6 Simple Actions

Last week I gave you a list of actions you can take to strengthen your relationships with your referral sources. I promised that in the next few weeks I would give you some more information on each action. So, since we all love it when things are easy, I’ll start by giving you further details on the six simplest actions you can take.

1.  Send a thank-you card.  Always a nice gesture, a handwritten thank-you card makes a great impression, especially in this age of electronic communication. Be sure to write a personalized note that mentions what you’re thanking your referral source for. SendOutCards.com is a great resource for this.

2.  Send a gift. A gift is always welcome. Like a thank-you card, a gift, however small or inexpensive, builds visibility and credibility with your referral source. Try to find out what your referral source likes (favorite foods, hobbies, etc.), and send a gift that is personalized to her tastes.

3.  Call a referral source. An occasional phone call is a good way to keep the relationship strong, if you take care to call only when it’s least likely to be an unwelcome interruption. It’s also a good idea to have a piece of news or some tidbit of information to pass along that will benefit or interest your source.

4.  Offer a referral. Giving your referral source a referral is a wonderful way to build your relationship. By helping build your source’s business, you create a debt of gratitude that will encourage your source to respond in kind.

5.  Display a source’s brochure. Doing a bit of sales work on behalf of a referral source can only enhance your relationship. If you have a public area for your business, offer to place your source’s materials where your clients can read them.

6.  Send an article of interest. Set up a file for holding newspaper and magazine clippings that may be of interest to people you would like to be your referral sources. Sending an article, especially one that is pertinent to your source’s current business or personal circumstances, says that you are thinking about your source’s needs.

These are some of the easiest ways to grow your networking relationships. Check back next Monday to read about some great actions you can take that will require a little more effort on your part.

Give Valuable Information, Get More Referrals

Last week I posted a blog on the benefits of turning to your network for advice. It’s also very important to remember that everyone benefits when you give valuable advice to your network.

Think about how you can give your prospective referral sources valuable advice related to your specialty or profession, such as advance notice of a change in procedures that will affect them, tips on how to initiate the changes they will need to make, or other information that can help your network members achieve satisfaction or success.

One of your goals is to get network members to feel that you are a link to privileged information–that you’re an insider. The advice you give may lead your prospective sources to seek you out for answers to their questions or to feel that you’re looking out for their best interests. It’s a great way to remind your prospective referral sources of what you do.

Use these tips to help pinpoint what to share with your network and how to share it with them:

  • List the topics that you feel comfortable giving advice on, then list network members who might need advice on each topic.
  • Decide whether you will apply this tactic formally, such as by newsletter, or informally, such as in a personal note.
  • Decide how frequently you will send updates.
  • Ask your sources to name others who might benefit from your advice.
  • Periodically ask your network members whether they find your advice useful.
  • Tell your network members to let you know if they don’t wish to receive your updates.

Offering valuable information to your network will not only help them, more important for you, it will keep you on their minds and encourage them to refer you and speak highly of your professional knowledge.

Learning to Use the Law of Reciprocity: 4 Tips

I posted a blog this past Monday explaining what networkers need to know about the law of reciprocity, and I promised that I’d follow up today with some tips on what to keep in mind as you learn to use the law of reciprocity in your networking efforts. Below you will find four very important things to remember:

Tip No. 1–Giving means helping others achieve success. What is your plan to contribute to others? How much time and energy can you spare for this? Do you actively seek out opportunities to help people? You could volunteer to help out with something that’s important to someone in your network, offer advice or support in time of need, or even work hard to connect someone to a valuable contact of yours.

Tip No. 2–The person who helps you will not necessarily be the person you helped. Zig Ziglar says, “If you help enough people get what they want, you will get what you want.” In other words, what goes around comes around. If you focus intently on helping others, you will achieve success in the end.

Tip No. 3–The law of reciprocity can be measured. It is a myth that networking cannot be measured and, in my latest book, Networking Like a Pro, my co-authors and I use the Networking Scorecard Worksheet, part of the Certified Networker Program offered through the Referral Institute, to measure networking. If you apply the law of reciprocity, you will see your weekly total networking score gradually rise.

Tip No. 4–Success takes getting involved. Contrary to Woody Allen’s assertion that “90 percent of success is just showing up,” you have to do more than simply be present to be a successful networker. If you join a chamber of commerce, become an ambassador. If you join a BNI chapter, get involved in the leadership team. If you join a civic organization, get on a committee. The law of reciprocity requires giving to the group; it will pay you back many times over.

