Welcome to BusinessNetworking.com


It’s International Networking Week and my networking blog has a new face to celebrate!

We have moved from NetworkingEntrepreneur.com to BusinessNetworking.com.  I appreciate everyone who has followed my posts and I want to assure you that they will continue.

Please note that there is a new RSS Feed and if you have this blog fed to your website, you will need to change that feed in order for it to continue.

Also – please tell your friends about our new site and let me know what you think of our new look.

All the best.

Ivan Misner

The End is Near!

No, not the end of the world, silly . . . I’m talking about the end of the recession. Recently, I wrote about “Business Looking up in 2011” which was based on a survey of over 5,000 businesspeople and entrepreneurs at www.BNIBusinessIndex.com.  The survey was a global survey that was taken by people from every populated continent in the world.

The survey found that almost 68% of the respondents say that business is growing or growing dramatically compared to this time a year ago.  What the survey doesn’t explain is why those businesses are growing.

I have a few thoughts, based on my observations recently, which may shed some light on this and also provide insight into how you can grow your business:

  • Innovation in adversity is a key factor. I know a commercial real estate broker in Southern California who said that he had his best year ever in 2010 (and he’s been in business for 26 years).  He cited the fact that he did dozens and dozens of one-to-ones during the year to find ways to work together with other businesses.  His opening approach was to help them.  However, at the same time, it built his business in the process.  This is counter-intuitive to most commercial real estate people he told me.
  • It all starts with attitude.  A product sales company in the UK was about to do layoffs to meet payroll.  One of the sales reps wrote on the whiteboard – “we refuse to participate in the recession.”   Everyone in the office signed it.  They ended up with their best month all year and no one was laid off!
  • Look for new or emerging opportunities.  I met a residential Real Estate agent on the East Coast of the U.S. who told me he had his best year ever last year.  He said he went to investors he’s worked with in the past and told them that “real estate is on sale!”  He said to them, “don’t be one of those people who come to me in a few years and say… “I was crazy not to look at these opportunities.  I should have bought back in 2010!”  He told me this strategy has helped him sell more than any year in recent memory.
  • Be creative with your offers.  I recently met a business coach in the mid-west of the U.S. who created a guarantee for his coaching.  He said, if you follow my weekly coaching program and you don’t raise your income to at least six figures, I’ll continue to coach you for free until you do.  He said it has dramatically increased his sales and has not had to provide any clients with free coaching yet.

If you have any insights / observations about the current upward slope of business or outside-the-box tips on how to boost business despite a challenging economy, please leave a comment and share your thoughts.

My Marriott Experience

UPDATE:  Before you read this blog (which was posted on Saturday the 8th), I’d like to give an update.  I was contacted by John, the Director of Customer Advocacy at the Marriott Hotels.  He contacted me when he heard of my complaint.  He handled the situation with concern and professionalism.  He also made the matter right in the best way I think he could.  All companies make mistakes, attempting to make it right says a lot about a company.  Thanks John for your follow up.

Just yesterday I wrote about the great experience I had at the Apple Store in Southern California and now one day later I have a great example of how NOT to treat a customer.  I’ve been staying at the Marriott Desert Springs Vacation Villas in Palm Desert for the last several days.  I brought more than a dozen members of my executive management team here for a 3 day strategic planning meeting during which time we had all our meals on site, some golfed on site and some used the hotel’s spa facilities.

Checkout for the facility is at 10am (10am—how many hotel/villas have a 10am checkout!?).  OK, it doesn’t matter—I called more than an hour before checkout time and asked for an 11am checkout.  The Marriott recption desk attendant said, “Sure, if you want to pay an additional $50!”  Really? $50 more to check out at 11am?!!!  I told Melissa at the front desk that I brought more than a dozen people here for the last three days and charging me $50 to check out at 11am didn’t really seem appropriate.  She said they charge everyone—period.

Now here is where it gets really interesting.  I told her, “I brought 12 people for three nights and put them up in three – 2 bedroom villas and you won’t give me an hour later checkout?  If that is the case, I’ll never come back here again.  If you’re OK with that, I’m OK with that.”  And her answer was… wait for it… wait for it…. “Yes,” she actually said: “I’m OK with that.” 

