, at the very least within seventy-two hours. There’s a reason people commonly say that the fortune is in the follow up . . . when you follow up quickly with people, your reputation will benefit, your business will benefit, and eventually your pocketbook will benefit as well.

Do you have any unique and effective ways of following up which have helped you attain success consistently?  If so, I’d love to hear your tactics–please share them in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

How to Get Remembered & Get More Referrals

Last week I posted a video blog on the tremendous importance of following up with the contacts you make when networking in order to be successful and get results.  In today’s video, I take the discussion on follow up a step further . . .

The fact is, how you choose to follow up can really make a significant difference in getting people to remember you–if you get a little creative, you can really put yourself in a prime position for maximum referral generation.  In this video, I share a story about a young networker who got great results by going above and beyond to follow up in a really unique way with a networking group he was hoping to gain membership into, and I also offer a tip on how to follow through in order to stay top of mind so others will constantly be thinking of how they might be able to generate referrals for you.

If you have a story about a unique way you’ve followed up with someone, or a standout way you’ve seen others use to follow up, I’d love for you to submit your story at www.SubmitYourNetworkingStory.com and also share it in the comment forum below.  When you submit your story via SubmitYourNetworkingStory.com, it will be considered for inclusion in the upcoming networking book I’m writing with Jack Canfield and Gautam Ganglani.  Thanks in advance for your participation–I’m looking forward to reading your stories!

 

Does Your Follow up Leave Something to Be Desired?

It’s no secret that a huge part of a networker’s success is tied to their effectiveness at one thing—following up with the contacts they make.  Networking without following up is—to put it bluntly—nothing more than a waste of time.

So, it makes sense that one of the questions I’m most often asked is about follow up.  No matter what part of the world I’m in, one of the first things people tend to ask is what I believe is the best way to follow up with new networking connections.

In this video, I share my answer to this question and if follow up is something you struggle with, I think you’ll find what I have to say quite reassuring because the most effective way of following up is much simpler than you might think.

Do you have a method of following up which has been particularly effective for you?  If so, please share it in the comment forum below.  Also, if you have an interesting story about how you followed up with someone and left a lasting impression on them or remarkable things happened as a result of your follow up, please share your story via www.SubmitYourNetworkingStory.comWhen you submit your story, it will be considered for inclusion in an upcoming networking book I’m writing with Jack Canfield, and Gautam Ganglani.  Thanks in advance for your participation!

Are You Unintentionally Abusing Your Relationships?

Many people in the United States are celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday today–a time when we get together with friends and family to celebrate all that we’re thankful for.  In thinking about the things I’m grateful for, the meaningful, trusted relationships I’ve built with so many amazing people around the world throughout my networking career are top of mind.  These relationships are invaluable to me and I know that investing in them and always respecting them is the key to maintaining trust and reaping the maximum benefits from my networking efforts.

In light of this, I thought I’d share this short video where I tell a story about what can happen when people don’t respect their relationships with their fellow networkers.  Abusing the relationship is probably the biggest mistake people can make when networking . . . not following up, confusing networking with direct selling, and premature solicitation are all faux pas when it comes to networking but abusing the relationship is the worst faux pas of all.

The fact is, we all screw up when we first start networking–I know I did!  The ticket to networking success, however, is learning–recognizing what we’ve done wrong so that we can understand how to do it right.

Do you have a story about how you learned from a networking faux pas you made in the past, or from being on the receiving end of someone else’s faux pas? If so, please go to www.SubmitYourNetworkingStory.com and share your story for consideration of inclusion in the upcoming networking book I’m writing with Jack Canfield, and Gautam Ganglani.  Also, I’d love for you to briefly summarize your story in the comment forum below as well.  Thanks in advance for your participation!

Networking Faux Pas: Not Following Up

In this fourth installment of the Networking Faux Pas Series, I talk about the faux pas which I see happen most out of the faux pas topics I’ve discussed thus far.  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.

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 a New Referral Is a Done Deal . . . True or False?

When one of your business contacts passes you a new referral, does that mean the prospect is ready to hear a presentation on your product or service?  Repeat after me . . . NO.  Assume nothing.

