referral coincidence

Referral Coincidence?

In this video, I share a story about a referral coincidence.

A misconception occurs when someone focuses on the referral rather than on the relationship that produced the referral. Understand the process of building relationships. It’s not the number of contacts you make that’s important, but the ones that you turn into lasting relationships. You’ll always get better results trying to deepen relationships with people you already know than starting relationships with strangers.

Luck is where persistence meets opportunity.

Networking is not about luck, it’s about relationships. No one person is likely to turn your business around, but together, over a long time, they can make a difference.

Click here to watch this video

 

Your Business is Not an Ugly Baby

When was the last time you heard someone say, “Wow, your baby sure is ugly!” If they’re smart, probably never.

How about this one? “You’re clothing, marketing message and overall business image are not referable?” Ouch.

We occasionally think this about people we meet, but will rarely say it out loud. Which is why you are responsible for making sure your business, your “baby,” is in the right condition for receiving referrals.

I’ve seen thousands of people join networking groups and focus heavily on building their network but forget to take a good, hard look in the mirror, both at your self and image and your businesses. I’m challenging you to make an honest appraisal of yourself and your business and ask, “Am I worthy of business referrals?” If you’re not sure how to start, here are five ways to get you going.

1. Define your Emotional Charged Connection (ECC): If you are asked seven times this week, “What do you do for a living?” do you respond with seven different answers? Your marketing message should be clear, concise and consistent; it should also tug at the heart strings a bit and have some ECC. This combination will leave a lasting impression and, most importantly, give others a clear way of explaining your message to others.

2. Walk your talk. Do what you say in less time than promised. Be on time for meetings, don’t check your phone while others are talking to you–and follow up with everyone and everything.

3. Dress for success: If you’re a mechanic and you wear a three piece suit to a business meeting, one might assume you’ve just come from court. Whatever people in your profession typically wear–uniform, polo shirt and khakis, suit and tie, dress and heels–just be sure to wear it well. You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on a new wardrobe, but make sure what you wear is clean, wrinkle-free and tucked in. You want to look sharp, because your first impression when you walk into a meeting is a lasting one. If you’re messy or too casual, people might assume you have the same attitude about your business. board man

4. Be self-aware: Eighty percent of someone’s perception of you are based on your nonverbal cues, including eye contact, facial expressions and mannerisms. Ask someone you trust to simulate a meeting or pitch with you and have them point out what they think is working–and what’s not.

5. Keep your social media presence professional: It’s vital to remember that your professional image exists on and offline. That’s not say you can share a funny joke or have fun on social media, but be aware that people are judging you by your online behavior. Two of every three posts should be about something personal, but don’t make controversial statements or divulge every intimate detail about your life. In this digital age, if you are what you say, you are also what you post.

Your baby is not ugly, it’s beautiful. Your business image is not ugly, it’s also beautiful and worthy of referrals. But nothing else will matter unless our personal brand and referability are in order. After all, we are our biggest advertisement.

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.)

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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.

 

Resist Coin-Operated Networking

When networking, do you only talk to those who can give you the most in return? Do you only give your business card to someone who you will bring you a ton of referrals? Do you only give referrals if you know you’ll get them in return?

If this sounds like you, you are doing it all wrong. Networking is not a vending machine. You don’t put in coins into the machine and get a candy bar every time–sometimes, you have to wait for your candy.

This mentality is called “transactional networking,” which is going to get you nowhere quickly in the world of referral networking. The “I will give you this, now you have to give me that,” point of view is only going to leave you sorely disappointed.

Instead, the proper mindset is, “Let me help you. I’ve got some ideas. I have a referral for you.” Over time, they’ll give it back you when the opportunity arises. This mentality is called “relational.” Keeping score or holding a referral back because you haven’t received one in return won’t always work, but thinking about giving before getting and making it the foundation of your business reputation, will.

Let’s take a closer look. If you’re keeping score and have given two referrals, but only received one in return, you might be a little disappointed. But consider the value of those referrals. You can’t simply go by the numbers. Two referrals to a florist are vastly different than two referrals to a real estate agent. By the same token, we don’t think it’s realistic to expect $1,000 worth of referrals from someone just because you passed them referrals of that amount.

By applying the Givers Gain philosophy, you will make your referral relationships relational rather than transactional and find success in this relationship. Let’s say there’s somebody you don’t know well, but you want to know that person better and build a referral relationship. You think this person may be able to help you and you know you can help them. You don’t start a referral relationship by asking them to sign a contract that for every referral you give him, he has to give you one in return! The way to start the process is to give.

I understand the hesitation to give referrals to someone you don’t know well–but giving doesn’t have to start with a referral. It can start with a conversation. If you’re having a conversation with a possible referral partner and they express a problem they may be having, you might say, “You know, I just read a great article on that. I’ll email it to you.” You hand them your business card with your email address on it, they do the same and –voila! A connection is made through giving.

