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.

Strategic Alliances The Right Way!

I recently had two organizations attempt to create a strategic alliance with BNI and the Referral Institute and I got two substantially different results.   

The first company (which shall remain nameless on the grounds that they like to attack folks they are not happy with via the media) contacted me and wanted to speak.  With them, it was a case of “Glad to meet you—let’s get married!”  I really got the sense that they wanted to GIVE me the privilege of sharing my entire database of contacts with them based on who they were and how amazing it would be for me to even say I had stood in their shadow!  Get the picture? 

When I explained our corporate philosophy and my own personal belief system that deepening a business alliance and building a relationship with a partner business took time and effort before getting to the “let’s get married” stage, they abruptly ended the call and (I’m sure) moved on down their computer-generated list of businesses to call.

By contrast, here is how the second organization (Brian Tracy University) approached the same issue:  Brian Tracy himself contacted me and started the conversation by asking me what our company goals were.  I shared with him that we recently set the goal of  “92 in ‘12” (9200 chapters by the year 2012).  The next statement from him was, “We want to help you achieve that!”

From there it went from “Glad to meet you” to “Let’s get to know each other better!”  Brian shared with me that he had ideas that could help us achieve our corporate goal and help our members do better business at the same time.  When I explained, as I had with company X, that our philosophy as a networking organization was one of mutual cooperation and that our belief was that anything that would really be of value to either of us would take time, he completely got it, respected it, and supported it!

If you want to create strategic alliance relationships with other companies, be sure you work with organizations that are willing to work with and respect your corporate culture and make sure to understand that the process takes time.  If you do, you will have great success with a business alliance. 

Our relationship has developed organically and we are now offering a very special program through the Brian Tracy University (www.briantracyu.com) to BNI members and Directors. I’m not sure how company X is faring; I don’t hear so much about their program anymore!  I wonder why? Hmmmm . . .

Looking back over two decades of building an international company, I can clearly see that no one person or company brought something to the table that launched my company to the next level.  Instead, it was the cumulative effect of many people, many strategic alliances, and many well-nurtured relationships with companies that were willing to get to know us and gradually, over time, build each other’s businesses through combined efforts.  Each contact, each opportunity to reach out to each other and each mutually beneficial activity served as just one more spoke in the wheel as we rolled up the hill toward success.

Fast Pitch Networking

In my monthly column on Entrepreneur.com, I wrote about the 5 Ways To Break Into Online Networking. One of the things I recommended was to “join one or more online networking communities.”

There are a lot out there to choose from today. However, there’s a new one on the web that I’m impressed with. It’s called FastPitchNetworking.com. It has many of the same features most online networks have, such as the ability to create a profile, and promote your website, blog and professional services, as well as the ability to connect with other people in the program. However, it has some new features, and one in particular that I really like.

The feature that I haven’t seen on any other online network is the press release program. Becoming a Premium Member for as little as $9 a month allows you to post unlimited press releases to 20 media outlets (including Google and Yahoo) that will promote your press release across the internet. Most PR services charge much more than that (believe me, I know).

In addition, members of the service have the ability to send their release to 50,000 members at a time and can choose which 50,000 to send to by industry, type and/or geography. FastPitch is the only social network that allows its members to leverage the network in this way.

I tried the service out just prior to International Networking Week to promote networking events around the world. Within a couple of days, I saw my press release promoted on Google and Yahoo!

I recommend my readers take a look. Click here for information on the press release program. For general information, click here.

I’d love to hear about your experiences on this online network and others.

Small Actions Yield Big Results

I was recently speaking to a friend of mine who is a partner in an international consulting and training company. We discovered that we had a mutual acquaintance who is a bestselling author and fairly well-known speaker. In our discussion, we found out that he had contacted each of us individually to see if there were any possibilities for some type of strategic alliance with our companies.

We were both open to that possibility but couldn’t see any immediate and dramatic way our companies could link up with his and do any specific projects at that time. We were both a bit amused to then discover that we were summarily “dropped” from his radar (no response to e-mails or other attempts to connect) after that.

We got the sense that he was looking for the one big alliance that would help his company soar to the next level. That realization started a conversation about the difference in the relationship between the two of us.

Ironically, we had had the same type of phone call with each other just 18 months earlier and came to the same conclusion. There was nothing on a grand scale we could do together at that moment. The difference, however, was the rest of the story.

We agreed to stay in touch. And then we did. We connected several times over the year and met in person on several occasions. During that time, we found some simple ways to help each other and gradually enhanced the relationship. This was in sharp contrast to the third party we had talked to individually. When this person didn’t see any big payoff, we became persona non grata to him. On the other hand, the two of us found ways to help each other gradually and, even to this day, continue to build on our relationship.