So let’s go back to the “experience.”  This employee could have acted like she cared and maybe even asked her manager (which I requested).  But no, her answer was a “No,” end of discussion.

It wasn’t the $50 that was the big issue for me.  After spending thousands to bring my team there – $50 was not a big deal.  What really frustrated me was the fact that she didn’t seem to care if we ever came back or not.  It was not important to her.   The quality of customer service is so different from company to company and even locations within a company.  My experience here—was bad.  And Melissa should be happy to know that she has motivated me to not come back again.  Well done, Melissa.

Oh, if only Apple ran a hotel.  That would be an amazing place to stay.

Being Right But Doing It All Wrong!

The business I’m in involves a lot of coaching and guiding of franchisees to teach them how to coach and guide entrepreneurs, salespeople, and professionals to generate referrals for themselves and others.  Sometimes this feels a little like ‘herding cats’; entrepreneurs hate being told what to do and it takes a real skill set to move them in a direction that involves a lot of hard work but will help them achieve the results they want.

One of the biggest challenges I have in this process is not with the actual entrepreneur or salesperson but with the individual I’m coaching to be able to guide the entrepreneur or salesperson. These people have gone through many hours of training, tend to have a fair amount of field experience, and have support manuals that exceed a thousand pages of documentation to assist in the process.   They are true expertsI’ve discovered, however, that sometimes expertise can actually be a problem. Just because your expertise may arm you with the knowledge to recognize the solution to a problem or challenge, it doesn’t mean other people are going to automatically ‘believe’ you know the solution and/or want you to actually tell them the solution.  I know that sounds counter intuitive; however, if you’ve ever raised a child, you know that this is often times absolutely true!

So, let’s say you’re an expert.  You know you’re an expert.  You know that you can help someone else.  You also know that this “someone else” is a grownup who runs their own business or is an independent sales rep who chose their particular career for good reason . . . they like the freedom of being independent.  How do you move these people in the right direction?

I had a person who worked for my company who once went into one of my locations and was appalled by how badly things were being run by the members of the group.  She let them know in no uncertain terms what they were doing wrong and how they needed to turn it around. Her assessment of the situation and the solutions she proposed were spot on but her presentation of them was all wrong. She was so blunt with the group’s members that she received a very negative reaction from them and ended up leaving the place an even bigger mess than it was when she first walked in.  When I met with her to talk about how she might have done things differently, she grew furious with me for not supporting her since she was right and the members of the group were wrong.  I wasn’t arguing that she was right–she was.  The problem I had was how she handled the situation–in that area, she was completely wrong. I tried to explain this to her by sharing one of my favorite sayings relating to the dilemma:  “Don’t burn down the barn to roast the pig.” In other words, don’t make things worse than you found them when you were trying to fix them in the first place.

She could never really wrap her head around the concept that people may not welcome her advice with enthusiasm and agree with her stance on an issue when she was clearly right.  She didn’t work for me for much longer (make of that what you will) and, eventually, we got an expert to work with that group who ‘listened’ to their issues,  Built relationships with the group members, and then coached them into achieving the greatness they had within them.  It’s important to note that this process took time and patience.

There are two things I try to teach people in this situation.

First, people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” If you want people to listen to you when you are coaching them or re-directing them, they have to know that you care about them and want them to succeed.  If they don’t know this down to their core – they will not listen to your advice.  Ever.

Second, is a saying given to me by mother on a paper weight when I was about 16 years old and I was running an uphill battle for a student council race.  My mother gave me this paper weight (which is still on my desk in my home to this date).  The paper weight says: Diplomacy is the art of letting someone else have your way.” When she gave me that, she explained that I had to learn how to work “with” people – not “through” people.  She said that even if I did know the answer to a problem – it did no good if no one else believed me.  That advice helped me win the election and it has helped me many times throughout my life.  I have to admit that I don’t always use it as well as I can – however, when I do use it, things almost always go more smoothly.

The bottom line is this: being right doesn’t help much if no one is willing to follow you.

What are your thoughts on this issue?  Maybe you can share a story . . . but, remember to keep it positive.  Let’s focus on positive outcomes more than just horror stories.

