Educating your networking group’s members about the type of referrals you want (and even the names of the individuals with whom you want to meet and develop relationships) is much more important to the success of your networking in a closed contact network than selling to the members. This demands a shift in how you see your networking partners and educating them about your business. They are not the clients! They are, in effect, your sales force! In order for any sales force to get out there and sell you effectively, they have to know who to sell you to and how to sell you.
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.
Just last week at the BNI® U.S. National Conference in Savannah, Georgia, I had the opportunity to have a brief chat with James Barber, author of The Networking Guru. In this video, I ask James to offer a suggestion or two on how networkers can stand out during weekly presentations in their networking group in order to increase their effectiveness at consistently obtaining referrals from their networking partners.
James reveals his top tip for helping your fellow networkers (i.e., your sales team) to focus and really narrow in on how they can refer you, and he tells a powerful story about a North Carolina business woman who used his top tactic and was so successful that he still finds it amazing when he thinks about the results she got.
Watch the video now to learn how you can stand out and be remembered in order to make it easier for those with whom you network to refer you. I guarantee that if you incorporate James’ advice into your networking presentations and interactions, you will start to see a significant improvment in your referral marketing results and a noticeable increase in the amount of referrals you’re able to generate.
After watching the video, please share your thoughts. And, if you’ve had previous experience using the tactic we discuss for generating more referrals, I’d love to hear how it worked out for you–please share your story in the comment forum below. Thanks!
Whether you’re self employed or you work for someone else, it is definitely worth your time to start looking for networking groups that can refer you new business. If you work for someone, take steps to persuade your employer that you will get business by working with these groups. I’d like to share with you a true story which demonstrates how this can greatly benefit you.
I met a bank manager several years ago who worked hard at persuading his supervisor that participation in a BNI® chapter would yield substantial results for his branch. The supervisor reluctantly agreed to let him join on a trial basis. The manager began getting referrals soon after joining. After several months, another member gave him a particularly good referral–a man who was disgruntled with the level of service at his current bank. The manager decided to visit the man at his company. The man told the bank manager that he felt he was not getting personal service from his bank. The manager assured him that his bank prided itself on service. He gave the man his personal mobile and home phone numbers and told him that if there were a problem he could be reached any time of day, at home or at work. The man thanked him for coming to his office and told him he would get back to him.
Two days later, at 9:00 a.m., the man was standing at the bank door with several savings and checkbooks in hand. The manager met him at the door and thanked him for coming to the branch. The man said he was impressed with the way he was handled by the manager and that he had decided to transfer his accounts to the manager’s bank. To the astonishment of the bank manager, the new customer handed over checking, savings, and money-market accounts totaling over $950,000! After everything was completed, the man told the manager how glad he was to be referred to him by their mutual friend.
I first heard this story when my office (BNI Headquarters) started getting phone calls from every branch manager in Southern California who worked for that bank. Each of them wanted information about local chapters of BNI. When the bank manager who got the $950,000 referral told his supervisor where he got the referral, the supervisor (Remember him? The reluctant one?) called all his other branch managers and told them to join a local chapter of their own within the next two weeks.
If you work for someone else, the lesson here is to persuade your supervisor. Not long ago, I spoke to an individual who wanted to join a networking group but was told by his boss that the company wouldn’t pay for it. This savvy salesman asked his boss, “If I front the money myself and get two referrals that turn into sales within the next thirty days, would the company pay for it then?” The boss said, “Sure, if you come in with two sales, I’ll see to it that the company pays for the membership.” Well, guess what? This salesman, thus highly motivated, closed three sales and was working on four others at the end of the first thirty days. He told me that his boss “gladly payed for the original membership, and recently paid to renew it.” Whether you are self-employed or work for someone else, start looking for groups that refer you new business.
Do you have any stories about lucrative referrals you’ve received through joining a networking group? If so, I’d love to them–please share in the comment forum below. Thanks!
Sales training often teaches us that customers make buying decisions based on (1) their emotions (“Sell the sizzle, not the steak!”) and (2) the value the product or service brings to them. Marketing specialists capitalize on customers’ emotion-based buying habits. Customers choose a product or service based on its benefits, not its features. The features are simply the bare-bones facts–the elements or significant parts–of the product or service. The benefits are its value to the customer–how it will solve their problems, eliminate their pain, and make life glorious.