We came to the conclusion that most people who are successful at networking and creating strong strategic alliances view the process as a series of small actions taken with many people to create a long-term positive growth for your company. The process is more of a marathon than a sprint. Throughout the race, you form alliances and help each other over the long haul.

Have you had a similar experience? How has this played out in your business?

Welcome to International Networking Week

Welcome to the second annual International Networking Week (February 4-8, 2008).

Last year, thousands of people from around the world recognized the week, and even more are expected to recognize it this year during hundreds of large events and thousands of small events and networking meetings all around the world.

International Networking Week is about celebrating the key role that networking plays in the development and success of business around the world. It is about creating an awareness of the process of networking. Not just any kind of networking, but what I call “relationship networking,” an approach to doing business based on building long-term, successful relationships with people through the networking process.

International Networking Week has now been acknowledged by several governmental organizations (including proclamations from the governors of Nevada and Maryland, a joint resolution of the California State Assembly and Senate, as well as the county supervisors for the County of Los Angeles).

If you belong to any networking groups, make sure to tell them that this is International Networking Week.

Below is an eight-minute video that talks about International Networking Week, 2008. Share the video with others and feel free to show it at your networking meetings during International Networking Week (you will note that I talk about this blog on the video):

 

Click Here for 2008 Video

Go to www.InternationalNetworkingWeek.com for more information. Share with us here on the bulletin board. What will you be doing to recognize International Networking Week?

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 Speed of Trust

I’m in Cancun this week, participating in the Transformational Leadership Council (a network of transformational trainers and profesionals started by Jack Canfield in 2004).

I had an opportunity again to hear my friend Stephen M. R. Covey speak about his book, The Speed of Trust, and it reminded me just how much I love this book and why it is so important to networking.

During his presentation, he told how Warren Buffet bought a company from Wal-Mart in one single meeting of two hours. Both parties shook hands and, 29 days later, Wal-Mart had its money. In Buffet’s annual report he said; “We did no due diligence. We knew that Wal-Mart would do what they said, and they did.”

In this day and age of long contracts and huge legal bills, this sale was done quickly because there was high trust on both sides. The result was a deal done in less than a month, saving millions of dollars.

Trust is the most compelling form of motivation. Covey spoke about “Three Key Ideas” to move at the speed of trust:

  1. There is a compelling business rationale for trust. It affects cost. There are economic benefits. High trust is a divedend and low trust is a tax. When trust goes down, speed goes down with it. When trust goes up, speed goes up and costs go down. This is a dividend, a high-trust dividend. Trust is a qualitative and quantitative factor. Nothing is as fast as the speed of trust.
  2. In today’s new global economy, the ability to establish trust is key to every organization. We are interdependent. In a cluttered world, trust helps you cut through the clutter. It is a performance multiplier. When people trust you, everything else you do is enhanced.
  3. Trust is a competency. It is something we create and can get good at. It all starts with self-trust and personal credibility. Are we behaving in a way that builds trust and transparency? Are we keeping commitments and talking straight?

One of the best ways to obtain trust is to extend trust. When trust is reciprocated, it moves faster.

Covey ended his presentation by asking, “Are there people that you work with that you could extend trust to who you can make a profound difference for?” Now the key is to follow your conscience. Develop relationships and extend trust.

I love Covey’s book and I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to build and improve his or her personal network.

Shown in photo – Stephen M.R. Covey, Ivan Misner and Greg Link (Covey’s business partner at Covey-Link).

Business Networking Trends (Part 3): Small Companies vs. Large

Here is the final installment of my thoughts about trends in 2008 for business networking.

Small companies will continue to have the edge over big companies relating to business networking.

For the most part, big companies are clueless about building sales through the networking process. They continue to teach salespeople traditional methodologies while relying heavily on advertising to create buzz. Mind you, there’s nothing inherently wrong with these strategies. The problem is–big companies don’t effectively incorporate referral marketing into the process.

When it comes to developing social capital and the networking process, small business is king. Big business is slow to move out of the mindset of splashy ad campaigns, big dollars spent on traditional marketing and the “same old, same old.”

If big business does ever get it, however, it is likely to run over the little guys. Big business will learn how to develop social capital and will teach its people how to do true relationship marketing. Most big business is just a notch or two above the universities in the “you can’t tell me anything new” department. For now, there are only a few forward-thinking big companies that consistently apply these concepts (and I mean very few–I’m working with one large insurance company that may be an exception). For the rest, it is a trend to watch for in the distant, distant future.