Personality in a Deck of Cards

Everyone wants to learn about their personality style.  This is especially true with people who understand the value of networking.  But most people don’t like taking boring written quizzes and assessment.PPoker-book70

Enter “Personality Poker” – what I think is a fun and interactive way to learn about your personality.

Personality Poker is played with a specially designed deck of cards. They look like regular poker cards except they also have words printed across the faces. The words are personality descriptors like organized, analytical, empathetic and creative.

For those who know poker, Personality Poker is played like 5 card draw. Participants receive 5 random cards and swap/trade cards until they get a hand with words that best describe their personality. Based on the suits, the colors, and numbers that they end up with, the player will learn everything about their personality.

The suits represent the four main styles:

Spades. These are the analytical, data-oriented people.

Diamonds. These are the stereotypical “creative” individuals. They like ideas and experiences.

Clubs. These are the people who “plan the work and work the plan.” They’re more about structure and action. Bottom-line results are critical.

Hearts. These people are all about relationships. They make decisions based on what others think and are more empathetic and supportive.

The numbers represent the “energy styles” and provide deeper insights into the personalities.

The 2, 3 and 4 cards represent the unproductive behaviors associated with each style. For example, being “organized” is great, but being “anal retentive” may be less desirable.

The 5 – 9 cards represent the “introverted” styles. Although these individuals may prefer more solitary work, taken more broadly, introversion also includes a tendency to be more easily overwhelmed by stimuli that are deemed too intense. They prefer predictability and a low likelihood of risk.

The 10 – A cards represent the “extroverted” styles. They thrive on higher energy activities. Although they may not be as good at focusing on single tasks, they get energy from action rather than reflection and are known for their ability to motivate others to get things done.

The last dimension of Personality Poker is reflected by the colors that symbolize the two primary “thinking styles.”

Rational/Analytical. The black cards (spades/clubs) are more rational and are the ones who put the “no” in innovation. Knowledge and expertise are a cornerstone of their thinking style.

Relational/Creative. The red cards (diamonds/hearts) are more relational and are the ones who put the “fun” in dysfunctional. While employees enjoy their leadership style, the business could end up in the “red” if someone with red cards is in charge as they are not as organized or focused on the bottom line.

What is particularly fun is to “gift” cards to others. That is, find cards that describe people you work with and give them those cards. It is an interesting insight to see if you see yourself differently than others see you.

Although Personality Poker was primarily developed as a tool for driving innovation in corporations, people enjoy finding out about themselves in a fun and interactive way. You may never look at yourself–or your co-workers–the same way!

Click here to find out more about the book.

For those of you who read the book and play the game, please come back and leave a comment letting me know what you think about it!

The Handy Guide to Networking

I have just released my first e-book.  It is called The BNI Handy Guide to Networking and is available to the public for FREE.   The book includes topics such as: 6 Types of Networks Every Networker Must Know About, The Top 10 Traits of a Master Networker,  The 5 Most Common Networking Mistakes to Avoid, The Layman’s Guide to Networking Online,  Using Technology to Network Better , as well as other topics.

You may download the book for free by going to this link: The Handy Guide to Networking .

Download the book and comment here about what you found most valuable from the book to use in your business.

Don’t Give Up Five Minutes Before The Payoff

I received this story from one of my readers. I think it is a GREAT example of how networking is more about farming than it is about hunting. Don’t give up too soon. It  is all about relationship building, and that takes time!

In any endeavor, there is an objective in mind . . . a goal line to cross. When I first joined my networking group, it was to get enough referrals and closed business that I could make more money than the cost of membership. Being an investment advisor, I was made aware that the time horizon for a quality referral was the longest of any profession represented around the tables.

The first time I joined a networking group was in November, 2007, and even though that group eventually dissolved, I was fortunate enough to find a seat in another flourishing group in November of 2009. During the declining period of my first networking group — through its loss of charter, core group restart process and eventual dissolution — I was beginning to despair. I was approaching the two-year mark with no referrals, and my group was washing out from under my feet. My friends and colleagues started asking me, “What are you getting out of it?” Driving to one of the final meetings before my group disbanded, I was contemplating giving it all up. Then I remembered an affirmation from years ago: Don’t give up five minutes before the miracle happens.