To understand the difference between features and benefits, let’s think about a car:
Features of a car
- V-6 engine, dual exhaust, front-wheel drive, sunroof, significant interior legroom, heated seats, heated glass
Benefits of those features
- V-6 engine–ability to pull onto the highway without hesitation (and to impress your friends)
- Dual exhausts–higher fuel efficiency and more power (and it sounds groovy and also impresses your friends)
- Front-wheel drive–more interior room because of the lack of a driveshaft tunnel
- Sunroof–the open feel of a convertible with the safety and security of a sedan
- Legroom–greater comfort while driving long distances and more room for your growing family
- Heated seats–cozy motoring on frigid days and nights; greater back comfort on long-distance trips
- Heated glass–the convenience of not having to scrape icy windows in the winter
The more perceived value a benefit offers, the higher it gets ranked in your decision to purchase. Objectively, a sunroof is not a significant feature, but if it makes you feel a bit like a race car driver, perhaps that benefit raises its value for you. Heated seats are nice too, but they might not rank high in value for to people who live in a warm climate and wouldn’t strongly influence their buying decision. The benefits of dual exhausts, however, might have perceived value for all buyers–better fuel efficiency, more power, and a sound like your beloved but departed ’57 Chevy.
What does all this have to do with your referral marketing message? Simply this: Most businesspeople, without thinking about it, talk in terms of features. As professional experts and salespeople, that’s what they’re most familiar with. They’re not accustomed to looking at their products or services from a customer’s perspective.
In formulating the message you want your networking partners to convey, your challenge is to put yourself in the customer’s place. What are the benefits of your product or service? How will it make the customer’s life or business easier, more comfortable, more satisfying, more profitable? How can you shorten and simplify your message so that others can communicate these benefits more clearly and surely?
Now that you have a good understanding of the difference between features and benefits, I hope you’ll come back next week to read the follow-up blog post I’ll be doing which will teach show you exactly how to zero in on the benefits of your business. Until then, if you have any questions about features vs. benefits or any thoughts you’d like to share regarding this post, please leave a comment in the comment forum below. Thanks!
How many times have we heard people say that it never hurts to ask? Surely more times than we can count.
Well, in this video, I explain why it definitely hurts to ask sometimes–especially if you ask to soon! I share a personal story of a recent time when a stranger contacted me via LinkedIn wanting to connect and accompanied the connection request with a note asking me something which I found inappropriate to the point that I decided right then that I was never even going to consider connecting with her.
Watch the video to hear the story and to find out why I flagged the woman’s LinkedIn request as problematic on three significant levels. Let me just say that this is ‘Networking 101’ and if I were her teacher, she would have gotten a failing grade–this is not the way to network! Whether you frequently participate in face-to-face networking, online networking, or both, you’ll definitely want to hear this story so you never make the three mistakes that this woman did.
I’d really love to hear your feedback on this. What are your thoughts? Also, please share any similar horror stories you may have in the comment forum below–I’m looking forward to hearing from you. Thanks!
When someone asks you what you do, what are the first words out of your mouth? If the words aren’t ready to roll off your tongue, then read on . . .
When someone asks you what you do, make sure you’re ready with a response that is succinct but memorable. The attention span of the average adult is only 20 seconds; a long, drawn-out answer to the question isn’t going to work.
Focus on creating a unique selling proposition (USP)–a mini commercial that you can readily use while networking. I think of this as a personal answer to the age-old “Whattaya do?” question, which we’ve all been asked about a million and a half times.
Here’s an example. When someone asks what you do, don’t reply with a bland, general statement such as “I’m a consultant.” Half the world could say that, and it doesn’t tell anybody anything. Instead, you could say, “I work with small to medium-size businesses to help them attract more clients than they could possibly handle.” This is short, powerful and informative.
A USP is obviously something you’ll have to tailor to your specific business, but can you see how it packs more punch than just telling people you’re a consultant? Whichever 12 or 20 words you choose, make sure your answer is quick and informative without sounding rehearsed or contrived.
