10 Tips to Get the Most from Business Networking

We all know that networking requires a significant amount of time, effort, and commitment.  Because of that, we all want to make sure that we’re getting the highest return on investment from our networking efforts.  Below, I have outlined 10 tips that will help you get the absolute most from the time you spend networking for your business.

Photo courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

  1. When asking for a referral from an associate or client, use the phrase, “Who do you know who . . .?”  This is an open-ended question that works well.  Do not alter the phrase.  Ohter phrases have been tried, but none have produced the desired results.
  2. Have someone else tell a group of people how good your product or service is.  This beats anything you can say about yourself.  Ask people who have used your products or services to talk about their experience at the next meeting.
  3. Top business executives insulate themselves from those who may try to sell them products or services.  Through word of mouth you can still increase your volume of business, because you know a hundred people, who know a hundred people, who in turn know a hundred people, and so on.  The great referrals are probably not going to come from a CEO, but from someone who knows a CEO.
  4. If you have an opportunity to distribute your materials, do it.  Bring products, samples, brochures, or a presentation book to the business meetings you attend.  If people can see, feel, touch, hear, or smell samples of the product or service you provide, they are more likely to use you.
  5. Offer a special price or service to the members of your networks.  If you can get the members to use you, they are much more likely to refer you.
  6. Anyone active in networking groups can benefit by developing a presentation book, taking it to meetiings, and making sure it gets circulated.
  7. If your product or service is conducive to this approach, tell the members of your network that you accept speaking engagements as bona fide referrals.  Ask them to pitch you to the program chair of other organizations they belong to.
  8. Meet people outside the meeting context whenever you can.  Write cards or letters, send articles that might be of interest, call to check in, and let them know about local business mixers.
  9. To get good referrals, tell people when they’ve given you a bad referral.  If you don’t, you’ll keep getting bad referrals.  Teach people what you consider to be a good referral.
  10. Monitor the referrals you get.  This tells you how often you get referrals, their source, quality, status, and dollar payoff.  Having this information helps you focus on individuals and groups who are giving you the best referrals.  This allows you to reciprocate with people who are giving you the most referrals.

Do you have additional tips for networkers to get the most from business networking?  I’d love to hear your ideas–please leave your thoughts in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

 

Classic Video: How to Invest Your Time and Money for the Highest Return

I have been doing video blogs for quite a few years now and a while back it occurred to me that some of the videos I’ve previously posted focus on timeless topics that deserve to be revisited and not buried way back in the video blog archive.  For this reason, I decided to occasionally feature a “classic” video blog from my blog archive and today I am sharing the fifth one–”How to Invest Your Time and Money for the Highest Return.” In this video, I talk about how to invest time and money into your business in the way that will ultimately pay the highest return–education.

Many businesses fail within their first three years of existence because they only pay lip service to education yet aren’t willing to invest the time, effort, and money into learning about how to continually grow and develop in order to achieve the business goals and the vision they outlined for themselves at the start.

The fact is, people who immerse and engage in a culture of learning are much, much more successful than those who don’t. Watch the video now to learn about an action you can take this week that will help you measure whether or not you’re investing enough of your time and money into what will truly help your business earn more and achieve more. 

I’m quite interested in hearing your thoughts on this video, your comments about what you currently do in order to invest in educating yourself to build your business, and also your results from carrying out the action item I explain at the end of the video.  Please leave your feedback regarding any or all of these things in the comment forum belowThanks!

Referral Marketing Is Risky–It’s Also Rewarding

In a radio interview I once did, 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.” Based on his response, I’m sure he was shocked by that answer.

Photo courtesy of Zuzzuillo at FreeDigtalPhotos.net

Photo courtesy of Zuzzuillo at FreeDigtalPhotos.net

I went on to explain that I believe very strongly in the tremendous benefits that word-of –mouth marketing can bring. However, there are unique risks associated with referral advertising that are not an issue in commercial or other forms of advertising.

When you give a referral, you give a little of your reputation away. If the business you’ve referred someone to does a good job, it helps your reputation. But if it does a poor job, your reputation may be hurt.

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 them, 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 those to whom you’re referring business and vice versa. Once those strong connections are forged you can rest easy, knowing 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.

Do you have a story others might learn from about a time when referral marketing really paid off for you, or a story about how you experienced the unique risks associated with referral marketing firsthand?  Please share your experiences in the comment forum below.  I’d love to hear from you–thanks!

 

Classic Video Feature–How to Invest Your Time & Money for the Highest Return

I have been doing video blogs for quite a few years now and a while back it occurred to me that some of the videos I’ve previously posted focus on timeless topics that deserve to be revisited and not buried way back in the video blog archive.  For this reason, just this past JulyI decided to occasionally feature a “classic” video blog from my blog archive and today I am sharing the second one–”How to Invest Your Time & Money for the Highest Return.”

