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?

 

Can You Quantify How You Strengthen Your Network?

connectionsHow are you tracking your business success? You’re probably not, which is fine, but can make it extremely difficult to not only expect, but quantify, growth and success. You’d be surprised the number of businesspeople I talk to from all industries who say they want to grow their business, but when I ask by how much, they simply stare at me. Even worse are the stares I get when I ask what they have actively done to grow your business.

You cannot expect change and growth without actively working to strength your network and business. It simply won’t happen.

Most people can name specific things they do to improve their skill at a hobby they are passionate about, but so rarely is that passion carried over into their own business. Below is a list of quantifiable things you can do to strength your network, improve relationships with referral partners, and ultimately help foster the growth of your business.

How many can you check off? Let me know in the comments!

  • Send a Thank You card – but make sure it is handwritten!
  • Call to check in
  • Arrange a 1-to-1
  • Offer a referral to someone without them having to ask for one
  • Include them in a regular newsletter for your company
  • Send an article of interest to your contact
  • Set up a group activity to bring together your networks
  • Attend a networking event (and bring someone with you!)
  • Display your partner’s brochure or flyer at your business

You should aim to do one to two of these things a week to consistently be developing your relationships with your network. And, of course, there are plenty of things you could do that aren’t on this list. What could you add?

Network with Forward Momentum Using International Networking Week

INW-LogoIf you’re like many businesspeople, you may have made a New Years resolution to expand your contact base. If you’re like the majority of people who make resolutions, you’ve likely already hit a road block. For those with a resolution to expand your network, don’t lose your enthusiasm.

International Networking Week 2016 starts today, and this is a great opportunity to jump start your expanded network. For this ninth annual International Networking Week, we’ve encouraged business professionals to invite the younger generation of businesspeople to their networking events, and to host additional events in honor of this initiative.

No matter how you plan to participate in International Networking Week, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Introduce new people to the group. If you’ve invited a visitor to your event or regular networking meeting, make sure you introduce them to the rest of the group. It’s common courtesy to make sure a guest you invited feels welcome in the group.
  • Bring plenty of business cards. International Networking Week is not the time to be stingy with the business cards! You never know how many people you may meet, and who you will end up building a connection with.
  • Never stop your networking push. International Networking Week is a great annual excuse to meet new business professionals, but when the week ends you should still be sharpening your skills. Networking happens 365 days a year, not just the first week of February.

How are you spending International Networking Week? Let me know in the comments below!

Network Your Way Into a New Job

ID-100244639In so many industries, landing a job is all about who you know – whether you define a job as a new client in your business, or a complete career change. People want to work with someone that they know, or someone that a person they know is familiar with. That being said, you can often network your way into a job. I often speak on using networking to expand your business, so this time we’ll take the route of a change in career.

First and foremost, never go into a conversation with a new or seasoned contact expecting a job offer or possibility to come out of it. When was the last time you offered or agreed to help someone who expected your help unconditionally? Not only that, but it is rare that all of your contacts will readily have opportunities that they know of to refer you to. Going into a networking event expecting a lead for a new opportunity will leave you disappointed.

Your primary goal should be to ask for career advice from trusted contacts who you admire. These people may be able to answer questions you have, give suggestions for how you can get where you want to be, and perhaps introduce you to new connections who maybe able to help you, too. Alternatively, they may shed light on aspects of a career that you had’t taken into account, which may cause you to reconsider your goals.

Have you ever networked your way into a new job? How did you use your network? Let me know in the comments below!

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!

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.

Keith Ferrazzi: Build Trust by Breaking Bread

As most of you who read this blog are avid networkers, it’s highly likely you are already familiar with Keith Ferrazzi.  If you aren’t, however, I can tell you that if the dictionary had a photo to accompany the definition of “master networker,” the photo would be of Keith.  He is absolutely the epitome of a master networker, and he has the most diverse group of contacts of anyone I’ve ever known.

Keith’s first book, Never Eat Alone, is a bestseller and the entire premise of the book is that networking over a meal is an absolutely amazing way to build rapport and trusted relationships with people.  After I read it, I found myself constantly referring to it in conversation and recommending it to people because it really is true–something magical and companionable happens when people break bread together.

I wanted to share this video with you today because, in it, Keith talks about his own key strategies for hosting networking dinner parties, and I think the “dinner party tactic” is one that not a lot of networkers have dabbled with.  I would love to see networkers around the world, both novice and seasoned, experience the amazing, relationship-building power that hosting a purposeful dinner party can have.

Keith believes that the strongest links have been forged at the table.  Because of this, he has mastered the art of throwing a networking dinner party and, in his networking content, he consistently emphasizes the power that throwing a dinner party can have in creating memories and strengthening relationships.  He is quick to mention, however, that if we continue to have dinner parties with the same people, our circle will never grow.  His solution is to identify and invite “anchor tenants” to your party.  These are people who are related to your core group but who know different people, have experienced different things, and thus have much to share.  They tend to be the people who have had a positive influence on your friends’ lives.  It’s akin to inviting the CEO to the manager’s table, as Ferrazzi says.  Soon other executives will want to be there too.

I had the opportunity to experience one of Keith’s networking parties firsthand and the anchor guest that night was the legendary author Gore Vidal.  Providing the entertainment was America’s oldest collegiate a capella group, the Whiffenpoofs of Yale.  Clearly, not all of us will be able to get Gore Vidal and the Whiffenpoofs at our networking party, but I’m guessing that Keith didn’t have them at his first party either.  However, the strategy is sound and I encourage you to try out the concept as a way of building your visibility in the community.  Keith has paid close attention to how a meal can most appropriately be leveraged for a business networking opportunity; the primary focus should always be on developing the relationship–learning about each other, helping one another with problems, and giving ourselves.