Anything one believes must withstand self-scrutiny, so I really took a hard look at why I kept attending. The answer was simple: I believed it would eventually provide the results I expected. Additionally, there are other intangible benefits that are hard to quantify. My networking group provides a business education that is not taught in schools, and the larger bonus . . . it’s also the practice lab. I believe in systems. If you focus on the right systems, the results will follow. You (Ivan Misner) say networking is about “farming,” not “hunting,” which requires the nurturing of relationships in order for them to yield anything fruitful, much the way a farmer must attend his crops or orchards.

So the payoff? After two years and three months, I received my first referral from one of the relationships I built from my first group. The size of the account was four times what I expected, and since I work on a fee-based schedule instead of commissions, the income stream from this exceeds my yearly dues and renewal fees. One referral has and will pay for my membership in perpetuity.

Don’t give up five minutes before the miracle happens!

Bob Burg’s 10 Networking Questions That Work Every Time

My good friend, networking expert Bob Burg, has 10 questions he personally uses when networking that he believes every networker should memorize.

Bob explains that these questions are not designed to be probing or sales-oriented in any way; they are all friendly, fun to answer, and will tell you something about the way the person answering them thinks.  You’ll never need or have the time to ask all 10 questions during any one conversation but, still, you should internalize them.  Know them well enough that you are able to ask the ones you deem appropriate for the particular conversation and time frame.

Here are the 10 questions:

1.  How did you get started in the (______) business?

2.  What do you enjoy most about your profession?

3.  What separates you and your company from the competition?

4.  What advice would you give someone just starting out in the (______) business?

5.  What one thing would you do with your business if you knew you could not fail?

6.  What significant changes have you seen take place in your profession through the years?

7.  What do you see as the coming trends in the (______) business?

8.  Describe the strangest or funniest incident you’ve experienced in your business?

9.  What ways have you found to be the most effective for promoting your business?

10.  What one sentence would you like people to use in describing the way you do business?

Like Bob says, you’re not going to get to ask more than a few of these questions during an initial conversation,  so don’t worry about sounding like you’re conducting an interrogation. These are feel-good questions people enjoy answering, and they are meant to establish an initial rapport.  So next time you’re at a networking event, try using a few of these questions and then come back and leave a comment about how using them worked out for you; I’m more than willing to bet you’ll be pleased with the results.

Think You Don’t Need a Network?–Think Again . . .

As a small-business professional or entrepreneur, how do you:

  • Get advice and help when problems arise
  • Gather the information you need for making important business decisions
  • Identify your markets and locate potential clients?

Unfortunately, most people get help in times of need from individuals or businesses they don’t know well. Instead of anticipating and planning for needs and emergencies, they are forced to react to every situation. They search the internet or ask friends and associates to help solve problems or recommend solutions, even though these people may not have the necessary expertise, and the sources they recommend may have little relevance to or experience with the business operation that is in need.

As a small-business owner, you don’t have the built-in resources to employ a management team to plan ahead, proactively problem solve, obtain and maintain ready access to vital resources–information, personnel, funding–and make informed decisions quickly in an emergency.  What you need is the functional equivalent of a management team and that is exactly what a network is for!

Your network is a systematically and strategically selected group of people on whom you can call as the need arises. It is a diverse, balanced and powerful system of sources–people from all facets of the business world–that will provide referrals, information and support in key areas of your business or profession, over both the short and the long term.

So, if you know someone who doesn’t want to put in the time and effort to establish a network because he thinks his business is just fine without one, do him a huge favor and explain why he needs to think again.

‘Mastering the World of Selling’

When one of your business relationships passes you a referral, don’t assume that the prospect is ready to hear a presentation on your product or service. When an associate passes you a referral, say thanks . . . then start digging for more information.

You will want to determine whether what you offer is a fit for what the prospect needs.  Taking the time to do this upfront saves a lot of time and energy–for both you and the prospect. Exactly what does the prospect do? What products or services does he want from you? Will your offerings truly fulfill his needs? What is his behavioral style? What are his business goals? How large is his company?

