You are not entitled to referrals

That’s right-you read correctly.

Referrals come from cultivating real relationships. They come from putting the work into your networking by giving others referrals before expecting them in return. They don’t come from sitting idly in a meeting, watching others getting referrals and wondering where yours are.

Are you wondering just how to get that referral pipe flowing?

1. Become a farmer. Except you’re not cultivating seeds, but relationships. You’re not harvesting produce, but referrals. Networking is about farming for new contacts (and referrals,) not hunting them. Have One-to-Ones with your chapter members. Get to know them and their business well so you can begin to pass referrals to them. This is how you cultivate a relationship-show genuine interest and make an honest attempt at helping them succeed. You’ll build trust with one another, which makes the next step much easier.  referral

2. Find a referral partner. As I write in my book, Truth or Delusion, “There is a way to the flow of referrals predicable and adjustable.” After you’ve gotten to know your fellow chapter members, choose one to partner up with to pass referrals back and forth to one another. Pick someone who needs referrals you can provide (for example, if you have a toy shop owner in your Chapter but you have no kids and rarely interact with them, they might not be the best partner for you.) Determine what types of referrals you need and ask your partner to do the same; then, exchange specific referrals based on your own networks. Begin to set up meetings with your referrals and if it’s appropriate, bring your partner with you. Afterward, analyze the meetings with your partner and use as much detail as possible.

3. Get your PH.D. in Networking. Ok, not literally. But you can become a gatekeeper of networks as you begin to connect your network with another person’s, and then another person’s, and then continue to build upon it. Become the go-to person in your business community-the person others come to if they needed a referral for anything. “Know a trustworthy plumber? Yeah, ask Susan-she knows everybody!” But instead of becoming the human phone book, you are connecting people in your community with good, honest businesses. This will not only help you build your network referrals, but it will also force you to continue to build and deepen your relationships and provide you with an excellent reputation.

What process has worked for you when referral gathering?

 

educating

Are You Educating or Selling to Your Network?

educatednetworkWhen entrepreneurs try to develop a qualified, consistent, and dynamic circle of networking partners who are going to provide them with referrals for new business, I’ve noticed that their tendency is to “sell” those individuals on their product. When business people join a networking group that’s focus is on providing referrals for its members, it is as if by convincing them to try their product, showing them all the finer points of what is available and closing the sale with their networking partners, they will somehow realize an influx of referrals for more of the same from those individuals.

I don’t disagree that in order for the members of your networking group to refer you effectively, they must be familiar with what you have to offer; however, when you are in front of them, it’s important to resist the urge to sell to the members! What do I mean by that?

Educating your networking group’s members about the type of referrals you want, specifically, where applicable, 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. 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.

Below are four tips for incorporating this style of networking—educating vs. selling—into your networking meetings:

1. Teach your network members what your “dream referral” looks like. If you could come to your next networking meeting with a walking, talking dream referral in tow, what would he/she be like? Be very descriptive of this person as you talk to your networking partners, so descriptive that it’s like that person is in the room with you. The more details you provide, the greater the chance that your partners will recognize that person when they come across him/her outside of the meeting!

2. Share customer profiles and case studies of current customers. This is a highly effective way to educate your networking partners about what it is that you are looking for as a new customer/client. By sharing the qualities and aspects of your current clientele, you are illuminating the canvas for the rest of the group so they can see the picture you are portraying for them. When appropriate, consider bringing in a customer or client to talk about how you have helped him/her. These kinds of interactions go a long way toward educating the group as to the type of person you wish to have referred to you.

3. Break your business down into its Lowest Common Denominators. It is very tempting to start out your personal introduction with a statement like: “we are a full-service XYZ…” Resist this urge! When you have 52 opportunities over the course of a year to introduce a new element of what it is that you are selling or providing to the members, don’t waste the opportunity to highlight one aspect of your business by painting with the full-service brush. Get detailed! Educate your networking partners week by week with specific things that you provide. Bring support material to provide a visual. Do demonstrations, when possible.

