The Networking Now blog is definately “international”! For all our Polish language readers, you can find a translation of it every week at:
Thanks to Greg Turniak for making this happen.
I just attended the international BNI Conference last week with more than 800 directors and members from almost 40 countries from around the world. It was an incredible experience that felt a little like a United Nations meeting!
One of the keynote speakers was Jack Canfield (seen to the right with Amy Brown of BNI, myself and Patty Aubrey of Chicken Soup for the Soul Inc.).
Jack shared many great stories and did an outstanding presentation (I’d highly recommend him to any organization). One of his comments really resonated with me. He said that “we are the average of the five people we hang out with most!” This comment reminded me of my belief that we become what we read and whom we hang around. This is a powerful concept great for anyone (including our children).
So, what are you reading and with whom are you hanging around? With this thought in mind, do you plan on making any changes in the near future? Good things to ponder.
I consider Jack a good friend and have an opportunity to spend a couple weeks with him every year as part of his Transformational Leadership Council. Thanks for your great presentation, Jack. You’ve given us many ideas to think about.
This past weekend, I was at a gallery showing for my daughter’s artwork and I overheard a man saying to his wife, “These paintings would make great thank you gifts for those two interior designers that have been sending so many people my way.”
(Photo right is of Ashley and Galen Metz, owner of Azo Gallery)
My ears perked up when I heard this and I listened in as he continued laughingly, “But, then again, giving art as thank-you gifts will probably put me in the poorhouse faster than it would generate more money.”
That man had a good point. And no–it wasn’t that buying a truckload of my daughter’s art would make him go broke; because we all know that the investment would be well worth it, even if he did have to sleep in a cardboard box. Okay, all joking aside, his point was that although thank you gifts and referral incentives are certainly an important part of building a business, it’s not always possible to give extravagant gifts that will surely keep us fresh in the minds of those who refer us.
So, what options do we have when it comes to giving good incentives to those who refer us? Well, first of all, we need to remember that incentives can range from simple recognition, such as a thank you, to monetary rewards based on business generated. However, creativity is the key to any good incentive program. Let your contact know when a referral he or she has made comes through and be as creative as you can.
There are many novel ways in which businesspeople can reward those who send them referrals. For example, a female business consultant could send bouquets of flowers to men, a music store owner could send concert tickets or a financial planner could send change purses and money clips.
To make it easier on yourself, get opinions and feedback from others who have significant interest in your success. There are lots of options for referral incentives, and you should consider all that come to mind because the value of recognizing the people who send you business should never be underestimated. A well-thought-out incentive program will add much to your word-of-mouth program.
By the way, you can see Ashley’s art at www.AshleyMisner.com. Sorry, I just had to do it.
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.Â As you can imagine, getting up at an hour when roosters havenât even begun to think about warming up their vocal chords is not the most enticing of tasks.Â However, after stubbing my toe in the pitch blackness and yelping out a word I wonât mention here, I remembered that as the FounderÂ & Chairman of BNI, the worldâs 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 ifÂ I answered the interviewerâs first questionâwhich is always âHow are you doing today, Dr. Misner?â?âby grumbling about how I had stubbed my toe and how I wished I was back in my warm bed?Â 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.Â With over two decades of professional networking experience, one thing Iâve learned is how important it is to have a positive attitude in order to successfully network.Â And if Iâm 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 Iâve told you about the second most important trait of a master networker, I figure might as well give you the other nine.Â Here they are, ranked in order of their perceived importance to networking:
1. Follows up on referrals
2. Positive attitude
5. Good listening skills
6. Networks always
7. Thanks people
8. Enjoys helping
10. Works their network. Â
I had a conversation recently with a new BNI member who expressed that she has always been somewhat uncomfortable networking because she’s always been afraid of sounding like she’s being pushy, and she has a hard time knowing when it’s even OK to approach the subject of business with other people.I told her what I’ve said countless times over the years to many other people–that the absolute key to networking appropriately is making sure to always honor the event.
You can network any time and any place, but as long as you are honoring the event, there is nothing to be afraid of.However, this means that in some cases you are going to network a lot differently than you would in other cases.For example, networking at a chamber mixer is one thing, while networking at church social event is something completely different.
It is essential to understand that networking does not mean that you should constantly be trying to sell people your products or services. Networking does mean that you should constantly build relationships. The best way to build relationships is to help someone whenever possible.
In order to appropriately network at a church social event, for example, you should make contacts, put people together, help others and build relationships.However, you should not be actively promoting your business.You should simply focus on putting people together and helping others.
Always keep your networking goals in sight at all events and opportunities, but don’t become a networking vulture or someone that everyone else runs from when they see you coming. Honor the event and tailor your networking strategies so that you fit in without being tuned out.
