Lifelong Learning: Lessons in Leadership

 

As many of you know, I was given the fantastic opportunity to spend a few days with John Maxwell at his Leadership Conference in Orlando Florida last week. (You can read my initial reaction to winning the Leadership award here.)

KF9A4439_ss

John shared a story that I thought was a great networking lesson, and it’s something I want to share with all of you.

He began his story when he was a very young pastor in the 1970s. He wanted to learn and grow in his field and he decided that he would try to interview ten of the most successful pastors from across the country. Being a thoughtful man, John realized that their time was valuable and he wanted to pay for it-but at the time, he only made $4,200 a year in salary.

John reached out to the ten pastors he wanted to seek advice from and offered them $100 each for less than an hour of their time to help mentor him in his journey. $100 each doesn’t sound like a lot of money, but multiplied by ten people that equaled almost one quarter of his annual income! But John felt that it was important to show them that he didn’t want something for nothing and would truly value their mentorship.

He went on to explain that only two people took him up on his request. He met with the two pastors, asked his questions, and received great information and took copious notes. Before he left each of them, he asked if they knew any of the eight remaining people on his list. He needed a referral!

Both of them new many of the remaining pastors, so John asked if they would be kind enough to call some of the other eight and make a personal introduction. Both men happily did so. After a short time, John was able to meet with all ten pastors because of the introductions that these two pastors made.

John obtained fantastic insights which enabled him to achieve many of his goals as a young man, and he did it through referral networking.

There were many lessons to be learned in this story, but here’s some of the ones that I got out of it:

  1. Don’t expect something for nothing. Asking for favors from people you don’t know, just doesn’t work well.
  2. Be prepared. Have well-thought out questions.
  3. Take notes and follow the advice.
  4. Most importantly, he asked these individuals if they felt this was worth their time. It was only after they said yes, that he asked for an introduction to the rest of the people on the list.

This last one is an important example of the referral process. He showed up prepared, stuck to the time he promised, did a good job and THEN asked for a laser specific referral if, and only if, they felt that the meeting was worth their time. John was successful because he knew how to be a professional, make a good impression, and then, and only then, ask for the referral.

Great story John.

 

Which Networking Style Are You?

This is the fifth and final video in the “Ivanism” Garage to Global series, hosted by Entrepreneur.com. In this series, I expand on common phrases I’ve used throughout my 31 years of referral-based networking.

When you’re at a networking event, do you eagerly bounce around the room, chatting with various people and passing out business cards? Do you tend to seek deep connections by only talking to a few people for longer periods? Everyone has their own way of making connections and networking, and it helps to understand just where you fall in the lineup.

Knowing your networking behavioral style will help you capitalize on your skills–and maybe even identify some flaws to improve upon. Take a look at the video below to find out YOUR style and maybe the next time you’re at an event, you’ll be able to better position yourself for greater success.

 

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.

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?

 

Referral Marketing: Know the Risks, Reap the Rewards

ID-100252028During a radio interview, the host of the program asked me whether I consider referral marketing the “safest” form of advertising. Without the slightest hesitation, I confidently answered, “By all means, no!” He was visibly shocked by that answer. I went on to explain that I believe very strongly in the tremendous benefits that referral marketing can bring. However, there are unique risks associated with referral marketing that aren’t an issue with commercials or other forms of advertising.

When you give someone a referral, you’re putting your own reputation on the line. If your referral partner does a good job, it enhances your reputation. But if he does a poor job, your reputation will likely suffer. As I said, the payoffs of referral marketing are immense—when it’s done correctly. But referral marketing involves a really big risk: giving away a piece of your reputation every time you give a referral to someone. When you tell a valued customer that a friend of yours is going to take good care of her, you must have confidence in that friend.

But what happens if your friend lets your customer down? It comes back to haunt you. Your customer begins to lose faith in you, and because of that loss of faith, you just might lose that customer down the road. This is why it’s so important to develop strong relationships with your referral partners. Once those strong connections are forged, you can rest easy, knowing that when you tell someone a business associate or a networking partner is going to take good care of him or her, that’s what will happen.

 

Are You Prepared to Enhance Your Credibility?

The VCP Process is the foundation of building a referral-based business.    While this general business-building philosophy isn’t going to automatically increase your business, there are plenty of benefits to increasing your visibility and your credibility.

credibilityVisibility is usually pretty easy for businesspeople to get on board with. You attend extra networking events, look into other forms of marketing, reach out to new client bases. Credibility is where, time and again, we see more people struggling to build up that quality reputation of being credible.

There are a few simple items other than business cards that you should try to have at your disposal to help you develop that word-of-mouth campaign and show off your credibility to potential new clients or business networks. Try to always have access to at least one example of the following simple items:

  • Photos of yourself and your office facilities, equipment, and products;
  • Your letterhead and stationary;
  • Your annual report and capability statement;
  • Advertisements you’ve run;
  • A list of your memberships and affiliations;
  • Articles on trends affecting your target market.