4. Ask specifically for the referral you want. I often hear members of networking groups say things like “anyone who needs…” or “everyone who is looking for…” Usually, when I hear anyone or everyone, I tune out, because I know so many anyones and everyones, that I end up referring no one! This is an interesting dynamic, but I think it has a lot to do with information overload. When you are asking for a specific type of business referral, your request from your networking partners should be specific! Using a catch phrase that is so broad and generic will limit the effectiveness of the results you will get.

By keeping your focus on educating your networking partners about what type of referrals you wish to receive from them, you will find that the referrals you begin to see come in will be of a higher caliber and have more chances of becoming closed sales than if you try to sell the members on what you are offering. You should be trying to “educate a sales force” instead of trying to “close a sale.” Shift your intention in the group and you will find that the quality of referrals will shift for the better, as well. Keep in mind that when you join a closed contact network, you are partnering with a group of people who will become your sales force and educate, educate, educate. Your time to close the sale will come when you are with the referrals that you will receive.

What go to phrases do you use to educate your network on the products and services you offer? What tactics have you tried that simply don’t work? Let me know in the comments below!

The VCP Process®: V + C Does Not = P

Lately I have seen a lot of people who have been using the VCP Process® (Visibility, Credibility, Profitability) like it’s a formula: Visibility + Credibility = Profitability.

The fact remains, however, that VCP is a referral process, not a sales process. If the majority of your clients aren’t giving you referrals, then you are only at Credibility with your clients, not at Profitability. It’s possible that you can have a lot of Visibility and a lot of Credibility, but NOT have Profitability. Rather than a formula, VCP is a continuum.

Once you achieve Credibility (and not before), you then need to start asking for referrals in order to achieve Profitability. Profitability does not result automatically from Visibility and Profitability.

If you were previously unfamiliar with the VCP Process and have questions about it, please ask them in the comment forum below.  I believe that VCP is the single most important concept in networking and I’m more than happy to answer your questions.  Also, if you’re familiar with VCP and you’ve been using the process for a while, please share some of your experiences–I’d love to hear them.

Classic Video: One Simple Rule for a Winning Approach to Networking

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 sixth one–”One Simple Rule to a Winning Approach at Netwoking.” In this video, I talk to UK networking expert Charlie Lawson about the Networking Disconnect which commonly hinders the success of many who attend networking events and mixers.

Charlie explains that the Disconnect can be avoided all together by following one simple rule that will get your networking approach and intent geared in the right direction.  I’ll give you a hint–it involves big fish and coffee. 😉

After watching the video, come back and comment about your experience(s) with the Networking Disconnect (trust me, we’ve all had some experience with it) and what you think about the advice Charlie offers in the video . . . looking forward to hearing from you!

Are You a ‘Cave Dweller’?

The concept of being a cave dweller stems from the idea that we wake up in the morning in a large cave with a big screen TV, we go out to our garage, get into a little cave with four wheels, we drive to our other big cave with computers, stay there all day, get back into the little cave, drive right back to the large cave, and we don’t get out and connect with people.

In this video, filmed at a recent Referral Institute® Conference, my good friend Mike Macedonio explains the ‘Cave Dweller Reality Check Sheet’ which you can use to make an hourly break down of your day in order to determine whether you’re spending too much time cooped up at home or in the office.  Mike recently filled out the sheet and his results gave him the eye-opening realization that even as a referral marketing expert, he was still falling into the trap of being a cave dweller!

So, watch the video, make your own Cave Dweller Reality Check Sheet, and find out whether or not you’re taking enough time out in the world to meet others, make real connections, and make a conscious effort to grow your business.  I’d love to hear your results so please come back and share them in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

In this video,

Where to Start When Starting Your Own Business

I recently got asked a really great question: Where do I get connected with people who can help me open a business?IvanOldSchool

Though there is evidence that business is currently on the rise and the economy is moving in a positive direction, the recent downturn in the economy prompted many people who found themselves unemployed to tap into their entrepreneurial spirit and consider starting their own business.

This begs the question above–are there efficient ways to get in touch with people who can help you start your own business?

