Build Cooperation or Expect Resistance

I read a book awhile back called Solutions Focus by Mark MerKergow and Paul Z Jackson, and it really struck a chord with me.I ran across some of my notes from the book yesterday as I was organizing my desk (no small task, I might add), and I think that networking groups everywhere–and businesspeople in general–can greatly benefit and gain a higher level of success from learning to maintain and exhibit a solutions-focused attitude.As MerKergow and Jackson say, it’s the most effective way to naturally promote and build cooperation.

However, it’s amazing how many people have a problems-focused attitude instead. They assume that in order to achieve greatness, they first must pinpoint everything that’s wrong and lacking in the situation and channel all of their energy into fixing it completely.

By maintaining a problems focus, we get stuck dwelling on:
• What’s wrong
• What needs fixing
• Blame
• Control
• The past
• Deficits and weaknesses
• Complications
• Definitions

Think about how you would react if you were having an issue with someone and he or she was focusing on the negative. It’s easy to see how, in any situation (family, employment, entrepreneurial, networking group, etc.), this attitude almost invites resistance and stunts progression of a positive solution.With a solutions focus, however, you’re already thinking in terms of how you will move forward. Your focus is on:
• What’s wanted
• What’s working
• Progress
• Influence
• Collaboration
• Resources and strengths
• Simplicity
• Actions

Focusing on solutions helps create resonance. You’re focused on what works rather than what doesn’t. With this approach, it is important to remember that sometimes the art of creating resonance is knowing what to overlook. If you try so hard to achieve excellence that you attempt to immediately work through every little problem that comes up, you’ll become frustrated and overwhelmed. Instead, focus on two or three things at a time–pick the things that need the most urgent improvement. Inevitably, those things will positively impact the next 10 problems you have.

In conclusion, here are some supplemental points to focus on when building cooperation and working toward solutions:
• Think of actions as starting something rather than stopping something.
• Concentrate on small actions that can be taken now.
• Focus your energy on what’s working.
• Come up with specific and clearly defined steps that build on successes, not failures.
• Focus on solutions, not problems!
• Take incremental steps to build toward the solution.
• Don’t fix what isn’t broken.
• Find what works and do more of it!
• Spot useful qualities and resources in action.
• Be selective about solutions.

The way to build cooperation is to focus on a positive-solutions focus to problems. When that doesn’t happen, you can almost always expect resistance.

Networking Faux Pas

Most people I meet while networking think they’re great networkers, but a lot of them are still making some of the biggest networking no-nos in the book.

I went to a local networking event this week and saw one guy blatantly trying to gather as many business cards as he could, never spending more than a minute with any one person. This type of behavior indicates that he only had one goal–to acquire a nice, big stack of business cards to add to his cold-calling stockpile. Confusing networking with direct selling, as this guy was obviously doing, is one of the biggest mistakes a networker can make! Here’s my list of the three biggest networking faux pas that no networker should ever commit.

Faux pas number one: Not responding quickly to referral partners
This one really troubles me. I can’t imagine getting a call from a networking partner and not responding immediately. Unfortunately, it happens with regularity.

Faux pas number two: Confusing networking with direct selling
Networking is not simply about gathering contact information and following up on it later. That’s nothing more than glorified cold calling. It gives me the chills. I used to teach cold-calling techniques to businesspeople. And I did it enough to know that I didn’t ever want to do it again. Since then, I’ve devoted my professional life to teaching the business community that there’s a better way to build long-term business.

Faux pas number 3: Abusing the relationship
I’ve seen people abuse relationships with their networking partners by misleading them and doing such things as inviting people to a “birthday party” that turns out to be a business opportunity pitch. Never mislead your networking partners in any way; for that matter, never mislead anyone. Trust is everything when you’re talking about relationship networking. You need to be honest with those whom you want to build a trusting relationship with.

All three of these faux pas directly relate to good people skills. The prevailing theme is to treat your referral partners and potential referral partners with professionalism and care.

