Resist Coin-Operated Networking

When networking, do you only talk to those who can give you the most in return? Do you only give your business card to someone who you will bring you a ton of referrals? Do you only give referrals if you know you’ll get them in return?

If this sounds like you, you are doing it all wrong. Networking is not a vending machine. You don’t put in coins into the machine and get a candy bar every time–sometimes, you have to wait for your candy.

This mentality is called “transactional networking,” which is going to get you nowhere quickly in the world of referral networking. The “I will give you this, now you have to give me that,” point of view is only going to leave you sorely disappointed.

Instead, the proper mindset is, “Let me help you. I’ve got some ideas. I have a referral for you.” Over time, they’ll give it back you when the opportunity arises. This mentality is called “relational.” Keeping score or holding a referral back because you haven’t received one in return won’t always work, but thinking about giving before getting and making it the foundation of your business reputation, will.

Let’s take a closer look. If you’re keeping score and have given two referrals, but only received one in return, you might be a little disappointed. But consider the value of those referrals. You can’t simply go by the numbers. Two referrals to a florist are vastly different than two referrals to a real estate agent. By the same token, we don’t think it’s realistic to expect $1,000 worth of referrals from someone just because you passed them referrals of that amount.

By applying the Givers Gain philosophy, you will make your referral relationships relational rather than transactional and find success in this relationship. Let’s say there’s somebody you don’t know well, but you want to know that person better and build a referral relationship. You think this person may be able to help you and you know you can help them. You don’t start a referral relationship by asking them to sign a contract that for every referral you give him, he has to give you one in return! The way to start the process is to give.

I understand the hesitation to give referrals to someone you don’t know well–but giving doesn’t have to start with a referral. It can start with a conversation. If you’re having a conversation with a possible referral partner and they express a problem they may be having, you might say, “You know, I just read a great article on that. I’ll email it to you.” You hand them your business card with your email address on it, they do the same and –voila! A connection is made through giving.

Remember, networking is more about farming than it is about hunting. It’s about cultivating relationships.

Which Networking Style Are You?

This is the fifth and final video in the “Ivanism” Garage to Global series, hosted by Entrepreneur.com. In this series, I expand on common phrases I’ve used throughout my 31 years of referral-based networking.

When you’re at a networking event, do you eagerly bounce around the room, chatting with various people and passing out business cards? Do you tend to seek deep connections by only talking to a few people for longer periods? Everyone has their own way of making connections and networking, and it helps to understand just where you fall in the lineup.

Knowing your networking behavioral style will help you capitalize on your skills–and maybe even identify some flaws to improve upon. Take a look at the video below to find out YOUR style and maybe the next time you’re at an event, you’ll be able to better position yourself for greater success.

 

Is Ignorance on Fire Ever a Good Thing?

The following video is part of my new “Ivanism” Garage to Global series, hosted by Entrepreneur.com, where I expand on catch phrases I have used frequently over the years.

 

I know, it’s a strange concept: “Ignorance on fire is better than knowledge on ice.”

Most people read that statement and think, someone who’s excited but ignorant can do more harm than good.

I’m here to tell you that the opposite of your intuition is true. That’s right–and you’ll see why below.

 

MSNBC’s Your Business

On Thursday, I was swept off to a land far, far away.

OK, not that far away. But TV has to be dramatic, doesn’t it?

Even though I was close to home, I visited the homes of millions by appearing as a guest on MSNBC’s Your Business, with host JJ Ramberg. I was featured as an expert on referral networking (imagine that!) and spoke about how it can positively affect small businesses. The entire experience was easier than I expected and JJ was well-prepared and professional–and I’m sure glad she was, because it really helped ease my nerves.

And of course, I couldn’t get out the door without using referral networking. The producer asked if I could refer her to other BNI experts to be featured guests! (Who knows–maybe it could be YOU!)

Check out the clip below and tell me what you think.

Giving Your Network a Boost

A question from India came to me via Twitter, and I found it to be such a universal topic that I thought I’d share it with you all.

(And BONUS–it was shot in my new home studio!)

 

What happens when your networking group hits a plateau?

https://youtu.be/OA73fq9Sza8

 

Counting Your Referrals

Referrals are the backbone of word-of-mouth networking, am I right?

So if you reach out 100 people with a referral and ten reach back, did you give 100 or ten referrals?

Many would immediately assume the higher number, because let’s face it–100 is better than 10. But that isn’t the case!

But WHY is this?

I come to you today with a Vlog (video blog) of this exact question, asked of me during the BNI US Conference in April.

You are not entitled to referrals

That’s right-you read correctly.

Referrals come from cultivating real relationships. They come from putting the work into your networking by giving others referrals before expecting them in return. They don’t come from sitting idly in a meeting, watching others getting referrals and wondering where yours are.

Are you wondering just how to get that referral pipe flowing?

