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.

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.

How to Zero in on the Benefits of Your Business

Last week I wrote a blog explaining the importance of focusing on the benefits of your products or services (as opposed to the features of your products/services) when communicating with networking partners and potential customers.

Once you have a good understanding of the difference between benefits and features, you can begin zeroing in on the benefits of your business.  In order to do this, your first task is to focus on your best customers.  What problems were they experiencing before they came to you?  What problems did you solve for them?  How did you make their lives easier?  The answers to these questions will begini to connect you with their motives for buying your products or services.  You provided some value to them that was significant enough to cause them to spend their money.  What was it?

An additional task this week is to create a list of the features versus the benefits of just one product or service you offer.  On a sheet of paper, make two columns–one column with the heading “FEATURE of This Product or Service” and the other column with the heading “BENEFIT of This Feature.”

Once you’ve completed this list, begin to include the language of your benefits in your messages to your marketing team, to prospects, and while networking.  It would be a good idea to eventually complete this list for each of your products or services because the more you can communicate the benefits of your products/services, the more people will see the value of what your business provides.

Come back next week to learn how to simplify your message and make it more specific and, in the meantime, I’d love to hear from you in regard to any questions you may have about benefits vs. features and/or get your thoughts on what you may have learned or realized about the true benefits of your products/services through creating your features vs. benefits list.  Please share your questions/thoughts in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

 

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!

What Is Your Unique Selling Proposition?

When someone asks you what you do, what are the first words out of your mouth?  If the words aren’t ready to roll off your tongue, then read on . . .

LightBulb

Image courtesy of artsamui at Free Digital Photos.net

When someone asks you what you do, make sure you’re ready with a response that is succinct but memorable. The attention span of the average adult is only 20 seconds; a long, drawn-out answer to the question isn’t going to work.

Focus on creating a unique selling proposition (USP)–a mini commercial that you can readily use while networking. I think of this as a personal answer to the age-old “Whattaya do?” question, which we’ve all been asked about a million and a half times.

Here’s an example. When someone asks what you do, don’t reply with a bland, general statement such as “I’m a consultant.” Half the world could say that, and it doesn’t tell anybody anything. Instead, you could say, “I work with small to medium-size businesses to help them attract more clients than they could possibly handle.”  This is short, powerful and informative.

A USP is obviously something you’ll have to tailor to your specific business, but can you see how it packs more punch than just telling people you’re a consultant? Whichever 12 or 20 words you choose, make sure your answer is quick and informative without sounding rehearsed or contrived.

So, make it your goal this week to come with a USP. Not only will this make you much more effective at networking events and functions, being prepared in this way will also make you more comfortable with introducing yourself to new people because you’ll have the confidence of knowing exactly what to say.

Once you’ve used your new USP a handful of times, come back and leave a comment letting me know what kind of response you got from people and how it worked out for you overall. As always, I’d love to hear from you!

What Marketing Genius Thought of This?

 

It was 11:30 AM in Paris last Wednesday and Beth (my wife) and I had a lunch meeting that was set for 12 noon with a couple business associates. As we headed out to the curb to get into a taxi in order to drive to the restaurant, we noticed something odd. There were no taxis in the taxi stand in front of our building!

Unbeknown to us, the taxi drivers in Paris, were all on a two-day work stoppage (yes, a strike) in protest of the “Uber” App, (a personal sedan service that can be requested via an app) which has been cutting into their profits, according to the taxi drivers.  Apparently, they are hoping that the French government will ban the use of Uber in France!

We have used Uber with great success in the United States, and had not thought about using the app while here in Paris. It has been so easy, frankly, to just step outside and into one of any number of waiting taxis, that we didn’t need Uber.

But standing on the curb in the quickly intensifying sunshine with little time to spare to get to our appointment, we wondered if there was any chance of using the app now to book a car for our lunch. Beth tapped the app on her iPhone and within seconds we received confirmation that our Uber sedan would be with us in 15 minutes. After only six minutes, the car pulled up on the curb in front of our building.

Anyone who knows me at all, knows that I put a high premium on a company’s ability to under promise and over deliver. They definitely did just that in the humid Paris heat!