Use networking opportunities to meet people and begin the process of developing genuine relationships. As you do this, treat your referral partner the way you would a top client. Finally, always network in a way that builds credibility and trust–be candid in telling your referral partners what you need and what you’re asking of them. Do these things and you’ll avoid some serious mistakes in relationship networking.

Achieving Excellence in a Networking Group

During a recent interview, I was asked what my thoughts are on why my networking organization, BNI, has become so successful. Well, I’ll be the first to admit that success didn’t happen overnight. It took me 23 years, and a lot of bumps along the way, to learn what it takes to operate a successful networking group anywhere in the world. But as I told the interviewer, I attribute BNI’s success to some key steps that are sure to move any networking group toward achieving excellence. I’d like to share some of them with you here:

1. Education, education, education. Take advantage of the staggering amount of resources on networking that are available. Some examples are:
SuccessNet archives, networking articles at Entrepreneur.com, networking books, Audio CDs, etc., etc.

2. Choose quality business professionals to join your networking group. Don’t take the first person with a pulse and a check.

3. Follow the system! When a system is proved to be successful, there is a reason it works. Don’t reinvent the wheel.

4. Pass quality referrals. The only thing more important than passing a lot of referrals is passing quality referrals. Both are important, but quality must lead the way.

5. Attendance is key to a group’s success. Networking groups that have poor attendance always end up having problems down the road. Have you ever gotten a haircut over the phone? Of course not. We’ve learned that you cannot get or give referrals if you don’t show up.

6. Pick great leaders! Don’t settle for who’s willing, but select who’s best! Leaders can make or break a group. It happens all the time.

7. Keep positive people with a solutions-focused attitude in your group. OK, here’s another way to say it–move out the constant whiners! Some people complain as though there were an award for it. Replace them. Find people who focus on building something great rather than complaining as though it were an Olympic event. Seriously, why accept mediocrity when excellence is an option? People, just like water, tend to seek the path of least resistance. The problem is that the path of least resistance may not be the best path. If you expect the best from your fellow networking group members, you will get it. If you expect less than the best from your members . . . you will get it. Expect the best. You’ll get better results, really.

After all, if following these steps could build BNI into an organization with more than 5,000 thriving chapters in more than 36 countries, then I’d say it’s worth giving them a try!!

Six Essentials for Networking

Recently, I was handed a copy of a book called Rules for Renegades: How to Make More Money, Rock Your Career, and Revel in Your Individuality by Christine Comaford-Lynch.

In the book, she names six networking essentials that are not necessarily the ones people might traditionally think of as the keys to networking success, but I think they can be of significant value–especially her advice on equalizing yourself with others. So I’d like to reprint them for you here, and I invite you to leave comments. Here’s Comaford-Lynch’s list:

1. Practice “Palm Up” Networking. When you network, are you giving or grasping? Palm up networking embodies the spirit of service, of giving and wanting nothing in return. When you network “palm down,” you’re grasping for personal gain. Palm up = heart-oriented interaction. Palm down = greedy grasping. Give to others; it’ll all come back to you in time.

2. Exercise Daily Appreciation. Appreciate at least one person daily. Sometimes I do this via e-mail so I can be thorough. And often, to my delight, the recipient will tell me that they are saving the message for when they need a pick-me-up. You can also express appreciation over the phone or in person. Simply tell someone how much you appreciate who they are or what they do–whatever about them moves you. They’ll be flattered, and you’ll feel great.

3. Equalize Yourself with Others. I believe we all have one unit of worth: no more, no less. No one can add to it; no one can take it away. We’re all equal. Just because someone is powerful, rich and famous doesn’t mean they are better than you. Practice equalizing yourself with others. This will enable you to more comfortably interact with others and to reach out to people of all walks of life.

4. Rolodex Dip. This is a fun practice when you want to connect with someone but aren’t sure whom. Flip through your contact database and pick a name. Then think of all the things you like about them. Now call them up to see how they are doing. They’ll be surprised and delighted.

