Use Reporting to Strengthen Your Network

Playing the role of reporter by interviewing a member of your network for an article or while doing research on a subject he’s familiar with, for example, is a great way to elicit information and advice from members of your network.

How can this benefit you? The reporting approach benefits you in two ways. One, you learn more about your network member. Two, he appreciates the visibility you give him. Also, he will probably be more willing to meet and cooperate with you in other situations, thereby strengthening your relationship, and others will seek you out as an authority or ask you to do articles or research on them. People in business like exposure, especially if it’s free.

Here are some tips on how to properly begin playing the role of reporter and getting more from your network:

  • Interview your subject to get information worthy of being publicized–something he’s doing or has achieved, or simply his opinion.
  • Take pictures of, and with, your subject when appropriate.
  • Publish the information for its largest possible audience in school, church, community, local or national publications.
  • If appropriate, offer to include your network member’s name in any article or research to which he has contributed information.
  • Distribute complimentary copies of your articles or findings to people important to your targets.
  • Make no guarantees that what you write will be published.

After you’ve interviewed one or two of your network members and gotten some exposure for them, come back and leave a comment letting me know what occurred as a result of your efforts. I’m betting you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the outcome. 🙂

Clueless When It Comes To Conversing?–Four Tips

Networking is about building relationships and one of the main ways to build relationships with people is to have effective, productive conversations.  However, that can seem like a daunting task for some people who are at a total loss when it comes to the art of conversing.

If you shy away from going to networking events because you’re consumed by the fear of not knowing what to say, pay attention to these four conversation tips from my good friend Susan RoAne (a.k.a.: The Mingling Maven®):

  • Always keep in mind that a conversation should be balanced dialogue.  It’s good to ask questions that get people to talk about themselves, but remember: people who ask too many questions are sometimes perceived as prying probing busybodies.
  • If you haven’t brought something to the banquet of conversation, make an “ask” of yourself.  Though most people don’t mind a question, even two or three, if you are asking all the questions, there is no exchange, no real conversation, just an interrogation or Q&A.
  • Try reading local and national newspapers and a pop-culture blog or a popular magazine.  Pick three to five items to use as emergency restarters in case there’s a lull in conversation–national news, local topics, sports, fitness, movies, books, hobbies.  And food–everybody likes to talk about food.
  • Tell stories about things that have happened to you or others.  People connect with stories, not the factoids and figures of life.

If you liked these tips, you can find more of Susan’s networking advice and resources by visiting www.SusanRoAne.com

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.

Whoopee in the Cornfields

Here’s the thing with networking: If you want to get more business, you have to  be willing to give business to other businesspeople. That’s why I founded my networking organization, BNI, on the central, guiding philosophy of giving benefit to others–Givers Gain®. It’s an ethical theme that is common to all religions, all cultures: Treat others the way you want to be treated. If you want to get referrals, do the best job you can of giving referrals to others.

I’d like to share with you a story that I originally heard from one of my BNI directors, Art Radtke, which will help you remember this concept.  It was originally called “Sex in the Cornfields,” but I figured “Whoopee in the Cornfields” would be a more decorous title. 😉

Whoopee in the Cornfields

A farmer in Nebraska won the state fair four times in a row with his corn. Nobody had ever done that before, so the paper sent someone out to interview him.

The reporter asked, “What is your secret? Do you use special corn seed?”

The farmer said, “Absolutely. I develop my own corn seed, and that’s an important aspect of it.”

“Well, then, that’s your secret,” said the reporter. “You plant a type of corn that’s different from your neighbors.”

“No, I also give it to my neighbors,” said the farmer.

“You give it to your neighbors?” asked the incredulous reporter. “Why in the world would you give your award-winning corn to your neighbors?”

“The farmer said, “Well, you’ve got to understand how corn is pollinated. It’s pollinated from neighboring fields. And if you’ve got fields around you that don’t have this top-quality corn, your field is not going to grow top-quality corn either. But if my neighbor’s field has this really strong corn, I have awesome corn. And that’s how I’ve won at the Nebraska State Fair the last four years in a row.”