In this video, I talk about how to invest time and money into your business in the way that will ultimately pay the highest return–education.

Many businesses fail within their first three years of existence because they only pay lip service to education yet aren’t willing to invest the time, effort, and money into learning about how to continually grow and develop in order to achieve the business goals and the vision they outlined for themselves at the start.

The fact is, people who immerse and engage in a culture of learning are much, much more successful than those who don’t. Watch the video now to learn about an action you can take this week that will help you measure whether or not you’re investing enough of your time and money into what will truly help your business earn more and achieve more. 

I’m quite interested in hearing your thoughts on this video, your comments about what you currently do in order to invest in educating yourself to build your business, and also your results from carrying out the action item I explain at the end of the video.  Please leave your feedback regarding any or all of these things in the comment forum below.

Networking Is Not a Short Term Strategy

In this video, I talk to my friend, French networking expert Marc-William Attie, about why networking is not a short term strategy and also why the long term commitment that goes along with networking is well worth your while.

Marc demonstrates the value of putting effort into networking by telling the story of an architect who spent three years building relationships with fellow networkers without receiving any significant referrals and then received a referral worth $300,000.00 . . . a payoff that was definitely worth the wait!

Do you have any stories about how your networking efforts have paid off in big ways?  Is so, please share them in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

Treat Loyalty Like Royalty

In this video, my lovely wife Beth brings up a phrase she has often heard me mention in many of my presentations and in various conversations over the years–“Treat Loyalty Like Royalty”–and she asks me to explain what exactly the phrase means to me.  Beth goes on to reveal that she believes just as strongly as I do in the importance of treating people like royalty when they’ve consistently shown you loyalty and commitment in one way or another.

Whether they are employees or people you do business with, if you treat others like royalty when they show you loyalty, your ‘return on investment,’ so to speak will be beyond worth your efforts.  After watching the video, I’d love to hear about some of your experiences where you’ve worked with someone who has been loyal to you and how treating them very well in return has been well worth your efforts . . . or, also, how you worked with someone who you were very loyal to, how they treated you like royalty, and how it paid off for both parties in the long run.  Please share your story/stories in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

How to Meet the RIGHT People

A networking event is not–I repeat not–designed to bring strangers together for the purpose of referring themselves to one another.  Why would you refer yourself to someone you barely know?  A typical networking event is designed to have people who don’t know one another meet and mingle.  But for a networking event to be fully productive for you, you must meet the right people for the right reasons.  Meeting the right people will make a positive impact on your business and give you a high return on your networking investment.

Handshake

Image courtesy of jannoon028 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So, at a networking event, how exactly do you identify the right people to meet?  You do this by considering two types of individuals: those serving your preferred clients and those who have the potential to help you meet your business goals.  Today I’d like to focus on looking at those who serve the same professional client as you.  “Hey, aren’t those folks likely to be my competitors?” you might wonder.  Not necessarily.

Consider these two examples:

  • Lorraine is a real estate agent whose preferred clients are retired home owners or empty nesters with assets over $1 million, who love to travel, are country club members, and seriously pamper their pets.  Other suppliers for their services might include high-end salons and spas, professional landscapers, financial advisors, country club owners, travel agents, home-cleaning service providers, and pet resorts.
  • Tanya is the owner of a direct-mail company that targets colleges and universities.  When Tanya could not determine who else serviced the decision makers at the university, her marketing coach asked her if she had a current client in that preferred market.  She said yes.  Then she was asked, “How well do you know her?  Will she take your call?  Would she grant you thirty minutes of her time?”  Tanya emphatically replied, “Yes!”  Her coach then suggested that she schedule a purposeful meeting and sit down with her to pick her brain on who she grants her time to and who else supports her needs.

Your preferred clients have many suppliers for their needs and it could be in your best interest to connect and build relationships with those other suppliers so, when networking, you want to focus on meeting these people.  The answers to the questions that were asked of Tanya helped direct her to the people she should be searching for while networking.  You can gain the same benefit by having a similar conversation with one of your preferred clients and asking questions like these: “Who else solves your daily problems?” ; “Who do you allow in the door?” ; “What companies do you call on when you need (product)?” ; “Whom do you trust when it comes to helping you (type of service)?”

At networking events, look for name tags that fit specific professional categories you’re seeking to cultivate.  If you meet a professional who services your preferred client–and you like the individual as a person–consider this the first step in building a new relationship.  If you build a trusting and giving relationship with someone who provides services for your preferred client market, it stands to reason that your referral potential will increase dramatically.  Remember that in a true tri-win (that’s win-win-win) relationship, that person’s referral potential will also increase, and the client will get the best service possible.

