Using Your Passion to Sell Your Business

ID-100228591Are your referral partners excited about your business? Getting your referral partners excited about your business is one of the top ways to generate more referrals, and build your contact base more.

You’re probably sitting there thinking, “Oh, but nobody could be excited about my business. I do XYZ, and that’s boring.” Are you excited about what you do? Are you passionate about what you do?

Hopefully, the answer is yes – as a business owner, you should be excited and passionate about your business. That passionate you have for your business should show in how you describe it, and excite your referral partners. If you’re not excited about what you do, no one else will be either.

Think back to a time when you heard a motivational speaker, perhaps as a keynote at a convention or during a seminar. When you left the room that you heard the speaker in, was there an energetic buzz in the air? Were the other attendees excited about what they heard? Usually, the answer to that question is yes. But why?

Motivational speakers have an uncanny ability to share passion through their words, which increases their credibility and helps listeners remember their messages better. The very same end goals should be what you have in mind when educating potential referral partners about your business.

Increasing the excitement about your business can be easy. Take time to think about why you are excited about your business. What about what you do makes you look forward to waking up in the morning and going to work? Your personal challenge in networking is to have an extraordinary message that not only captures, but highlights, your passion and the essence of your business.

My challenge to you this week is to explain something about your business that excites you to a referral partner who may not have known about it before. See how they receive this information, or if they start to get excited, too.

Let me know in the comments below how that passion-fueled conversation goes!

Quantity Is Fine, But Quality Is King

Photo Courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo Courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One of the biggest misconceptions I’m aware of in regard to networking is the notion that it’s an “all you can eat” affair.  In other words, people go to an event, work the room in an effort to meet everyone there, and then judge their success by the number of cards they accumulate.  Although I see a certain superficial logic in that, there’s only one fatal flaw with this kind of thinking:  it assumes that the more people you meet at an event, the more successful your networking efforts are–and that’s simply not the case.  Instead, the quality of the connections you form is much more significant than the quantity of connections you make.

Businesspeople unfamiliar with referral networking sometimes lose track of the fact that networking is the means–not the end–of their business-building activities.  They attend three, four, even five events in a week in a desperate grasp for new business.  The predictable result is that they stay so busy meeting new people that they never have time to follow up and cultivate those relationships–and how can they expect to get that new business from someone they’ve only just met?  As one of these unfortunates remarked to me, “I feel like I’m always doing business but rarely getting anything done.”

I certainly agree that meeting new people is an integral part of networking, but it’s important to remember why we’re doing it in the first place: to develop a professional rapport with individuals that will deepen over time into a trusting relationship that will eventually lead to a mutually beneficial and continuous exchange of referrals.

When meeting someone for the first time, focus on the potential relationship you might form.  As hard as it may be to suppress your business reflexes, at this stage you cannot make it your goal to sell your services or promote your company.  You’re there to get to know a new person.  A friend of mine told me something his dad always said: “You don’t have to sell to friends.”  That’s especially good advice when interacting with new contacts.

This certainly doesn’t mean you’ll never get to sell anything to people you meet while networking; it does, however, mean that you’ll need to employ a different approach.  Networking isn’t about closing business or meeting hordes of new people; it’s about developing relationships in which future business can be closed.  Once you understand that, you’ll stand out from the crowd with everyone you meet.

When you’re networking like a pro and treating new contacts as future referral partners, you’ll absolutely blow away any competitors who still feel compelled to meet as many people as they possibly can.  Why?  Because when you call your contacts back, they’ll actually remember who you are and be willing to meet with you again.

Can You Pinpoint the Benefits of Your Product or Service?

Sales training often teaches us that customers make buying decisions based on (1) their emotions (“Sell the sizzle, not the steak!”) and (2) the value the product or service brings to them.  Marketing specialists capitalize on customers’ emotion-based buying habits.  Customers choose a product or service based on its benefits, not its features.  The features are simply the bare-bones facts–the elements or significant parts–of the product or service.  The benefits are its value to the customer–how it will solve their problems, eliminate their pain, and make life glorious.

Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

To understand the difference between features and benefits, let’s think about a car:

Features of a car

  • V-6 engine, dual exhaust, front-wheel drive, sunroof, significant interior legroom, heated seats, heated glass

Benefits of those features

  • V-6 engine–ability to pull onto the highway without hesitation (and to impress your friends)
  • Dual exhausts–higher fuel efficiency and more power (and it sounds groovy and also impresses your friends)
  • Front-wheel drive–more interior room because of the lack of a driveshaft tunnel
  • Sunroof–the open feel of a convertible with the safety and security of a sedan
  • Legroom–greater comfort while driving long distances and more room for your growing family
  • Heated seats–cozy motoring on frigid days and nights; greater back comfort on long-distance trips
  • Heated glass–the convenience of not having to scrape icy windows in the winter

The more perceived value a benefit offers, the higher it gets ranked in your decision to purchase.  Objectively, a sunroof is not a significant feature, but if it makes you feel a bit like a race car driver, perhaps that benefit raises its value for you.  Heated seats are nice too, but they might not rank high in value for to people who live in a warm climate and wouldn’t strongly influence their buying decision.  The benefits of dual exhausts, however, might have perceived value for all buyers–better fuel efficiency, more power, and a sound like your beloved but departed ’57 Chevy.

What does all this have to do with your referral marketing message?  Simply this:  Most businesspeople, without thinking about it, talk in terms of features.  As professional experts and salespeople, that’s what they’re most familiar with.  They’re not accustomed to looking at their products or services from a customer’s perspective.

In formulating the message you want your networking partners to convey, your challenge is to put yourself in the customer’s place.  What are the benefits of your product or service?  How will it make the customer’s life or business easier, more comfortable, more satisfying, more profitable?  How can you shorten and simplify your message so that others can communicate these benefits more clearly and surely?

Now that you have a good understanding of the difference between features and benefits, I hope you’ll come back next week to read the follow-up blog post I’ll be doing which will teach show you exactly how to zero in on the benefits of your business.  Until then, if you have any questions about features vs. benefits or any thoughts you’d like to share regarding this post, please leave a comment in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

The Power of Being Specific

In this video, I explain a great technique for getting your referral partners to really hone in on and start passing you more and more of the exact type of referrals that you ideally want. The technique is simply to focus on being as specific as possible.

In order to demonstrate just how powerful specificity can be, I take you through two 10-second exercises which clearly convey how results can be significantly greater when we take care to be specific. You’ll need a pen and a piece of paper to participate in the exercises so be sure to grab those two things before watching the video and please feel free to leave a comment sharing your thoughts on this video and/or any effective strategies you may have which help you focus on specificity with members of your network.

5 Key Things You & Your Referral Partners Must Know about One Another

So often, I see people who are frustrated about not getting more business referred to them. After all, they say, isn’t that what business networking is all about?

What many of these people don’t seem to realize, however, is that they need to actively share information (5 key things, in particular) about themselves with the right people before they can expect to have business referred to them by the people in others’ networks.

The fact is, it’s not enough that you’re great at what you do and can offer a lot of value to new clients. To win referrals from networking, you need to ensure that your contacts have all the necessary information about you and your skills so they can go out and persuade third parties to come and purchase your product or service. It’s amazing how many people fail to recognize this.

There are actually five key things that are essential for the members of your network to know about you before you can expect them to refer business your way. Equally, you need to know these same five things about them so you can reciprocate.

I call this process of reciprocal sharing of information the GAINS exchange, based on the first letter of each of the five essential informational pointsGoals, Accomplishments, Interests, Networks, and Skills:

  • Goals: What are the objectives that are important to you; what are the problems you want to solve? Not just financial and business goals, but also personal and educational objectives.
  • Accomplishments: What big projects have you completed in business or as an employee? What are your accomplishments as a student or parent?
  • Interests: What are the things you really enjoy doing? The music you like to listen to, the hobbies you spend time on, the sports you like to play or watch? People are more willing to spend time with people they share interests with.
  • Networks: Each of your contacts is a part of many networks. Do you know what these are, how big they are? Each of us has the potential to connect with hundreds or thousands of people if we cultivate these resources.
  • Skills: What do you do especially well? What are the professional areas in which you excel? Don’t be afraid to share this information with your contacts, and learn about the talents and abilities of the people in your network as well.