Most business professionals will have these few simple items at their disposal at any given point, and many won’t realize what a vital tool to building credibility these can be! You can really up your game by having a couple less common items at your disposal as well:

  • Articles in which you or your business are mentioned;
  • Product catalogs you use;
  • Client or customer proposals and bid sheets;
  • Marketing letters you wrote to clients;
  • Posters, banners, and display materials used at trade shows;
  • Photos of awards and certificates you and your staff have earned.

Got all that? Great! You can never have too many credibility-building items at your disposal, so the following are great additions, as well. Just make sure not to throw all of your items at potential contacts at the same time. You don’t want to overwhelm anyone, though it would be incredibly easy to do so. Look to have these on-hand in case someone requests them:

  • Testimonial letters from satisfied clients;
  • Photos of key customers;
  • Unpublished articles;
  • Any of your new-product announcements or press releases;
  • Question-and-answer sheets;
  • A one-page, faxable flyer.

With a little foresight, it can be incredibly easy to get all of the basic supplies you’ll need to prove your credibility and increase your word-of-mouth marketing campaign.

What items do you use on a regular basis to show your potential clients and business networks that you are a credible candidate to help them with their needs? Let me know in the comments below!

Better Yourself by Asking Questions

questionNo matter who you are, or what you do, there will always be something that you are not an expert in. As businesspeople, we are always working on honing our craft, profession, and interpersonal skills. Part of this never ending journey to better ourselves is asking questions to those who may be able to help us along the way.

Last week in the BNI Podcast, I started a new segment called “Ask Ivan.” Simply by emailing in, listeners of my podcast will be able to submit any question they would like to hear me answer. Shortly after launching the new segment, it occurred to me that podcast listeners aren’t the only ones who may have interesting questions. Readers on IvanMisner.com are just as likely to have burning educational questions.

Whether you have a specific question about referral marketing, would like me to discuss a segment from one of my books, or are curious about anything networking related, your question could be featured in a future blog or vlog.

As networking evolves, the questions on the minds of businesspeople around the world evolve, too.  That being said, be sure to send in your questions to askivan@bni.com and include your city and country. There is no such thing as a stupid question!

Networking is a fad

Networking is a fad. As is oxygen, indoor plumbing, and sliced bread.

Alright, we all know networking is far from a fad. Ask any successful business person today their stance on networking, and they will have plenty of positive things to say. Maybe a few decades ago, businesspeople said that networking was just the latest craze, but now in 2015 we cannot avoid it.

In my book “Truth or Delusion,” which I co-authored with Mike Macedonio and Mike Garrison, I discuss how referral marketing, networking, word of mouth, and social capital, or just learning how to connect with other people in meaningful ways, is a cornerstone to business. But not just business – successful business.

You can literally network anywhere, despite the common misconception that networking is for work events only. Even places that may not seem like networking opportunities, like a child’s play date, can turn into an opportunity to grow your Power Sphere when your daughter’s friend’s mom is a plumber and you’re an electrician.

perfectpraticeFor those who networking doesn’t come easy, in business it is imperative that you continue striving to perfect your networking game. The saying “practice makes perfect” comes into play here, but not how you might expect. This saying is only half true. In actuality, only perfect practice makes perfect.

I once heard a music teacher tell his students, “Lousy practice makes a lousy musician.” The same is true for networking; you can practice day in and day out networking the wrong way, and what will happen is you will just get really good at incorrectly networking. Perhaps even perfect at it. Perfect practice, however, will back up strong networking habits.

Perfect practice is as easy as reviewing with yourself or a close business confidant after networking attempts. What strategies did you use? Did you make a lasting impression on those you interacted with? How many people made an impression on you? Despite what you may think, others networking well does play into the effectiveness of your attempts. Never forget that networking is a two-way street.

What are some networking myths that you have encountered in your career? Join the discussion and share your comments in the form below!

10 Tips to Get the Most from Business Networking

We all know that networking requires a significant amount of time, effort, and commitment.  Because of that, we all want to make sure that we’re getting the highest return on investment from our networking efforts.  Below, I have outlined 10 tips that will help you get the absolute most from the time you spend networking for your business.