As we headed to our lunch meeting, we began talking about the irony of the taxi drivers’ strike actually driving us (pun intended!) into the waiting arms of the very competitor they were protesting! What marketing genius thought of this blunder-head idea!? To me this is the perfect example of something I call the “unintended consequences of a ‘seemingly’ good idea.” Did no one have a conversation about how this would actually play out? Maybe something like – “let’s see, why don’t we go on strike to protest an online application that will – oh, actually force people to use that online application while we’re all sitting at the brasserie enjoying croissants.” Yea, really smart.

Because of their actions, we have now been reminded of how easy and pleasant using Uber is. There is no money to change hands – all payment arrangements are done through the app. We can enter the request for a car while finishing up whatever it is we are doing and then head straight out into the car once we receive the text notification that it has arrived. We can actually watch the progress of the car as a GPS tracker shows an icon for it en route on our Uber app’s map. Even better – the vehicle is very clean and professional (we drove in a Peugeot to the restaurant and in a Mercedes on the way back – AND it was less than a taxi ride!).

I really like the emailed receipt after being dropped off at our destination. It shows what the average speed of the drive was, the duration of the drive and the final amount. Even better is that Uber ROUNDS DOWN to the nearest dollar! I mean, who actually does THAT?

So, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the taxi drivers who held this work stoppage for reminding me how amazing their competitor really is. Talk about the law of unintended consequences! I wonder how many other people took advantage of this strike to become new Uber customers. I can tell you that I will be requesting an Uber car more frequently on this trip now as a result of the strike.

Epilogue – Note to the Paris Taxi Driver’s Association:

Dear Paris Taxi Driver’s Association, the year is 2014. The internet actually exists and will most likely not disappear no matter how often you go on strike. The Genie cannot be put back into the bottle. Rather than try to “ban” a competitor who actually had a good idea – why not create your own app (as some taxi companies around the world have!) and join the rest of us in the 21st century.

Just a thought.

 

 

Could You be Making Things Harder Than They Really Are?

In business, there are endless opportunities to learn from the successes and mistakes of others who have ventured into the entrepreneurial waters before us.  So, why is  it that we often ignore the lessons we can learn from others’ mistakes and doom ourselves to making the same bad decisions?  People in business and sales do this all the time.  For example, there are tried-and-true sales techniques that are so simplistic it doesn’t seem as though they can really be effective so we write them off and try to reinvent the wheel.

Many times, we try to re-evaluate, improve upon, and complicate these simple yet proven techniques and all we’re really succeeding in doing is making things harder than they really are!  One of the biggest mistakes that people in business (and especially in sales) make is not listening to the people who have experience.  For some reason, they assume that they have to know better . . . and the truth is, they don’t.  There is nothing like experience–it beats education every day of the week.  The only thing better is a combination of education and experience . . . or a willingness to learn from other people’s experience.

There are many basic sales techniques that any good salesperson knows to be effective.  They don’t look for something more complicated or involved because they know from their own experience, as well as from the experience of others, what works in sales and what doesn’t work in sales.  If you’ve read my book, Masters of Sales, you may have read things that seemed to simple to be effective or you may have seen ideas that you’ve heard before.  The fact is, instead of being dismissed, these tactics and ideas should be embraced.  True Masters of Sales learn from other people’s success and remember that sometimes the simplest ideas can have the biggest impact.

Is there a simple lesson you learned from another business owner/entrepreneur which has helped you achieve success in your business?  I’d love to get a conversation going about this in order to share simple tactics for success and important lessons learned so we can all lessen our risk of making things harder than they really are.  Please share your thoughts in the comment forum below. Thanks!

 

Selling Goals vs. Life Goals (Pssst…They’re Related!)

I can almost hear the groans now . . . “Another discussion about goal setting?–How boring!”  Well, boredom comes from repetition, and without repetition, masterful achievement is not possible.  Reading more, practicing more, and understanding more about goals bring this part of selling into a normal daily routine where it motivates and guides those who are masters in the field of sales.

Our lives are directed and pulled by conscious and subconscious desires, which when aggregated become our future vision.  This vision (whether to lose 25 pounds and be athletic or to consistently earn $10,000 commissions and be wealthy) is directed by our destination goals, but the more finite process goals help us get there.  Treat each daily detail as an important process goal to achieve, and indeed these small ones will accumulate so that ultimately our larger vision becomes our reality.  It is easy to derail our dreams by self doubt, other people, and external events, so the only way to keep the vision alive is to transform it into tangible, goal-directed behavior.