5. Pick a “Sensei of the Day.” Each day I pick a sensei, a teacher. This is someone or something that has taught me a lesson or reminded me of what’s important in life. Your sensei can be a person, a pet, a plant; it doesn’t matter. The important thing is to acknowledge that there is much to learn and you are being offered valuable lessons constantly.

6. Do the Drive-By Schmooze. Parties and conventions–groups of all sorts–are great opportunities to network. But sometimes you’ll be tired, not in the mood or have too many events in one evening (like during the holiday season). This is when you’ll want to use the Drive-By Schmooze. Here’s how:

a. Timebox your networking. Decide that in 30 minutes you’ll do a check-in to determine if you need to stay any longer.

b. Set your goal. Determine the number of new connections you want to establish. Remember, your goal is meaningful connections, not simply contacts.
c. Let your intuition guide you. This may sound flaky, but it works! Stand near the door, in a corner, out of the way. Stop your thoughts. Internally ask to be guided to the people you need to connect with. Then start walking. You’ll be amazed at whom you meet.
d. Connect. You’ll always resonate with someone at an event. When you do, ask questions about them, such as: How did you get started in your field? What’s your ideal customer? We all love to talk about ourselves, and these questions will not only help you form a connection with this person, but will also tell you how to help them.
e. Offer help and follow through. If you can provide help, jot down ideas on the back of their business card, commit to follow up, and then do it. If you’ve had a fruitful conversation and want to take it further, offer to meet for lunch or coffee. People say life is 90 percent about showing up. Nonsense! Life is 90 percent about following through!

For more information on Christine and her bestselling book, Rules for Renegades, please visit: www.RulesForRenegades.com.

Scorched-Earth Networking

I recently spoke at two different events in Southern California and I found it interesting that at each event, questions about whether there is a right or a wrong networking style were brought up by audience members.

It is a given that people can be very different from one another; therefore, there are some very different styles of networking. However, there is one style of networking that results in the ground practically smoking wherever some networkers tread. This style can be referred to as “scorched earth networking.” It is important to avoid this type of networking in cultivating a successful business networking model.

Avoid the hallmarks of a scorched-earth networker, which are listed below:

  • Moves from networking group to networking group—constantly dissatisfied with the quality of referrals received from each.
  • Talks more than listens.
  • Doesn’t “honor the event”—networks at inappropriate opportunities.
  • Thinks that being “highly visible” is enough to make business flow his or her way—ignores the need to build credibility.
  • Expects others to be consistently referring him or her—has a “get” and not “give” mentality. Views networking as a transaction, not a relationship.

Scorched-earth networking doesn’t work, because building your business through word-of-mouth is about cultivating relationships with people who get to know you and trust you. People do business with people they have confidence in.

 

As you network, look around at what you leave behind. Are you creating relationships by building your social capital (farming as opposed to hunting), or are you leaving a scorched earth and many bodies in your wake?

Better yet, have you experienced someone practicing scorched-earth networking? If so, share the story here.

A Networking BFO (Blinding Flash of the Obvious)

Trey McAlister, a certified trainer/coach with the Referral Institute and a BNI director in Northern California, was commenting to me the other day on a huge BFO (Blinding Flash of the Obvious) he had about how and why professionals often become disillusioned with networking. Trey said he realized that many professionals go into networking events ignoring one of the principal “commandments” of networking, either by having the wrong goal in mind or not having one at all, and they therefore end up leaving disappointed. It is extremely important to set a goal before you go into a networking event to give yourself a sense of purpose and direction.

Now, another thing that Trey and I both know is that the two main reasons people might not enjoy networking events are that they 1) feel like everyone is trying to sell them (which many times may be true) and 2) they go to the event hoping to find either hot prospects or a bona fide client. The problem is that when you combine numbers one and two, it creates a recipe for discomfort and dissatisfaction. Trey pointed out that if people actually take to heart the definition of networking I suggested awhile back, “Networking is helping others as a way of growing your business,” they would go into and come out of networking events with better focus and have a much better and more productive time.