The answer is yes, and here are my three recommendations:

1) Go through your contacts and talk to people you personally know who have started a business. Set an appointment.  Let them know what you are doing and ask if they’d give you an hour of mentoring.  If possible, meet with them in person.  Show up with specific questions written out in advance.  Send them the questions prior to the meeting so they have a good understanding of what kind of information you’re looking for.  When you meet, focus on those questions, write down the answers, and stick to the time frame you promised.  If the conversation goes well, ask if you can meet with them in the future.  Follow this process with two or three people who have opened a business successfully.  I guarantee you will find this to be very valuable.

2) Find a business coach who has experience with start-up businesses. Hire them to coach you through the process.

3) Read, read, read!  There are a lot of books out there on opening a business. I have personally reviewed many of the books published by Entrepreneur Press on starting a business and they are excellent.  Go to EntrepreneurPress.com to see some of them.

I strongly encourage anyone genuinely interested in starting their own business to pursue the endeavor. I have owned my own business for thirty years (that’s a picture of me at top right, when I first started my company, BNI, and was running it from my house and garage with only one other employee in the mid ’80s) and it continues to be an amazing and fulfilling journey. I don’t think I would ever go back to working for someone else.

Has Your Business Mission Changed?

In this video, I answer the question of how the mission for my own business, BNI® (the world’s largest business networking organization), has changed over the last thirty years.

In every business, there are some things which remain constant and other things which become transformational.  The one thing which has remained constant in my  own business is the philosophy of the organization, Givers Gain®, which is inculcated into the core of the entire company worldwide.  The organization itself, however, has a transformational nature in that we are Changing the Way the World Does Business®.  This is probably the biggest example of how our mission has changed as we started out as a tiny fledgling organization in Southern California not realizing we would eventually become a huge global company.

After watching the video, I’d love to hear your thoughts as well as your ideas on how the mission in your own business has changed.  Please share your thoughts in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

Staying Focused in a Hyper World

Some months back, I posted a blog about my good friend John Gray’s most recent book, Staying Focused in a Hyper World.  Today I’d like to share another video with him about the topic because recently I’ve been reminded several times about the increasing importance of finding ways to stay focused amidst the bombardment of technology we’re faced with daily.

Dr. John Gray is not only my good friend, he’s also an extremely well known author–his most well known book being Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus.  At a recent TLC (Transformational Leadership Council) conference, I had the chance to record this video with him where we discuss his latest book and reveal natural solutions for increasing/restoring memory, improving attention span and focus, and overcoming ADHD no matter what cacophony of bustling and distraction is going on around us.

John was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease some years ago and he embarked on a mission to treat it through natural solutions.  During this time, he discovered he had ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)and, quite interestingly, he was able to counteract that through natural means without the use of harmful, side-effect-inducing drugs.

In this day and age, we are so bombarded with technology and distractions that even if we don’t have ADHD, it can often be extremely difficult to stay focused and this can be a great deterrent to our success.  For this reason, I highly recommend John’s new book.  Businesspeople can especially benefit from the advice in this book as they tend to live highly fast-paced lives and they are often simultaneously pulled in several different directions.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about what John has to say in this video (you can leave your comments in the comment forum below) and if you’d like to learn more about Staying Focused in a Hyper World, please click here.  Thanks!

Year End Reflections and Goals for the New Year

For many cultures around the world, today marks the dawning of the new year.  Here in the United States, most people were up at midnight, full of energy, excitedly celebrating the clock striking 12:00 a.m.–the start of 2015 and, more importantly, the chance for people to start fresh and move forward in business and life in bigger and better ways.  So, what was I doing to celebrate the new year? . . . I was giving thanks for the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful view from my lake house in Big Bear, CA  (pictured below) and it moved me to record this video about year-end reflections and new-year goal setting.

The Current View from My House in Big Bear, CA

The Current View from My House in Big Bear, CA

The thing is, the only reason I’m able to sit here enjoying the life I’ve created is that I continue to reflect on the goings on of each passing year and strategically set new goals to accomplish bigger and better things with each coming year. New Year’s Day is the perfect time for all of us to sit down, take stock of the good, the bad, and the ugly from the past year and forge ahead in the new year with a fresh set of goals and a specific plan to achieve those goals.

