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Networking Mixers: Make Your Time Count!

NetworkingSome people go to a networking mixer with only one goal in mind: surviving until the time they plan to leave.  However, networking doesn’t have to be a dreaded activity!  Here are two tips to help you make the most of your time at networking mixers, and to help you enjoy yourself so the time will practically fly by.

  1. Set a Goal for the Number of People You’ll Meet.  To get the most out of a networking event, set a goal regarding the number of contacts you want to make or the number of business cards you want to collect.  Don’t leave until you’ve met your goal.If you feel inspired, set a goal to meet fifteen to twenty people and make sure you get each person’s business card.  If you don’t feel so hot, shoot for less.  In either case, set a reachable goal based on the attendance and the type of group.
  2. Spend Ten Minutes or Less with Each Person You Meet and Don’t Linger with Friends and Associates.  Since your first goal is to meet a given number of people, you can’t spend too much time with any one person, no matter how interesting the conversation gets.  Stay focused on making as many contacts as you can.  When you meet people who are very interesting and with whom you want to spend more time, set up appointments with them.  You can always meet later to continue the conversation.Don’t try to close business deals while you’re networking; it’s impractical.  Set a date to meet and discuss your product or service in an environment more conducive to doing business.  You may be able to increase your business with hot prospects if you take the time to fully understand their needs.Learn to leave conversations gracefully.  Honesty is usually the best policy; tell them you need to connect with a few more people, sample the hors d’oeuvres, or get another drink.  If you feel uncomfortable with that, exit like a host by introducing new acquaintances to someone you know.  Better yet, if it seems appropriate, ask them to introduce you to people they know.Above all, don’t linger with friends and associates.  These are people you already know, and you’re there to meet people you don’t know.  I attended a mixer once where I saw several business friends stand and talk with one another for two hours.  On their way out, one actually complained, “This was a waste of time.  I didn’t get any business from it, did you?”  Ummm, seriously??  

I highly recommend you try executing these two tips at your next networking mixer.  After you do so, come back and leave a comment in the forum below to let me know how it worked out.  I’m confident you’ll be pleased with the results and I’d love to hear about your experience!

 

If You’re Only Talking Shop, You’re Selling Yourself Short

Photo courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

People often think that networking is all about talking business and exchanging cards, but that’s a definite misconception.

In a networking group, you should talk about more than just business. A referral relationship is more than just, “I do business, you do business, let’s do business.” A much better approach is to find common ground on a personal level, then relate your business to it.

The longer I’ve been involved in networking, the more I’ve seen the power of personal interests in making connections. Networking is about building personal relationships. If you remove the personal from the equation, you limit the amount of business that can happen.

In one networking group I worked with, I introduced an exercise called the GAINS Exchange, in which people share personal and professional information about themselves. Two of the participants in this group had known each other for more than a year but had never done business. During the exercise, they discovered they both coached their sons’ soccer teams. They quickly became close friends and were soon helping each other conduct soccer practices. After a few months, they began referring business to each other–two guys who had barely spoken to each other the first year because they seemed to have so little in common.

By finding a common interest and starting with that, we can make connections that have a very good chance of turning into business. Try this strategy out for a while and then come back and leave a comment to let me know what your experiences have been–I’d love to hear about them!

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!

The 3 Keys to Creating a Knockout Networking Strategy

Whether you’re just starting out in the world of networking or you’re a well seasoned networker, there’s one thing you should never go to a networking function without . . . strategy.  In order to be a successful networker, you need to have a plan.  For example, you need to know who your target market is and which networking events will offer the best opportunities to effectively connect with your target market.

So, how do you create a plan when you’re a time-strapped businessperson and you don’t even know where to begin?  Well, you’re in luck–it’s a lot simpler than you think because the starting point is right in front of you.  All you need to do is take three minutes to watch this quick video and I’ll pinpoint the three questions you need to ask yourself in order to develop a highly effective networking strategy specifically tailored for you and your business.

Networking works.  It’s just a matter of crafting a plan that will put you in contact with the right people.  Once you ask yourself the questions in this video and nail down the answers, you’ll be well on your way to networking smarter for maximum results.

This video comes from the educational video archive housed within NetworkingNow.com and it is just one example of the vast array of educational content offered on the NetworkingNow.com website—there are literally hundreds of business and networking downloads available in the site’s online library and you can access all of them for FREE for six months by entering the free subscription code given below.

The free subscription is a gift from BusinessNetworking.com and all you have to do is enter the code(“freesixmonths”) on NetworkingNow.com to gain access to the entire library of content!  Please note that you will be required to enter a credit card number on the site but you will not be billed for the free six month membership.  You will need to end your subscription if you don’t wish to be billed for the second six months.