So, make it your goal this week to come with a USP. Not only will this make you much more effective at networking events and functions, being prepared in this way will also make you more comfortable with introducing yourself to new people because you’ll have the confidence of knowing exactly what to say.
Once you’ve used your new USP a handful of times, come back and leave a comment letting me know what kind of response you got from people and how it worked out for you overall. As always, I’d love to hear from you!
With your business card, you have an opportunity to hook yourself into the minds of people you meet while networking. Sure it’s a lot smaller than a roadside sign, but it can be as effective as a catchy billboard nonetheless.
For its size and cost, the business card is probably the most powerful marketing tool you own. Take one of your cards out right now and look at it. Does your current card accurately reflect your business’ personality–and your own? What kind of first impression does it make? Is it memorable? If not, it will probably get tossed into a drawer full of ancient, bent, forgotten cards or dropped into the nearest circular file.
Of course, you can’t expect your business card to do all the heavy lifting by itself. It can’ t tell the whole story about your company. It’s not a brochure or a catalog. It has limited space, so you have to choose your words and images carefully. Nevertheless, your card should present a professional image that people will remember. A business card can make or break a client’s first impression of your company. In fact, this little billboard makes as much of an impression as your personal appearance.
Choose a card style that’s appropriate for your business, industry, and personal style. If you’re a funeral director, you don’t want to be caught handing out Day-Glo cards with cartoon figures on them. If you’re a mechanic whose specialty is converting old VW Beetles into dune buggies, a formal, black-on-white engraved card will probably be thrown out. Start with the style that best supports the business image you wish to project. Regardless of the style you choose, make sure the impact remains consistent.
Here are five different card styles for you to consider:
- Basic Cards–This is a good card style when utility is all you need. It’s a no-nonsense approach that can appeal to clients and prospects who would not be impressed by fancy design features. The design is simple and the information is clear and concise. A basic card is usually printed in black ink on plain white or cream stock.
- Picture Cards–Having your face on a card–whether it’s a photograph, a drawing, or a caricature–helps a contact remember you. Images representing a product, service, or benefit your business provides, can help you communicate your business better than dozens of words.
- Tactile Cards–Some cards are distinguished not so much by how they look as by how they feel. They may use nonstandard materials, such as metal or wood, or have unusual shapes, edges, folds, or embossing. Tactile cards tend to be considerably more expensive but, for some businesses, this unusual card may be worth the investment.
- Multipurpose Cards–A card can do more than promote your name and business–it can also serve as a discount coupon, an appointment reminder, or some other function. It may also provide valuable information that the average person might need. For example, a hotel may include a map on the back of its card for any guests who are walking around the vicinity.
- Outside-the-Box Cards–A wildly original, fanciful, or extravagant presentation can draw extra attention. Creativity knows no bounds–except the amount of money you wish to spend. Some examples are cards made of chocolate, cards fashioned into a deck of playing cards, or cards that fold out into a miniature box that holds small items.
In closing, I have one last, very important task for you. Look closely at your business card again and after ensuring that it truly and positively represents you and your business, check for the essentials–your name, title, company name, address, phone number, e-mail address, and website. If someone wants to contact you after receiving your card, you sure as heck want them to be able to reach you.
We were having some wine the other night with a friend who had just come from a private jet show in Geneva, Switzerland (sounds like fun!). He was telling us about what a great job one of the exclusive, high-end private jet companies had done to wow their potential customers.
He said that they gave a new iPad to each invited guest in which they had loaded all the specs for their various jets, including apps that let the prospects choose the plane they were interested and create a custom interior from all their choices – woods, carpeting, leathers, etc . . . They could see what their new plane would look like right there on the spot. Brilliant!
Everyone seemed extremely impressed with this high-tech marketing tool, until it was handed to someone my friend recognized immediately – Bill Gates, Founder of Microsoft.
His words? Something like, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
Someone had failed to think about how the Founder of Microsoft would react to being handed an Apple product to use in the process of a potential sale. It’s a small detail, you may think, but you really have to know your audience. What may seem like a small detail to you could end up being huge to your potential customer and could make or break the deal!
Have you witnessed a situation where someone didn’t think about their audience and blew an opportunity? If so, please share it here–I’d really like to hear about it. Thanks!