Always be sincere; and remember that no one minds the opportunity to exchange information that will benefit one or more people, even when that exchange takes the form of helping someone..
I belong to several online networks. Recently, I got an email from one of the members whom I don’t know, have never talked to, and was never directly connected to in any way.
He sent out an email to many people in the online community about a new person who just joined. In it, he said: “Letting her join was the biggest mistake you will ever make. . . she is a disaster, is totally unreliable, is a total liar. You. . . have been. . . conned,” he concluded.
Wow, I was amazed that this “stranger” would send me this email. But the impersonal nature of online communications sometimes leads people to behave in ways they could never get away with in person! There are social mores that are easily bypassed when you are not looking someone in the eyes.
Whether you are dealing with face-to-face networking or online networking, the basics of etiquette and emotional intelligence should still apply. You have to be aware that when you are communicating on the internet you are still dealing with real people. Even though you may feel very powerful because you can say things and send it out to many people it doesn’t mean that you should or that it’s appropriate to do so!
The ignoramus who sent me this email would never have the stones to talk about this person “personally” to all the people (including strangers) that he emailed, but he could do it behind the relative safety of the internet. Unfortunately, this is one of the weaknesses of the powerful medium of the internet. If this individual behaved like this at an “in-person” meeting, he’d likely be thrown out! But online, he thinks he can get away with it. People like this become so disconnected with reality that they get this false sense of power (not to mention self-importance).
So, what do you say to someone who sends you such a totally inappropriate email? I told him that “I didn’t know the woman he was talking about but that his email told me a lot about him and that I did NOT want to get this type of slanderous communication again.” He surprised me with his response. He said that he didn’t know who I was and “he didn’t want to talk to nobodies” like me! At first I thought, “nobody, I don’t think I’m a nobody.” Then I thought, hmmm, maybe it’s a good thing to be a “nobody” to a nutcase!
Have you had experiences like this? If so, tell me about it. What did you say when you got an email like this? I want to hear your feedback.
Iâve been doing a lot of traveling lately to promote my new book Masters of Sales (www.MastersBooks.Com), and on my way to a book tour date I sat next to a young man in an airport who struck up a conversation with me.Â We got to talking about what each other did for a living and after explaining what I do, I found out that he worked for a small, family owned grocery business.Â I commented that it was probably tough to be the âlittle guyâ? in competition with the larger chain grocery stores and that his employer must be doing something right to still be in business.Â
Being in the business of networking for over 20 years, itâs a no-brainer to me that my comments and inquiries about the young manâs employer were a prime opportunity for him to explain what made his company special and to possibly make a valuable networking connection that could bring in business and possibly mean a promotion for him.Â But instead of taking advantage of the open door I was extending to him with my curiosity, he just shrugged his shoulders and said, âYeah, weâve had the same customers for years, so I guess weâre just lucky that theyâre so loyal.â?
That conversation reminded me how critically important it is to teach your employees to network!Â Many business people simply donât do this one simple thing which could dramatically boost their networking efforts.Â It doesnât matter how much you may know about networking, or how well you network to promote your business, you never know what you could be missing out on if your employees were trained to network for you.
The bottom line is that until you teach someone how to do something effectively, expecting them to do it well â or even at all â is unrealistic.
As you might imagine, itâs far better to engage your entire staff in your word-of-mouth marketing campaign-not only at startup, but also throughout the life of your business. When you show employees how to network efficiently, they are much more apt to make efforts to network; and you will have a greater chance of gaining more business.
Try holding focus groups where you role-play ways to ask for referrals from other customers, friends and family.Â Bring in local networking experts for in-house trainings.Â Better yet, send your staff to a networking class, like the one’s conducted by the Referral Institute.Â Â If you belong to a weekly networking group, bring your staff to those meetings one at a time so each member can see firsthand what networking can produce.Â This also helps your networking partners feel that they know your business better, since theyâve been able to meet the people in your company. Â
Networking is a group activity; so, make sure to get your whole team on board with the process.Â If you’ve done anything to get your employees involved in networking your business, I’d love to hear about it.
I spent the last few days in New Orleans for a BNI event hosting the 210 winners (and guests) of the 2007 USA Member Extravaganza for the organization.
There are two things I want to share about my visit to the area. The first, is my impression of the business people. It’s great to see business “start” to come back in the city. One of the things that struck me was how so many businesses THANKED us for visiting the city and helping in some small way to bring back the economy. It was truly dramatic. Every time my wife and I purchased something, the stores went out of their way to thank us for our business. When we told them were with a group of 210 people, they were extremely thankful. It felt great to help the city and I invite you to visit New Orleans. They definitely need more business and they appreciate it more than any group of people I’ve seen in recent years.