Photo courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

  1. When asking for a referral from an associate or client, use the phrase, “Who do you know who . . .?”  This is an open-ended question that works well.  Do not alter the phrase.  Ohter phrases have been tried, but none have produced the desired results.
  2. Have someone else tell a group of people how good your product or service is.  This beats anything you can say about yourself.  Ask people who have used your products or services to talk about their experience at the next meeting.
  3. Top business executives insulate themselves from those who may try to sell them products or services.  Through word of mouth you can still 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.  The great referrals are probably not going to come from a CEO, but from someone who knows a CEO.
  4. If you have an opportunity to distribute your materials, do it.  Bring products, samples, brochures, or a presentation book to the business meetings you attend.  If people can see, feel, touch, hear, or smell samples of the product or service you provide, they are more likely to use you.
  5. Offer a special price or service to the members of your networks.  If you can get the members to use you, they are much more likely to refer you.
  6. Anyone active in networking groups can benefit by developing a presentation book, taking it to meetiings, and making sure it gets circulated.
  7. If your product or service is conducive to this approach, tell the members of your network that you accept speaking engagements as bona fide referrals.  Ask them to pitch you to the program chair of other organizations they belong to.
  8. Meet people outside the meeting context whenever you can.  Write cards or letters, send articles that might be of interest, call to check in, and let them know about local business mixers.
  9. To get good referrals, tell people when they’ve given you a bad referral.  If you don’t, you’ll keep getting bad referrals.  Teach people what you consider to be a good referral.
  10. Monitor the referrals you get.  This tells you how often you get referrals, their source, quality, status, and dollar payoff.  Having this information helps you focus on individuals and groups who are giving you the best referrals.  This allows you to reciprocate with people who are giving you the most referrals.

Do you have additional tips for networkers to get the most from business networking?  I’d love to hear your ideas–please leave your thoughts in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

 

Are You Hearing What Isn’t Being Said?

Peter Drucker once said, “The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.”  This is so true and extremely important because the quality of our relationships depends on the quality of our communications; and when it comes to sales for your business and growing your business through referral marketing, this concept is a cornerstone for success.

Photo Courtesy of Ohmega1982 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo Courtesy of Ohmega1982 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Of course, not all sales transactions require incredible relationships or communication (e.g., online shopping), yet even big box stores like Wal-Mart–not known for warm customer relations–illustrate the value they place on communication and relationships by employing a visitor host to greet customers at the entrance of their stores.

Sara Minnis, a friend of mine, has often dealt with a phobia many sales people face within the sales process by coaching salespeople who are afraid of being rejected by a prospect or customer.  She says, “Sales ‘phobics’ might have an unrealistic fear of being rejected during cold calling, during the closing phase, or on a phone conversation.”  This, she suggests, is because the phobic salesperson tends to focus their communication on the emotional fit between themselves and the customer.  She explains, “The real business of selling can’t begin until the sales phobic feels that the prospect likes him or her.”  To avoid this, she says, “The professional seller directs her communication toward finding a fit between her product and the buyer’s need.  Focusing on being liked only enhances fears of personal rejection, while attending to the customer’s needs drives the transaction toward a closed deal.”

Sellers in strong relationships with their clients have a competitive advantage because the client feels connected or bonded to the seller.  The single most important tool sellers use to establish a connecting bond with another person is communication.  In fact, building a bonded relationship is completely dependent on having quality communications with another individual.

The art and science of communication is more than talking and hearing words.  There are many strategies and techniques aimed at earning the right to have your message heard.  If you can communicate at a level that matches the customer’s style rather than your own, you will be well on your way to masterful sales conversations.

Masters of sales today assume more of a consultative perspective to their selling work.  In fact, many box retail stores use the term “sales consultant” to describe the store clerk of yesterday.  Master sales consultants know that their ability to communicate is critical to selling client solutions, because rapport and trust, the cornerstones of selling, are built or lost based on communication.

So what can you do this week to improve your communication skills in order to speak to be heard and hear to know how to speak (e.g., joining a Toastmasters club, reading books like Dr. Mark Goulston’s Just Listen, etc.)?  I’d love to hear your ideas in the comment forum below.

Referral Marketing Is Risky–It’s Also Rewarding

In a radio interview I once did, the host of the program asked me whether I consider referral marketing the safest form of advertising. Without the slightest hesitation, I confidently answered, “By all means, no.” Based on his response, I’m sure he was shocked by that answer.

Photo courtesy of Zuzzuillo at FreeDigtalPhotos.net

Photo courtesy of Zuzzuillo at FreeDigtalPhotos.net

I went on to explain that I believe very strongly in the tremendous benefits that word-of –mouth marketing can bring. However, there are unique risks associated with referral advertising that are not an issue in commercial or other forms of advertising.

When you give a referral, you give a little of your reputation away. If the business you’ve referred someone to does a good job, it helps your reputation. But if it does a poor job, your reputation may be hurt.

As I said, the payoffs of referral marketing are immense—when it’s done correctly.

But referral marketing involves a really big risk: giving away a piece of your reputation every time you give a referral to someone. When you tell a valued customer that a friend of yours is going to take good care of them, you must have confidence in that friend.

But what happens if your friend lets your customer down? It comes back to haunt you. Your customer begins to lose faith in you and, because of that loss of faith, you just might lose that customer down the road. This is why it’s so important to develop strong relationships with those to whom you’re referring business and vice versa. Once those strong connections are forged you can rest easy, knowing when you tell someone a business associate or a networking partner is going to take good care of him or her, that’s what will happen.

Do you have a story others might learn from about a time when referral marketing really paid off for you, or a story about how you experienced the unique risks associated with referral marketing firsthand?  Please share your experiences in the comment forum below.  I’d love to hear from you–thanks!

 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
1 2 3
   Follow Me

Get every new post delivered to your inbox