Being a Value-Added Friend

ID-100209400Do the people you know consider their relationship with you to be valuable? Are you a “Value-Added Friend?” At first glance, it may seem like a way of allowing friends and connections to “use” you, but in reality it just helps solidify the likelihood of a long term relationship with that individual.

Powerful and successful business people want their networks to be strong, deep, and broad. You want your relationship to help strength, deepen, and expand the networks of others. So how do you do this? How do you become a Value-Added Friend?

Get to know the people who make up your referral team. You want to do more than scratch the surface – you want to really know these people, and you want them to feel like they know you as well. Be aware of how they react to you, and don’t ask them too personal or invasive questions. Understand their goals – learn how you can help them. Once you help someone achieve a goal, you become a Value-Added Friend.

So, how? How do we deepen relationships and become a Value-Added Friend?

  1. Build quality relationships. Relationships are a time commitment, but a worthwhile one. Go beyond the standard business interactions to truly deepen your relationships and get to know your marketing team. The stronger your friendship, the more you can expect from each other’s networking efforts.
  2. Do more than just show up. Seriously. You need to establish credibility and trust with the people at these events or meetings, so just showing up isn’t going to cut it. Refer to Number 1 above.
  3. Do not ask what they can do for you, but what you can do for them. This is perhaps the most powerful way to deepen and widening networks. Do not underestimate the power of helping other people.

 

So what are you doing to become a Value-Added Friend?

How Many Referrals Do You Expect Per Month?

ID-10025778The number of referrals you should expect to receive is dependent on the type of business you’re in and the effort you exert to develop your network. Some professions receive more referrals than others.

For example, a florist is going to get many more than a real estate agent. However, the florist will have to sell a lot of flowers to make up for one real estate sale. Hence, the type of profession can somewhat determine a range in the quantity of referrals.

Having said that, however, the actual number that someone in a specific profession can get varies dramatically depending on their efforts to develop those referrals. This variation depends on how they “work” their networks. You remember the old computer adage “garbage in, garbage out”? It means that if you put bad information into the system, you’re going to get bad information out of the system. Well, one’s networking efforts are very much the same.

The results you can expect to get out of your efforts will be based on the quality of people you put into it. I recently conducted an Internet survey of business professionals in which I asked, “What percentage of your business comes from word-of-mouth or referrals?” Even I was surprised by the results. More than two-thirds of the respondents said they received 70 percent or more of their business from word-of-mouth. Only 14 percent said that referrals accounted for less than 30 percent of their business, and only 2 percent said they got no business from word-of-mouth!

Clearly, word-of-mouth and referrals are critical to the success of many businesses today. The question is, how do you increase it? First, consider professions that are part of your contact sphere. These are businesses that have a symbiotic relationship to yours. Contact spheres are the building blocks of your referral business because they help to build a solid base of repetitive referrals for you. Read “Developing a Networking Contact Sphere” for a more thorough explanation.

Next, you should diversify your networks. That is, you should participate in different kinds of networking groups so that you may have a diverse cross section of businesses and professionals as part of your center of influence. It’s important for you to understand that you must first build the foundation I speak of above before you can have high expectations for developing referrals. Based on research that I conducted at the University of Southern California a number of years ago, I found that the average participant in a strong contact network or a business development network (groups that meet weekly and allow only one person per profession, and whose primary purpose is to pass business referrals) generated, on average, 4.2 referrals per member, per month, or roughly 50 referrals per person, per year.

See Chapter 8 of my book The World’s Best Known Marketing Secret for additional information about the payoffs of networking. Please note that there are many intervening variables to this number. In my study, these variables included such things as length of membership, the profession they represented, the years of experience, the level of participation and more. One thing that didn’t seem to make a difference was gender. Both men and women generated substantially similar numbers of referrals throughout their participation.

