Networking Prep Archives - Page 35 of 35 - Dr. Ivan Misner®

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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