Be sure to come back next week as I’ll be posting specifically about the other types of people you want to focus on meeting while networking–those who can help you meet your business goals.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear any stories you may have about how you successfully built a relationship with someone who serves the same professional client as you do and how that relationship has benefited you and/or the other service provider .  Please share your experiences in the comment forum below–thanks!

 

 

Give Me One Good Reason I Should Do Business With You

SHARK-TANKA few months ago, I started watching some episodes of “Shark Tank” and I got hooked!  There are some serious business lessons that can be learned by viewing the show and I saw one of them last week while I was watching a rerun from a previous season (it’s sad, I’m completely hooked now and I’m checking out past episodes).

There was an entrepreneur on the show by the name of Raven Thomas.  Raven started a food business called, The Painted Pretzel (pretzels covered with chocolate and other confectionaries).

She had a pretty good business and, according to the panelists (The Sharks), a product that was delicious. After a fair amount of discussion, Lori Greiner (one of the Sharks) got down to the end of the conversation and asked, “Why should we invest in you?”   I realized at that moment that this was the big question and I knew Raven’s answer could make or break the deal.  Raven replied to Lori with… “The main reason is that I have two little kids and . . . (blah, blah, blah, blah, blah).”  I immediately paused the show, looked to my wife Beth, and practically screamed “She just blew it!  She totally gave a relational answer to a bunch of transactional SHARKS!  They don’t care about blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, they want something closer to ‘show me the money’ than ‘I love what I do!’” 

Beth replied, “You have to know your audience when you are talking about your business.” Her statement was spot on.   Before I started up the episode again, Beth and I talked about how crucial it was for Raven to speak the language that the Sharks speak if she wanted them to invest in her.  She needed to speak a language focused on opportunity, growth, ROI, and cold hard cash.  Instead, Raven talked about how she felt about her business and how it related to her children.  Her answer failed to include anything at all that the Sharks would relate to as serious, analytical business investors looking for reasons to convince them Raven’s business would be a wise financial investment.

I resumed watching the episode so I could witness the train wreck which I was sure was about to ensue.  To my astonishment, Robert Herjavec gave Raven a “do-over” (I really like this Shark – if I ever have the chance to be a panelist on a business show, I’d like to think my style would be similar to his).  Robert looked at Raven and gave her a chance to give a better answer by saying to her, “Let’s do that again.She took a moment and said, “A good reason to invest in me is that I had to walk away from a $2 million deal because I did not have the capital to fill the order . . . and that door is still open.” This answer was a show stopper—it completely landed the Sharks’ attention.  Within a few moments, Mark Cuban (Shark and owner of the Dallas Mavericks) offered Raven $100,000 cash and distribution of her product at his stadium and at each location of the movie theater chain he owns!  She, of course, said yes to Mark’s offer.  As a result, she now expects that her company’s sales will exceed $1.2 million dollars this year!

The lesson to be learned here is that it is absolutely imperative to know your audience and tailor your comments to suit the people you’re talking to.  This is an extremely important lesson in both the business arena and the networking arena.  In fact, it’s one of the main reasons why I recommend that when you first meet people, you begin by asking them questions about themselves prior to speaking in length about yourself.  The more you know about the people you’re talking to, the better able you will be to craft your own message in a way that effectively resonates with them.

I’d love to hear either a success story or a horror story that you might have about people “knowing” or “not knowing” their audience.  Please share your story in the comment forum below. Thanks!

How to Invest Your Time & Money for the Highest Return

In this video, I talk about how to invest time and money into your business in the way that will ultimately pay the highest return–education.

Many businesses fail within their first three years of existence because they only pay lip service to education yet aren’t willing to invest the time, effort, and money into learning about how to continually grow and develop in order to achieve the business goals and the vision they outlined for themselves at the start.

The fact is, people who immerse and engage in a culture of learning are much, much more successful than those who don’t. Watch the video now to learn about an action you can take this week that will help you measure whether or not you’re investing enough of your time and money into what will truly help your business earn more and achieve more. 

BobGrowthGraphI’m quite interested in hearing your thoughts on this video, your comments about what you currently do in order to invest in educating yourself to build your business, and also your results from carrying out the action item I explain at the end of the video.  Please leave your feedback regarding any or all of these things in the comment forum below, and for the first ten people who add to their comment where Bob makes his cameo appearance (and get the answer right) during the video, I’ll send them a surprise gift that will most definitely help them invest in their networking education!  (Note: To ensure you receive your gift, please e-mail your name and complete mailing address to erin@bni.com with the subject line “Bob.”)  I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

The Three Laws of Notable Networking

Over the last few decades, I’ve met individuals who have developed such incredible networking skills that they get almost 100 percent of their business through referrals.  They’ve been successful at building a word-of-mouth-based business because they’re as committed to giving referrals as they are to following up on the referrals they get.  What does it take to achieve results like these?

There are three requirements or laws for becoming a Notable (or effective) Networker.  Without applying these laws, you would find it impossible to work your networks effectively.

