Giving Your Network a Boost

A question from India came to me via Twitter, and I found it to be such a universal topic that I thought I’d share it with you all.

(And BONUS–it was shot in my new home studio!)

 

What happens when your networking group hits a plateau?

https://youtu.be/OA73fq9Sza8

 

Counting Your Referrals

Referrals are the backbone of word-of-mouth networking, am I right?

So if you reach out 100 people with a referral and ten reach back, did you give 100 or ten referrals?

Many would immediately assume the higher number, because let’s face it–100 is better than 10. But that isn’t the case!

But WHY is this?

I come to you today with a Vlog (video blog) of this exact question, asked of me during the BNI US Conference in April.

Networking with a Purpose

This is the most incredible VCP story I’ve ever heard!  It shows how relationship networking is changing lives across the globe.

(For those of you who aren’t familiar with the principle, VCP stands for Visibility, Credibility and Profitability; successful networking is achieved by first being visible in your business community, which will lead to credibility, which will lead to profitability.)

I was recently contacted by one of BNI’s Executive Directors, Susan Goodsell, to tell me about her daughter’s remarkable journey to Zanzibar, Africa. Kelsey, who is 23 years old, is there with GIVE (Growth International Volunteer Excursions) which recruits college students to work on sustainable development projects around the world. Kelsey has been volunteering with the organization for three years, and this year she has been assigned as Education Coordinator and will help her team on projects like school construction and tutoring in English.

GIVE Zanzibar schoolTo give you an idea of what Kelsey and her team are up against, here’s a little background on the culture of Zanzibar. The country is extremely poor and education is positioned against its citizens–even though the national language is Swahili, exams required to continue through school are given in English. If a student does not pass the exam, they can’t continue attending school unless they retake the exam, which costs $500–the yearly income of most families.

One of Kelsey’s primary jobs is to establish trust with the locals in order to encourage them to use GIVE’s tutoring program (this is Kelsey on the right teaching a class). She was asked to integrate with the women in the village, but she found it very challenging as their cultures are so different.

I think the next part of the story would be best told by Susan herself.

“Kelsey was hugely uncomfortable–to the point where she was messaging me on WhatsApp. “They’re older than I am. They only speak Swahili.” (She speaks very basic Swahili.) “And they don’t want anything to do with me.”

I have often said the skills in BNI are not just business skills, but life skills. I went into part Mom mode, part BNI mode.

“VCP,” I told her. “You have no credibility. You need to start with visibility. Tomorrow, simply walk through the village, smile and say “Jambo” to six women. If they have a baby or a child, smile and wave at the child. That’s it. Six women. Then consider you’ve met your goal.”

Day 1, I received a text message. “Mom, no one smiled. Not one person responded to me. And all I got were death ray stares.”

“Okay Kelsey, I get it. That must’ve been awkward. Now do it again tomorrow.”

On the third day, she messaged to say that two women smiled at her. The day after that, two women said hello back. A couple days later, she said, “Mom! SIX women smiled and talked to me first! I didn’t even do anything!”

It only took about a week.

I know VCP is actually a referral process, but it sure did come in handy when my only baby was 10,000 miles away and thinking she was in way over her head and couldn’t so anything to affect change. This is another example of how BNI success stories aren’t always about a business, or even a BNI, success. We bring our members life skills.”

Isn’t that amazing?

I’ve asked Susan to keep us updated as Kelsey continues to work in Africa and use the skills she and her mother have learned through BNI. Make sure to check back in for the future instalments of her incredible journey.

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?

 

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!

Quantity Is Fine, But Quality Is King

Photo Courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo Courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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.

It Never Hurts to Ask . . . Right?

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!

Are You an Active Networker or a Passive Networker?

I was talking with a business woman recently who is fairly new to networking and I was explaining that networking is a contact sport–that it requires people to get out there and actively and strategically build relationships.  At one point she asked, “Well, what exactly does that involve? . . . What defines ‘active’ networking?”