Please leave a comment regarding your thoughts on this video and also letting me know what type of downloadable content you most like to access on sites like NetworkingNow.com:

  • Video?
  • Audio?
  • PDF Articles?
  • Digital Books?
  • Something Else? If so, what specifically?

Networking Strategy Advice from NetworkingNow.com

Today I’d like to share a video that I recorded a while back that is timelessly useful when it comes to creating a solid and effective networking strategy.  In the video, I outline the best way to find like-minded business professionals to network with and I explain the four different streams—or types of networks—which you should be sure to strategically build into your overall network.

This video comes from the educational video archive housed within NetworkingNow.com and it is just one example of the vast array of educational content offered on the NetworkingNow.com website—there are literally hundreds of business and networking downloads available in the site’s online library and you can access all of them for FREE for six months by entering the free subscription code given below.

The free subscription is a gift from BusinessNetworking.com and all you have to do is enter the code (“freesixmonths”) on NetworkingNow.com to gain access to the entire library of content!  Please note that you will be required to enter a credit card number on the site but you will not be billed for the free six month membership.  You will need to end your subscription if you don’t wish to be billed for the second six months.

Please leave a comment regarding your thoughts on this video and also letting me know what type of downloadable content you most like to access on sites like NetworkingNow.com:

  • Video?
  • Audio?
  • PDF Articles?
  • Digital Books?
  • Something Else? If so, what specifically?

Education Plus Preparation Equals Optimum Results

During a conversation some years ago with Leslie Fiorenzo, a colleague of mine in the networking organization I founded, she made an interesting point of comparison between appreciating opera and learning to use word-of-mouth marketing in your business.  She said, “The best way to experience opera is to see it on the stage, and the best way to use word of mouth is to put a referral marketing plan in place. The novice, in either case, may not know where to begin.”

 

We started talking about a system to generate business by referral and, just like opera, if you have little or no experience with referral marketing, it would be a mistake to jump into action without preparing yourself–preparation is key to success. Central to the referral-marketing process is getting people to send you referrals. To do so, they must know exactly what you do–what product or service you provide or make; how, and under what conditions, you provide it; how well you do it; and in what ways you are better at what you do than your competitors. You absolutely must communicate this information to your sources. And to communicate effectively, you must know the same things. Before business owners map out their referral marketing campaign, they must stop and get a clear picture of where their business currently stands.

Leslie commented that when people begin to learn and study opera, they begin with basic works by composers such as Giuseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini before moving on to more complex works by composers such as Richard Wagner. In the same way, when marketing your business by word of mouth, there is a place to start before you meet with the people in your network. You begin by preparing answers to some basic questions about yourself and your business like:

1. Why are you in business?
2. What do you sell?
3. Who are your customers and
4. How well do you compete?

The ability to communicate this information to your sources and prospects will be invaluable as you begin to build your network and formulate your plan to gain more and more business the most effective way–through referrals.

Once you master some basic tools, you can move on to a deeper understanding of the process. For example, there are three laws of Notable Networking:

1. Have a positive and supportive attitude, and provide a positive and supportive environment for other business people.
2) Learn how to use networking tools efficiently, including business cards and an informative name badge, and have a business-card case to hold others’ cards.
3) Networking is an acquired skill that requires listening to CDs, reading books/articles, picking the brains of great networkers and practicing what you’ve learned.

One fantastic place to get information about all things related to networking is NetworkingNow.com.  I highly recommend that you become familiar with the basic tools of word-of-mouth marketing and begin to implement them in your business so that you can begin to watch it grow. Because, just like appreciating opera, if you don’t begin with the basics, you won’t experience the optimum result.

If there is an educational resource which you’ve found to be specifically valuable and effective in learning to network, I urge you to share it in the comment forum below so others might utilize it and benefit from it as well.  After you leave a comment, be sure to send a quick e-mail to larry@bni.com with the subject line “Blog Comment” so he can reply to you with a coupon code for a free six-month subscription to NetworkingNow.com.

 

Hyper-Active Visibility Is Not a Good Thing!

Years ago, I met a woman who was known as the consummate networker – she had hundreds (if not thousands) of contacts, giving her a wide-ranging network made up of people from all walks of life.  She was well-known as the go-to person if anyone needed anything.  Then, one day during a conversation she and I were having, she dropped a bombshell . . . she said that her networking efforts weren’t really paying off for her.  She went on at some length about all the groups she went to, all the people she met, and how she had made all these contacts and was continuing to make more all the time but wasn’t actually getting any solid business from her efforts.

Why wasn’t she seeing real results?  Because despite her great talent for making contacts and gaining visibility, she was never really getting to the heart of what networking is about–building relationships.  She was so busy running around and making appearances that she wasn’t ever learning how to actually “work” the networks she had built in order to build deep relationships with people and develop credibility with them.