1. Become a farmer. Except you’re not cultivating seeds, but relationships. You’re not harvesting produce, but referrals. Networking is about farming for new contacts (and referrals,) not hunting them. Have One-to-Ones with your chapter members. Get to know them and their business well so you can begin to pass referrals to them. This is how you cultivate a relationship-show genuine interest and make an honest attempt at helping them succeed. You’ll build trust with one another, which makes the next step much easier.  referral

2. Find a referral partner. As I write in my book, Truth or Delusion, “There is a way to the flow of referrals predicable and adjustable.” After you’ve gotten to know your fellow chapter members, choose one to partner up with to pass referrals back and forth to one another. Pick someone who needs referrals you can provide (for example, if you have a toy shop owner in your Chapter but you have no kids and rarely interact with them, they might not be the best partner for you.) Determine what types of referrals you need and ask your partner to do the same; then, exchange specific referrals based on your own networks. Begin to set up meetings with your referrals and if it’s appropriate, bring your partner with you. Afterward, analyze the meetings with your partner and use as much detail as possible.

3. Get your PH.D. in Networking. Ok, not literally. But you can become a gatekeeper of networks as you begin to connect your network with another person’s, and then another person’s, and then continue to build upon it. Become the go-to person in your business community-the person others come to if they needed a referral for anything. “Know a trustworthy plumber? Yeah, ask Susan-she knows everybody!” But instead of becoming the human phone book, you are connecting people in your community with good, honest businesses. This will not only help you build your network referrals, but it will also force you to continue to build and deepen your relationships and provide you with an excellent reputation.

What process has worked for you when referral gathering?

 

Stranger Danger? Not in Networking!

Why do people hate networking events? There are a few common reasons, but one that I have heard time and time again is an anxiety about introducing yourself to new contacts. I’m sure you’re familiar with the feeling of nerves as you meet new people and try to strike up a conversation. There are a few small things I think you should include in your introduction with new people that could help take the edge off.

  • ID-100356039Don’t forget your name and your business! Because, yes, believe it or not this happens. I was at a networking event a few years ago, and someone came up to me. We spoke for a few minutes about their business and their experience using referral networking before they had to excuse themselves. It was then that I realized that I had never gotten their name, despite the fact that they knew mine. If your goal is to introduce yourself to a new contact and leave a lasting impression, definitely make sure you give your name.
  • Find common ground. Finding something about your new contact that you can relate to is among the best ways to quickly develop the start of a relationship. This also will alleviate the pressure of your conversation with someone new, as it’ll spark topics you both can relate to and talk about.
  • Be memorable. If you can stand out from the crowd and make yourself unforgettable (in a positive way!), you’re more likely to really develop relationships. This is most effective when done when you are one-on-one with someone, and not in a group. Be sure to read the person, and use a quirk about yourself, your business, etc., that can resonate with the specific person. This one requires a bit of social intelligence, but when done right is highly effective.
  • Ask questions about the other person. People love to talk about themselves and their business. Everyone has an easy time talking about things they know well, and what do people know better than themselves? Not only will this allow the other person to take the lead on the conversation in a positive way, it helps you learn about the other person. The caveat here is to make sure you are asking genuine questions. Asking nonsense questions just to keep asking questions is transparent, and will negatively impact how you are perceived.

How do you handle meeting someone new at networking events? Let me know in the comments below!

Using Your Unique Selling Proposition

uniquesellingOne of the biggest issues I see or hear when it comes to networking and word-of-mouth marketing strategies comes from the individual businessperson’s mindset. So often, people believe that in order to network successfully and set themselves up for the most referrals, they need to tell everyone who will listen (and some who won’t) everything that their business does. This misconception simply leads many to believe that by talking to everyone in the room, they’ll maximize their referrals.

This is not at all the case. What this actually does is bores your intended audience, and overwhelms them with more information than they could ever possibly remember.

The key instead is to come up with a unique selling proposition for your company, business or service, and use it when you network. Your unique selling proposition will be a brief summary of your business, the key word here being brief. You’ll want to share this description as concisely and as engaging as possible. Not only will your audience walk away understanding what you do, but if you have described your business in a compelling way, they’ll be more likely to remember you because you entertained them and kept them listening.

The biggest indicator of a good unique selling proposition is that it gets people to ask you more about your business, and keeps them genuinely interested in what you do. They should be short, sweet, and to the point, without being vague or misleading. Your goal is to open the door for a conversation, not leave any potential contacts confused.

What is your business’s unique selling proposition? How do you use it to get word-of-mouth referrals? Tell me in the comments below!

Five Easy Ways You May be Networking Wrong

wrongnetworkingNo matter how much practice you have networking, there are always ways that you can improve. I’ve noticed a few common mistakes with networking that you can easily fix to get the most out of your relationships.

 

1 – You’re showing up late to a networking event, meeting or one-to-one.

This should be a no-brainer, but so often someone will slip into the back of a meeting five, ten or thirty minutes after it has started. How many times have you gotten a text from someone saying they were running late? Or, worse, not gotten a text at all? Such a minor issue can leave long-lasting negative ramifications in your personal and professional relationship. Avoid it, and leave to your meetings or events aiming to arrive early.