The trends I’ve talked about in my last three blogs are not just an American phenomenon but an international one. The introduction of “International Networking Week” is a prime example of how this approach to doing business is growing worldwide.

 

Small business development through the process of building social capital will continue to grow in the global market we are currently experiencing. No one has a crystal ball, but based on what I’m seeing and what I’ve seen in the past, I believe these are some of the key things to look for relating to networking and referral marketing over the next few years.

Business Networking Trends (Part 2): Networking Education

Continuing with my discussion on “Business Networking Trends,” here are my observations about networking and social capital education:

Don’t hold your breath for the colleges and universities of the world to begin teaching networking and social capital. At this point, only two colleges in the world offer regular, core-curriculum college courses on networking and social capital. One is a course at Davis College in Ohio taught by Debby Peters, and the other is a class at the University of Michigan taught by Wayne Baker. That’s it–two colleges!

The college and university systems are behemoths of bureaucracy that are so far behind the curve of small business development that I’m beginning to despair that they will ever catch on. Most professors have never had a real job in the business world and are completely out of touch with what is happening in real life, especially in small business.

I predict that the current trend in networking and social capital education will emerge in the form of private professional training organizations, in much the same way that private industry has controlled the educational market on “sales techniques” (another area in which colleges fail miserably). Companies such as the Referral Institute, which are offering training series specific to the techniques and systems of networking, social capital and referral marketing, are starting to pop up with a very refined and polished slate of seminars and training for business owners who want to learn how to harness the power of word-of-mouth marketing.

Next on “Business Networking Trends:” Large Companies vs. Small.

 

Business Networking Trends (Part 1): Online Vs. Face-to-Face

Several emerging issues and trends surrounding the process of networking are being created out of the need to find an effective way to develop business for entrepreneurs and salespeople in this new century. Over the next few blogs, I will address three of the most prominent trends that I believe will become more important in the coming years. Here is the first one:


Online and face-to-face networking will both continue to flourish.

I’m a proponent of online networks such as Ecademy.com and others. I think they will continue to grow successfully and help many of their members. However, they are not the final answer to business marketing or to networking. They are another great tool for people to connect with others (especially outside their local geographic area).

On my Referrals For Life blog, someone recently said: “I don’t know that it is true anymore that referrals are about relationships.â€? He went on to say, essentially, that technology is changing the rules and that just participating in a website will be good enough. Well, in one word, I’d have to say, “wrong.”

Referrals are and will be, for the foreseeable future, all about relationships. Whether they are relationships built online or face to face, they will still involve relationships. People refer people they know and trust. They will not regularly refer someone just because he or she is listed on a website. That’s called advertising, not networking.

 

Online networking works, but relationships must still be part of the process. Using the internet to exchange ideas, share knowledge and increase your visibility will be imperative in the coming years. Virtual networking is catching on in many circles. Some people involved in face-to-face networking feel threatened, as if online networking were going to replace their tried-and-true system.


Those who foretell the demise of face-to-face networking fail to note one important thing: the facts. Face-to-face networking groups continue to expand. The growth rate of my own referral networking organization, BNI, bears this out. Since the internet first became popular in the mid 1990s, BNI has experienced more than a 1,000 percent growth rate. That is not a typo.

Technology flattens the communication hierarchy and provides opportunities to improve your networking efforts–not replace them. I believe people who understand this will begin to use technology effectively–without replacing relationships–to take their marketing to new levels in the years to come.

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

International Networking Week–It’s About Time!

Finally, there’s a week to recognize one of the most important ways that people can build their businesses–networking. International Networking Week is right around the corner. Last year, thousands of people from around the world recognized the week, and even more are expected to recognize it this year.

International Networking Week is about celebrating the key role that networking plays in the development and success of business around the world. It is about creating an awareness relating to the process of networking. Not just any kind of networking, but what I call “relationship networking,” an approach to doing business based on building long-term, successful relationships with people through the networking process.

International Networking Week has now been acknowledged by several governmental organizations (including a joint resolution of the California State Assembly and Senate). Start the new year out with more business. If you belong to any networking groups, make sure to tell them that International Networking Week is Feb. 4-8.

Below is an eight-minute video that talks about International Networking Week, 2008. Share the video with others and feel free to show it at your networking meetings during International Networking Week (you will note that I talk about this blog on the video):

 

Click Here for 2008 Video

Go to www.InternationalNetworkingWeek.com for more information. Share with us here on the bulletin board. What will you be doing to recognize International Networking Week?

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