Are you educating your network or just selling to them?

Educating your networking group’s members about the type of referrals you want (and even the names of the individuals with whom you want to meet and develop relationships) is much more important to the success of your networking in a closed contact network than selling to the members. This demands a shift in how you see your networking partners and educating them about your business. They are not the clients! They are, in effect, your sales force! In order for any sales force to get out there and sell you effectively, they have to know who to sell you to and how to sell you.

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Relationships Are Currency

How many times have you seen an entrepreneur go to an event, meet people, and never talk to them again? Contacts are valuable, and your relationships are currency. Don’t fall into this networking pitfall. When it comes to your contacts, it is how well you know each other that counts, not how many contacts you have.

What is the best way for you to grow and utilize your relationships? Check out my latest video on my Networking for Success YouTube channel by clicking here, or by looking 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!

Three Basic Ways to Network Your Startup

startupWorking in a startup is completely different than an established company, and comes with its own unique set of challenges. Not only do employees or founders of a startup need to be conscious of these different challenges, there are also keys to business that become even more important when you work with a startup.

Not only do you need to attend networking events, you should host them. When you attend an event, you will stick in the minds of those who were also in attendance. Ideally, you’ll make positive impresses on everyone you connect with. When you host an event, however, not only will people who you connect with at the event remember you, so will everyone you invited but couldn’t make it. While their impression of you won’t be as developed as those who attended, invitees who couldn’t make will remember that they were invited, and it will be easier to hit the ground running with them when you finally do make that connection.

The follow up is vital. A huge part of networking is that follow up, and letting those that you connect with know that their time is appreciated and that you want to continue developing that relationship. When you are working on starting your business, that follow up becomes a tool of its own. Your number one priority needs to be growing your business, gaining notoriety, and establishing new connections in your industry to help support that growth. Letting people know that you’re thinking of them, whether they are new contacts or old, helps to develop those relationships and can keep you moving forward.

You need to lose some ego. As business people, we’re smart. Not only that, but we need to be confident to succeed in business. What that doesn’t give you the right to do is to allow your ego to control your actions. Whatever reason you’re involved in a startup, whether you were looking to break into a different industry, or you’re on the latest of many new businesses, your reputation cannot carry you here. With a new venture, you need to develop a new name for yourself, so you cannot rely on what you have accomplished before. It can help you get part of the way, but you must lose the ego if you want to go far.

Have you ever worked with or owned a startup? What advice would you give to those just starting out? Let us know in the comments below!s 

educating

Are You Educating or Selling to Your Network?

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

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

Educating your networking group’s members about the type of referrals you want, specifically, where applicable, even the names of the individuals with whom you want to meet and develop relationships, is much more important to the success of your networking in a closed contact network than selling to the members. This demands a shift in how you see your networking partners. They are not the clients! They are, in effect, your sales force! In order for any sales force to get out there and sell you effectively, they have to know who to sell you to and how to sell you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

Successful Networkers Build Deep Relationships–Know Your Contacts

If your network is a mile wide and an inch deep, the fact is it will simply never be very powerful.  In this video, I talk about why investing the time and effort into really getting to know your contacts and building deep, trusted relationships with them is key to networking success.

Do you know your contacts’ hobbies? Do you know their family members’ names? If your answer is no, this means you’re not delving beneath the surface with your contacts and you’re not building fruitful relationships–you need to get to know your contacts much better.

Watch this short video now to learn how to build deeper, mutually beneficial relationships by using the GAINS Exchange, get relationship-building success strategies used by international sales expert & keynote speaker Harvey Mackay, and more.

Do you have a method or a tactic for getting to know your contacts better which has really seemed to work for you?  If so, please share it in the comment forum below.  I’m always interested in the tactics that networkers around the world have successfully used to achieve networking success and I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Training Referral Sources to Generate Referrals for You

If you interact with your clients, customers, referral sources, and contacts with a referral mind-set, show them that you are a giver, help others, and continually and strategically give referrals, you’re modeling the behavior you want others to exhibit toward you.  By itself, however, that’s not enough to train them to give you referrals.

Contacts who are not involved in your strong-contact network may not be aware of what is involved  in the kind of true referral networking that you are conducting.  Often you will have to coach them as you go, letting them know exactly what you are doing, why you are doing it, and what they may expect from your efforts.

Let’s say you’ve heard about a colleague whose stolen credit cards have been used to run up some big charges: “Stephanie, I’ve been talking with a colleague about your identity-theft problem and have arranged for him to send you a number of internet links that will help you quickly straighten out your credit problems.  I also know a lawyer who specializes in this field.  Would you like for me to contact him for you?  I hope you’ll keep me updated on your progress, and let me know if there’s any other way I can help.”

Similarly, if you’re passing a referral to an untrained but potentially valuable referral partner, let him know exactly what you’re doing and suggest ways he can reciprocate: “Jim, I know a specialist who provides the exact services you say you need.  I’ve known him for fifteen years and have used him many times.  He’s good, and he’s trustworthy.  May I ask him to call you?  And by the way, if you know a general contractor who constructs steel-frame buildings in the Valley and can use the new kind of fasteners I sell, would you please consider giving me a referral?”

By talking openly about what you’re doing, you’re not only modeling the behavior you want from your potential referral partner, you’re getting him to think about it, which is an essential part of learning.  You’re also asking him to practice it in a way that will help him repeat the behavior later.  It’s not a guarantee that he will reciprocate, but it makes it more likely that he will get the idea and respond in kind–at first, out of simple gratitude; later, out of the realization that a continuing referral relationship is good business for both of you.