These are not mysterious pieces of information. They are facts we are exposed to every day, if we look for them.

By remembering the GAINS exchange, you can make sure you don’t overlook this essential information about your networking contacts.  Is there an additional piece of information you make a habit of giving and getting when it comes to networking relationships?  If so, what is it and how have you found it to be effective?  I’d love to hear your ideas and experiences so please share your feedback in the comment forum below—thanks!

Are You Prepared?–A Networking Checklist

Have you ever attended a networking event where it was clear that some of the other networkers you interacted with were obviously not at all prepared?  Worse yet, have you found yourself unprepared in networking situations and been unsure about what you should be doing to set yourself up to make solid networking connections?  As networkers, preparation is extremely important  because, the fact is, if you haven’t done the simple, basic preparations to network properly then you’re not only wasting your time, you’re wasting the time of the other networkers you talk to.

 

Preparing to network is not difficult; you simply need to follow these basic networking commandments:

* Have the proper networking tools with you (name badge, business cards, contact info of your referral partners).

* Set a reachable goal for the number of people you’ll meet, and then get all their cards.

* Act like a host, not a guest.

* Listen and ask questions.

* Don’t try to close a deal.

* Give referrals whenever possible.

* Spend roughly 10 minutes or so with each person you meet.

* Exchange cards and write notes on the backs of cards you get so that you are sure to remember people clearly.

* Follow up!

No matter how long you’ve been networking, it’s always good to remind yourself to consistently follow these steps. If you do, you’re sure to get the best possible results from your networking efforts. And other networkers, like myself, will thank you for making good use of their time.

Do you have a tactic for preparing to network which isn’t listed above and has been particularly effective for you?  If so, please share it in the comment forum below.  I’d love to hear you ideas–thanks!

 

Seeking Engagement: A Critical Step for Networking Groups

Engagement involves a promise and an action.  In order to achieve success in your group of networking relationships, you and your relationships must promise to support one another and then take the actions necessary to fulfill that promise.

There are many ways that you can become engaged.  Have you taken the time to regularly meet with the people in your network?  Have you taken the time to educate them regularly on the key features of your business so that your products or services will be top of mind in the event they meet someone with a need for what you supply?  Have you taken the time to become educated on the key features of your networking relationships’ businesses so that you can do the same?

The higher the number of people in your network who are engaged in these activities, the more likely it is that the entire group will be generating more referrals.  The reason for this is a shared vision of success and a shared implementation of that vision.

Another way to be actively engaged and educated about each others’ businesses is to do regular and consistent meetings.  Over and over, I see that business owners who have regular one-to-one meetings with their business networking relationships tend to both give AND get more referrals.

Lastly, are you focusing on your “elevator pitch”?  The best way to ensure your referral sources are going to remember what you do is to focus on communicating your business to them by breaking it down into laser-specific elements.  Sharp-shoot your pitch, don’t shotgun it.  In each of your regular one-to-one meetings, talk about one key element, product, or benefit of what you do.

According to Psychology Today, research has found that people who are “actively engaged” in a business environment are “43% more productive” than those who are not.  Furthermore, they state that engagement includes “regular dialogue, quality of working relationships, perceptions of ethos and values of the organization, and recognition.”  There’s research behind my recommending reciprocal engagement between you and your referral partners.  In fact, it’s critical to your success–and theirs.

This week, think about new ways in which you can support your networking partners in order to promote engagement within your networking group.  I’d love to hear what ideas you come up with so please leave your thoughts in the comment forum below. Thanks!

 

 

Does Your Networking Group Put Enough Emphasis on Quality?

In order for a networking group to be successful and thus ensure optimum networking results for each of its members, the first thing the group needs to do is ensure they are embracing quality.

Embracing quality means being very selective about who you bring into the group.  The only people you should be inviting into the group are quality business professionals who have a positive, supportive attitude and are good at what they do.  If an individual does not meet these criteria, they should not be permitted into the group, period.

Effective networking is dependent on the quality of the relationships are developed within any given networking group, therefore it should go without saying that embracing quality also means building deep relationships among all referral partners in order to generate more referrals.  If your network is a mile wide and an inch deep, you won’t be getting the referrals you expect.