To summarize, the number of referrals you can expect will vary depending on your profession and your efforts in the networking process. However, on average, I’ve found that many businesspeople can generate more than 50 referrals per year via their participation in a single networking organization. What makes this number truly significant is that most people would agree that a referred contact is much easier to close into business than other types of contacts. I believe this is the reason that so many businesses say they generate most of their business through referrals and word-of-mouth.

Three Basic Ways to Network Your Startup

startupWorking in a startup is completely different than an established company, and comes with its own unique set of challenges. Not only do employees or founders of a startup need to be conscious of these different challenges, there are also keys to business that become even more important when you work with a startup.

Not only do you need to attend networking events, you should host them. When you attend an event, you will stick in the minds of those who were also in attendance. Ideally, you’ll make positive impresses on everyone you connect with. When you host an event, however, not only will people who you connect with at the event remember you, so will everyone you invited but couldn’t make it. While their impression of you won’t be as developed as those who attended, invitees who couldn’t make will remember that they were invited, and it will be easier to hit the ground running with them when you finally do make that connection.

The follow up is vital. A huge part of networking is that follow up, and letting those that you connect with know that their time is appreciated and that you want to continue developing that relationship. When you are working on starting your business, that follow up becomes a tool of its own. Your number one priority needs to be growing your business, gaining notoriety, and establishing new connections in your industry to help support that growth. Letting people know that you’re thinking of them, whether they are new contacts or old, helps to develop those relationships and can keep you moving forward.

You need to lose some ego. As business people, we’re smart. Not only that, but we need to be confident to succeed in business. What that doesn’t give you the right to do is to allow your ego to control your actions. Whatever reason you’re involved in a startup, whether you were looking to break into a different industry, or you’re on the latest of many new businesses, your reputation cannot carry you here. With a new venture, you need to develop a new name for yourself, so you cannot rely on what you have accomplished before. It can help you get part of the way, but you must lose the ego if you want to go far.

Have you ever worked with or owned a startup? What advice would you give to those just starting out? Let us know in the comments below!s 

Referral Marketing: Know the Risks, Reap the Rewards

ID-100252028During a radio interview, the host of the program asked me whether I consider referral marketing the “safest” form of advertising. Without the slightest hesitation, I confidently answered, “By all means, no!” He was visibly shocked by that answer. I went on to explain that I believe very strongly in the tremendous benefits that referral marketing can bring. However, there are unique risks associated with referral marketing that aren’t an issue with commercials or other forms of advertising.

When you give someone a referral, you’re putting your own reputation on the line. If your referral partner does a good job, it enhances your reputation. But if he does a poor job, your reputation will likely suffer. As I said, the payoffs of referral marketing are immense—when it’s done correctly. But referral marketing involves a really big risk: giving away a piece of your reputation every time you give a referral to someone. When you tell a valued customer that a friend of yours is going to take good care of her, you must have confidence in that friend.

But what happens if your friend lets your customer down? It comes back to haunt you. Your customer begins to lose faith in you, and because of that loss of faith, you just might lose that customer down the road. This is why it’s so important to develop strong relationships with your referral partners. Once those strong connections are forged, you can rest easy, knowing that when you tell someone a business associate or a networking partner is going to take good care of him or her, that’s what will happen.

 

How to Become a Charismatic Introvert

ID-10066405I am a natural introvert. I know, I know. Shocking. It can be hard to believe that I might be a bit shy, considering how many dozens of times a year I get up in front of audiences and speak on a variety of topics. However, even an introvert is able to muster up some charisma and get in front of a crowd. To build up your own charisma, here are a couple tips you can try.

First things first, develop some interests. Read the news, listen to the radio, travel, watch speeches done by people you consider charismatic or by people who are leaders in your field. It is generally easy for people to talk about things that they find interesting, or things that they know about.

Another great way to build up some charisma is to go into your conversations with a positive attitude. Nobody wants to talk to a Debby Downer. Plus, if you act happier, you may even trick yourself into feeling happier.

