VCP process

The VCP Process with Tiffanie Kellog

We simply can’t achieve success at networking without strategically building VCP = visibility, earning credibility, and then ultimately gaining profitability.

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. Before you can refer to someone, you will need to know, like, and trust them.

In this guest video blog, Tiffanie Kellog, a trainer for Asentiv Florida, explores the three stages of the VCP process. Click here to watch.

In short, your goal should be to first enter Visibility with people, then perform activities that will help you build trust and Credibility with them, and finally through time and the strengthening of that relationship, they will most likely pass you consistent referrals in the Profitability stage.  After all, “It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.

To Connect or Not to Connect, That is the LinkedIn Question

linkedinLinkedIn is an extremely powerful tool to help you grow your network and your business. Unfortunately, it is also a network that many can abuse. There are social networking tactics that work perfectly on Twitter and Facebook that flop on LinkedIn, and vice versa.

One huge mistake is forgoing importing your email contacts into LinkedIn. The vast majority of your business contacts are likely on LinkedIn, and if you aren’t already connected to them, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity. By connecting with your email contacts, you can endorse their skills and perhaps be endorsed in return, automatically receive updates when they change something in their profile, and learn more about them professionally.

On endorsing skills, have you gone through your contacts an endorsed everyone for at least one skill? If you are connected with someone on LinkedIn and you don’t know enough about them to be able to endorse them for at least one skill, that is a red flag that you aren’t fully utilizing that contact. I recommend reaching out to them and asking if they have time to schedule a one-to-one. Your goal is to learn enough about them, and identify enough about their skillset to feel comfortable endorsing them. If you feel like you don’t know them well enough to endorse them, likely they feel the same about you.

Update your profile’s summary to one clear, concise sentence that defines your current career trajectory. Help your contacts help you by making it clear, both in the real world and the digital world, what a good referral for you is.

The occasional status update is good, too. Say you write a blog for your business, or read a particularly interesting trade piece. These are great things to share and to start conversations with your contacts. Be aware, though, on LinkedIn, it is very easy to cross the line between just enough and too many updates. You should strive for just a few updates a week, as people tend to log into LinkedIn a lot less than other networks.

Search through the connections that your contacts have, and see if there is anyone you may ask to be introduced to. Your network’s network is a tool that you have at your disposal, just know how to access it in the best way. Perhaps a contact you’ve known for 10 years is connected with someone that you had always wanted to meet. Reach out to your contact and see if they would be willing to make the introduction. It never hurts to ask.

How do you use LinkedIn? Are there any LinkedIn suggestions you think are vital that I’ve missed? Share them 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.

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!

8 Networking Tips to Ensure You Are Approachable

Scott Ginsberg

Scott Ginsberg

Scott Ginsberg, author of The Power of Approachability, has spent a lot of time researching the true meaning of approachability and how it affects our relationships.  You may have heard of Scott.  He’s also known as “the Nametag Guy” (he wears a name tag everywhere he goes).  He’s the author of several books, and he’s a professional speaker who helps people maximize their approachability, become unforgettable, and make names for themselves.

Scott emphasizes that approachability is a two way street.  “It’s both you stepping onto someone else’s front porch, and you inviting someone to step onto your front porch.”  Below are eight tips from Scott (I’ve modified them a little) on how to maximize your approachability.

1) Be Ready to Engage–When you arrive at a meeting, event, party, or anywhere many conversations will take place, prepare yourself.  Be “ready to engage,” with conversation topics, questions, and stories in the back of your mind, ready to go as soon as you meet someone.  This will help you avoid those awkward “How’s the weather?” discussions.

2)  Focus on CPI–“CPI” stands for Common Point of Interest.  It’s an essential element in every conversation and interaction.  Your duty, as you meet new people, or even as you talk with those you already know, is to discover the CPI as soon as possible.  It helps establish a bond between you and others.  It increases your approachability and allows them to feel more comfortable talking with you.