When Trey mentions this BFO in presentations, he reminds members of his audience that if they are truly “business” networking, then goals are a must. “Whether it is the number of people you want to meet or the types of people you want to include in your ‘contact sphere,’ ” he says, “you will be more productive and satisfied with your efforts if you set a goal.” Also, if you make sure to focus on others and not on yourself when you participate in networking events, you will be paving the way to start building relationships, you won’t appear to be selling, and you will be more enjoyable to talk to.

One of the last things Trey mentioned was something he said he remembered from being mentored by Tom Fleming (master trainer for the Referral Institute). Tom taught him to always go into mixers with the business networking attitude as opposed to the social networking attitude. If you go into a mixer ready to socialize or chat, you might as well leave the business networking for another time. By deciding to go into a mixer with a business networking attitude, you’ll undoubtedly improve your chances not only of feeling more satisfied when you leave, but also of having a happy networking experience.

The Three Core Competencies of Referral Success

Last week, I met with my business partner in the Referral Institute, Mike Macedonio (seen below with me), and as we were discussing what it really takes to drive your business by referral, one of the first things Mike mentioned was that the first core competency of referral success is the need for correct knowledge.  It didn’t surprise me that Mike would start with this; after all, we co-authored Truth or Delusion–Busting Networking’s Biggest Myths which directly adresses what works and what doesn’t work in referral marketing.  In the book, Mike paraphrases Mark Twain’s statement about having correct knowledge, which appropriately says something to the effect of, It’s not what you know that will stand in the way of your success as much as what you know which isn’t so.

The second core competency in successful referral marketing is to stay engaged with your referral marketing plan.  This is harder than it sounds.  Many referral marketing concepts are counter intuitive.  It’s like telling a driver to turn into a skid.  This is not the natural reaction.  Even when the driver understands it’s in his best interest to turn into the skid, it’s only when he does it that he learns how it actually works.

Referral marketing is the same way.  When we’re going out looking for more business, it’s natural to look for qualified prospects and approach them.  However, referral marketing shows us that we will be even more effective if someone who has a credible relationship with the prospect sent them to us.  We understand this is in our best interest, however it may not be our natural reaction.

So, how do you get the business owner to network in a way that may not come naturally? Some of the solutions Mike and I discussed are to:

*  Stay connected to blogs and podcasts on networking
*  Participate in networking groups
*  Get involved in ongoing referral trainings

The first two core competencies, obtaining correct knowledge and staying engaged with your referral marketing plan, apply to any personal or professional development programs and it is important to keep in mind that though they may be “simple,” they’re not “easy.”

The third core competency, implementing a system to train your network on how to refer you business, is the missing piece that most business people do not have in place to create referral success.  No matter how brilliant you are in referral marketing, or how skillful you are in “leaning into the punch,” if your referral partners are inadequate your results will be insufficient.

Mike gave a great football analogy for this.  He said, “What if Tom Brady, the most successful quarterback at this time, were to get on the field with a team that was lacking skills and knowledge of the game?  Tom Brady would be throwing perfect spirals to players who can’t catch and don’t know their assignments.  It wouldn’t take long for Tom to recognize that he’s better off just keeping the ball and running.  This could be equated in business to direct prospecting.  It is hard work for short yardage.

So, what can we learn from this?  That if you make the three core competencies a priority, you will not only be on the right track for referral success, you will also be gaining much more “yardage” from your efforts!

What has your experience been and/or how do you think you can apply these ideas to your business?

The Case of the Disappearing Business Cards

Are business cards disappearing? Well, sort of. I don’t mean your business cards. They better not be disappearing. You need them to network with. But what about all the cards you’ve been collecting when you meet people? What’s happening to them?

Business cards are the most powerful single business tool, dollar for dollar, that you can invest in to help build your business. They are a “marvelous, compact, energy-efficient, low-cost, low-tech instrument–a self-contained device with no gears, springs or batteries that keeps working for its owner hours, weeks, years, even decades after it has left his or her hands.” That’s what I said about them in my book It’s in the Cards a number of years ago. Well, I still believe all of the above except for one thing: I’m not so sure that our actual business cards continue to work for us hours, weeks or especially years after they have left our hands.