Another aspect of embracing quality is ensuring quality participation which means there absolutely must be accountability within the group.  One of the greatest strengths of a good network is that many of the members are friends.  One of the biggest weaknesses, however, is that . . . well . . . many of the members are friends; friends don’t generally like to hold other friends accountable.  You need to remember, as do your fellow networking group members, that the purpose of your group is not to be a friendship club–your purpose is to be a referral group and in order to generate quality referrals, all members of the group must hold each other accountable for maintaining quality participation.

If you expect the best from your fellow referral partners, you’ll get it.  Likewise, if you expect less than the best from them, you’re guaranteed to get that as well.  Why accept mediocrity when excellence is an option?  Accountability within a group will help all involved to achieve excellence.

The last part of embracing quality is applying the Givers Gain® philosophy within the networking group (i.e., when each member focuses on helping their fellow members achieve goals, gain referrals, and grow business, their fellow members will reciprocate by helping them back in the same way).  The more members who live this philosophy (particularly as it relates to referrals), the more successful a group will be.

How does your networking group currently excel at embracing quality?  Which aspects of embracing quality could your group stand to improve upon?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section and I’ll be more than happy to offer suggested solutions to any challenges your group may be having with putting enough emphasis on quality. Thanks!

Building a Power Team

Referral partnerships are a powerful element in an effective networking group.  This informative and equally entertaining video by Lawrence Conyers of UK based Anson Corporate Media (you may remember the video of his I posted back in December about how to conduct effective one-to-one meetings) is all about building a Power Team of referral partners and, though it is geared toward members of BNI groups, the information works for all networking groups.

Lawrence , who is not only an experienced networker but also a gifted and creative photographer, videographer, and artist, demonstrates how a Power Team is built and how it benefits networkers and effectively grows business.

Talking about what the video is about, Lawrence explains, “Who do you work with on a regular basis that provides complimentary services to yours?  A plumber needs to know a kitchen installer and a plasterer.  Photographers, wedding car hire, florists and cake makers have a constant flow of referrals in all directions.”

Take a few minutes to watch this video (Not only will you learn from it, I’m willing to bet that, as with all of Lawrence’s videos, you’ll get a good laugh as well!) and let me know what you think of  it–I think the butler (a.k.a. Miss Jones)  is hilarious! Also, I’d love to hear about your experiences with Power Teams, please  share your feedback in the comments section.

To learn more about Lawrence Conyers and Anson Corporate Media, please visit: www.AnsonCorporateMedia.co.uk

What’s Your Excuse for Not Following Up?

What’s your excuse for not following up with new contacts after networking events?  It doesn’t really matter what your answer is because I’m here to tell you that the correct answer to the above question from this point on is: There is no excuse for not following up, so I don’t have one.

We all know that networking without follow up can equal a big waste of time.  However, many networkers still find every excuse under the sun not to follow up and the most common reasons they use are either that they’re not sure how to appropriately follow up or they don’t have time.  As promised in Monday’s blog entry, today I’m going to give you two free follow up note templates (these will work whether you’re using e-mail or mailing a hand-written note) that will make it a no-brainer for you to follow up with new contacts.  No more excuses!

Follow up Template for “B list” contacts (those who may become valuable contacts in the future but not right away):

Jim–

My name is John Smith, and I’m the consultant who met you the other day over at the chamber.  I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed our conversation–and it sounds like you’re really doing well and staying busy.

Anyway, it was good talking to you, and if I can help you out in any way, please let me know.

John

Follow up Template for “A list” contacts (those who might become new clients or referral partners right now):

If using e-mail, use this subject line: Nice to Meet You–Chamber Event (1/23)

Jim–

My name is Jane Smith, and I’m the consultant who met you the other day at the chamber event.  I just wanted to say I really enjoyed our conversation and was hoping I could learn a little bit more about what you do.

I’m thinking we can get together for a quick cup of coffee.  That way, if I run into someone who could use your services, I can point him in your direction.  How does next Tuesday morning sound for something over at Starbucks?

Again, great talking to you, and if I can help your business in any way, please let me know.