3)  Give Flavored Answers–You’ve heard plenty of “fruitless questions” in your interactions with other people–questions like “How’s it going?” “What’s up?” or “How are you?”  When such questions come up, Scott warns, don’t fall into the conversation-ending trap of responding, “Fine.”  Instead, offer a “flavored answer”: “Amazing!” “Any better and I’d be twins!” or “Everything is beautiful.”  Your conversation partner will instantly change her demeanor, smile, and, most of the time, inquire further to find out what made you answer that way.  Why?  Because nobody expects it.  Not only that, but offering a true response to magnify the way you feel is a perfect way to share yourself, or “make yourself personally available” to others.

4)  Don’t Cross Your Arms at Networking Events–Even if it’s cold, you’re bored, or you’re just tired and don’t want to be there–don’t cross your arms.  It makes you seem defensive, nervous, judgmental, closed-minded, or skeptical.  It’s a simple, subconscious, nonverbal cue that says, “Stay away.”  People see crossed arms, and they drift away.  They don’t want to bother you.  You’re not approachable.  Think about it, would you want to approach someone like that?  Probably not.  So when you feel that urge to fold your arms across your chest like a shield, stop.  Be conscious of its effect.  Then, relax and do something else with your arms and hands.

5)  Give Options for Communication–Your friends, colleagues, customers, and coworkers communicate with you in different ways.  Some will choose face-to-face; some will e-mail; others will call; still others will do a little of everything.  Accommodate them all.  Give people as many ways as you can to contact you.  Make it easy and pleasant.  On your business cards, e-mail signatures, websites, and marketing materials, let people know they can get in touch with you in whatever manner they choose.  Maybe you prefer e-mail, but what matters most is the other person’s comfort and ability to communicate with you effectively.  There’s nothing more annoying to a “phone person” than to discover she can’t get a hold of you unless she e-mails you.

6)  Always Have Business Cards–At one time or another you’ve probably been on either the telling or listening end of a story about a successful, serendipitous business encounter that ended with the phrase “Thank God I had one of my business cards with me that day!”  If you recall saying something like that yourself, great!  You’re practicing approachability by being easy to reach.   If not, you’ve no doubt missed out on valuable relationships to get their supply reprinted, or change jobs.  Always remember: There is a time and a place for networking–any time and any place!  You just never know whom you might meet.

7)  Conquer Your Fear–Do you ever hear yourself saying, “They won’t say hello back to me.  They won’t be interested in me.  I will make a fool of myself”?  Fear is the number-one reason people don’t start conversations–fear of rejection, fear of inadequacy, fear of looking foolish.  But practice will make this fear fade away.  The more you start conversations, the better you will become at it.  So, be the first to introduce yourself, or simply to say hello.  When you take an active rather than a passive role, you will develop your skills and lower your chances of rejection.

8)  Wear Your Name Tag–I’ve heard every possible excuse not to wear name tags, and all of them can be rebutted: “Name tags look silly.”  Yes, they do.  But remember, everyone else is wearing one too.  “Name tags ruin my clothes.”  Not if you wear them on the edge of your lapel, or use cloth-safe connectors, like lanyards and plastic clips.  “But I already know everybody.”  No, you don’t.  You may think you do, but new people enter and leave businesses and organizations all the time.  “But everyone already knows me.”  No, they don’t.  Even the best networkers know there’s always someone new to meet.  Your name tag is your best friend for several reasons.  First of all, a person’s name is the single piece of personal information most often forgotten–and people are less likely to approach you if they don’t know (or have forgotten) your name.  Second, it’s free advertising for you and your company.  Third, name tags encourage people to be friendly and more approachable.

So, what do you think of Scott’s never-leave-home-without-your-name-tag strategy?  Do you have any own tips or tactics for making yourself approachable?  I’d love to hear your thoughts so please share them in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

Getting to the Referral Stage with a New Contact

People often ask me how to move a relationship with someone they just met to the point where the new contact feels comfortable passing them a referral.