This is actually a great question because it opens up a discussion about not only  what it means to be an ‘active’ networker but also what it means to be a ‘passive’ networker.

Actively networking with others means you invite those people to one or more of the networking organizations you belong to, carry several of their business cards with you all the time, and above all, refer them whenever you have an opportunity to do so.  Active networking also means having a reciprocal relationship with others.

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We prefer doing business with people who do business with us.  Why give your business to someone who’s not willing to return the favor?  There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of competent, dependable business professionals in your area who provide any given product or service.  They don’t have to buy something from you to reciprocate.  They can join one of your networking groups, carry your business cards, or simply refer you to people looking for your product or service.

Passively networking with others means that you use them as a resource occasionally but for some reason cannot actively network with them.  It may be because they represent a narrow market where you have no way of assisting.  Perhaps they’ve told you they’re not interested in participating in any networking organizations.  Maybe they’re located too far away to refer to them regularly.

Now that you know the difference between active networking and passive networking, strengthen your networking strategy by making it a point to:

1.  Identify members of your information, support, and referral network components.

2.  Spot the voids and weaknesses in your network, and work to improve and fill it with valuable members.

 

Try pinpointing one person this week to actively and strategically build a relationship with.  What can you do to begin to form a connection with them?  I welcome your questions and comments in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

Networking Is Not a Short Term Strategy

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

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

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

How to Meet the RIGHT People

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

Handshake

Image courtesy of jannoon028 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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

Consider these two examples:

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

For Long Term Networking Payoff, Take Small Steps . . .

A few years back, I was speaking to a friend of mine who is a partner in an international consulting and training company. We discovered that we had a mutual acquaintance who is a bestselling author and fairly well-known speaker. In our discussion, we found out that he had contacted each of us individually to see if there were any possibilities for some type of strategic alliance with our companies.

We were both open to that possibility but couldn’t see any immediate and dramatic way our companies could link up with his and do any specific projects at that time. Both of us were also a bit amused to then discover that we were summarily “dropped” from his radar (no response to e-mails or other attempts to connect) after that.

We got the sense that he was looking for the one big alliance that would help his company soar to the next level. That realization started a conversation about the difference in the relationship between the two of us.

 

Ironically, we had had the same type of phone call with each other just 18 months earlier and came to the same conclusion. There was nothing on a grand scale we could do together at that moment. The difference, however, was the rest of the story.

We agreed to stay in touch. And then we did. We connected several times over the year and met in person on several occasions. During that time, we found some simple ways to help each other and gradually enhanced the relationship. This was in sharp contrast to the third party we had talked to individually. When this person didn’t see any big payoff, we became persona non grata to him. On the other hand, the two of us found ways to help each other gradually and, even to this day, continue to build on our relationship.

We came to the conclusion that most people who are successful at networking and creating strong strategic alliances view the process as a series of small actions taken with many people to create a long-term positive growth for your company. The process is more of a marathon than a sprint. Throughout the race, you form alliances and help each other over the long haul.

Have you had a similar experience? If so, how has this played out in your business?  Please share your thoughts in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

Referral Marketing: Know the Risks, Reap the Rewards

In a radio interview I once did, the host of the program asked me whether I consider referral marketing the safest form of advertising. Without the slightest hesitation, I confidently answered, “By all means, no.” Based on his response, I’m sure he was shocked by that answer.

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

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

As I said, the payoffs of referral marketing are immense—when it’s done correctly. But referral marketing involves a really big risk: giving away a piece of your reputation every time you give a referral to someone. When you tell a valued customer that a friend of yours is going to take good care of them, you must have confidence in that friend.

But what happens if your friend lets your customer down? It comes back to haunt you. Your customer begins to lose faith in you and, because of that loss of faith, you just might lose that customer down the road. This is why it’s so important to develop strong relationships with those to whom you’re referring business and vice versa. Once those strong connections are forged you can rest easy, knowing when you tell someone a business associate or a networking partner is going to take good care of him or her, that’s what will happen.

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

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