A master networker understands that, although networking is not the end but simply the means to growing a business, service to your network of contacts must always be uppermost in your networking activities. Once you have established a solid reputation as someone who cares about the success of others, the law of reciprocity will reward you with an abundance of high quality referrals.

What You Need to Know about the Law of Reciprocity

The term reciprocity is at the center of relationship networking, but it is often misunderstood. Webster’s dictionary defines reciprocity as “a mutual or cooperative interchange of favors or privileges,” as when actions taken for the benefit of others are returned in kind. This leads many inexperienced networkers to expect an immediate return for any actions they take on behalf of another.  Givers gain, right? Wrong.

Not every act of giving will be immediately rewarded by the recipient, and if you go into relationship networking thinking that simply giving a referral is enough to get you a referral in return, you’re confusing a relationship with a transaction. On the contrary, the idea driving Givers Gain® is actually the principle of giving without the expectation of an immediate return. In networking, this idea is called the law of reciprocity ,and the law of reciprocity differs from the standard notion of reciprocity in that the giver cannot, should not and does not expect an immediate return on her investment in another person’s gain. The only thing she can be sure of is that, given enough effort and time, her generosity will be returned by family, friends, colleagues and others–many times over and in many different ways.

Put simply, the law of reciprocity in networking means that by providing benefits (including referrals) to others, you will be creating strong networking relationships that will eventually bring benefits (especially referrals) to you, often in a very roundabout way rather than directly from the person you benefit.  This makes the law of reciprocity an enormously powerful tool for growing your own business’s size and profitability.

I know a lot of experienced networkers who have amazing stories about how the law of reciprocity has proved to them that there’s far more business to be gained by referring business to others than you might at first expect. If you have a story you’d like to share, I’d love to hear it, so leave a comment. Also, be sure to check back on Thursday for some tips on what to keep in mind as your learn to use the law of reciprocity.

The No. 1 Question to Ask as a Networker–‘How Can I Help?’

No matter who you are or what part of the world you live in, Givers Gain is the No. 1 rule to remember when networking. You should always be thinking, “How can I help this person?” After all, networking is about building relationships; and helping others is the absolute best way to begin the relationship-building process. Put simply, helping equals opportunity.

At a social event, you usually ask somebody, “How’s it going?”  What’s the typical reply?  Probably something like, “Great; things couldn’t be better.”  That’s a canned response that people give because they want to be polite and because they know nobody really wants to hear their troubles. But it’s not usually the whole truth.

Things can always be better–that is, there are surely ways you can help–but most people aren’t inclined to go into detail or let others know what’s going on, especially at social events. The best way to find out is to avoid generalities like, “How are things?”  Ask more specific questions.

For example, if somebody tells you that things are going great, their company is expanding, and business is better than they expected, ask a specific question like, “Are you hitting all of your goals?”  Even if they say yes, this is still a big opportunity to help. Think about it: A company that is expanding faster than the owner had projected. What kind of help might it need? You may be able to make some introductions that this individual would be very grateful for, but you can only figure out what introductions to make after getting past the generalities and finding out a person’s specific needs.

Many consider networking just another way to get clients, but when you think in terms of building relationships, a chance to help is a big opportunity. That help can be provided in many forms, each as valuable as the next.

Haiti Earthquake Relief Effort

Master networkers know that genuinely helping people is a huge part of networking because building social capital is key, and master networkers know the importance of giving.

This is exactly why I founded my international networking organization, BNI, on the philosophy that Givers Gain–meaning, if I help you build your business and accomplish your goals, you’ll naturally want to do the same for me.  Sometimes, however, situations occur that call on all of us to help–situations that are bigger than business, bigger than building social capital and bigger than networking.

One of these situations occured at 2:14 p.m. (PST) on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2010 when a 7.0 earthquake struck in Haiti. On behalf of my entire organization, I would like to express our sincere sorrow to the people of Haiti who have been afflicted by this disaster.  As a result, BNI’s nonprofit charitable foundation has opened up the Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund and the BNI Foundation will match the first $10,000 USD donated to the relief effort.  This means that every dollar you give is worth $2 for the cause.

All monies donated through the BNI-Misner Foundation will go directly to the Red Cross, which has mobilized many resources, doctors and nurses to the devastated area.  Donations to the Haiti Relief Fund can be made to the BNI Foundation via the foundation’s secure credit card donation site by CLICKING HERE and writing “Haiti Relief Fund” in the comment field of the online donation form.

I applaud anybody and everybody who would like to join BNI and myself in contributing to the effort to aid the survivors of this tragedy.  Even if you cannot donate, simply passing this information along to all those in your network is a great way to contribute your help!