I always say that the best way to get to this next referral-passing stage depends in part on how you came into contact with a person in the first place.  Let’s say you met while giving a brief presentation to a group of people who are in your target market.  Assuming you did a good job, then you absolutely have the possibility of receiving a referral, even though you just met.  Why? Because the presentation moved you from visibility to credibility in the new contact’s mind and now they’re probably willing to risk their reputation and recommend you to someone they know.

Photo Courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo Courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

The same thing is true when you’re out networking.  If you have a good conversation with someone and truly add value to the conversation, then moving from visibility to credibility isn’t that difficult, and you’ll be in great shape for getting some referral-based business.  What’s more, it’s not terribly important whether the person is someone you might do business with directly.  Even if your businesses don’t match up, the other person might have information that’s useful or might know other people you’d like to get in contact with.  It’s often worthwhile to develop a networking relationship with people who have little in common with you because they can bring an entirely new network into contact with yours and broaden your business horizons.

 

Just bear in mind that even if there is a strong possibility that you’re going to do business with this new contact, it’s probably not going to happen there at the networking event, where conversations last anywhere from an eye-blink three minutes to a long-winded seven.  Instant business is not likely to be had.  But if you follow up with a quick note a few days later, you can make some one-to-one time and come up with ways the two of you can help each other.  That meeting is where you’ll have your best opportunity for a quick referral.

 

What has your experience been with moving to the referral stage with new contacts–do you have a tactic that seems to be particularly effective?  If so, please share it in the comments section.  Thanks!

Leverage Your Smallest Billboard

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.

Business Cards

(Image courtesy of mrsiraphol at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

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.

Using Social Media—“Navigating the VCP Process® to Networking” Series

TR Garland (pictured with me in the photo below) is a friend of mine and co-author of one of my most recent #1 best-selling books called “Building The Ultimate Network.” 

TR-and-Ivan-Blue-Backgrou

For some time now, we’ve both observed a need to drill down on one of the most important and foundational concepts to networking – The VCP Process®.  A while ago, we started a much-anticipated 12-part series of blog posts which addresses this and contains some very timely information for networkers across the globe. Today, we’re proud to share with you Part 12–the final post in this series. Enjoy.

TRBlog1VCPpic1

Using Social Media to Navigate the VCP Process®
(Part 12 of the “Navigating The VCP Process® To Networking” Series)

In Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 , Part 4, and Part 5 of this series, we introduced and re-introduced the concept and steps of The VCP Process® to Networking for our readers through brief anecdotes, relevant comparisons, and sometimes even humorous situations. For Parts 6and 7 we even shared with you video trainings from the both of us.

In Part 9, we suggested some behaviors that you can use on a weekly basis to increase the number of referrals you receive. And, as a result, we got a couple phone calls complimenting us about how that particular blog post clearly outlined what type of behaviors a successful networker should be practicing on a weekly and monthly basis – and we were asked to provide more. We fulfilled that request.

In Part 10, we addressed that ‘Mindset’ has as much to do with your success in networking as ‘Skillset’. And in Part 11 we addressed how to deliver effective Introductions & Short Presentations when Navigating The VCP Process® To Networking. And therefore, in this final installment of the series, we found it relevant to address “The Elephant in the Room” – Social Media.

Yes, as experts on Business Networking and Referral Marketing, we’ve been asked time and time again to provide our opinions on how Social Media fits into one’s own Business Networking Plan (…if at all).

So, today, let’s address this “The Elephant in the Room”. Let’s bring out into the open the question that still may be on the minds of many of our readers.

When asked about the topic of Online Networking versus Offline Networking, you may have already heard Ivan share his philosophy that “…it’s not either/or, it’s both/and when addressing this topic”.

Today, let’s dig a little deeper and give you a clearer picture on what’s meant by this, as well as deliver you actionable steps for you to take (as the title of this blog insinuates) to use Social Media to navigate the VCP Process® to networking.