When an associate passes you a referral, say thanks, then start digging for more information.  Exactly what does the prospect do?  What products or services does he want from you?  Will your offerings truly fulfill his needs?  What is his behavioral style?  What are his business goals?  How large is his company?

Don’t skip steps in your sales process.  Before you approach the prospect, you need to decide on a strategy based on whatever you can find out about him–the same as you would when preparing for any sale.  Just because the prospect was referred to you doesn’t mean the sale is a done deal.  All you’ve really received is an opportunity to approach the prospect with a favorable introduction.  Whether the prospect becomes a client or not depends on how well you convince him that what you offer, at the price and under the conditions that you offer it, will fulfill his needs.

There’s quite a difference between a basic referral and one that’s well developed, and there are many different levels in between.  Listed here from least to most valuable, you should consider which level this referral represents:

  • Name and contact information only–Unfortunately, this is what many of your potential sources probably think the first time you say the word referral to them.  It does represent a certain level of trust in you, but the networking value of this kind of referral is low.  It’s better than nothing–but not much.
  • Authorization to use name–If he says, “Tell ’em Joe sent you,” you can be fairly sure you’ve established a good level of credibility with him.  This gives you some leverage, but the work of developing the prospect still falls on you.
  • Testimonial or letter of introduction–If your source trusts you enough to say nice things about you, try getting him to go a bit further and write you a letter of introduction or recommendation, including background information on you and some words about your product or service.
  • Introduction call–A personal phone call on your behalf, preparing the prospect to hear from you, takes significant time and effort in preparation.
  • Letter of introduction and phone call promotion–A letter that’s followed up by a phone call advocating your business represents a high level of commitment by your referral source and has a great deal of influence on the prospect.
  • Meeting–By arranging and working out the details for a meeting between you and the prospect, your source moves beyond the role of promoter to that of facilitator, or even business agent.  This demonstrates to your prospect a deep level of trust in you.
  • Face-to-face introduction and promotion–Combining an in-person introduction with promotion demonstrates that your source is engaged in selling your product or service rather than just facilitating your sales effort.
  • Closed deal–Your referral source describes the features and benefits of your product or service, then closes the sale before you even contact the prospect.  All you have to do is deliver the goods and collect the money.  This is obviously the best kind of referral you can get.  To get to this level of referral, you’ll have to work with your sources and tell them what you’d like from them.  This takes time and education.

The better your source knows you and is confident of your character and your business, the more often you’ll get the higher-level referrals.  But keep in mind that you need to be making high-level referrals for your sources too.  It really is true . . . what goes around comes around.

What can you do this week in an effort to generate more high level referrals for your referral sources? For those of you who share your ideas in the comment forum below, I’ll send a free copy of my book Masters of Sales to everyone who posts their thoughts by the end of the week (Sunday, 5/5/13).  Once you leave your comment, send your name and your mailing address to erin@bni.com in order to receive your book (Erin is my Communications Supervisor and she will only use your contact information in order to ensure you receive your book–your information will not be shared).  Thanks!

Preparation & Follow Up–the Two Keys to Referral Success

In this brief video, filmed at the 2012 BNI® International Directors’ Conference in early November, I talk with Terry Hamill, a respected business networking expert based in Europe.  Terry explains two 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!

Support Material & Techniques for Increasing Referrals

If you’re not getting the amount of referrals you’d like to be getting, take a look at the support materials and techniques you’re currently using.  Below are some effective ways to influence people to refer you.  Some of these may not work for everyone.  The idea is to select those you think you can apply in your own business or profession.

Samples.  If you have an opportunity to distribute your materials, do it.  Bring products, samples, brochures, or a presentation book.  Many networking groups provide a brochure table where you can place these items.  If people can see, feel, touch, hear, or smell samples of the product or service you provide, they are more likely to use you.  Offer special, members-only prices or services.  If you can get network members to use you, then they are much more likely to refer you.

Presentation Books.  Everyone active in networking groups can benefit by developing a presentation book.  Buy a high-quality, three-ring binder that can attractively dislplay samples of  your products or services, brochures, photographs, etc.  Take this to your meetings and make sure it gets circulated.

