MSNBC’s Your Business

On Thursday, I was swept off to a land far, far away.

OK, not that far away. But TV has to be dramatic, doesn’t it?

Even though I was close to home, I visited the homes of millions by appearing as a guest on MSNBC’s Your Business, with host JJ Ramberg. I was featured as an expert on referral networking (imagine that!) and spoke about how it can positively affect small businesses. The entire experience was easier than I expected and JJ was well-prepared and professional–and I’m sure glad she was, because it really helped ease my nerves.

And of course, I couldn’t get out the door without using referral networking. The producer asked if I could refer her to other BNI experts to be featured guests! (Who knows–maybe it could be YOU!)

Check out the clip below and tell me what you think.

Giving Your Network a Boost

A question from India came to me via Twitter, and I found it to be such a universal topic that I thought I’d share it with you all.

(And BONUS–it was shot in my new home studio!)

 

What happens when your networking group hits a plateau?

https://youtu.be/OA73fq9Sza8

 

Counting Your Referrals

Referrals are the backbone of word-of-mouth networking, am I right?

So if you reach out 100 people with a referral and ten reach back, did you give 100 or ten referrals?

Many would immediately assume the higher number, because let’s face it–100 is better than 10. But that isn’t the case!

But WHY is this?

I come to you today with a Vlog (video blog) of this exact question, asked of me during the BNI US Conference in April.

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?

 

How Your Deal Breakers Impact Your Business

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Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Everyone has deal breakers. You have things you won’t tolerate in friendships, in romantic relationships, and in living situations. Whether you know it or not, you also have deal breakers that come into play with your business practices. We all do, it is just a matter of whether or not you consciously know what they are.

So how do you know what your deal breakers are, and then what do you do with them once you know?

Start by figuring out what you simply won’t tolerate in business. Try asking yourself these questions:

  • When was the last time you were really angry/frustrated?
  • What traits do you deplore most in others?
  • What do you find the epitome of misery?
  • What do you least value in friends and business associates?

Now, separately, list out projects or associates that fall in line with the answers to your above questions. These projects and people go against your values, and don’t align with who you strive to be in business and in life. They are holding you back, and in order to elevate your business and move on, you must consider cutting them out. Keeping these people or projects in your life are costing you time, money, and energy. By cutting them out, you can see an increase in your passion, in your happiness, and in your success.

What are your deal breakers? How has cutting them out (or keeping them in!) impacted your business? Let me know in the comments below!

Negotiating With Clients is in Your Best Interest

ID-1009160How did you determine how to price your services? One reason you may be suffering with finding new clients could be due to how much you charge. If this is the case, more than likely you’ve heard this objection from current or potential clients before. While you may not want to consider negotiating, it really is in your best interest. Here’s why:

  • If you agree to at least negotiate on a price with a potential client, they may see you as empathetic and willing to work with them. Many people allow their emotions to help decide how they will spend their money, so developing a positive rapport may help you close with a client who otherwise was considering not spending money on your services.
  • Negotiating allows you to explain to your potential client why your fee is fair for the value of service they’d receive. If they can search the internet and find others in your industry who offer similar services for cheaper, this is especially important. You know you are worth the extra money; you just have to justify it to the client.
  • While negotiating, a potential client may mention a service that you don’t offer, but your competitor does. Hearing this kind of feedback can help you later when you’re looking to expand what you offer.

In the end, some people will be impossible to negotiate with. No matter how low you go, they will never buy your service. Don’t continue to lower your prices to try to get them to use you. Remember that your business first and foremost is a way for you to earn income. Never negotiate lower than you are willing to go.

What tips do you have for negotiating your price with potential clients? Share them with us in the comments below!

Why We Need to Stop Reinventing the Wheel

ID-10026461As business people and networkers, and even in our personal lives, we are often trying to make things harder than they need to be. There is an abundance of techniques, for sales, communicating, and general business practices, that are tried and true, so much so that they seem too simple to truly be effective. We re-evaluate them, we “improve” upon them, and we overcomplicate them. Possibly worse, we sometimes just scrap the old way and try to start over from scratch.

Often, we think we are smarter than those who came before us. Our egos prevent us from listening to those who have more history. The danger here with reinventing the wheel is that it puts us in danger of history repeating itself.

Here are three common warning signs that you may be falling into the danger zone of repeating work, and what to do about them.