More and more I am seeing the business card become a disposable advertisement for people. Don’t get me wrong; I still think that business cards are very important. However, I also recognize that technology is replacing the “card box” and Rolodex I once had on my desktop. It has, for me, been replaced with Outlook. For many years, I had all the business cards I collected in a well-organized and categorized alphabetical card box. In recent years, I (like many other people) get back to my office with a pocket full of cards and have the information entered into my Outlook database. And the cards?  Well, let’s just say they used to disappear. But not any longer. No, today I keep them digitally using a CardScan.

I recently got a CardScan Executive and I love this product. I found it really, really easy to use (this said by someone who only reads instructions if absolutely necessary, and it wasn’t). The palm-sized device makes an image of the card and then automatically strips out the information into all the correct categories (name, company, address, phone, etc.). It then allows you to download all the information directly into your computer database (and did I mention that it was easy?).

Although I must admit that cards I used to receive went to that great big card box in the sky, now I can say they live on forever as a digital image and, more importantly, as a contact in my digital database–which is very important to the operation of my business. I really love the CardScan and I highly recommend it to anyone who is serious about networking. You can get more information about it at www.CardScan.com.

I’d love to hear your feedback on this type of product and how you use it in your networking efforts.

If you’d like to read some other articles that I’ve written about the effective use of business cards, take a look at these two columns here at Entrepreneur.com:

Article: Smart Ways to Use Your Business Card

Article: Creating an Effective Business Card

Setting the Stage for a Successful Word of Mouth Program

During a conversation last week, one of our assistant directors for BNI in Michigan, Leslie Fiorenzo, made an interesting point of comparison between appreciating opera and learning to use word-of-mouth marketing in your business. She said, “The best way to experience opera is to see it on the stage, and the best way to use word of mouth is to put a referral marketing plan in place. The novice, in either case, may not know where to begin.”

We started talking about a system to generate business by referral and, just like opera, if you have little or no experience with referral marketing, it would be a mistake to jump into action without preparing yourself. Central to the referral-marketing process is getting people to send you referrals. To do so, they must know exactly what you do–what product or service you provide or make; how, and under what conditions, you provide it; how well you do it; and in what ways you are better at what you do than your competitors. You absolutely must communicate this information to your sources. And to communicate effectively, you must know the same things. Before business owners map out their referral marketing campaign, they must stop and get a clear picture of where their business currently stands.

Leslie commented that when people begin to learn and study opera, they begin with basic works by composers such as Giuseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini before moving on to more complex works by composers such as Richard Wagner. In the same way, when marketing your business by word of mouth, there is a place to start before you meet with the people in your network. You begin by preparing answers to some basic questions about yourself and your business like:

1. Why are you in business?
2. What do you sell?
3. Who are your customers and
4. How well do you compete?

The ability to communicate this information to your sources and prospects will be invaluable as you begin to build your network and formulate your plan to gain more and more business the most effective way–through referrals.

Once you master some basic tools, you can move on to a deeper understanding of the process. For example, there are three laws of Notable Networking:

1. Have a positive and supportive attitude, and provide a positive and supportive environment for other business people.
2) Learn how to use networking tools efficiently, including business cards and an informative name badge, and have a business-card case to hold others’ cards.
3) Networking is an acquired skill that requires listening to tapes, reading books/articles, talking to great networks and practicing what you’ve learned.

One great place to get more information on this subject is www.bni.com. I highly recommend that you become familiar with the basic tools of word-of-mouth marketing and begin to implement them in your business so that you can begin to watch it grow. Because, just like appreciating opera, if you don’t begin with the basics, you won’t experience the optimum result.

Finding Good Referral Sources Is Like Kissing Frogs!

I was speaking with Sarah Owen, the master franchisee of The Referral Institute in the UK, and she told me that she often comes across people who are good at giving to others but don’t always get an equitable return from their relationships. Many people want to know how to discern whether a potential referral source is a good match, and what they can do to increase the likelihood that their time and efforts are being invested in relationships that will harvest a positive return.