Free Presentations or Demonstrations.  Many business professionals offer to speak free of charge to service clubs or business organizations as a way of getting exposure and promoting their business.  If your product or service is conducive to this approach, tell the members of your personal network that you offer this service, and accept speaking engagements as bona fide referrals.  Ask them to pitch you to the program chairs of organizations to which they belong.

If you’re well prepared and do a good job at these presentations, you may find yourself getting many more speaking offers and a lot of new business.  This technique is effective for almost any profession, but it’s particularly helpful for consultants, therapists, financial planners, CPAs, and attorneys.

Door Prizes.  Smart business professionals know that people who have tried their products or services will probably use them again.  I highly recommend that you offer door prizes regularly at your networking groups and ensure that you are given credit for the door prize when it’s given.  Always attach a business card so the winner knows where to get more.

Keep in Touch Regularly.  Meet people outside of the normal meetings that you go to whenever you can.  Write cards or letters, send articles that might be of interest, call to check in, let them know about a local business mixer, have lunch, play racquetball, tennis, or golf.  Reinforce the relationship with a thank-you note.  If someone gives you a referral or important information, send a thank-you note or gift basket.  This reinforcement will strengthen the bond and encourage that person to think of  you again.

Follow-Up.  Knowing how to get referrals is really a matter of knowing how to be helpful to the people you associate with and how to ask for help in return.  A successful referral marketing program involves creating an effective support system for yourself that also works to the advantage of others.

All the networking in the world, however, serves no purpose if you don’t follow up effectively with the people you meet or who are referred to you.  I’ve seen people who work hard at making contacts, but whose follow-up was so bad that the contacts were lost.  It’s as if they networked halfway and then completely lost sight of the potential to generate business by referral.  Follow-up letters and phone calls set the stage for further contact.  All things being equal, the more you’re in contact with others, the more business you’ll generate.  Today, more than ever, there’s no excuse for not following up.  Why?  Because there are many companies on the market that produce numerous follow-up cards, thank-you cards, and contact cards especially designed for networking.

Schedule “reconnection calls” regularly.  Such calls enable you to remind the new contacts who you are, where you met them, and what you do, as well as help you stay in touch with your long-term contacts.  If you don’t follow up with a phone call or letter, you will surely lose many business opportunities.

 

 

 

The Referral Process–Step 3

The referral process (CLICK HERE to read a short overview of the referral process) can be broken down into eight easy steps. In a blog entry I posted last Monday, I explained step 1 (Your Source Discovers a Referral) and step 2 (Research the Referral).  Today, I am going to talk about step 3.

  • Step 3.  Check Back in with Your Referral Source

After learning all you can about the prospect’s company through your outside research, it’s a good idea, especially if the referral appears to be complex or of very high value, to call your referral source back to confirm or refine what you’ve learned about the prospect’s company.

You need to keep your referral source in the loop and out of trouble. Making her look good is a primary objective, perhaps even more important than the immediate sale, because you want this referral relationship to continue and to benefit both of you far into the future.

More important for your approach to the prospect, you need to know more about him personally, which is something you can assume your referral source is particularly well positioned to help you with.

Try to learn about what sort of individual you’ll be dealing with. What’s his personality type?  Is he detail oriented?  If so, he might want to see a lot of collateral material or samples.  Is he hard driving and results oriented?  He might just want to talk about your offerings, see your track record, and make a quick judgment.  Does he like to have fun while he’s doing business?  Perhaps you’ll join him on the golf course.  If he’s all business, the office environment is probably better.

What are the prospect’s goals?  Why is he interested in your products or services?  Is he happy with his current provider or looking for a change?  Is he ready to do business with you immediately based on the referral, or is he sending out requests for proposals to other companies?

What you don’t want to do is charge at the prospect with no idea of what is expected or desired.  Having some certainty about these factors will help you put together a powerful presentation that is tailored to the individual and his company.  This will help you accomplish your two most important objectives: closing the sale quickly and making your referral source look good.

If you have a testimonial you’d like to share about a time you successfully executed step 3 in the referral process and how it made for great results, or a story about how you learned the importance of step 3 after neglecting to complete it and suffering the consequences, please feel free to share by leaving a comment.