Most goal-implementation plans require getting other people enrolled in our personal program.  This is where person-to-person selling comes into the picture.  In this instance, selling means convincing other people to give us something they have in return for something we possess.  In a traditional view of selling, the buyer exchanges her money for our product.  But in the real world, every person sells continually–whether ourselves on a first date, our beliefs, or our knowledge.  If we sell successfully, we might achieve a goal of having an enjoyable evening date, public  recognition, or personal satisfaction as a return from our effort.

Setting the right environment to complete a sales transaction might include bringing flowers on the first date or artfully crafting a storefront window to allow those walking by a glimpse of the buying opportunities to be found inside the shop.  The sales trainer might say, “Your goal is to create an environment (a stage) that causes your customer to feel like a VIP taking delivery on his Rolls Royce.”  The sales process is a very social activity, one that creatively mixes the buyer’s goal of owning a solution with the seller’s complex goal of meeting company targets, earning an income, and personally helping the customer.  Learning this craft of goal satisfaction is never ending and forever challenges the master seller.

While I was working on the book Masters of Sales, a woman named Joan Fletcher wrote me and told me a noteworthy story about a very successful young salesman.  In spite of his sales awards, his corner office, and charismatic charm, he still felt he was just scraping the surface of success . . .

Even though dutifully creating written goals, his level of self satisfaction was low; until he realized that the big picture was not just about how much money he earned, or the big house, or the number of sales he hoped to close.  The big picture was his vision about what he truly wanted to achieve in all combined areas of his life.  Once he discovered this realization, his renewed selling accomplishments became directly tied to setting aside money for his daughter’s education fund, to have time to help coach his son’s soccer league, and to work in his yard.  Even with more personal goals than before, his sales results climbed higher.

The thing to always remember is this: Work goals, selling goals, and life goals are all intertwined and each one will always influence the others.  Now the question becomes: what do YOU truly want to achieve in all combined areas of your life and what are some ways you might make a conscious effort to streamline your work, selling, and life goals in order more effectively work toward your future vision?  I’d love to hear your thoughts so please share any/all feedback you may have in the comment forum below. Thanks!

 

Sales: The Buyer’s Perspective

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in an airport waiting for my plane to arrive and I struck up a conversation with the young man sitting next to me.  He was wearing a nice suit, carrying a laptop, and appeared to be traveling on business so I asked him if he happened to be traveling to the same business event that I was.  It turned out he wasn’t headed to the same place but we ended up having a very interesting conversation about sales.

He explained that he’s somewhat new to the sales industry and that he has found it a bit difficult to achieve the level of success he had envisioned when he entered the field.  I offered him some advice about what I believe is one of the most important keys to selling and I’d like to share it with you here as well . . . it’s understanding the buyer’s perspective.

The way I see it, selling has everything to do with finding out what the customer wants, is able to pay for, and then making the deal (assuming you can provide the product/service).  If it were really that simple, however, there wouldn’t be a demand for salespeople; buyers could get all they need from a machine.  But, in fact, many buyers head off to go shopping for a product or service with only a vague sense of what might satisfy their needs.  Turning a buyers vagueness into clear solutions is the job of the salesperson.  Always remember that the buyer is looking for the best solution, delivered in an effective and pleasurable manner.

Buyers are multifaceted, and when they shop, they weigh the many pros and cons of a potential purchase.  Some of these they will share with the seller, while many other thoughts they will keep to themselves.  Learning and adapting to the issues and whims of the buyer while moving the sale forward to a conclusion is a complex and intricate task . . . and it’s the responsibility of the sales professional to ensure it happens.

Brian Roach, a friend of mine who sells computer technology told me about a great concept he calls the sales clock.  He describes it this way:

It’s a great day.  You answered a call from a new prospect, met with their team to discuss your product, and . . . they asked you for a proposal.  Soon after delivering your proposal you started your wait for their decision.  The sales clock ticks as you wait on the fate of your proposal.  It may tick a long time before hearing back from the customer, and as the seller, you don’t know if you are being ‘stiffed’ or if the customer is swamped with other pressing priorities.  Whatever the reason, waiting out the sales clock can be stressful.  The last thing you want is for your own stress to create a negative impact on your prospect.

Brian reminds us that ‘it’s all about the customer,’ in the sense that the customer is the ultimate buyer, but the seller also has to earn a commission, meet monthly targets, and ensure proper work scheduling.  Brian’s sales clock reminds us to always look at both the customer’s perspective as well as the seller’s demands with each sales scenario.