(Please Note–Donations are tax-free contributions for residents of the United States.  If you are a non-U.S. resident, you can check with your CPA or accountant for guidelines.)

Back to the Future

Networking is the kind of social and professional interaction that came naturally to businesspeople throughout most of this nation’s history, especially in smaller communities. But as villages grew into towns, towns into cities and cities into megalopolises, the sense of community and the close, personal business relationships that went with it gradually disappeared. The rise of large retail chains and multinational corporations, along with the demise of small businesses under the stiff price competition from these giants, further weakened the natural networking that existed.

The disappearance of community-based networking has left a vacuum that is now being filled by strong-contact networks. Business networking organizations such as BNI create a virtual main street for business professionals–an environment and a system for passing referrals that is the 21st-century equivalent of the traditional model for doing business.

As Eric Lesser, in his book Knowledge and Social Capital, notes, “Without a shared understanding of common terms, activities and outcomes, it becomes very difficult to reap the benefits associated with building social capital.” The power of business networking organizations is that they provide these common terms, activities and outcomes in a system that is designed specifically to accomplish this goal.

When you join and attend meetings in a business networking group, you build social capital in a number of ways. You gain the trust and friendship of fellow members; you provide valuable referrals; you contribute knowledge and skills to the effort; you become more knowledgeable and improve your social and business skills. Not least, you get out of your cave–the self-imposed isolation that many business people fall prey to.

Like financial capital, social capital is not only earned and accumulated, it can be spent. The international networking organization BNI has Givers Gain as its guiding principle: The good you do comes back to you over the long term and often in indirect ways. You accumulate social capital by providing help, advice, information, referrals and other benefits to your fellow networkers, with no thought of a quid pro quo. By gaining the trust of others, gratitude for value provided and a solid reputation for integrity and expertise, you become a person whom others wish to help whenever an opportunity to do so presents itself.

A colleague of mine worked for several years with a financial advisor who was a very passionate networker. In fact, he founded a chapter of an international networking organization and became very active as the president of the chapter. He gave more referrals than anyone else in the chapter; however, he got very few referrals back in return.

He came to my colleague a little frustrated about this. My colleague told him it takes time to build trust, especially in the financial services industry. He recommended several books on the subject and suggested that the advisor attend some training programs my colleague was offering. The financial advisor’s reply was a complete surprise. He said, “Train me to train the programs.”

My colleague said, “Aren’t you concerned that you’re already giving a lot more that you’re getting?”

He said, “Yes, but I know that trust takes time, and giving people valuable training at my expense will build trust.”

He became my colleague’s lead trainer and assistant director in Winston-Salem, N. C., and continued to give even more of his time and energy than he ever had before–even though he had been very active in his previous leadership role. His network rewarded him in an amazing way. Over the next 24 months, he received referrals worth $36 million–proving once more that givers always gain in the end.

The Seven Key Aptitudes of Abundance Intelligence

Whenever I turn on the news these days, it seems the media are pushing all of us to embrace a scarcity mentality. Embracing a scarcity mentality, however, will get you nowhere; there couldn’t be anything more pointless and counterproductive than to let your thoughts focus on lack and worry.

Because of this, I’d like to explain a much more valuable concept–the concept of AQ (Abundance Intelligence) which my good friend Kim George introduced in her 2006 book Coaching into Greatness: 4 Steps to Success in Business and Life. AQ is different from IQ (intelligence quotient) in that we measure a person’s ability to perform at his or her optimal level consistently and authentically.

AQ measures masterful people by their prevalence of abundance aptitudes, patterns and beliefs. Successful people of all types have a high AQ. They believe there’s more than enough to go around and that the proverbial glass is not only half full but overflowing. They accept that life is not always easy and doesn’t always follow the straight and convenient path, but they don’t fight changes in the world or the economy. Instead, they adapt to those changes.

Based on Kim’s in-depth work with hundreds of business owners, here are seven key aptitudes you should adopt to gain a high abundance intelligence and resist being bogged down by a scarcity mentality:

1. Self-worth. Abundant people understand their uniqueness and how they add value to their customers, their networking partners and others in their lives.

2. Empathy. Abundant people do their best to understand and serve their customers in any given situation, and they sustain themselves through tough times by networking with supportive friends who are able to provide reciprocal support empathically .

3. Self-expression. Abundant people are convinced that they are the best with whom to do business and they retain a professional posture of sticking to their personal standards, which pulls people to them.