It’s true that she was visible in the community–very visible, actually.  The problem was that she viewed “activity” as an “accomplishment” when it came to her networking efforts.  Her network was a mile wide but only an inch deep.  She had not taken the next, and most important, networking step with the many, many people in her wide-reaching network–she never devoted the time to developing the kind of rapport with any of them that would allow them really get to know her, like her, trust her, and want to pass her business.

I bring this up because I just recently saw the same thing with someone I’ve known for a few years.  He made a consistent habit of going to every single networking meeting/event he could go to and he was incredibly visible.   Not only was he always at networking meetings but he was always full of energy and enthusiasm from the time he arrived to the time he left.  Again, the problem was in no way due to a lack of activity, effort or enthusiasm in regard to putting himself out there and meeting new people; the problem was that he was running around so much that he never stopped long enough to spend the time necessary to establish the kind of long-term roots that lead to an ongoing, reciprocal referral relationship.

If your goal is to significantly grow your business, networking with your main focus being solely to make as many contacts as possible will not help you achieve your aim.  If you’re networking in this way, you’re also guaranteed to get burned out on networking because constantly being on the go and trying to keep track of hundreds of people who you don’t really know is exhausting.  There needs to be a balance between the visibility-creating aspect of your networking efforts and the credibility-creating aspects of your networking efforts.

What are your thoughts on the ideal networking focus/approach?  What do you feel your main networking focus is currently?  I’d love to hear your thoughts and, also, if you know someone with the type of  hyper-visibility networking style I describe in this blog, please share what you’ve observed as far as their networking technique and how you think it has worked out for them.  Thanks!

 

3 Reasons Why Acting Like a Host at Events Can Alleviate Networking Fear

At a recent Referral Institute conference, I was talking with Tiffanie Kellog and Renia Carsillo, two Referral Institute trainers from Florida, and we were talking about the “Ten Commandments for Working a Networking Mixer.”  To our surprise, we each share the same favorite when it comes to the Networking Mixer Commandments yet the reasons why it’s our favorite are quite different.

Tiffanie is an introvert, I’m a situational extrovert, and Renia is an introverted go-getter.  However the “Act Like a Host, Not a Guest” Commandment provides unique solutions in making networking more comfortable and natural for all three of these personality types and in this brief video we discuss  exactly how.

If you’re interested in learning about the Ten Commandments of Working a Networking Mixer, come back on Monday, October 1st to find out more.  In the meantime, let us know what you think of this video.  Are you more similar to Tiffanie, Renia, or me when it comes to your personality type?  Are you going to try the tactic of acting like a host at your next event?  If so, please revisit this page and leave a comment after your event to let us  know how it went–we’d love to hear about your experience.

Do You Network Like You ‘Google Search’? Here’s Why You Should . . .

Last week, I was meeting with executives from the Referral Institute and Thomas Albrecht, Referral Institute Master Franchisee in Austria and Germany, brought up a really interesting concept about networking when he compared it to doing a Google® search.

I immediately asked him if we could record the topic on video for this blog because it’s a fantastic topic that I think will really resonate with networkers globally and it’s something I’ve never thought of before.

So, watch the video and let us know . . . have you been networking like you do Google searches?  Leave a comment and let us know if your networking tactics thus far have been pretty on par with this strategy, or whether you’re going to remember the Google analogy and make some changes to make sure you’re networking efforts are more precise.

Social Media & Social Networking–How To Do It Better

On my recent trip to Australia, I got the chance to record this video with my friend Dan Garlick, a networking expert from Tasmania.  In the video, we talk about the best ways to integrate face-to-face networking with social media and social networking in order to achieve the best possible results from your all-around networking efforts.

Watch the video to learn the best ways to approach face-to-face and online networking integration for a stellar outcome no matter where in the world you are (If Dan can do it from Tasmania–the bottom of the world–so can you! ).

Sick of Politics and Power Trips?—You Might Be an Entrepreneur

BNIBusinessIndex.com has released its worldwide business survey findings for the first quarter of 2011.  Almost 1,500 business people participated in the survey—people from every populated continent around the world—and the results (see graph on the right)  indicate that, overall, the global economic state is improving.  69.4% of the respondents for the first quarter of 2011 feel that business is growing or growing substantially (compared to this time last year).  This number has increased since the prior BNI Business Index Survey which was conducted during the last quarter of 2010—respondents to this same question at that time weighed in at 67.8%.

Furthermore, half of all business people who took the survey (see the pie chart below) for the first quarter of 2011 (50.2%) said that they would, or possibly would, be hiring people over the next few months.  The retail sector (not shown here) responded with a strong 61.2% to this same question.  This is definitely good news for the global economy and certainly a move in the right direction for the recovery.

What was most interesting in this survey however, were the hundreds of comments offered up by business people and entrepreneurs around the world.