Talking with hand gestures can actually help you feel more confident, as well, and come across in your charisma. The catch here is don’t overdo this, as it can quickly spiral out of control and cause you to seem a little scattered and off-putting.

Finally, your body language can do a lot when it comes to your charisma. Are your shoulders tense and bunched up toward your neck? Are your knees locked while you’re standing? Are you figditing? These are very obvious signs of being uncomfortable. Consciously work to control these, and you may just see your confidence and charisma skyrocket.

What steps do you take to build up confidence when speaking in front of strangers or large groups? Share your tips in the comments section 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!

Three Reasons Why Your Mentor is Your Greatest Asset

Where is your cell phone? Close by? Some of you may even be reading this on your phone right now. Most professionals will have easy access to the internet, and so many of us will jump straight to Google when looking to answer the simplest of questions.

mentoringGoogle can’t always answer your questions, though. Articles and message boards can only get you so far. Occasionally you will have a question or concern in your business so specific that you would really benefit from a direct answer to your situation. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to reasons why every successful businessperson could benefit from a mentor. So why should you have a mentor? Here are three reasons why a mentor could be invaluable to your business.

Hone your craft

Your mentor will likely be someone who has years of experience on you in your field. They know how to accomplish tasks that you might not, and as a person who has a genuine interest in you and your success, they will teach you how to communicate more effectively, succeed at a networking event, or set worthy and empowering goals. Whatever your hurdle is, your mentor can help you overcome it.

Access to relationships

So often we forget the power of the network those in our network have. As you are networking and working to grow your business, your mentor once upon a time did the same for their business. Their network is a powerful resource to you, and they would likely be more than happy to get you in contact with members of their network as need arises.

Building your confidence

Having a mentor can help build your confidence in numerous ways. For one, having an individual that you trust and respect backing you, perhaps someone with a reputation in your industry, can help you feel as if you have made the right decisions. Additionally, hearing their stories from when they were at the same juncture in their career can help you see your situation with a different clarity, and help you feel empowered.

Do you have a mentor? How have they helped you the most? Leave your comments in the field below!

Use Your Networks to Build Your Business

It's not net-sitBusiness owners are always looking for new ways to expand their client base and grow their business. Many, as they work to bring their business to the next level, join networking organizations. These organizations can be great ways to meet new people, expand your pool of referral partners, and hone key skills like public speaking and delivery. The key to being a part of these organizations, however, is really working the networks that you are a part of. Remember, “It’s not called ‘NET-SIT’ or ‘NET-EAT” – it’s called ‘NET-WORK.’”

When looking for organizations to join, also remember that it can be beneficial to even join organizations from three or more of the categories of networking groups. Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket, as one group likely won’t meet all of your networking needs. There are seven key types of networking business organizations. These are:

  1. Casual Contact Networks
  2. Strong Contact Networks
  3. Community Service Clubs
  4. Professional Associations
  5. Social/Business Groups
  6. Women’s and Ethnic Organizations
  7. Online/Social Networking

Join as many or as few as your time allows, but always give your best effort to promoting yourself and your business in each. Which groups you select will directly affect your referral marketing’s success.

To pick the groups that are right for you, first take some time and think about what types of organizations you truly want or need to join. Your participation in the group is what will make you successful, not how many you join, so be sure to join the ones that you have time for and want to take part in. Second, you must find some of these organizations in your area. You can try to join an organization across the world from you, but if you can’t physically commit yourself to the group then you won’t get return on your investment.

Next, be sure to visit as many of these groups as you can and get testimonials from current members. Just as you want referrals for your business, you would want current members to give referrals for their organization. Finally, visit the group one more time before you decide to join. Many groups have nuances that you may not pick up on at your first meeting, so give yourself plenty of time to see the whole group.

There is no quick fix, and growing your business will take effort. Above all else, dedicate the time to your networking strategy that it deserves, and meet other qualified business professionals regularly to develop your referral-based business.