In this video, I discuss a recent e-mail I received from a friend and colleague which really surprised me and made me realize that sometimes things which I think are totally and completely self evident to others may not actually be obvious to some people at all.
In my mind, it’s completely clear and non-debatable that that the customer is the most important entity when it comes to the success of any given business. Realistically, however, it’s quite common for business owners to get caught up in the aspects of business they think take precedence over everything else when challenges arise and it’s easy to forget that the most important aspect of business is ALWAYS the people paying for the service.
In this short video, I explain why, in business, the customer is hands down the most important player in the game. It’s not that the customer is always right–believe me, they’re not–but without the customer, you have no business. If you are conducting your business with the belief that you, your business partners, your franchisor, your vendors, or anyone else is more important to your success than the customer then, I hate to break it to you, but that belief is absolutely bunk. Even the legendary Henry Ford acknowledged during his lifetime that the customer is the ultimate key component in business–watch the video now to see what he had to say about this topic and, also, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic so please leave your feedback in the comment forum. Thanks!
I once had an interesting conversation with an associate who was surprised that she’d gotten flak from a referral source for taking five days to follow up with a prospect that the referral source had referred to her. My associate explained to me that she doesn’t like to follow up with prospects for four or five days because she doesn’t want the prospect to feel like she’s too eager.
I told my associate that I strongly disagree with her follow-up strategy. My reasons why are outlined in the following paragraphs . . .
When building relationships, it’s always important not to let much time lapse without following up the first contact. Within twenty-four to forty-eight hours, send your prospect a note expressing your pleasure in communicating with her. It’s still too early, though, to send business literature or make any move toward sales promotion.
Follow up early, but don’t push beyond the prospect’s comfort level. Once the prospect has expressed an interest in your products or services, provide information about them, but don’t force it on her. Continue presenting your products or services, but avoid the hard sell. Focus on fulfilling her needs and interests. Your goal should be to keep your prospect aware of your business without annoying her.
Remember, to secure the long-term loyalty of your prospect and convert her into a customer, you must first build a relationship, and that relationship must develop through the visibility, credibility and profitability stages. It may take a while, but if you’ve selected and briefed your sources well, you’ll speed up the process.
Always, always, always remember to follow up with people, in any situation, at the very least within seventy-two hours. There’s a reason people commonly say that the fortune is in the follow up . . . when you follow up quickly with people, your reputation will benefit, your business will benefit, and eventually your pocketbook will benefit as well.
Do you have any unique and effective ways of following up which have helped you attain success consistently? If so, I’d love to hear your tactics–please share them in the comment forum below. Thanks!
“Sell” may be a four-letter word, but it’s certainly not a “bad” word . . . far from it. “Sell” is a word that should be in absolutely every networker’s vocabulary.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run across businesspeople over the years who are fantastic networkers, but they think that just because they know how to network, they don’t need to know how to sell. They think that people will like them, and then their products or services will sell themselves. This kind of mentality is unfortunate because people who think this way may be leaving business on the table.
Anybody who’s experienced and successful in referral marketing will tell you that sales skills are needed in every part of the referral marketing process–not just in closing the sale with the prospect.
From the very beginning, you must sell yourself to your potential referral source. A referral is not a guaranteed sale; it’s the opportunity to do business with someone to whom you’ve been recommended. You still have to close the deal. You have to make it clear that you know how to sell, and that you can and will provide the products or services you’re expected to provide. If you can’t make that first “sale,” your potential referral source won’t become your referral provider.
Beyond selling yourself to the referral source, you have to sell yourself to the prospect to get that first appointment. Then, once you’ve made the appointment, you have to persuade the prospect to buy your product or service. This is the part that usually comes to mind when you hear the word “sell.” However, in referral marketing, closing the deal with your prospect is neither the beginning nor the end of the selling process. The sales process is all about keeping an ongoing relationship with the client or customer. This is something that the best referral marketers know and understand.
What are some of the tactics you use to continually sharpen your sales skills and/or ensure that you continually invest in an ongoing relationship with your clients/customers to actively keep the sales process afloat? I’d love for you to share your thoughts and ideas in the comment forum below–thanks!