This story is a great metaphor for how networking works.  Put simply, if you’re going to be an effective networker, you need to go into networking with a commitment to helping other people because that is how you’ll be helped in return.

Guardian at the Gate

When I started my first business, I knew I wanted referrals to play a key part in my overall growth strategy, and I began to realize I wasn’t the only one trying to get more sales through referrals.  A lot of other business professionals were trying to do the same thing.

So I thought, “What if I became the hub?”  If all the other people out there were trying to do the same thing as I was, why couldn’t I position myself as the gatekeeper of sorts between other people’s networks? Then, if someone was buying a new home and needed a real estate agent but didn’t have one in her own network, she would come to me and see whom I knew.

How did that help my business?

1.  It encouraged me to continue building and deepening my relationships with others, even if I didn’t think they could help me right away. Our natural tendency is to nurture relationships with those we feel can help us the most. But the fact is, we never know whom another person knows, so we should take every opportunity to build relationships with all those we make contact with.  Bob Smith might not be a good referral partner for me, but he could be ideal for Jane Doe, another person I know.

2.  Becoming a gatekeeper had a positive effect on my credibility. I wanted to be the go-to guy in the business community–the person others came to if they needed a referral for anything.  This meant that I would be deepening relationships with people I might not otherwise have gotten to know.  Since people do business with the people they like and trust, whom do you think got their referrals when they needed someone with my products and services? . . . Bingo! 🙂

When you’re networking, make an effort to build relationships with people who may be good referral partners for others in your network, and try to connect them with each other.  I guarantee if you do this consistently, you’ll get more referrals in the long run.

The No. 1 Question to Ask as a Networker–‘How Can I Help?’

No matter who you are or what part of the world you live in, Givers Gain is the No. 1 rule to remember when networking. You should always be thinking, “How can I help this person?” After all, networking is about building relationships; and helping others is the absolute best way to begin the relationship-building process. Put simply, helping equals opportunity.

At a social event, you usually ask somebody, “How’s it going?”  What’s the typical reply?  Probably something like, “Great; things couldn’t be better.”  That’s a canned response that people give because they want to be polite and because they know nobody really wants to hear their troubles. But it’s not usually the whole truth.

Things can always be better–that is, there are surely ways you can help–but most people aren’t inclined to go into detail or let others know what’s going on, especially at social events. The best way to find out is to avoid generalities like, “How are things?”  Ask more specific questions.

For example, if somebody tells you that things are going great, their company is expanding, and business is better than they expected, ask a specific question like, “Are you hitting all of your goals?”  Even if they say yes, this is still a big opportunity to help. Think about it: A company that is expanding faster than the owner had projected. What kind of help might it need? You may be able to make some introductions that this individual would be very grateful for, but you can only figure out what introductions to make after getting past the generalities and finding out a person’s specific needs.

Many consider networking just another way to get clients, but when you think in terms of building relationships, a chance to help is a big opportunity. That help can be provided in many forms, each as valuable as the next.

Become an Information Exchange

Networking involves constant interaction with people from all walks of life and, if you keep your ears open, you can learn a heck of a lot.

And, guess what?  Knowing a heck of a lot makes you smarter.  Guess what’s even better?  Being able to communicate what you know and using it to help people get what they need makes you a valuable contact and a master networker.  It makes you an information exchange.

Start by listening to everything. Train yourself to listen to conversations you might ordinarily tune out, and to evaluate every issue you hear with an eye to how it fits into the pool of talent, expertise and resources your network represents.

One way to enhance this skill is to write down a list of your networking contacts and their products, services and special capabilities. Read the list every day, keep it up to date and respond quickly when something you hear connects up with something else on the list.

Learn as much as you can about the special terminologies of your contacts’ businesses. When you’re referring someone with a problem to someone with a possible solution, it adds to your effectiveness and credibility to speak the language of both.  It also helps you recognize the connection.

Last but not least, always follow these tips when communicating information to those in your network:

  • Speak simply, clearly and  in plain language whenever possible.
  • Keep the message short and relevant.
  • End with your offer to help.