The second thing I want to share relates to the many stories I heard about courage and giving. Prior to the event I mentioned above, I had an opportunity to speak to about 150 BNI and Jefferson Chamber of Commerce members in the greater New Orleans area . I heard many stories about the hurricane and its aftermath. One that really jumped out at me was a BNI member by the name of Dr. Morris Panter.
Dr. Panter (seen here with me at the event) told me that immediately after the hurricane, he had no practice! His office was damaged with holes in the roof but it was still partly usable. So, he spray painted a plywood board that said “Relief Workers Adjusted for Free.” He told me that over the next several months he adjusted 900 relief workers helping to clean up from the disaster!
I think Dr. Panter’s story is another one of the many examples of courage and giving that we have seen come out of this horrific event. In the face of the temporary loss of all his business, he took the time to “give” to the people helping his city.
It was an honor to speak to people throughout the greater New Orleans area and I wish them continued success in building the city’s economy back up.
I was thinking about the blog I wrote last month about the Butterfly Effect of Networking? and it occurred to me that an important part of the reason I was able to make such effective and rewarding networking connections was the way that I thought about, and therefore went about networking. Here’s what I mean by that . . .
While it’s important to know the right things to do while networking, it’s equally important to start thinking the right way to make your networking efforts as successful and dynamic as they can be. This involves altering your mind-set. Here is an up-close look at some elements you’ll want to include in your mind-set to ensure networking success:
1. The law of reciprocity or givers gain? approach.
Don’t approach networking thinking I did this for you, now what are you going to do for me? Instead, remember the old adage Give and you shall receive? The law of reciprocity takes the focus off of what you stand to gain from the networking relationship, and in doing so, creates bonds based on trust and friendship. Put it to the test. You’ll be amazed by the outcome.
2. Diversity in networking.
Look for groups that don’t target people just like you. In this way, you’ll broaden the net you seek to cast for referrals.
3. Farming mentality.
It’s a long, drawn-out process to go from seeding a field to harvesting the crops and there’s no quick return. But, when you spend time and take care in building relationships, your networking will yield extraordinary results.
Approaching networking with a mentality that focuses on the process of cultivating referrals will create the results you desire. Make an effort to spend more time strengthening your friendships with those whom you wish to have as part of your networking circle and you will certainly make more and better connections.
One of my daughters recently invested in her first set of business cards and as I was coaching her on the key points of efficient business card use, I was thinking about all of the people that carry around business cards on a daily basis who simply do not realize what an absolutely crucial and valuable tool this one little card is!
Your business card is one of the most important networking tools you have in your quest for increased referrals.Â Can you envision a reality where 20â30 people in your word-of-mouth marketing circle carry your cards and have them ready to hand to prospects theyâre actually qualifying for you?Â Thatâs what can happen if you use your business card efficiently!
In order to make the most of your business card:
* Make Your Cards Accessible in Every Situation
In short, donât leave home without them! Keep a small box of your cards in your glove box, put cards in your pocket, your briefcase, wallet and computer bag.
* Seek Situations to Exchange Business Cards
One-on-one meetings, mixers and social events, conventions and trade shows, visits to non-competing businesses, and international meetings and events all present excellent opportunities to exchange your card.
* Contacts at a Distance
Whenever you communicate with someone in writing, send a card if itâs appropriate for the occasion.Â Also, after any telephone call in which business was discussed, follow up with a letter outlining the main points of your discussion and include one or more of your cards.
* Special Tricks of the Trade
When giving out your card, hand-write something on one copy, such as your cell-phone number, a secondary e-mail address, etc.Â This will give that particular card a greater chance of being held onto. Be sure you give a couple of âcleanâ? cards to that person as well.Â Â The main thing when handing out your card is to keep in mind what an effective tool it can be.Â Take maximum advantage of its full potential. And never, ever, be caught without it.
I got a great question today from a chef that I thought I would share with you:
I was in a store last week when a person shouted out, “Hi Chef” I faced the person and drew a complete blank. Not only did I not know this person’s name, I didn’t recognize them at all. So I smiled and said “Hi I’m fine” and kept on going.
I was disappointed with my reaction. Other choices were to stop and engage a conversation and fake it, hoping to pick up a clue to help me remember. Or to come right out and say, “I’m sorry I can’t remember your name” or say, “I know you but I don’t remember from where.”
What do I do in a situation like this???
A good response in a situation like this is to say something like, “Hi, good to see you.” Then, start a simple conversation. For example, if they are in a grocery store, (since this was a chef) ask them what they were planning for their big meal or whatever works in that situation. The key here is to say “good to see you.” Clearly, they know you, so you don’t want to say “nice to meet you” because they most likely have met you and will feel put off that you didn’t remember them. This allows you to start a dialog without being obvious that you don’t remember them.
OK, I’ll admit it. . . I’ve learned this the hard way – from experience!
What do you think about this approach or, what have you done in this situation?
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:
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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