I invite you to visit KeithFerrazzi.com to learn more about Keith, and I highly encourage you to check out his content on networking–it’s absolutely fantastic!

Unexpected Referral Sources

Sometimes good referrals come from sources that you least expect.  Many business people I meet want to network exclusively with CEOs and corporate presidents.  They tell me they don’t want to join most business groups, because top executives aren’t members.  If you’re waiting to find a group exclusively for CEOs and top managers, don’t hold your breath.

Even when you find such a group, it probably won’t help.  You see, they don’t want you!  They’re hiding from you.  Top business executives insulate themselves from those they think might try to sell them products or services.  However, if you develop a word-of-mouth-based business, there’s no problem.  Through word of mouth you can increase your volume of business because you know a hundred people, who know a hundred people, who in turn know a hundred people, and so on.  You are potentially linked to a vast network beyond your own, and you never know who may be in this extended network.

The owner of a drapery business told me about one referral he received in this way.  A friend referred an elderly woman to him because the friend thought that he could help her.  The woman, who was in her late seventies, had sought the help of many drapery companies to no avail.  She wanted to install a pull blind on a small window in the back door of her home; she feared that people going by could look in.  The woman explained that normally her son would take care of this but that he was on an extended business trip.  No area drapery company would help her because it would be expensive to come out and install a small blind like that.  The businessman agreed to help her because she was referred to him by a mutual friend and because she was obviously worried about the situation.

About a month later, the businessman was working in his drapery warehouse/showroom when he noticed an expensive stretch limo pull up in front of his commercial building. Curious, he watched as the chauffeur got out and opened the door for a man dressed in an expensive suit.

The man came into the businessman’s showroom and asked for the proprietor.  The businessman introduced himself and asked how he could help the gentleman.  The man asked whether he remembered the elderly woman for whom he had installed the small blind.  The businessman said he remembered her well.  The man said that he was impressed that the businessman did this job, because he knew that there was no money in it.

Photo courtesy of stockimages at freedigitalphotos.net

Photo courtesy of stockimages at freedigitalphotos.net

The woman, he said, was his mother, and she had raved about how nice the businessman was and how he had helped her when no one else would.  She had instructed her son to use the businessman’s service whenever he could.  The son told him that he had a new, 6,000-square-foot home by the ocean.  He asked the businessman to go out and take measurements, because he wanted to install window coverings throughout the entire house.

The businessman told me that it was the most profitable job he had ever received, and it came from a little, old woman who needed a small blind on her back door.  Ironically, the “great referral” you receive is probably not going to come from a CEO, but from someone who knows a CEO.

An architect in Las Vegas told me about a window washer he met in one of his networking groups.  He said he saw the window washer every week for over nine months before the window washer gave him his first referral.  This one referral, however, was worth over $300,000 to the architect!  You never know where a good referral may come from.  It may come from a little, old lady, or a cab driver, or a window washer.  So don’t ignore the possibilities of the contacts that other people have or can make for you.

Do you have or know of a story about a remarkable referral that came from an unexpected source?  Please share it in the comment forum below–I’d love to hear about it! Thanks!

It’s a Small World After All

Why am I titling this week’s blog entry after a Disney song?  Just watch the video and you’ll find the answer . . . suffice it to say that even after 30 years of heading the world’s largest referral marketing company (BNI®), I’m still shocked at the fact that it really is a small world we live in and at how close the degrees of separation can actually be.

In this video, I tell the story of how I accidentally connected with a BNI member in Texas by phone when I was intending to call a completely different phone number–the result was completely unexpected and it just goes to show how small the world can actually be.

After watching the video, I’d love for you to share any stories you may have about interestingly unexpected connections you’ve made–please share your stories in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

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!

 

I Don’t Need Your Card

Imagine handing your card to someone at a networking event and having it handed back to you with “I don’t need it.”  Well, that’s exactly what happened to Juan Vides recently.  Juan found this pretty insulting, and he wrote to me to ask how I thought someone should respond in this situation.

Business Card

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

First, let me talk about giving and getting business cards.

  • A business card is a tacit invitation to make a future connection.  How you handle that connection afterward will determine how responsive your new contact will be.  So be respectful with what you do after someone gives you their card.
  • You should always have plenty of business cards with you.  It still amazes me that people go to networking events and knowingly don’t bring cards with them.  I recently read a blog where many people said they didn’t bring cards so that they wouldn’t get spammed by people they meet.  Really?  Have they never heard of a spam filter?  I use it regularly with unwanted spam.  Besides, that argument is like saying I don’t want to advertise because someone might read the ad and cold call me?  What kind of logic is that?  Buck-up, dandelion, bring cards.  It is a “networking” event!
  • The ideal scenario is to have a meaningful (even if brief) conversation with someone where they ask for your business card (how to do that is an entirely different blog).  However, that doesn’t always happen.  When it doesn’t, it is still ok to offer your business card to someone.  There is nothing wrong with that.

Refusing to take someone’s offered card is just plain bad form and it’s probably too late to send them back to Mom for retraining on how to play with the other kids in the sandbox. 

So what do you do if this happens to you?  Pick the correct choice below:

  1. Squash a cupcake on their nose and say “take that, you dandelion.”
  2. Say “Really, you [bad word, bad word] dirty [bad word], I hope I never see you again at one of these events.
  3. Let’s go outside and finish this (like someone I actually know did at a networking event!)? or
  4. Realize that some people just have little or no people skills and move on to someone who does.

The correct answer is number four however, for the record, I kind of like number one a lot. 

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