Let’s get started.

An often overlooked tool to navigating the VCP Process® is using Social Media effectively. And, more specifically – Facebook.  Now please allow us to clarify. We didn’t say Facebook is overlooked! Lol.

ENTERTAINMENT vs. EXECUTION

We happen to believe that many people are actually addicted to Facebook and spend way too much time using it for ENTERTAINMENT. Whereas, they could actually be using it for the EXECUTION of a well thought out strategy.

Let’s face it. There are professionals out there who you want passing you referrals that are on many of the same Social Media platforms that you’re on. Yet, do you have a Business Networking Plan that addresses this?

Well, would you like to grasp a really quick concept that will help you address this?

For example, let’s assume an ideal referral partner for you is a CPA. And, you recently met a CPA at a monthly networking event such as a Chamber of Commerce mixer. What typically happens is that “life happens” immediately after that event and 30 days go by before you see that CPA again.

From our perspective, it’s going to take a long time to dig deep and build a quality, meaningful relationship and move through the VCP Process® with this person when you only see this CPA twelve times a year.

Therefore, today, we’re recommending you use Social Media to compliment your in-person, face-to-face networking efforts. Yes, if you take action and plan to make strategic “Touch Points” during the time between those mixers, you’ll actually be able to expedite the VCP Process®.

And, who doesn’t want to shorten the cycle from first meeting someone (i.e. Visibility) to building trust with them (i.e. Credibility) to finally getting an actual referral from them (i.e. Profitability)?

Yes, too many people are spending too much time on Social Media for ENTERTAINMENT purposes versus the successful EXECUTION of specific tactics of an overall strategy that will help them drive revenue to their business.

Today, we’d like to make a pretty good case that Social Media shouldn’t be ignored either. Social Media should be considered an intricate part of successfully following your particular Business Networking Plan.

HERE’S ONE SPECIFIC TACTIC YOU CAN USE IMMEDIATELY

Let’s assume an ideal referral partner for you is a CPA as noted above. By connecting with this person on Facebook immediately after meeting them and strategically LIKING or COMMENTING on some of their posts – you will create additional Visibility so that the next time you see this CPA it will actually FEEL like you’ve known each other longer.

Does this make sense?  We would love for you to leave your thoughts in the comment forum below.

 

Rebel Networking

In this video, I talk to Phil Bedford, a Dubai based networking expert who is also one of the top Referral Institute trainers in the world.

Watch the video to learn how Phil began his online TV show, “The Rebel Networker,” and developed an attention-garnering brand around the Rebel Networking concept.

Not only will you learn about how Phil achieved success through finding a way to stand out and be different, you’ll learn how you can apply the same concept to your business in order to climb to new heights of success, regardless of the type of business or industry you are in.

So, what are your ideas on how you might apply this branding concept to your business?  I’d love to hear your thoughts so please share them in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

Also, to find out more about Phil and to check out “The Rebel Networker” TV show, please visit www.RebelNetworker.tv.

 

How to Get People to Refer Business to You

Over the years, I’ve run into countless people who believe that joining groups and organizations and becoming active by volunteering, taking on responsibilities and working side-by-side with other people on a common goal will cause people to get to know them and refer business to them.  However, this is not how things work.

(Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

(Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Granted, it’s easy to think that if you rub elbows with someone long enough he or she will spontaneously start sending you business opportunities. But that’s really nothing more than an entitlement mentality.

Getting referrals usually takes three things: visibility, credibility and profitability.  Ordinary participation in an organization, even a strong-contact referral group, will get you visibility and perhaps some credibility; it won’t automatically get you profitability.  That takes a much more focused approach, along with some explicit talk about the kinds of referrals you want.

By nature, referral relationships are rewarding and valuable when they are created purposefully and by design. If you are assuming that the idea of giving you referrals is going to pop into someone’s head spontaneously if you hang around long enough, you are definitely misunderstanding what a referral relationship is supposed to be.