4. Actualization. Abundunt people don’t sit on the sidelines waiting for things to happen. They take action consistent with their skills and talents. They accept responsibility for their actions and don’t blame others for shortcomings. If they face a barrier, they ask for help and support to find an acceptable solution for all sides. They comfortably give and receive.

5. Significance. Abundant people are confident about their uniqueness, knowing they are the best person for a particular job. They demonstrate self-confidence when asking for business, building their social capital and following up.

6. Surrender. Abundant people don’t view surrender as a form of weakness, rather a sign of letting go of old habits, attitudes and behaviors that don’t serve them in a healthy way. They see potential opportunity in everything that passes by.

7. Inquiry. High Abundance Intelligence means high openness to other points of view. Uncertainty is a reason to thrive and be curious. Security in their curious and creative aptitude enables abundant people to move through all challenging situations. Learning while acting keeps them growing and improving while being pioneers in their industry.

Work the above characteristics into your own persona. Each of these abundant aptitudes contributes to purposeful actions and a well-defined goal orientation to the effort. Instead of being derailed by worrying about the past or the future, you will find inspiration and forward momentum in your immediate surroundings.

Networking Lessons From Nature

Recently, when visiting our favorite Napa Valley winery, Chateau Montelena, my wife and I decided to take a tour of the agricultural side of the operation.  The vintner shared with us the technique the winery uses to ensure the quality of the juice from the grapes year after year after year regardless of the climate–a technique known as “dry farming.”

As he explained the benefits of dry farming, I began to see a business metaphor emerging for how referral marketing works for those businesses that understand doing business by referral.

When vineyards are dry farmed, they are not irrigated, dry season or rainy.  As a result, the roots of the vines must grow deep to get to the year-round underground supply of water, no matter the climate.  This reminds me of how we teach business owners to develop deep-water relationships between themselves so that they can support growth no matter the climate–the economic climate.

Doing business by referral truly is not about getting rich quick.  We want to be able to produce a bumper crop of referrals year after year after year regardless of the climate.

That is the gift of dry farming:  the stability of the juice’s quality.  Just like the dependability of Chateau Montelena’s wine, we feel that deep-water relationships ensure a dependability in our own business stability unavailable to the average business owner.

There is another metaphor from nature that helps to illustrate the strength of doing business by referral–that is the story of the giant redwood trees in Northern California.

The giant redwoods average a height of 85 meters or 250 feet!  You’d think that with such an amazing height they would also have a deep, deep root system.  But they don’t.  They actually have a fairly shallow root system, much like our California eucalyptus trees.  The California eucalyptus trees tend to blow over easily in heavy winds, but not the giant redwoods.

You see, the giant redwoods also use an amazing technique to remain upright when those around them fall.  They intertwine  their roots with the roots of their neighbor, thereby supporting one another when the winds come.  When one is under the direct pressure of the wind, the others help to hold it in place, not allowing it to succumb to the destructive forces of that wind.

Relationship marketing puts you in a similar position as those giant redwoods.  When you learn the intricacies of doing business by referral, you begin to metaphorically intertwine your roots with the roots of those with whom you are networking.  When the economy pressures one member, the others help hold him in place!

This is why networking and relationship marketing are so important–especially in a tough economy.

Use This Networking Trick to Increase Business

One of the most common networking questions I get asked is, “How do I generate referrals for other people?”  Well, this same question is exactly what I was asking myself in the early ’80s when I was just starting my consulting business. I came up with a technique that had a huge impact on my ability to provide quality referrals to others–which, of course, led to me getting referrals.

I realized that I needed to be the person whom people came to if they needed a referral for anything–the “gatekeeper” of referrals . . .  the “go-to guy.”  So I composed a letter that I sent out to my client list several times a year.  Today you could send out a quick e-mail to your database, but you should send it at least once a year as hard copy just to stand out from everybody else who’s e-mailing your clients.  Here’s a sample letter:

Dear________:

I really believe in the process of referrals, so part of the service I provide is to be sure to refer my clients and associates to other qualified businesspeople in the community.

Attached is a list of areas in which I know very credible, ethical and outstanding professionals.  If you’re looking for a professional in a specific area I’ve listed, please feel free to contact me.  I will be glad to put you in touch with the people I know who provide these services.

Sincerely,

Dr. Ivan Misner

Notice when you read this letter that I just listed professions; I didn’t list names and phone numbers.  I wanted my clients to contact me so I could put the referral and the contact together–so I could build business relationships through being the go-to guy.  What began to happen was that others would ask someone on my client list, “Whom do you know who does XYZ?”  If they didn’t know anyone, then they would send that person to me.