At face value the laws seem simple, but don’t let first impressions deceive you.  Behind these simple-sounding principles lies a comprehensive set of requirements and obligations.  If you don’t heed these laws, you will invest many hours and some dollars into networking groups but get a poor return on your investment.

The Three Laws of Notable Networking Are:

  1. Have a Positive and Supportive Attitude
  2. Learn How to Use Networking Tools Effectively
  3. Networking Is an Acquired Skill

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be going into detail about each of the above laws so be sure to come back to learn more about how you can become a truly Notable Networker and get optimum results from all of your networking efforts and investments.

Also, if you have a story about how you’ve used one or more of the above laws to achieve success in networking, please share it in the comments section below so we can all learn from your successes.  Thanks!

NetTime: How Much Time Should You Spend Networking?

The secret to getting more business through networking is. . . spending more time doing it!   OK, well, it’s a little more complicated than that because you have to spend time doing the right things.  However, devoting the necessary time is the starting point.  So how much networking time (or NetTime) should you spend developing your personal network and what kind of results can you expect to see?

Based on a survey that I helped to write and conduct of over 12,000 business professionals from every populated continent in the world, we finally have a definitive answer to those questions.  The study found that people who said “networking played a role” in their success spent an average of 6.3 hours a week participating in networking activities.  On the other hand, the majority of people who claimed that “networking did NOT play a role” in their success spent only 2 hours or less per week developing their network.  

Clearly, those people who spent very little time engaged in the process felt that networking was not an effective way to build their business.  As with many other aspects of life, you clearly reap what you sow.  It’s no wonder that the people who didn’t invest as much time also did not realize as much reward.  This demonstrates the direct correlation between the amount of time you devote to the networking process and the degree of success that you will likely realize from it.

The typical person in the survey who spent a little over six hours a week networking generated almost 47 percent of all their business through referrals and networking activities.  Of the 12,000 global participants in the survey, women spent less time networking (6.19 hours compared to 6.44 for men), yet generated a higher percentage of their business through the process (49.44 percent compared to 43.96 percent for men).

Why would women spend less time and get a higher percentage of their business from referrals than men?  Well, we discovered that men tended to be more transactional in their networking activities.  That is they were more likely than women to be focused on the “business first and the relationship second.”  On the other hand, women were more likely to be relational in their networking activities.  In other words, they were more likely than men to “focus on the relationship first and do the business second.”

An emphasis on relationships first was clearly and undeniably a key factor in determining whether people were going to identify  networking as having played a role in their success. When we looked at the responses from all the participants who said that networking had played a role in their success and then compared them to those people who focus on relationships first, we discovered that the majority of respondents who felt they’ve achieved success through networking also felt that it was better to build the relationship first and then focus on the business.  Consequently, regardless of gender, business professionals who focused on the relationship first and the business second tended to do better than those business people who focused on the business first.

In other words, relationships beat transactions when it came to networking.  The reason that women seem to have done better in the global study was that women tended to be more relational then men.

Those who skip the relationship building and attempt to establish an “all business” interaction often discover that trust and goodwill are more than just window dressing – they are part of the social capital that energizes a mutually rewarding business relationship.  People who bypass relationship building are more likely to feel that networking has not contributed to their success, and they are probably right – because they’re doing it wrong or at least not doing it enough.

You may be reading this article and thinking – OK, I now know that I need to be spending at least 6 ½ hours a week networking.  Well, that’s true IF you want to be average (and what successful business person wants to be average)!   If on the other hand, you’d like to be above average – you need to devote more time than that to the cause.  The optimum amount of NetTime is more likely to be 8-10 hours a week if you want to be one of those people that are generating well over half their business from referrals.

How much NetTime do you spend each week?  More?  Less? and what percentage of business (total) do you get from your networking efforts?  Comment below.

Networking ROI

I recently co-authored an article about the return on investment (ROI) of membership in BNI (the organization I founded back in 1985).  My readers here may find some of the results interesting:

The average amount of business gained from referrals in the last 12 months was $37,055.  When asked about further orders they had received as the multiplier effect of participation, members were able to think of, on average, an additional $17,668 per year of membership.

Combining closed business in the last 12 months with the average value of 2nd and 3rd generation referrals in a year showed the true value of a seat as $54,720 per year.  On average, members who were involved in the group for 7 years generated $383,038 since they joined, thereby underpinning the lifetime value of participation.

An associate of mine is conducting an independent study regarding ROI for any networking organization.   He will share some of the results with me and I will publish them here on my blog.  Please take a few moments to take the short survey (it will only take 3 or 4 minutes).

*** Take the SURVEY HERE ***

After you take the survey, post a message here with any questions that YOU would like to see in a future survey that I’m doing or recommending (like this one).

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
   Follow Me

Get every new post delivered to your inbox