Jane

Using these follow up note templates provide you with a great base for building relationships with the new contacts you make at networking events.  One more quick tip: Regardless of whether you choose to use these templates when writing follow up notes, always be sure to first remind the person of who you are and where you met so your note doesn’t get instantly discarded.

Sorting Out Who’s Who

So, let’s say you’ve just returned from a networking event where you met a lot of new people and now you have a pocketful of business cards that you’re not sure what to do with.  What’s your first order of business?  Your first order of business is to sort out who’s who.

You need to separate the people you think might become new clients or referral partners right now from the ones who might be valuable contacts sometime in the future but not right away.  Let’s call the first group your A list, the rest your B list.  (Sounds kind of Hollywood, doesn’t it? :))  When you enter them into your contact database, labeling each contact as part of group “A” or “B” would be good to include (along with type of business, address, phone number, event where you met, etc.).

Now that you’ve got your contacts filed away neatly, take a look first at your B list. You want these folks to know you enjoyed meeting them, and you want to keep the door open for doing business with them later on if a good opportunity arises.  You can do this with a quick note by either e-mail or snail mail.* If you find you need to reconnect with one of these people at a later time, you’ll at least have some traction in the relationship simply because you followed up with a quick e-mail.

Now, what about your A list? These are people who have immediate potential as referral partners.  You need to follow up with them quickly–within a few days, before you drop off their radars.  First, initiate a “coffee connection” with each of your new contacts, a follow-up meeting where you can get to know her and find out how you can help her.  Anything short of trying to find ways to help her will generally be treated as a sales call instead of a relationship-building contact.  To ask for this first meeting, either a handwritten note or an e-mail is acceptable.*

At this point, you may be asking, “What about the people I meet who aren’t potential clients and aren’t in a field that can refer business to me?  Should I follow up with them anyway?” Absolutely!  You never know whom other people know; even a quick little “Nice to meet you” e-mail is better than not doing anything at all and hoping these people remember you later when you discover a need to do business with one of them.

Now that you know how to sort out who’s who, be sure to do this each and every time with the business cards you gather in your daily networking activities and, I guarantee you, you will start to see greater results from your networking efforts.

*Come back on Thursday to read a blog entry with specific examples of what your follow up notes to group A contacts and group B contacts should say–I’ll give you two free follow-up note templates so you’ll have no excuses for not following up with your new contacts.  Trust me, following up couldn’t be any easier than this!


Get Your Act Together

Let’s face it: As a businessperson, you’ve got a lot going on. There are people to see, places to go and a whole lot of stuff to do. Can you do all this, and look and act presentable at all times, too?

Quite frankly, getting and keeping your act together can be a little overwhelming for even the sanest of people, so here are some tips:

1. Look the part before going to a networking event.  You’d be surprised how many people fall short in the fundamental area of appearance. If it’s a chamber of commerce networking breakfast, don’t dress casually–wear a good suit or outfit. You need to be well-rested and clearheaded when attending a morning networking session; make a conscious effort to get plenty of sleep the night before. If you’re not a morning person, hit the sack earlier than usual, so you don’t look like the walking dead. Regardless of how many cups of coffee you’ve had, people can tell if you’re not all there.

2. Make sure your body language sends the right message. When it comes to forming networking relationships, most of the important information–trustworthiness, friendliness, sincerity, openness–is communicated through nonverbal cues such as posture, facial expression and hand gestures. When engaging in conversation, look the other person directly in the eye and stay focused on what he’s saying. Lean a bit into the conversation rather than away from it; don’t stand rigid, with your arms crossed.

3. Be prepared. Make sure you know which pocket your business cards are in, and have plenty on hand. Nothing screams, “One of these days I’ve got to get organized!” louder than handing a potential referral partner someone else’s card.

4. Remember to smile. Studies have shown that if you smile when you talk, you seem more open and forthright. Obviously you don’t want to go overboard with this, and start grinning and shaking hands like a hyperactive clown; just show that you’re having a good time, and that will send the right message.

Perception is reality when it comes to meeting people for the first time. If people perceive you as not being right for them, they simply won’t be inclined to refer business to you, regardless of the work you can actually do. However, by keeping the above tips in mind, you’ll go a long way toward creating the right impression in the blink of an eye.

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