I’ve broken these comments down into six primary categories:

  1. Government Regulation
  2. Changing Target Markets
  3. The Credit Crunch
  4. The Yo-Yo Effect
  5. Natural Disasters
  6. Creative Responses

Government Regulation
Frustration relating to government regulation was adamantly expressed by many respondents and this topic was commented on by more people than almost any other.  A particular comment from one of the survey respondents summed up the frustration best.  This business owner said, “I’m tired of politics and power trips!”

This type of frustration was mirrored by many individuals who complained forcefully about “tax increases killing business . . . serious government intervention . . . the loss of tax credits . . .  mismanagement of government programs . . . and serious regulation.” It’s significant to note that these complaints were not limited to simply one or two parts of the world; on the contrary, these comments were echoed by entrepreneurs based on virtually every continent.  Business owners everywhere unanimously expressed great frustration with taxes and government intervention.

Changing Target Markets
The need to change one’s focus in the marketplace is another theme that cropped up in the recent survey responses.  As one respondent put it, “I’ve changed my target market to one that has both a greater need and a willingness to do something differently.”

Another entrepreneur said, “(Although) business is growing, the comfort zone of (keeping) a client has been lost.  There is a feel of uncertainty for business in the next quarter. The style with which the world does business is changing fast.”

This respondent went on to describe how some businesses are tweaking their target market in order to add on new “market segments” for additional revenue streams.

The Credit Crunch
Many observations were made about the credit crunch.  One was a complaint that seriously resonated with me.  The respondent stated, “I have great credit but Amex has still dropped my credit line by more than 50% in the last two years!!! It’s hard to run a business without a proper credit line.”

Another business owner said, “(There are) still not enough cash reserves or (enough financing) from banks” to support the business.  One individual put this a little differently, stating: “This is just another (line) in the chorus of ‘it is really hard to get loans.’ We tried to get a business loan and got rejected despite great credit because of our lack of a track record. We are only three years in business and were not considered a good risk. Instead, we are taking out a personal loan and will be lending the money back to the business ourselves. Strange but true.”

The Yo-Yo Effect
Many entrepreneurs spoke of the Yo-Yo like market place—business starts looking up and then things slow down.  Things start to go up again, only to fall back down the following month.

One person said their “billable hours more than doubled late last year” only to see them drop during the first quarter.  They went on to say that things are moving upwards again.

Another respondent said, “The adjustments and contractions are still occurring and it has naturally forced many of us to change and adapt. We’re not out of the woods yet.”

Natural Disasters
The long series of natural disasters have been a big issue mentioned by many entrepreneurs.  In North America, one person lamented, “My area has been getting pounded with snow, more snow, sleet, and freezing rain which has certainly had an impact on store traffic.”

A survey participant from New Zealand said, “Business here is incredibly tough, particularly since the earthquake – everyone is traumatised and there is a ripple effect through to all corners of the country. However, we are a resilient bunch, and there is an amazing ‘can do’ culture here- so we will overcome this tragedy.”

Many people from Australia wrote about the flooding in Queensland and challenges created because of weather in the country that has dramatically impacted their business.   One respondent stated that the natural disasters in the country have made “people much more reluctant to spend money on services that they perceive aren’t absolutely necessary.”

Creative Responses
Despite the obvious anxiety that exists, many entrepreneurs were hopeful.  People said: “There is greater optimism out there, it is noticeable with clients and prospects . . . since I’ve spent much more time networking I’ve felt the results more than double.” One person said, “I am on track to match last year’s revenue in the first quarter of this year!!!”

Another individual stated, “Consumers are willing to start spending more . . .” He went on to say that he has really focused on building a stronger referral-based business.  He said, “What was good enough three years ago is not good enough today.  This recession has motivated me to get better.”

The following statement from one particular respondent sums up the situation well: “I believe that it is important to not get caught up in what you are being fed. That doesn’t mean hiding your head in the sand, but not getting caught in the hype. Things are always changing, so stop and think how you can be a part of it. Reinvent yourself if you can, or think outside the box. Refusing to participate in the recession and looking to where you can grow are important strategies. If you don’t get caught in the negative (aspects) of change, sometimes you can see opportunity.”

Despite some of the written responses expressing negative perceptions of the economy, the survey results are promising.  With 69% of the respondents saying that business is better today than a year ago, things definitely appear to be moving in the right direction.   Now, if only the government and the environment would cooperate!

What are your thoughts about the results of this survey???

Also – take the 2nd Quarter 2011 BNI Business Index Survey Here.

___________________________________________

Disclaimer:  The views expressed here are based on survey results from BNIBusinessIndex.com.  The data, information, opinions, and comments documented here are not necessarily the views of BNI, its franchisees, members, or this author.

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