I have some tactics for helping you, the seller, determine if the buyer is putting you off or merely attending to pressing internal demands and also some techniques for effective communication which will help you tap into the customer’s perspective and I’ll be sharing them with you next Monday so be sure to come back then and check them out. 

In the meantime, I’d love to get your take on some other ideas that you believe are important keys to selling so please share your thoughts in the comment forum below. Thanks!

 

Speak to Be Heard and Hear to Know How to Speak

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.

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

Getting a New Referral Is a Done Deal . . . True or False?

When one of your business contacts passes you a new referral, does that mean the prospect is ready to hear a presentation on your product or service?  Repeat after me . . . NO.  Assume nothing.

When an associate passes you a referral, say thanks, then start digging for more information.  Exactly what does the prospect do?  What products or services does he want from you?  Will your offerings truly fulfill his needs?  What is his behavioral style?  What are his business goals?  How large is his company?

Don’t skip steps in your sales process.  Before you approach the prospect, you need to decide on a strategy based on whatever you can find out about him–the same as you would when preparing for any sale.  Just because the prospect was referred to you doesn’t mean the sale is a done deal.  All you’ve really received is an opportunity to approach the prospect with a favorable introduction.  Whether the prospect becomes a client or not depends on how well you convince him that what you offer, at the price and under the conditions that you offer it, will fulfill his needs.

There’s quite a difference between a basic referral and one that’s well developed, and there are many different levels in between.  Listed here from least to most valuable, you should consider which level this referral represents:

  • Name and contact information only–Unfortunately, this is what many of your potential sources probably think the first time you say the word referral to them.  It does represent a certain level of trust in you, but the networking value of this kind of referral is low.  It’s better than nothing–but not much.
  • Authorization to use name–If he says, “Tell ’em Joe sent you,” you can be fairly sure you’ve established a good level of credibility with him.  This gives you some leverage, but the work of developing the prospect still falls on you.
  • Testimonial or letter of introduction–If your source trusts you enough to say nice things about you, try getting him to go a bit further and write you a letter of introduction or recommendation, including background information on you and some words about your product or service.
  • Introduction call–A personal phone call on your behalf, preparing the prospect to hear from you, takes significant time and effort in preparation.
  • Letter of introduction and phone call promotion–A letter that’s followed up by a phone call advocating your business represents a high level of commitment by your referral source and has a great deal of influence on the prospect.
  • Meeting–By arranging and working out the details for a meeting between you and the prospect, your source moves beyond the role of promoter to that of facilitator, or even business agent.  This demonstrates to your prospect a deep level of trust in you.
  • Face-to-face introduction and promotion–Combining an in-person introduction with promotion demonstrates that your source is engaged in selling your product or service rather than just facilitating your sales effort.
  • Closed deal–Your referral source describes the features and benefits of your product or service, then closes the sale before you even contact the prospect.  All you have to do is deliver the goods and collect the money.  This is obviously the best kind of referral you can get.  To get to this level of referral, you’ll have to work with your sources and tell them what you’d like from them.  This takes time and education.

The better your source knows you and is confident of your character and your business, the more often you’ll get the higher-level referrals.  But keep in mind that you need to be making high-level referrals for your sources too.  It really is true . . . what goes around comes around.

What can you do this week in an effort to generate more high level referrals for your referral sources? For those of you who share your ideas in the comment forum below, I’ll send a free copy of my book Masters of Sales to everyone who posts their thoughts by the end of the week (Sunday, 5/5/13).  Once you leave your comment, send your name and your mailing address to erin@bni.com in order to receive your book (Erin is my Communications Supervisor and she will only use your contact information in order to ensure you receive your book–your information will not be shared).  Thanks!

Authenticity Is the ‘New’ Audacity

TR Garland (pictured with me in the photo below) is a friend of mine and co-author of one of my most recent #1 best-selling books called “Building The Ultimate Network.”  He’s also considered a top trainer for the Referral Institute. 

For some time now, we’ve both observed a need to drill down on one of the most important and foundational concepts to networking – The VCP Process®.  Ten months ago, we started a much-anticipated 12-part monthly series of blog posts which addresses this and contains some very timely information for networkers across the globe.  In the past, we’ve co-authored the articles.  Today, I’m proud to share with you Part 10 of the series – which is written entirely by TR as a Guest Blogger.  Please comment below and let us know what you think.