Be sure to check back in next week if you want to learn about step 4!

What’s Your Excuse for Not Following Up?

What’s your excuse for not following up with new contacts after networking events?  It doesn’t really matter what your answer is because I’m here to tell you that the correct answer to the above question from this point on is: There is no excuse for not following up, so I don’t have one.

We all know that networking without follow up can equal a big waste of time.  However, many networkers still find every excuse under the sun not to follow up and the most common reasons they use are either that they’re not sure how to appropriately follow up or they don’t have time.  As promised in Monday’s blog entry, today I’m going to give you two free follow up note templates (these will work whether you’re using e-mail or mailing a hand-written note) that will make it a no-brainer for you to follow up with new contacts.  No more excuses!

Follow up Template for “B list” contacts (those who may become valuable contacts in the future but not right away):

Jim–

My name is John Smith, and I’m the consultant who met you the other day over at the chamber.  I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed our conversation–and it sounds like you’re really doing well and staying busy.

Anyway, it was good talking to you, and if I can help you out in any way, please let me know.

John

Follow up Template for “A list” contacts (those who might become new clients or referral partners right now):

If using e-mail, use this subject line: Nice to Meet You–Chamber Event (1/23)

Jim–

My name is Jane Smith, and I’m the consultant who met you the other day at the chamber event.  I just wanted to say I really enjoyed our conversation and was hoping I could learn a little bit more about what you do.

I’m thinking we can get together for a quick cup of coffee.  That way, if I run into someone who could use your services, I can point him in your direction.  How does next Tuesday morning sound for something over at Starbucks?

Again, great talking to you, and if I can help your business in any way, please let me know.

Jane

Using these follow up note templates provide you with a great base for building relationships with the new contacts you make at networking events.  One more quick tip: Regardless of whether you choose to use these templates when writing follow up notes, always be sure to first remind the person of who you are and where you met so your note doesn’t get instantly discarded.

Sorting Out Who’s Who

So, let’s say you’ve just returned from a networking event where you met a lot of new people and now you have a pocketful of business cards that you’re not sure what to do with.  What’s your first order of business?  Your first order of business is to sort out who’s who.

You need to separate the people you think might become new clients or referral partners right now from the ones who might be valuable contacts sometime in the future but not right away.  Let’s call the first group your A list, the rest your B list.  (Sounds kind of Hollywood, doesn’t it? :))  When you enter them into your contact database, labeling each contact as part of group “A” or “B” would be good to include (along with type of business, address, phone number, event where you met, etc.).

Now that you’ve got your contacts filed away neatly, take a look first at your B list. You want these folks to know you enjoyed meeting them, and you want to keep the door open for doing business with them later on if a good opportunity arises.  You can do this with a quick note by either e-mail or snail mail.* If you find you need to reconnect with one of these people at a later time, you’ll at least have some traction in the relationship simply because you followed up with a quick e-mail.

Now, what about your A list? These are people who have immediate potential as referral partners.  You need to follow up with them quickly–within a few days, before you drop off their radars.  First, initiate a “coffee connection” with each of your new contacts, a follow-up meeting where you can get to know her and find out how you can help her.  Anything short of trying to find ways to help her will generally be treated as a sales call instead of a relationship-building contact.  To ask for this first meeting, either a handwritten note or an e-mail is acceptable.*

At this point, you may be asking, “What about the people I meet who aren’t potential clients and aren’t in a field that can refer business to me?  Should I follow up with them anyway?” Absolutely!  You never know whom other people know; even a quick little “Nice to meet you” e-mail is better than not doing anything at all and hoping these people remember you later when you discover a need to do business with one of them.

Now that you know how to sort out who’s who, be sure to do this each and every time with the business cards you gather in your daily networking activities and, I guarantee you, you will start to see greater results from your networking efforts.

*Come back on Thursday to read a blog entry with specific examples of what your follow up notes to group A contacts and group B contacts should say–I’ll give you two free follow-up note templates so you’ll have no excuses for not following up with your new contacts.  Trust me, following up couldn’t be any easier than this!


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