  • Instead of solving a problem, you come up with new features to cover it up. First and foremost, this is poor customer service to add features to try to distract from a known issue with a good or service. Instead of wasting your time coming up with new features on an old issue, spend time diving into the old issue and make minor changes on existing features to elevate the whole product.
  • When something with history doesn’t work perfectly, you think it might be easier to start over. Without a doubt, there was a reason things got to where they are. Instead of erasing all of the work of those before you, do a little research. Take time to talk with your predecessors and learn what the motivation behind choices were. Chances are you will discover the core problem, and be able to instead make moves to target that issue, instead of starting over.
  • The wheel you’re looking at reinventing is a common wheel that many business people are faced with. Is your wheel unique to you, or is it something that many in your profession are faced with? If the latter, it is highly possible that there are many people also working to reinvent that wheel right now. Perhaps it is a standard business practice in your field that simply doesn’t work. Instead of putting forth resources (including time and money) to tackle it on your own, see if there is a group in your field working on this issue. If you are working to forge new paths at the same time others are trying to do the same thing, you’re all wasting resources and could likely work more effectively as a team.

Have you ever tried to reinvent the wheel? What happened?

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!

Never Stop Educating Yourself

ID-10041080I’m a huge believer in the value of continued education. No one is ever at a point where they can stop educating themselves, and if you do stop, you’ll surely fall behind in your field.

We can’t always be enrolled in a higher education course, though, so what is the most logical way to continue educating yourself well into your professional life? While the best way to learn indefinitely depends on your lifestyle, your specific field, and your learning style, here are my three favorite ways to keep on top of new (and old!) developments in business.

Read articles and books. Thought leaders are always writing articles and books about their fields, sharing their perspectives on the ins and outs of their specialties. While these pieces will always have some degree of opinion in them, and you won’t always agree with everything you read, well written articles and books will get you thinking, get you interested, and leave you wanting to do your own follow up research.

Attend conferences. When you attend a conference and you listen to the keynote speaker, if those in charge of organizing the event did their job, the speaker not only taught you a little something, but got you fired up to go out and learn more. Not only is the keynote speaker a great source of continued education at conferences, smaller sessions and even other attendees can help get your gears turning, and teach you something you didn’t know before.

Practice practice practice. You probably haven’t reached the point where you can do anything perfectly every time, and even if you have, going without practice can cause you to lose your skill. How can you get better at something if you don’t do it? What’s more, talk to colleagues, people you respect in your field, or consult the internet for new techniques as you’re practicing. If you keep practicing something the wrong way, you’ll get really good at doing it wrong. If you practice something in new and different ways, you’ll be more likely to round out that skill level.

How do you continue your education? Let me know in the comments below!

Tips and Tools of the Trade…Show

For most business professionals, a trade show in your field is a great opportunity to get out and meet other professionals who own or work for businesses similar to yours. Here, you can garner new ideas to bring home with you and make your business better, receive valuable feedback on what you’re currently doing from other professionals, and possibly develop relationships and connections with people who may help you grow your business as part of a Power Team.

ID-10069835While trade shows can be extremely beneficial, they can only really help you if you go into it prepared and ready to grow. As the new year began, many organizations begin promoting their 2016 trade shows, and I’m sure countless of you have already registered for one, if not multiple.

Before you go, consider some of these do’s and don’ts to get the most out of your trade show experience.

DO research the multiple trade shows happening in your field for the year before making the final decision on which to attend. While you can attend more than one, you should only attend as many as will benefit you. Talk to contacts whom you know have attended a specific trade show in the past to get their feedback, do a quick Google search, and always read all of the promotional brochures you can get your hands on. 

DON’T go to the trade show without a specific goal in mind. Want to meet someone who can give you advise on using social media to hit your target market? Looking to build a relationship with someone who has been in the field 20 years longer than you have? Going in with a specific goal can go a long way.

DO become familiar with the layout of the space that the trade show will be in. You can identify quickly if there are certain booths you’d like to make sure you hit, and perhaps even mold your own booth to fit in (or better, stand out) from those positioned near you.

DON’T just hang out by one booth, or if you’re working the show, your booth. You can’t expect your potential contacts to come to you. We never expect this in our day-to-day business, so why would we expect this at a business convention with hundreds of busy professionals, all with their own businesses and goals in mind?

DO make sure you get to as many seminars that make sense for you, and attend group activities. You’re there to make contacts and get to know others in your field, or in the fields represented at the trade show. Don’t waste your time at the show by not circulating and getting to know people.

DON’T forget the follow up! Meeting someone in the first place is only have the battle. You have to actually follow up with them after that initial introduction to really begin to establish a meaningful relationship.

DO go into the trade show with an open mind, and a willingness to both learn and teach.