 

AUTHENTICITY IS THE ‘NEW’ AUDACITY

(Part 10 of 12 of the “Navigating The VCP Process® To Networking” Series)

Have you ever heard the following phrase: “It’s nothing personal, it’s just business”? 

I have.  And every time I hear it, it still disappoints me.  Today, business is personal and people do business with ME because of ME, and they should do business with YOU because of YOU – not because you perfected some PowerPoint presentation or recently attended a Sales seminar on how to overcome a prospect’s objections.

Nowadays the consumer marketplace that fuels the economy sets the criteria on how they wish to be treated.   Consequently, to society today the term ‘overcoming objections’ sounds a lot more like the following descriptive words:

  • Persuade
  • Manipulate
  • Convince
  • Coax

When it comes to buying, purchasing, or investing criteria, I don’t know about you, but the concept of being ‘closed’ and the terminology used in the Traditional Sales Model doesn’t translate that well with me – and probably society overall for that matter.  I don’t want to be ‘convinced’ of anything and my guess is that you don’t either.  If you’re interested in creating a long-term client/customer relationship, it’s my presumption that it’s probably not in your best interest to start off by persuading, manipulating, or convincing your potential client to do business with you.  Don’t you agree?

Yet the sad truth is that, today, it’s probably a safe bet that we could go to Amazon.com and search books on the topic of Sales.  It’s also probably a safe bet that we’d find hundreds (and potentially even thousands) of Sales books with their title including the words ‘Persuasion Techniques’, ‘How To Close The Sale’, and even ‘How To Overcome Objections.’  Yes, people who employ these tactics will get results.  I’ll concede that point.  But these tactics continue to reinforce the lifestyle of a HUNTER – behaviors that are long gone as conduct that small business owners and entrepreneurs idolize.

Remember, Business Networking is more about ‘farming’ than it is about ‘hunting’.  It takes time to cultivate relationships.  But once you dedicate the effort, these relationships ultimately allow you to ‘harvest’ referrals for a lifetime.  Today, people choose to do business with other people because of:

  1. Who they are
  2. What they stand for and
  3. The lessons that life has taught them through their own personal experiences that uniquely qualify them to offer the marketplace a product or service in a way that only they could deliver.

If you seek Client relationships, today’s customers aren’t just buying what you sell. They’re buying who you are.   If you seek Strategic Partner relationships, people refer other people – NOT the product or service they offer or the actual company that they represent.

When networking and getting to know other professionals, if you shy away from who you are, what you stand for, and what personal experiences life has revealed to you, then your message most likely will not resonate today and you may not get the results that you expect.  Don’t make a mess of your message by trying to recite the ‘About Us’ Section of your company’s website when you first meet people.  What is captivating to other professionals these days is congruency with how you communicate that you are a real person through your attitude, behavior, and actions.

The definition of Audacity according to Wikipedia is to be BOLD, COURAGEOUS, or have CHUTZPAH.  I say that it’s pretty bold to be yourself with all your wonderful flaws (nobody’s perfect) because it proves your authenticity and attracts connection.  Everybody has relationships, yet few people relate.  Strive to be one of the few.  If you truly act like yourself all the time and not just in your personal life, then people will be able to relate.  This builds trust, credibility, and camaraderie.  If your behavior is different depending on whether you’re in a personal or professional environment, then you may be attracting people who are attracted to who you’re pretending to be.  And, it’s my belief that this is not the recipe for a long term professional relationship that’ll provide a steady stream of referrals.

In the grand scheme of things, you devote your time networking at the local Chamber of Commerce, Association Mixers, and even weekly BNI meetings to receive a return on your investment (ROI) in the form of regular referrals.  Navigating the VCP Process® to networking from Visibility to Credibility all the way to Profitability would most likely then be your goal.  Based on the marketplace’s value on authenticity today, I personally believe that your easiest path to Profitability is to start by simply being yourself.  Isn’t that a sigh of relief? 🙂

In closing, a successful small business owner’s mission is not solely to take the action to network.  It’s about taking the actions to ensure that you connect and relate with others when you network that really counts.   I thank you for reading today’s post and extend an invitation to be on the lookout for next month’s contribution to this series – Part 11 called “Don’t Make a Mess of Your Message.”

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