 

2 – You’re giving the appearance of untrustworthiness.

No matter what anyone says, your outward appearance can and will affect how you are perceived by potential business connections. If your first impression of someone involves their messed up hair, wrinkled pants, and an overall disheveled look, you’re not going to want to do business with them. That being said, would you expect someone to work with you if that was their first impression? Get your act together, iron your shirt, and always be prepared with your name tag and smile.

 

3 – You’re not making meaningful connections.

A referral-based relationship is more than just, “I do business, you do business, let’s do business together.” It is important to establish real relationships with your connections to encourage a long-lasting, prosperous relationship. If you’re only talking shop, you’re selling yourself short.

 

4 – You’re only thinking about your own gain.

You simply cannot expect to get anything out of a referral relationship if all you care about is getting something for yourself. Your connections will be more likely to give you business if you show your willingness to help them. Learn to use the law of reciprocity, and see your networking efforts become prosperous.

 

5 – You’re forgetting the follow up.

Most businesspeople love working with someone who is considerate, and your follow up etiquette is an easy way to show just how considerate you can be. Bonus points, your follow up technique can leave a lasting impression on someone who may have not thought you were memorable. Remember, thoughtfulness always counts in the end.

 

Are you offending any of these networking commandments? Did I forget any cardinal mistakes? Join the discussion in the comment field below.

Networking is a Contact Sport

Networking is a Contact SportMany entrepreneurs belong to networking organizations, but they simply don’t know how to effectively get a return on that investment of time.  Thoughtful engagement is the answer.  Engagement is an absolutely critical step in the networking process.  It involves a promise and an action.  In order to achieve success with your networking partners, you must promise to support one another, and then you must take the action necessary to fulfill that promise.  The only way to do that effectively is to connect on a deeper level than you do with most of your business contacts.

There are several ways that you can become more engaged with your networking partners:

  1. Have you taken the time to regularly meet with the people in your network on a one-to-one basis?  This means setting up times outside the context of any normal meetings and getting to know them on a deeper, professional level.
  2. Have you taken the time to educate them regularly on the key elements of your business, so that your products or services will be top of mind in the event they meet someone with a need for what you do?
  3. Have you taken the time to become educated on the key elements of your networking partners’ businesses, so that you can do the same for them?
  4. Have you visited their offices to get first-hand understanding of their services?
  5. If possible, have you used their products or services to get first-hand knowledge of the quality their products or the services they provide?

Networking truly is a “contact sport.”  It involves full engagement in order to get solid results. In fact, research has shown that reciprocal engagement in a business relationship results in higher productivity.  According to Psychology Today, people who are “actively engaged” in a business environment are “43% more productive” than those who are not.  Furthermore, they say that engagement includes “regular dialogue, quality of working relationships, perceptions of ethos and values… and recognition.”   Effective networking is all about building meaningful relationships that include most, if not all of these characteristics.

Every time I hear someone talk about how networking didn’t work for them – I discover it’s because they have never done a deep-dive on the relationship building process relating to their networking.  Most of their networking activities were very superficial.  Or worse yet – it mostly involved an attempt at direct selling.  Networking is not a face-to-face, cold-calling opportunity!  When it’s done right, it’s about building long-term meaningful relationships.  In fact, networking is more about “farming” than it is about “hunting.”  It’s about the slow process of cultivating long-term, professional relationships.  Over time, this long-term process gives you the opportunity harvest a substantial amount of business, but it only happens with full engagement in the relationship process.

Spend some time thinking about new ways you can support your networking partners.  This will help you promote engagement with them in the various networking groups to which you belong.  You will find it is time most well spent.

Talking to Crazy

A good friend of mine, Dr. Mark Goulston, is preparing for the publish of his new book, Talking to Crazy. This book deals specifically with handling those irrational people in your life, whom we all have one or two of.

Talking to CrazyWhen you are networking, you are sure to run into a difficult person from time to time. Oftentimes, the way businesspeople deal with these irrational people can make or break their relationship with not just that individual, but with others as well. Think about it, if you were to watch someone get openly and outwardly frustrated with a difficult person, would you want to connect with either individual? Probably not.

After reading the book myself, I have to say that it is a great resource to help improve everyone’s patience. Whether it’s in our personal life, our work environment, or during our day-to-day activities with the general public, all too often we talk to someone and find ourselves shaking our heads and thinking, ‘This person is crazy!’ But now, with this breakthrough book, Mark has given us the ultimate key to finally understanding how to make sense of the ‘crazy’ and effectively handle the irrational people in our lives. Simply brilliant!

Mark’s prior book, Just Listen, became a chart-topper upon its release, as well. This book is all about learning how to listen to others – not just in professional environments, but in personal life as well. I highly recommend in, as well.

Right now, Talking to Crazy is available for pre-order, but it will officially launch on October 15.

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