Woody Allen once said that “90 percent of success is just showing up,” but he wasn’t talking about referral marketing.  “Just showing up” will get you a seat at the table, but you have to pass the food to others and snag your own steak whenever it comes around.  It’s not “netsit” or “neteat“–it’s network!”  If you want to build your business through referrals, you have to learn how to deliberately work the networks to which you belong.

You see, participating in a group is one thing; performing is another.  To get referrals, you have to perform.  If you don’t perform–talk specifics about your business, your specialties and your ideal referral, and refer business to others in your group–how are they going to know what you do and what you need?  You have to take specific actions to let people know how they can refer business to you.  Being a good citizen is the right thing to do, but it’s not enough to get you the referrals you need to run your business by word-of-mouth marketing–you need to actively feed and water your referral relationships, so to speak, in order to significantly grow your business through referrals.

So, what specific actions can you take this week to let people know how to refer business to you?  I’d love to hear your ideas–please share them in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

The #1 Tip for Hitting the Target with Marketing

Marketing isn’t something I was always confident about.  When I first started out in business, my degrees were in Political Science and Organizational Behavior.  I had very little marketing experience until I went to work for a transportation company in Southern California and, within a two week span, went from a role in purchasing to a significant role in marketing–a huge change that was an even bigger learning experience.

My marketing experience was trial by fire and reading.  I just started reading books on marketing and learned as I went, and it was that experience that gave me enough knowledge to do some marketing on my own when I later set out as a business consultant.

 

Marketing Target

Image courtesy of nokhoog_buchachon / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If somebody had asked me when I was 25 where I saw myself career wise in thirty years, I would have had no clue that my career would be all about marketing . . . that I would be the Chairman of the world’s largest referral marketing organization.  Sometimes we go places in life we never expected to go but I wouldn’t change a thing about the career path I chose.  I am passionate about helping people grow their businesses and achieve great success through effective referral marketing and after spending over two decades devoted to this work; I really enjoy knowing that the work I do allows me to pass on the marketing knowledge and experience I’ve attained in order to benefit to others.

I was recently asked what my top marketing tip would be and I think it’s really all about building the brand–either the brand of the company or of the individual, depending on the kind of business that you’re in.  Name recognition–that’s the biggest challenge, especially for small companies.  It’s not the same for everybody because every business is a little different and people’s skill sets are different.  For me, in my business, brand building has largely been about writing.  Before the internet I was trying to get articles in newspapers and magazines.  Now it’s much, much easier.  In this age of blogs and social media, even small companies have a global reach.  The problem is all the white noise that’s out there: with so many people wanting a piece of the action you have to be able to stand out.  So, for me, the top marketing tip would be to write, write, write.  Become an expert in your field so people want to follow you because when they follow you, they’re more likely to do business with you.

 

I’d love to hear how you’re making your mark with marketing–what is your top marketing tip for the other business owners out there reading this blog?

Free Monthly ‘Networking Cafe’ Webinar–You’re Invited!

In this video, filmed at a recent networking conference in Nashville, TN, I talk to my good friend and partner in the Referral Institute®, Eddie Esposito, about the monthly Networking Cafe webinars we offer to the public.  These FREE monthly webinars offer invaluable information about how to grow business through networking and referral marketing and we often have guests on the webinar who are experts at helping people achieve business success.  Past guests include Jack Canfield, Michael Gerber, and Susan RoAne, among others.

These “Networking Cafe” webinars take place on the last Friday of each month and all you need to do to find out how to participate (we welcome you to ask questions during the webinar) for free is to visit the following link: http://referralinstitute.com/index.php/en-us/networking-cafe.

Thanks so much for watching this video and I really hope to interact with you on one of the upcoming webinars in the near future.  Also, if you have any suggestions for topics which you would love to have addressed on a future webinar, by all means, please leave your topic suggestions in the comment forum below–I’m  more than happy to address all valuable and relevant topics.  Thanks!

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