Moving from Visibility to Credibility

In last Thursday’s blog, I explained that visibility, the first phase of the VCP Process®, brings the opportunity to build credibility and that credibility is what will ultimately get you to profitability, where you’ll actually benefit from your networking and relationship building efforts.

So how do you move from visibility to credibility?  Well, once you and another individual achieve visibility with each other, meaning you’re aware of each other and the nature of each other’s business, you begin to form expectations of one another; once those expectations are fulfilled, your relationship can enter the credibility stage.  If each person is confident of gaining satisfaction from the relationship, then it will continue to strengthen.

Credibility is the quality of being reliable, worthy of confidence.  Credibility grows when appointments are kept, promises are acted upon, facts are verified, and services are rendered.  The old saying that results speak louder than words is true.  Failure to live up to expectations–to keep both explicit and implicit promises–can kill a budding relationship before it breaks the surface of the ground and can create visibility of a kind you don’t want.

To determine how credible you are, people often turn to third parties.  They ask someone they know who has known you longer or perhaps has done business with you.  So, how credible are you?  Would the people in your network vouch for you by saying that you are reliable and honest, your products and services are effective, you keep your appointments, act on your promises, deliver results as expected, and can be counted on in a crunch?  If you’re not sure, now is the time to make a strategic effort to build your credibility; without credibility, you can forget about achieving profitability.

If you’re interested in learning more about profitability (If you’re in business, it’s safe to assume you’re very interested. ;-)), the third phase of the VCP Process®, and when you should expect to achieve it with your contacts, be sure to come back and read this Thursday’s blog.

The First Phase of the VCP Process–Visibility

Last week I wrote a blog explaining the VCP Process, which is a huge part of the foundation of networking. Because this process is so crucial to effective networking, I promised to write a blog entry for each of the three phases (visibility, credibility and profitability), and today I’m going to talk about why it all starts with visibility.

The first phase of growing a relationship is visibility: You and another individual become aware of each other.  In business terms, a potential source of referrals or a potential customer becomes aware of the nature of your business–perhaps because of your public relations and advertising efforts, because of your social media presence or perhaps through someone you both know. This person may observe you in the act of conducting business or relating with the people around you. The two of you begin to communicate and establish links–perhaps a question or two over the phone or via e-mail messages about product availability. You may become personally acquainted and work on a first-name basis, but you know little about each other. A combination of many such relationships forms a casual-contact network, a sort of de facto association based on one or more shared interests.

The visibility phase is important because it creates recognition and awareness.  The greater your visibility, the more widely known you will be, the more information you will obtain about others, the more opportunities you will be exposed to, and the greater will be your chances of being accepted by other individuals or groups as someone to whom they can or should refer business.  Visibility must be actively maintained and developed; without it, you cannot move on to the next level, credibility.

I’ll talk more about credibility next week, but it’s important to understand that visibility brings the opportunity to build credibility, and credibility is what will get you to profitability, where you’ll actually benefit from your efforts. So many times people try to jump straight from visibility to profitability, and that’s not real networking; it’s just an obvious ploy to get something from your new contacts. That’s nothing more than a bad attempt at direct selling and a big waste of time.

So, how do you go about creating more visibility for your business? What are some strategies that have really worked out well for you?  I’d love to hear your comments.

What is the VCP Process?

The key concept in referral marketing is relationships. The system of information, support and referrals that you assemble will be based on your relationships with other individuals and businesses. Referral marketing works because these relationships work both ways: They benefit both parties.

A referral marketing plan involves relationships of many different kinds. Among the most important are those with your referral sources, with prospects these referral sources bring you and with customers you recruit from the prospects. These relationships don’t just spring up full-grown; they must be nurtured. As they grow, fed by mutual trust and shared benefits, they evolve through three phases: visibility, credibility and profitability. We call this evolution the VCP Process(R)

Any successful relationship, whether a personal or a business relationship, is unique to every pair of individuals, and it evolves over time. It starts out tentative, fragile, full of unfulfilled possibilities and expectations. It grows stronger with experience and familiarity. It matures into trust and commitment. The VCP Process describes the process of creation, growth and strengthening of business, professional and personal relationships; it is useful for assessing the status of a relationship and where it fits in the process of getting referrals. It can be used to nurture the growth of an effective and rewarding relationship with a prospective friend, client, co-worker, vendor, colleague or family member. When fully realized, such a relationship is mutually rewarding and, thus, self-perpetuating.