Sarah shared a great metaphor that she uses in relation to referral sources that don’t pan out by saying, “When we are looking for a good relationship in life, we sometimes need to kiss some frogs to find our prince. People are searching for a way to avoid those slimy, slippery, drawn-out kisses, which can be prolonged over months–sometimes years–only to discover that the frog never turns into a handsome prince.” So how do people avoid those empty, disappointing referral relationships that turn out to be slimy frogs instead of princes? I think some of the questions below that Sarah and I discussed can definitely help qualify a potential referral source/alliance relationship sooner rather than later.

  • What are your goals?
  • What are your achievements?
  • What are your interests?
  • What do your networks look like?
  • What are your key skills?
  • Do you have time to invest in another relationship?
  • From what you know so far, do you like what I do?

By asking at the outset whether the individual has the resources, motivation and time to invest, and by then providing him or her permission to opt out, the only question left is whether the match is sufficient enough to ensure the relationship can be reciprocal in time. As our conversation came to a close, Sarah said that her clients are finding better results using these simple steps. Then, she smiled and happily reported that they are also kissing fewer frogs!

I love this metaphor. Thanks for sharing it with me, Sarah.

Attitude is Everything in Networking

Last week, one of the big items on my calendar of things to do was a marathon day of radio interviews beginning at 4a.m.  As you can imagine, getting up at an hour when roosters haven’t even begun to think about warming up their vocal chords is not the most enticing of tasks.  However, after stubbing my toe in the pitch blackness and yelping out a word I won’t mention here, I remembered that as the Founder & Chairman of BNI, the world’s largest business networking organization, I had agreed to do these interviews at such an outrageous hour because it is my responsibility to do whatever needs to be done to network for the organization.

Now, can you imagine what would happen if  I answered the interviewer’s first question—which is always “How are you doing today, Dr. Misner?â€?—by grumbling about how I had stubbed my toe and how I wished I was back in my warm bed?  Well, what would happen is that people would be immediately turned off by my negative attitude and nobody would listen to me.

This brings me to my point that in order to be a master networker, you must always maintain a positive attitude no matter what.  With over two decades of professional networking experience, one thing I’ve learned is how important it is to have a positive attitude in order to successfully network.  And if I’m going to go around telling other people how to discipline and train themselves to network effectively, then I darn well better be walking the walk (or at least limping along, stubbed toe and all) and maintaining the positive attitude of a master networker.

Now that I’ve told you about the second most important trait of a master networker, I figure might as well give you the other nine.  Here they are, ranked in order of their perceived importance to networking:

1. Follows up on referrals
2. Positive attitude
3. Enthusiastic/motivated
4. Trustworthy
5. Good listening skills
6. Networks always
7. Thanks people
8. Enjoys helping
9. Sincere
10. Works their network.  

“Happy” Networking!

What To Do "Before" You Start Networking

I met someone recently who said she’s been having a hard time building her network because people can’t seem to understand or relate to her business.  I asked her why she thought that was and she responded that her business is pretty complicated and when she tries to explain what it’s all about, she can almost see people’s eyes spinning in their heads.

I told her that before she can even begin to network effectively, she needs to find a way to explain her business in a way that people will easily understand.  We ALL need to heed this rule of thumb and be able to clearly and simply communicate what it is that we do by pinpointing key aspects of our business for our potential referral sources. 

My advice to anyone confused about how to clearly explain what it is that they do is to ask yourself these questions and write down your answers:

  • Why are you in business (other than to make a living)?  Why do you do what you do?  How does your business serve others?
  • What do you sell?  Most important, what are the benefits—not the features—of your products or services?
  • Who are your customers?  What are your target markets?  Be specific.  Look at all segments of your business to determine the niche or niches you prefer to work with.
  • What are your core competencies, and what do you do best?
  • How well do you compete?  How do you stand out from your competition?

These questions will help you explain what your business is all about, and make you more effective at implementing a comprehensive referral system.  By communicating these aspects of your business to referral sources, they’re learning how they can refer you; and that’s what networking is all about. 

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