Relationships Are Currency

How many times have you seen an entrepreneur go to an event, meet people, and never talk to them again? Contacts are valuable, and your relationships are currency. Don’t fall into this networking pitfall. When it comes to your contacts, it is how well you know each other that counts, not how many contacts you have.

What is the best way for you to grow and utilize your relationships? Check out my latest video on my Networking for Success YouTube channel by clicking here, or by looking below.

Selecting Your Business Networks

This video is hosted by Entrepreneur.com and can be found on The Networking for Success YouTube Channel.

Networking is the perfect way to help take your business to the next level. But putting your eggs in one basket and depending on one networking group to satisfy all your needs won’t work–and that’s coming from the Founder of the world’s largest referral network.

We all select different people in our lives that satisfy various needs that contribute to our well being; our parents provide comfort and guidance, our close friends provide support and cheer, our business relationships provide trust and honesty. While these satisfactions may overlap from group to group, it’s important to have more than one person you’re leaning on for all your emotional needs.

It’s the same with your networking groups! While you may find cheer and honesty in more than one group, it’s important to spread your interests to gain a varied support system.

When selecting your business networks, you need to understand which types are available so you can make an informed decision. There are five types:

1. Casual Contact: A gathering on people from many different professions, usually in a mixer environment

2. Strong Contact: Usually only allows one person per profession, get together very regularly

3. Community Service Clubs: An opportunity to rub elbows with other very successful people

4. Professional Associations: Trade organizations that are very specific in purpose

5. Online: Social Media such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, where networking is constant

To better understand which group fits you best, watch the video below.

 

Why Successful Networking is All About You…Kind Of

This is the first in a two part series.

Do you find yourself a networking event, standing alone awkwardly and wondering why you can’t hold a conversation? Do you wonder why others don’t seem interested in talking to you, while those around you are conversing easily and often? You wore the right thing, you have a drink in your hand and clearly you have no one to talk to–so why aren’t people lined around the corner to speak to you?

I hate to be the one to say it, but it has to be said–it might be you. Not the inherent you, not your personality or your reputation; but your body language and behavior can turn a stranger into a referral partner or into just another body in the room. If you want to make this networking thing happen, you have to know–

Are you approachable or alienating?

Here’s how to know if you are APPROACHABLE:

1. Positive Attitude: You smile, laugh and look like you are a pleasant person to talk to. Although this seems ridiculously simple, you’d be surprised how many people don’t realize their frowning or looking bored in conversation. Go look in the mirror and watch how your face changes when you frown and when you smile–you’ll see what a difference it makes!

2. Open Body Language: In the book Networking Like a Pro, I talk about positioning when a person is conversing with others. Instead of talking to someone in a one-on-one conversation, standing closely together with your shoulders facing squarely at one another, make sure your stance allows the room for someone else to approach and join in.

3.Congruence: Conduct yourself as if every person you meet is the host of the event, going above and beyond to make them feel good. Don’t over compliment or lay on the schmooze, but do make a point to encourage others in conversation and seem genuinely interested in them and their business.

 

Next week: Are you alienating?

 

 

 

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.

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.

 

Is Ignorance on Fire Ever a Good Thing?

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.

 

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

 

Networking with a Purpose

This is the most incredible VCP story I’ve ever heard!  It shows how relationship networking is changing lives across the globe.

(For those of you who aren’t familiar with the principle, VCP stands for Visibility, Credibility and Profitability; successful networking is achieved by first being visible in your business community, which will lead to credibility, which will lead to profitability.)

I was recently contacted by one of BNI’s Executive Directors, Susan Goodsell, to tell me about her daughter’s remarkable journey to Zanzibar, Africa. Kelsey, who is 23 years old, is there with GIVE (Growth International Volunteer Excursions) which recruits college students to work on sustainable development projects around the world. Kelsey has been volunteering with the organization for three years, and this year she has been assigned as Education Coordinator and will help her team on projects like school construction and tutoring in English.

GIVE Zanzibar schoolTo give you an idea of what Kelsey and her team are up against, here’s a little background on the culture of Zanzibar. The country is extremely poor and education is positioned against its citizens–even though the national language is Swahili, exams required to continue through school are given in English. If a student does not pass the exam, they can’t continue attending school unless they retake the exam, which costs $500–the yearly income of most families.

One of Kelsey’s primary jobs is to establish trust with the locals in order to encourage them to use GIVE’s tutoring program (this is Kelsey on the right teaching a class). She was asked to integrate with the women in the village, but she found it very challenging as their cultures are so different.

I think the next part of the story would be best told by Susan herself.

“Kelsey was hugely uncomfortable–to the point where she was messaging me on WhatsApp. “They’re older than I am. They only speak Swahili.” (She speaks very basic Swahili.) “And they don’t want anything to do with me.”

I have often said the skills in BNI are not just business skills, but life skills. I went into part Mom mode, part BNI mode.

“VCP,” I told her. “You have no credibility. You need to start with visibility. Tomorrow, simply walk through the village, smile and say “Jambo” to six women. If they have a baby or a child, smile and wave at the child. That’s it. Six women. Then consider you’ve met your goal.”

Day 1, I received a text message. “Mom, no one smiled. Not one person responded to me. And all I got were death ray stares.”

“Okay Kelsey, I get it. That must’ve been awkward. Now do it again tomorrow.”

On the third day, she messaged to say that two women smiled at her. The day after that, two women said hello back. A couple days later, she said, “Mom! SIX women smiled and talked to me first! I didn’t even do anything!”

It only took about a week.

I know VCP is actually a referral process, but it sure did come in handy when my only baby was 10,000 miles away and thinking she was in way over her head and couldn’t so anything to affect change. This is another example of how BNI success stories aren’t always about a business, or even a BNI, success. We bring our members life skills.”

Isn’t that amazing?

I’ve asked Susan to keep us updated as Kelsey continues to work in Africa and use the skills she and her mother have learned through BNI. Make sure to check back in for the future instalments of her incredible journey.

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.

Three Basic Ways to Network Your Startup

startupWorking in a startup is completely different than an established company, and comes with its own unique set of challenges. Not only do employees or founders of a startup need to be conscious of these different challenges, there are also keys to business that become even more important when you work with a startup.

Not only do you need to attend networking events, you should host them. When you attend an event, you will stick in the minds of those who were also in attendance. Ideally, you’ll make positive impresses on everyone you connect with. When you host an event, however, not only will people who you connect with at the event remember you, so will everyone you invited but couldn’t make it. While their impression of you won’t be as developed as those who attended, invitees who couldn’t make will remember that they were invited, and it will be easier to hit the ground running with them when you finally do make that connection.

The follow up is vital. A huge part of networking is that follow up, and letting those that you connect with know that their time is appreciated and that you want to continue developing that relationship. When you are working on starting your business, that follow up becomes a tool of its own. Your number one priority needs to be growing your business, gaining notoriety, and establishing new connections in your industry to help support that growth. Letting people know that you’re thinking of them, whether they are new contacts or old, helps to develop those relationships and can keep you moving forward.

You need to lose some ego. As business people, we’re smart. Not only that, but we need to be confident to succeed in business. What that doesn’t give you the right to do is to allow your ego to control your actions. Whatever reason you’re involved in a startup, whether you were looking to break into a different industry, or you’re on the latest of many new businesses, your reputation cannot carry you here. With a new venture, you need to develop a new name for yourself, so you cannot rely on what you have accomplished before. It can help you get part of the way, but you must lose the ego if you want to go far.

Have you ever worked with or owned a startup? What advice would you give to those just starting out? Let us know in the comments below!s 

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