In this video, I talk about how I go about setting goals each new year and I share the template (shown below) I use for outlining my goals on paper.  I share my main goals for business and life in 2015 and I would really love to hear your goals for the new year as well so please share your goals in the comment forum below.  Thanks and Happy New Year!!

GoalsAndControlsReportTemplate

Is It Appropriate to Network Anywhere–Even at a Funeral?

In this video, ask you to consider whether or not you think it’s appropriate to network anywhere, any time, any place . . . even at a funeral.

What do you think? Do you think networking at a funeral is a good idea?  Chances are, most people reading this will answer with something along the lines of, “Heck no!  Passing out business cards at a funeral would be completely inappropriate–not to mention offensive”

Though I certainly agree that passing out business cards at a funeral would likely be one of the worst networking faux pas one could make, I am not necessarily in agreement that it would be inappropriate to network at a funeral.

What do I mean by this?  Well, you’ll have to watch the video to find out but I will tell you that you very well may change your thoughts on the appropriateness of networking absolutely anywhere after you hear the personal story I share about networking at a church function.

Do you have any stories, thoughts, or experiences relating to forming significant networking connections in places that at first seemed to be inappropriate networking venues?  If so, I’d really like to hear what you have to say.  Please leave a comment in the discussion forum below.   Thanks!

 

Bob Takes the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Just last week, I took the ice bucket challenge which has gone viral in social media and is sweeping the U.S. by storm.  After I posted my video, several people e-mailed in asking if my sidekick Bob (check out photos of Bob here) was going to take the challenge so I asked him if he was willing and it turns out he was happy to comply. 😉

The purpose of the ice bucket challenge is to raise awareness and raise research funds for the neurodegenerative disease Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) which is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.  While the ALS Association’s rules for the challenge require either getting a bucket of ice water dumped on your head or making a donation, many people appear to be doing both and that’s what both Bob and I did.

As the rules for the ice bucket challenge state that you must nominate three additional people, Bob has nominated his friends Waldo (of “Where’s Waldo?” fame), the Elf on the Shelf, and Big Bird.  Bob says he’s looking forward to seeing their ice bucket challenge videos and that although the rules state that they can always simply donate $100 to help ALSA research for a cure for ALS if they don’t want to dump ice water on their head, he’s hoping that they’ll choose to do both.

So far, the ALSA has raised over $42 million through the ice bucket challenge and Bob and I are proud to be a part of that.  If you’d like to donate, you can do that by hitting the easy-to-find “donate” button on their website.

If you have taken the ice bucket challenge, or if you have or know someone with ALS, we’d really like to hear about your experience.  Please share your thoughts in the comment forum below so, together, we can help raise awareness.

Want More Referrals?–Build Your Networking Skillset

So many times, I hear of people joining networking groups and then becoming disillusioned because the referrals don’t immediately start pouring in. The fact is, whatever you pay to join a referral/networking group is only an admission price–it gets you into the room where opportunities may come your way, but it doesn’t entitle you to referrals. It’s not enough to simply show up and participate. You must perform to make the most of these opportunities and new contacts.

(Image courtesy of suphakit73 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

(Image courtesy of suphakit73 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Despite the built-in structure and focus on referrals, a strong-contact group member can fail to generate referrals or to receive referrals for himself or herself. Networking skills are the number one requirement for generating more referrals. Being in the setting of a networking group simply makes it easier to use these skills. Simply being a member of a strong-contact group does not entitle you to expect or receive referrals. Nor does being a member of a casual-contact group limit the number of referrals you can generate or receive, if you have the skills and use them.

Develop the skills of a master networker by constantly looking for ways to help or benefit your networking partners and earning a reputation as someone who can get things done, no matter what the organization or situation. For example, one extremely savvy and successful networker I know records the names and cell phone numbers of every member of her networking group, and when new members join, she adds them to her “tele-rolodex” immediately. She has found that she has a better chance of seeing closed business between her contact and the person to whom she makes the referral when she can introduce them immediately–right when she learns her contact’s needs.

For more information on developing the networking skills that will help you make the most of your networking opportunities, click here. For even more on networking skills, click here.

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