Even with the referral in hand, don’t skip steps in your sales process. Before you approach the prospect, decide on a strategy based on whatever you can find out about him–the same as you would when preparing for any sale. Although the prospect was referred to you, all you’ve really received is an opportunity to approach the prospect with a favorable introduction. (This is not a bad thing–a single referral can open the door to a prospect it may have taken weeks, months or even years to connect with–if you even could at all.)  But whether the prospect becomes a client or not depends on how well you convince him that what you offer, at the price and under the conditions you offer it, will fulfill his needs.

It’s always a good idea to consistently hone your sales skills and strategies. If you need a good sales resource, look no further than Mastering the World of Selling.  It’s a brand-new book by Eric Taylor and David Riklan, and it contains one of the greatest collections of sales training wisdom for the 21st century that I’ve ever come across. It features sales strategies and advice from 89 of the world’s top experts including Brian Tracy, Zig Ziglar, Tom Hopkins, Jeffrey Gitomer, yours truly and more. 🙂  To find out more about Mastering the world of Selling, click here.

Do you have any dynamite sales wisdom that you’ve picked up over the years?  If so, I invite you to share it here by leaving a comment–there’s no such thing as too much useful information.  Thanks!

Need Advice? Your Network Can Help!

Have you ever purposely sought advice from your network members?  If not, you should definitely take advantage of this opportunity because we all need advice at one time or another and seeking advice from your network is a win-win situation.

You see, people like for others to listen to their opinions and advice.  By inviting your network members to talk, you can get better acquainted with their knowledge, decision-making ability, and attitudes.  Receiving someone’s advice also gives you a perfect reason to contact her again, thank her, and let her know what you plan to do.  This is a great way to keep your resources informed and, of course, to get their opinions about what you are doing.

When preparing to ask your network for advice, here are some important tips:

  • Ask your network member for advice or opinions on something she enjoys talking about and to which you expect her to have an answer.
  • Listen carefully and respond appropriately.
  • Direct your questions toward what your network member says in conversation.
  • Have a logical reason for wanting the information.
  • Avoid potentially controversial and sensitive issues.
  • Don’t ask your network member to give you advice that she would otherwise charge you for.
  • People are more likely to remember their own words than others so if you want someone to remember your conversation, let her do most of the talking.

The Speed of Trust

I’m in Cancun this week, participating in the Transformational Leadership Council (a network of transformational trainers and profesionals started by Jack Canfield in 2004).

I had an opportunity again to hear my friend Stephen M. R. Covey speak about his book, The Speed of Trust, and it reminded me just how much I love this book and why it is so important to networking.

During his presentation, he told how Warren Buffet bought a company from Wal-Mart in one single meeting of two hours. Both parties shook hands and, 29 days later, Wal-Mart had its money. In Buffet’s annual report he said; “We did no due diligence. We knew that Wal-Mart would do what they said, and they did.”

In this day and age of long contracts and huge legal bills, this sale was done quickly because there was high trust on both sides. The result was a deal done in less than a month, saving millions of dollars.

Trust is the most compelling form of motivation. Covey spoke about “Three Key Ideas” to move at the speed of trust:

  1. There is a compelling business rationale for trust. It affects cost. There are economic benefits. High trust is a divedend and low trust is a tax. When trust goes down, speed goes down with it. When trust goes up, speed goes up and costs go down. This is a dividend, a high-trust dividend. Trust is a qualitative and quantitative factor. Nothing is as fast as the speed of trust.
  2. In today’s new global economy, the ability to establish trust is key to every organization. We are interdependent. In a cluttered world, trust helps you cut through the clutter. It is a performance multiplier. When people trust you, everything else you do is enhanced.
  3. Trust is a competency. It is something we create and can get good at. It all starts with self-trust and personal credibility. Are we behaving in a way that builds trust and transparency? Are we keeping commitments and talking straight?

One of the best ways to obtain trust is to extend trust. When trust is reciprocated, it moves faster.

Covey ended his presentation by asking, “Are there people that you work with that you could extend trust to who you can make a profound difference for?” Now the key is to follow your conscience. Develop relationships and extend trust.

I love Covey’s book and I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to build and improve his or her personal network.

Shown in photo – Stephen M.R. Covey, Ivan Misner and Greg Link (Covey’s business partner at Covey-Link).

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