Simple Recognition Is Sometimes the Best Reward

Rather than receiving a finder’s fee, for most referral sources  it is more important to be recognized as a person who can direct others to the goods and services provided by skilled, highly competent, trustworthy people.

Over the years I’ve witnessed time and again that most people will do more for simple recognition than for money. However, for those who expect a finder’s fee, this is a good thing to know in advance if you want to keep the relationship healthy, active and profitable.

You will find that different motivators will inspire different members of your referral team, and this is a matter in which understanding the various behavioral styles of people can be helpful.

People who are embarrassed by being in the spotlight, even for accolades and applause, might prefer their rewards low-key and private–perhaps a simple thank you or an evening cruise on your boat if you are a boat owner.  Those who like public recognition might prefer seeing their name showcased on your bulletin board.  Still others may be more highly motivated by an inexpensive but thoughtful gift than by a more substantial cash reward–a bottle of wine from a winery near their hometown or a coffee table book about their favorite travel destination.

The point is, simple recognition really resonates with most people and, more often than not, simply recognizing people in the way they prefer to be recognized is a far better reward and incentive for them to refer you to others than offering them a cash finder’s fee.

If you’re in the habit of recognizing people as a way of thanking them for referrals, please leave a comment about what’s worked for you and even what hasn’t.  Then check back next week to read my story about a way in which someone recognized me that kept me motivated to refer that person over and over again!

Ask Me A Question . . . C’mon, Any Question!

OK, wait, let me rephrase that . . . ask me any business networking question–not just any question. If you’re thinking along the lines of embarrassing moments and possible blackmail material, then you’re out of luck on this one ( Sorry, I’ve still got disclaimers on the brain after my blog about the legal system! :))

Anyway, I’m happy to announce that AskIvanMisner.com is now live, and this is your chance to ask me any question you have about how to build your personal and professional network.

On the third Tuesday of each month, beginning on Nov. 17 (10 a.m. Pacific/1 p.m. Eastern), I’ll be conducting a FREE, live teleseminar, co-hosted by my friend Alex Mandossian, where I’ll answer a handful of questions selected from those submitted on AskIvanMisner.com.

I’m encouraging anyone and everyone to log on and submit a question for me. You’ll be given the call-in number once you’ve submitted your question, and it’s perfectly fine with me if you invite any of your friends and/or business colleagues to join the FREE calls as well.

I’m looking forward to reading your questions, so log onto AskIvanMisner.com now and ask away!

The Nature of a Referral Relationship

Over the years, I’ve run into countless people who believe that joining groups and organizations and becoming active by volunteering, taking on responsibilities and working side-by-side with other people on a common goal will cause people to get to know them and refer business to them.  However, this is not how things work.

Granted, it’s easy to think that if you rub elbows with someone long enough he or she will spontaneously start sending you business opportunities. But that’s really nothing more than an entitlement mentality.

Getting referrals usually takes three things: visibility, credibility and profitability.  Ordinary participation in an organization, even a strong-contact referral group, will get you visibility and perhaps some credibility; it won’t automatically get you profitability.  That takes a much more focused approach, along with some explicit talk about the kinds of referrals you want.

By nature, referral relationships are rewarding and valuable when they are created purposefully and by design. If you are assuming that the idea of giving you referrals is going to pop into someone’s head spontaneously if you hang around long enough, you are definitely misunderstanding what a referral relationship is supposed to be.

Woody Allen once said that “90 percent of success is just showing up,” but he wasn’t talking about referral marketing.  “Just showing up” will get you a seat at the table, but you have to pass the food to others and snag your own steak whenever it comes around.  It’s not “netsit” or “neteat“–it’s network!”  If you want to build your business through referrals, you have to learn how to deliberately work the networks to which you belong.

You see, participating in a group is one thing; performing is another.  To get referrals, you have to perform.  If you don’t perform–talk specifics about your business, your specialties and your ideal referral, and refer business to others in your group–how are they going to know what you do and what you need?  You have to take specific actions to let people know how they can refer business to you.  Being a good citizen is the right thing to do, but it’s not enough to get you the referrals you need to run your business by word-of-mouth marketing–you need to actively feed and water your referral relationships, so to speak, in order to significantly grow your business through referrals.

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