Are you planning to attend any trade shows this year? What are your goals for them? Share with me in the comments below!

Stranger Danger? Not in Networking!

Why do people hate networking events? There are a few common reasons, but one that I have heard time and time again is an anxiety about introducing yourself to new contacts. I’m sure you’re familiar with the feeling of nerves as you meet new people and try to strike up a conversation. There are a few small things I think you should include in your introduction with new people that could help take the edge off.

  • ID-100356039Don’t forget your name and your business! Because, yes, believe it or not this happens. I was at a networking event a few years ago, and someone came up to me. We spoke for a few minutes about their business and their experience using referral networking before they had to excuse themselves. It was then that I realized that I had never gotten their name, despite the fact that they knew mine. If your goal is to introduce yourself to a new contact and leave a lasting impression, definitely make sure you give your name.
  • Find common ground. Finding something about your new contact that you can relate to is among the best ways to quickly develop the start of a relationship. This also will alleviate the pressure of your conversation with someone new, as it’ll spark topics you both can relate to and talk about.
  • Be memorable. If you can stand out from the crowd and make yourself unforgettable (in a positive way!), you’re more likely to really develop relationships. This is most effective when done when you are one-on-one with someone, and not in a group. Be sure to read the person, and use a quirk about yourself, your business, etc., that can resonate with the specific person. This one requires a bit of social intelligence, but when done right is highly effective.
  • Ask questions about the other person. People love to talk about themselves and their business. Everyone has an easy time talking about things they know well, and what do people know better than themselves? Not only will this allow the other person to take the lead on the conversation in a positive way, it helps you learn about the other person. The caveat here is to make sure you are asking genuine questions. Asking nonsense questions just to keep asking questions is transparent, and will negatively impact how you are perceived.

How do you handle meeting someone new at networking events? Let me know in the comments below!

How Many Referrals Do You Expect Per Month?

ID-10025778The number of referrals you should expect to receive is dependent on the type of business you’re in and the effort you exert to develop your network. Some professions receive more referrals than others.

For example, a florist is going to get many more than a real estate agent. However, the florist will have to sell a lot of flowers to make up for one real estate sale. Hence, the type of profession can somewhat determine a range in the quantity of referrals.

Having said that, however, the actual number that someone in a specific profession can get varies dramatically depending on their efforts to develop those referrals. This variation depends on how they “work” their networks. You remember the old computer adage “garbage in, garbage out”? It means that if you put bad information into the system, you’re going to get bad information out of the system. Well, one’s networking efforts are very much the same.

The results you can expect to get out of your efforts will be based on the quality of people you put into it. I recently conducted an Internet survey of business professionals in which I asked, “What percentage of your business comes from word-of-mouth or referrals?” Even I was surprised by the results. More than two-thirds of the respondents said they received 70 percent or more of their business from word-of-mouth. Only 14 percent said that referrals accounted for less than 30 percent of their business, and only 2 percent said they got no business from word-of-mouth!

Clearly, word-of-mouth and referrals are critical to the success of many businesses today. The question is, how do you increase it? First, consider professions that are part of your contact sphere. These are businesses that have a symbiotic relationship to yours. Contact spheres are the building blocks of your referral business because they help to build a solid base of repetitive referrals for you. Read “Developing a Networking Contact Sphere” for a more thorough explanation.

Next, you should diversify your networks. That is, you should participate in different kinds of networking groups so that you may have a diverse cross section of businesses and professionals as part of your center of influence. It’s important for you to understand that you must first build the foundation I speak of above before you can have high expectations for developing referrals. Based on research that I conducted at the University of Southern California a number of years ago, I found that the average participant in a strong contact network or a business development network (groups that meet weekly and allow only one person per profession, and whose primary purpose is to pass business referrals) generated, on average, 4.2 referrals per member, per month, or roughly 50 referrals per person, per year.

See Chapter 8 of my book The World’s Best Known Marketing Secret for additional information about the payoffs of networking. Please note that there are many intervening variables to this number. In my study, these variables included such things as length of membership, the profession they represented, the years of experience, the level of participation and more. One thing that didn’t seem to make a difference was gender. Both men and women generated substantially similar numbers of referrals throughout their participation.

To summarize, the number of referrals you can expect will vary depending on your profession and your efforts in the networking process. However, on average, I’ve found that many businesspeople can generate more than 50 referrals per year via their participation in a single networking organization. What makes this number truly significant is that most people would agree that a referred contact is much easier to close into business than other types of contacts. I believe this is the reason that so many businesses say they generate most of their business through referrals and word-of-mouth.

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