This simple concept has made a bigger difference in more people’s networking efforts than any other single idea I’ve discussed. For this reason, I’m going to devote the next few blogs I write to explaining each step of the VCP Process individually. Come back on Monday to learn why it all starts with visibility . . . I guarantee you you’ll want to read this one!

Strengthening Relationships with Referral Sources

To be an effective networker, you should always be working on strengthening your relationships with your referral sources.  So, what’s the best way to do this?  It really depends on the referral source and what he or she responds to.

There are a number of actions you can take to build good will and credibility in your relationships, and the list below contains an array of examples.  Of course, this is not an exhaustive list, so you should feel free to add your own actions to it.

  • Send a thank-you card.
  • Send a gift.
  • Call a referral source.
  • Arrange a one-on-one meeting.
  • Extend an invitation.
  • Set up an activity.
  • Offer a referral.
  • Send an article of interest.
  • Arrange a group activity for clients.
  • Nominate a referral source.
  • Display a source’s brochure.
  • Include a source in your newsletter.
  • Arrange a speaking engagement.
  • Invite a source to join your advisory board.

This is an important topic so, in the coming weeks, I’ll be posting a handful of blogs explaining in more detail how to do each of these things effectively. Be sure to come back to find out more about this. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your comments about what actions have been fruitful for you when working on strengthening relationships with your network partners.

If You’re Not Inviting, You’re Missing Out

Inviting prospective referral sources to an event you’re attending, hosting or participating in as a featured guest, exhibitor, panel speaker or award recipient is a great way to enhance your contact with them and build credibility.

If you’re not inviting your prospective referral sources to events, you’re missing out on a great opportunity to keep them informed of activities you’re involved in. When the event is one where you have a chance to share your expertise or where you are being recognized for an achievement, using this tactic contributes to building your credibility and image as a successful and knowledgeable professional.  This tactic also helps acquaint your targets with others in your network and transforms strictly business relationships into friendships.

If you haven’t been inviting prospective sources to events and you’re not sure whom to invite or how to invite them, here are some tips to get you started:

  • Make a list of the events you’ll be attending and a list of network members you might invite.
  • With plenty of lead time, call or write each prospective source to invite him or her to the event; explain the reason for the invitation.
  • Pay your network member’s admission fee, if there is one.
  • Make sure the event offers benefits to your prospective sources, such as an opportunity to meet someone they admire, to be entertained or to be recognized.
  • Whenever possible, allow your guests to invite guests of their own.
  • It’s OK to invite people you do not expect to attend.  Remember, one of your aims is to keep your sources informed of what you are doing.

So, what events are you attending in the coming weeks?  Make use of the tips above and make it your goal to invite someone to each event you attend from here on out. Chances are you’ll not only reap some great benefits, you’ll probably enjoy the event even more with your network member along.

It’s Not WHAT You Know, But WHO You Know–True or False?

How many times have you heard the phrase “It’s not what you know, but who you know” when it comes to determining success??  I’m willing to bet that over the course of your life to this point, you’ve heard it a lot.  Do you think it’s true?  Well, it’s not–it’s false.  It’s not what you know, or who you know–it’s how well you know them that really counts.

Here’s the difference.  How many people do you know?  Open up your e-mail address book and count the names.  You know as many people as are listed n your e-mail address book and probably a lot more.  Now, reach into your pocket and pull out your car keys.  How many of the people you know would you hand your car keys to?

Surely, now you understand that the importance of how well you know a person.  A contact is a person you know but with whom you have not yet established a strong relationship.  A connection, on the other hand, is someone who know you and trusts you because you’ve taken the time to establish credibility with that person.

Your network must not only be broad but also deep.  When you rely on others to cross-market your business or promote your program to a client, you’re not asking a simple favor.  For true referral networking, you need relationships that are deeper than mere contacts; you need strong connections, established well in advance.

So, beginning this week, focus on taking the time and energy to cultivate deep relationships by giving your referral sources anything and everything you can to help them succeed.  These will be the relationships you can count on when you need powerful connections because it really isn’t what you know or who you know–it’s how well you know them, how well they know you, and how well they know the people you want to meet.

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