How many networking organizations are you a part of? Have you found a combination of groups that gives you the most bang for your buck? I’d love to hear your thoughts on networking organizations, so please leave your comment in the forum below! Thanks!

3 Tips for Putting the Butterfly Effect of Networking in Motion

IvanRichardBethSome years back, I posted a blog detailing how my introduction to Richard Branson was completely the result of the Butterfly Effect of Networking.  In thinking about that blog post, 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

Do you have any tips for developing a networking-friendly mindset which positions you for success?  I’d love to hear from you, so please leave your thoughts, comments, and ideas in the forum below.  Thanks!

Networking Is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

The fact is, networking truly is a marathon of an endeavor–it’s most definitely not a sprint.  I have met so many people who practice what I call ‘hyperactive networking’ and they mistakenly approach networking at the speed of an all-out sprint–they want to be absolutely everywhere and meet absolutely everyone and they go, go, go ALL of the time until they soon inevitably burn out, ‘collapse,’ and give up.

It’s a real shame because if these people would, from the beginning, just slow down and take the time to develop a networking strategy and understand that networking takes time, patience, hard work, dedication, commitment, and endurance, they would be reaping great rewards from their networking efforts instead of exhausting themselves with nothing to show for it in the end.

Networking at its core is about taking the time to build genuine, trusted relationships.  Sure, visibility is important, but without building trust right along with it, visibility won’t get you very far in the long run.  You can run around all day long going to networking events and shaking people’s hands, but if you’re not spending time following up and developing trust with the people you meet, then you haven’t really achieved much of anything that will actually give you results from your networking efforts–do not confuse activity with accomplishment. 

So, what are your tactics for pacing yourself in the marathon of networking?  What actions do you take to strategically build relationships?  I’d love to hear from you so please share your thoughts and ideas in the comment forum below–thanks!

Quantity Is Fine, But Quality Is King

Photo Courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo Courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One of the biggest misconceptions I’m aware of in regard to networking is the notion that it’s an “all you can eat” affair.  In other words, people go to an event, work the room in an effort to meet everyone there, and then judge their success by the number of cards they accumulate.  Although I see a certain superficial logic in that, there’s only one fatal flaw with this kind of thinking:  it assumes that the more people you meet at an event, the more successful your networking efforts are–and that’s simply not the case.  Instead, the quality of the connections you form is much more significant than the quantity of connections you make.

Businesspeople unfamiliar with referral networking sometimes lose track of the fact that networking is the means–not the end–of their business-building activities.  They attend three, four, even five events in a week in a desperate grasp for new business.  The predictable result is that they stay so busy meeting new people that they never have time to follow up and cultivate those relationships–and how can they expect to get that new business from someone they’ve only just met?  As one of these unfortunates remarked to me, “I feel like I’m always doing business but rarely getting anything done.”

I certainly agree that meeting new people is an integral part of networking, but it’s important to remember why we’re doing it in the first place: to develop a professional rapport with individuals that will deepen over time into a trusting relationship that will eventually lead to a mutually beneficial and continuous exchange of referrals.

When meeting someone for the first time, focus on the potential relationship you might form.  As hard as it may be to suppress your business reflexes, at this stage you cannot make it your goal to sell your services or promote your company.  You’re there to get to know a new person.  A friend of mine told me something his dad always said: “You don’t have to sell to friends.”  That’s especially good advice when interacting with new contacts.

This certainly doesn’t mean you’ll never get to sell anything to people you meet while networking; it does, however, mean that you’ll need to employ a different approach.  Networking isn’t about closing business or meeting hordes of new people; it’s about developing relationships in which future business can be closed.  Once you understand that, you’ll stand out from the crowd with everyone you meet.

When you’re networking like a pro and treating new contacts as future referral partners, you’ll absolutely blow away any competitors who still feel compelled to meet as many people as they possibly can.  Why?  Because when you call your contacts back, they’ll actually remember who you are and be willing to meet with you again.

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