The importance of becoming a gatekeeper is huge for anyone seeking to grow a business with word-of-mouth marketing.  It’s a strategy that gets people not only to contact you for a referral, but also to open up a dialogue with people about what your business is all about and how you can help them.  This, in turn, leads to more business with existing clients and new business with prospects.

Allow this to open the door for reciprocal sharing and giving.  You’ll be amazed at how much more business you’ll find you’re able to do as a result.

Make a Referral Week (March 9-13, 2009)

johnjantschlogo.gifAs I’ve said time and time again, I firmly believe that the way to survive and thrive in an economic downturn is to ignore the doom-and-gloom headlines and focus instead on what you can do to grow your business despite fluctuations in the economy.

That’s why I’m hoping all of you will join me in participating in Make a Referral Week, which is a campaign inviting everyone around the globe to make 1,000 referrals during the week of March 9-13.  It’s an entrepreneurial approach to stimulating the small-business economy–one referred business at a time.

The goal of generating 1,000 referrals to 1,000 deserving small businesses highlights the idea that by taking one simple action and generating one referral to a small business, you really can make a difference and help jumpstart the economy.  Small business is the lifeblood and job-creating engine of the economy, and if we all pledge to make one referral, we could possibly generate millions of dollars in new business.

The weeklong, virtual event also features daily education programs focused on teaching small-business owners and other marketers how to tap the power of referral marketing. I’ll be featured, along with my friends Bob Burg and Bill Cates, on Tuesday, March 10.

Click here to learn more and join the campaign.

If you do join me in participating next week, I’d love to hear back from you about the referral(s) you generated.

The 10 Commandments of Business Networking

A friend of mine, Melinda Potcher, adapted some of my material and created the 10 Commandments of Business Networking.

She did a great job, and I thought I’d share it with everyone here on my blog.

 

1. Thou Shalt Not Sell To Me. If we’re trying to help one another get more business, you tell me your target market, I tell you my target market and when we are out in the world, we speak well of one another and refer one another. Do not try to sell me–I’m your referral resource. If I need your product or service, know that I will call you.  Use our relationship to sell through me, to get to those 250-plus people I know.

2. Thou Shalt Understand The Law of Reciprocity. If I’m sending you business, please keep me top of mind. Giving me a new client is the best thank you I can receive, and I will continue working to find you referrals if I know you appreciate me.

3. Thou Shalt Not Abuse Our Relationship. Sending me a bogus referral just to use me, my expertise or my resources for free without asking permission first is the fastest way to lose my respect.

4. Thou Shalt Not Be Late . If we have a meeting set to get to know one another and strategize how we can refer each other business, do not reschedule our appointment more than twice. I blocked a chunk of time in my schedule FOR YOU, and I respect you enough to be on time.

5. Thou Shalt Be Specific . Specific Is Terrific! If you tell me your target market is “anybody” or “everybody,” that means nobody to me. The more specific you are, the easier it will be for me to find you business.

6. Thou Shalt Take Your Business Seriously . As your networking partner, I need to know your intentions.If your company is a hobby business, it will be difficult for me to assist you. If it’s part-time, you are limited in the time you spend working on your business and working to find me referrals. However, if you’re working your business part time with a goal of making it full time, I am there for you, 100 percent.

7. Thou Shalt Follow Up On Referrals. When I send you business, please follow up with that prospect in a timely fashion–say 24 hours. If you’re going out of town or will not be available for some time, a quick e-mail or phone call to the person to let them know when you will be available will preserve your credibility and protect my reputation in recommending you to someone I know and care about.

8. Thou Shalt Communicate. If I do something to upset you, send you a “bad” referral or cause you to have ill feelings toward me, please communicate with me as soon as possible. I may not be aware I have caused a problem for you; if you tell me, I can try to fix it. Referral networking is about relationships! Relationships and referrals are at the heart of my business.

9. Thou Shalt Protect My Reputation. Most people would rather die than risk their reputations. If I receive feedback from a referral I have sent you that is disparaging or derogatory, it is as though you cut me off at the knees. Please do what you say you will do and live up to the ethical standards of your profession.

10. Thou Shalt Prepare For Success. If you really want to grow your business, then prepare to receive it. I will move mountains for my networking partners to ensure they get referrals on a consistent basis. I am a Ninja Networker–you may not always see me working on your behalf.

Thanks to Melinda. You can visit her website at: HomeLoansAlbuquerque.com

What do you think?  Would you add anything to this list (OK, I know you can’t have “11 Commandments,” but play with me here).

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