One of the best ways to train a referral source is to go to a professional referral-training seminar and take your source with you.  This way, you will both be trained by an expert and will be speaking the same language–the language of referrals.

If you have an additional tactic for training referral sources to generate referrals for you, I’d love to hear it.  Please share it in the comment forum below. Thanks!

The 5 Levels of Relationships to Understand for Networking Success

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to speak with my good friend Andy Hart, a networking expert from Ireland, at the BNI International Conference in Long Beach, CA.  Andy is a true master of networking and in this short video, he explains the Levels of a Relationship and how having a huge network of contacts doesn’t necessarily mean you have a huge pool of contacts from which you’ll actually gain business.

Andy discusses five main relationship levels in regard to business networking and the possibility of generating referrals from those in your network of contacts; more importantly,  he outlines a simple exercise which will enable you to pinpoint which relationship level you are  currently maintaining with each of your contacts.

After carrying out the exercise Andy suggests, please come back and share your findings–were they what you expected, or were  you surprised by what you discovered?

Are You Using Networking Tools Effectively?

The Second Law of Notable Networking: Learn How to Use Networking Tools Effectively
(Click Here to read about the First Law of Notable Networking)

A Notable Networker must have and use the right tools to network skillfully.  All professionals need the tools of their trade to conduct business.  A painter needs a brush, a teacher needs a blackboard, and an administrative professional needs a computer.  To achieve success, networkers need their own tools as well.   Good networkers’ tools include:

  • name tags to identify themselves to others,
  • card holders to carry their business cards, and most important,
  • card files to carry other people’s business cards.

It has been said that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce coined the term “networking.”  Over the years, I’ve gone to many Chamber of Commerce business mixers.  Unfortunately, too many of them seem to practice a passive form of the technique.  However, depending on the chamber, some mixers can be an outstanding way to meet many new people.  At Chamber of Commerce mixers, people from a variety of businesses get together with the idea of meeting one another.

At these meetings, I often encounter people who don’t wear a name tag.  Of those who do, many neglect to put their company name or profession on the badge.  I can’t imagine anyone going to a business meeting and not telling everyone what business he or she is in!  You’ve got to let people know who you are and what business you’re in if you want to reap the full rewards of networking.

I also run into people who don’t have any business cards with them.  Business cards are one of the most inexpensive forms of advertising available and a crucial tool for networking.  They should be well designed and present a professional image.  Most important, you need to have them in your possession!  A large stack of cards sitting in the desk drawer at your office doesn’t help much at a business mixer.  Always carry a small card case full of business cards with you and keep a large box of business cards in the glove compartment or trunk of your car for restocking your card case on the spot.  Use the backs of any cards you get from others to make notes that will jog your memory about each individual or about the conversation you had.

In addition, you should go a step further and carry a vinyl or leather card-carrying case or book for the cards of the people you network with.  These are people in your own personal network of contacts, people who presumably are storing your cards and referring you as well.  Always keep three or four of their cards so you can hand one to anyone interested in their services.

One way to enhance your networking efforts is to use computer software.  When you get back to your office, you can enter the new names and information you’ve acquired into a contact management program to help you organize your information and enable you to easily handle follow-up activities.  In addition to these, several general database programs, such as Relate2Profit, provide contact management capabilities.  You can log in new information and contacts, get reports of your progress, and reminders.  If you’re not already using a program such as this, rest assured that the learning time is a couple of hours or less.

Do you have a favorite networking tool or a particular software program that you’ve found to be especially useful in enhancing your networking efforts?  If so, please write about it in the comment forum below–I’m always interested in hearing about new tools for increasing networking effectiveness. Thanks!

 

Generate More Business by Offering Value-added Advice

It’s no secret that we all want to do business with people whom we know and trust.  So, how do you build rapport and create trust with new contacts at networking events?  By offering value-added advice–solid, helpful information provided out of a genuine concern for another person.

Let’s say you’re a real estate agent talking with someone at a networking event who, although not ready to buy a home today, is heading in that direction.  You could say something like this:

Well, I know you’re not interested in buying a home right now.  But, when you’re ready to start looking, I highly recommend checking out the north part of town.  A lot of my clients are seeing their homes appreciate in the 10 to 20 percent range, and from what I understand, the city is thinking about building another middle school in that area.

See how it’s possible to offer some value-added advice without being too salesy?  A statement like this acknowledges that your prospect is not currently in the market (first sentence) but still demonstrates your expertise, so he will remember you when he’s ready to move.

This model works for consultants, CPAs, accountants, financial planners, coaches–just about anyone in a service-based industry in which knowledge is the main product. If you’re concerned about giving away your intellectual capital for free, look at it this way: few people are going to sign up to do business with you if they’re not sure you can do the job.  In the absence of a tangible product, you have nothing but your technical expertise to demonstrate that you have the goods.  And when you think about it, that makes sense.  Whenever you’re ready to buy an automobile, it doesn’t matter how much research you’ve done on a particular model, you’re probably not going to write your check until you’ve taken the car for a test drive.

The same is true for your prospects.  Give them a little test drive to show how it would feel to do business with you. If you’re a marketing consultant, give them a couple of ideas on how they can increase the exposure of their business.  Don’t go overboard; maybe offer a technique you read in a magazine or tried with one of your clients.  Just give them something they can try on to see if it works.

Not only will this open up a good conversation with new contacts while you’re out networking, if you play your cards right, whom do you think they’ll go to when they’re in need of your kind of service? 🙂  When it comes to building rapport and creating trust, nothing does it better than offering value-added advice.

Making Connections to Start Your Own Business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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