Remember, networking is more about farming than it is about hunting. It’s about cultivating relationships.

Ignorance Fire

Is Ignorance on Fire Ever a Good Thing?

Ignorance on fire

The following video is part of my new “Ivanism” Garage to Global series, hosted by Entrepreneur.com, where I expand on catch phrases I have used frequently over the years.

 

I know, it’s a strange concept: “Ignorance on fire is better than knowledge on ice.”

Most people read that statement and think, someone who’s excited but ignorant can do more harm than good.

I’m here to tell you that the opposite of your intuition is true. That’s right–and you’ll see why below.

 

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?

 

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.

Using Your Unique Selling Proposition

uniquesellingOne of the biggest issues I see or hear when it comes to networking and word-of-mouth marketing strategies comes from the individual businessperson’s mindset. So often, people believe that in order to network successfully and set themselves up for the most referrals, they need to tell everyone who will listen (and some who won’t) everything that their business does. This misconception simply leads many to believe that by talking to everyone in the room, they’ll maximize their referrals.

This is not at all the case. What this actually does is bores your intended audience, and overwhelms them with more information than they could ever possibly remember.

The key instead is to come up with a unique selling proposition for your company, business or service, and use it when you network. Your unique selling proposition will be a brief summary of your business, the key word here being brief. You’ll want to share this description as concisely and as engaging as possible. Not only will your audience walk away understanding what you do, but if you have described your business in a compelling way, they’ll be more likely to remember you because you entertained them and kept them listening.

The biggest indicator of a good unique selling proposition is that it gets people to ask you more about your business, and keeps them genuinely interested in what you do. They should be short, sweet, and to the point, without being vague or misleading. Your goal is to open the door for a conversation, not leave any potential contacts confused.

What is your business’s unique selling proposition? How do you use it to get word-of-mouth referrals? Tell me in the comments below!

Networking is a Contact Sport

Networking is a Contact SportMany entrepreneurs belong to networking organizations, but they simply don’t know how to effectively get a return on that investment of time.  Thoughtful engagement is the answer.  Engagement is an absolutely critical step in the networking process.  It involves a promise and an action.  In order to achieve success with your networking partners, you must promise to support one another, and then you must take the action necessary to fulfill that promise.  The only way to do that effectively is to connect on a deeper level than you do with most of your business contacts.

There are several ways that you can become more engaged with your networking partners:

  1. Have you taken the time to regularly meet with the people in your network on a one-to-one basis?  This means setting up times outside the context of any normal meetings and getting to know them on a deeper, professional level.
  2. Have you taken the time to educate them regularly on the key elements 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 do?
  3. Have you taken the time to become educated on the key elements of your networking partners’ businesses, so that you can do the same for them?
  4. Have you visited their offices to get first-hand understanding of their services?
  5. If possible, have you used their products or services to get first-hand knowledge of the quality their products or the services they provide?

Networking truly is a “contact sport.”  It involves full engagement in order to get solid results. In fact, research has shown that reciprocal engagement in a business relationship results in higher productivity.  According to Psychology Today, people who are “actively engaged” in a business environment are “43% more productive” than those who are not.  Furthermore, they say that engagement includes “regular dialogue, quality of working relationships, perceptions of ethos and values… and recognition.”   Effective networking is all about building meaningful relationships that include most, if not all of these characteristics.

Every time I hear someone talk about how networking didn’t work for them – I discover it’s because they have never done a deep-dive on the relationship building process relating to their networking.  Most of their networking activities were very superficial.  Or worse yet – it mostly involved an attempt at direct selling.  Networking is not a face-to-face, cold-calling opportunity!  When it’s done right, it’s about building long-term meaningful relationships.  In fact, networking is more about “farming” than it is about “hunting.”  It’s about the slow process of cultivating long-term, professional relationships.  Over time, this long-term process gives you the opportunity harvest a substantial amount of business, but it only happens with full engagement in the relationship process.

Spend some time thinking about new ways you can support your networking partners.  This will help you promote engagement with them in the various networking groups to which you belong.  You will find it is time most well spent.

The Greatest Referral of My Life

If you’re familiar with BNI, the business networking organization I founded back in the mid ’80s, you may be aware that this year is BNI’s 30th anniversary and we’re honoring it with a celebratory video series.  Today, I’d like to share with you one of the videos from the series which is especially important to me because, in it, I talk about the greatest referral of my lifetime.

Throughout my thirty year career in networking, I’ve been privileged to receive more than a few remarkably noteworthy referrals–and I’ve seen and heard of some truly amazing referrals being passed to others.  However, nothing–and I mean nothing–has come close to being as remarkably noteworthy as this one referral which has changed my life in countless ways for the better and continues to define the center of my life.

After watching the video, I’d love to hear from you about what the greatest referral in your life has been up to this point.  I’m sure you have some amazing stories and I hope you’ll share them in the comment forum below–thanks in advance for your participation!

 

 

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