Being Right But Doing It All Wrong!

The business I’m in involves a lot of coaching and guiding of franchisees to teach them how to coach and guide entrepreneurs, salespeople, and professionals to generate referrals for themselves and others.  Sometimes this feels a little like ‘herding cats’; entrepreneurs hate being told what to do and it takes a real skill set to move them in a direction that involves a lot of hard work but will help them achieve the results they want.

One of the biggest challenges I have in this process is not with the actual entrepreneur or salesperson but with the individual I’m coaching to be able to guide the entrepreneur or salesperson. These people have gone through many hours of training, tend to have a fair amount of field experience, and have support manuals that exceed a thousand pages of documentation to assist in the process.   They are true expertsI’ve discovered, however, that sometimes expertise can actually be a problem. Just because your expertise may arm you with the knowledge to recognize the solution to a problem or challenge, it doesn’t mean other people are going to automatically ‘believe’ you know the solution and/or want you to actually tell them the solution.  I know that sounds counter intuitive; however, if you’ve ever raised a child, you know that this is often times absolutely true!

So, let’s say you’re an expert.  You know you’re an expert.  You know that you can help someone else.  You also know that this “someone else” is a grownup who runs their own business or is an independent sales rep who chose their particular career for good reason . . . they like the freedom of being independent.  How do you move these people in the right direction?

I had a person who worked for my company who once went into one of my locations and was appalled by how badly things were being run by the members of the group.  She let them know in no uncertain terms what they were doing wrong and how they needed to turn it around. Her assessment of the situation and the solutions she proposed were spot on but her presentation of them was all wrong. She was so blunt with the group’s members that she received a very negative reaction from them and ended up leaving the place an even bigger mess than it was when she first walked in.  When I met with her to talk about how she might have done things differently, she grew furious with me for not supporting her since she was right and the members of the group were wrong.  I wasn’t arguing that she was right–she was.  The problem I had was how she handled the situation–in that area, she was completely wrong. I tried to explain this to her by sharing one of my favorite sayings relating to the dilemma:  “Don’t burn down the barn to roast the pig.” In other words, don’t make things worse than you found them when you were trying to fix them in the first place.

She could never really wrap her head around the concept that people may not welcome her advice with enthusiasm and agree with her stance on an issue when she was clearly right.  She didn’t work for me for much longer (make of that what you will) and, eventually, we got an expert to work with that group who ‘listened’ to their issues,  Built relationships with the group members, and then coached them into achieving the greatness they had within them.  It’s important to note that this process took time and patience.

There are two things I try to teach people in this situation.

First, people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” If you want people to listen to you when you are coaching them or re-directing them, they have to know that you care about them and want them to succeed.  If they don’t know this down to their core – they will not listen to your advice.  Ever.

Second, is a saying given to me by mother on a paper weight when I was about 16 years old and I was running an uphill battle for a student council race.  My mother gave me this paper weight (which is still on my desk in my home to this date).  The paper weight says: Diplomacy is the art of letting someone else have your way.” When she gave me that, she explained that I had to learn how to work “with” people – not “through” people.  She said that even if I did know the answer to a problem – it did no good if no one else believed me.  That advice helped me win the election and it has helped me many times throughout my life.  I have to admit that I don’t always use it as well as I can – however, when I do use it, things almost always go more smoothly.

The bottom line is this: being right doesn’t help much if no one is willing to follow you.

What are your thoughts on this issue?  Maybe you can share a story . . . but, remember to keep it positive.  Let’s focus on positive outcomes more than just horror stories.

The Five Key Competitive Strategies

A few weeks back, I encouraged you to assess your company’s competitive position and find out whether you’re positioned for success or if your competitive position is in dire need of improvement.  If your position happens to need some help, read on . . .5KeyCompetitiveStrategies

Your competitive strategy consists of the approaches and initiatives you take to attract customers, withstand competitive pressures, and strengthen your market position.  According to Arthur Thompson and A.J. Strickland in Strategic Management: Concepts and Cases, there are five competitive strategies you should consider:

  • A low-cost leader strategy: striving to be the overall low-cost provider of a product or service that appeals to a broad range of customers (a couple of examples are Sam’s Club and Southwest Airlines).
  • A broad differentiation strategy: seeking to differentiate the company’s product offerings from rivals’ in ways that will appeal to a broad range of buyers [a couple examples are Nordstrom (known for customer service policies and personnel) and Whole Foods (emphasis on health foods and organic groceries)].
  • A best-cost provider strategy: giving customers more value for the money by emphasizing both low cost and upscale difference, the goal being to keep costs and prices lower than those of other providers of comparable quality and features (a couple of examples are the Honda and Toyota car companies with customer satisfaction ratings that rival those of much more expensive cars).
  • A focused, or market-niche, strategy based on lower cost: concentrating on a narrow buyer segment and outcompeting rivals on the basis of lower cost (The Gap is a good example).
  • A focused, or market-niche, strategy based on differentiation: offering niche members a product or service customized to their tastes and requirements [examples are Rolls-Royce (sells limited number of high-end, custom-built cars) and men’s big and tall shops (sell mainstream styles to a limited market with specific requirements)].

So, which one of these strategies is best for your business?

Taking Charge

The best word-of-mouth programs I’ve seen happen by design, not by accident or wishful thinking. Unfortunately, many businesspeople view word of mouth somewhat like the weather: “Sure it’s important, but what can I do about it?”

Based on more than two decades of research, observation, and practical experience, I’ve found that in addition to focusing on the important issue of customer service, the average businessperson has much to do in order to build a referral business.  Word of mouth can be planned and nurtured.  Anyone, including business owners, entrepreneurs, sales representatives, staff employees, even individuals serving in a volunteer capacity in any field, can accomplish plenty with a well-structured and systematically executed word-of-mouth plan.

All too often I have seen businesspeople waiting for business to walk through the door. They think because they are good at what they do, people should be flocking to them.  I’m afraid the truth is, it doesn’t work that way!  You have to take charge, no matter what business you’re in or how good you are, and bring the business to you.

I once saw a cartoon strip of two large, ravenous-looking vultures perched on a tree limb, overlooking a dry desert plain.  After quite a while, one vulture turns to the other and says, “Wait for something to die?  Heck, let’s kill something!”  So it is with word-of-mouth marketing.  You can’t simply wait for people to come to you.  If you do, one of your competitors who also provides good customer service will most likely find them before they show up at your doorstep.

If you want to succeed, you have to go get your business, or better yet, have someone else get it for you through referrals.

Do You Know Your Mission?

You may think you know why you’re in business, but perhaps it’s been years since you gave it serious thought. There’s no better time than now to re-examine why you’re doing what you’re doing.  Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is my business mission? — Beyond simply making a living, what are my long-range professional goals? Do I wish to become the standard by which my competitors are judged? Is it my dream to help make the world a better place?
  • Where is my organization going? — Am I achieving my mission? Am I making plans to accomplish it? How can I change policies, procedures or personnel to improve my chances of achieving my mission?
  • What environment is my organization operating in? — What are the social, economic and technological trends that affect the way I do business and my progress toward my goals?
  • What are my core competencies? — What do I like to do? What is it that I do better than my competitors? Is my business mission compatible with my values and aptitudes?

I’ve seen too many business professionals and companies make the mistake of trying to be all things to all people. Starting out with the fundamentally sound goal of finding a niche that will make them successful, they go astray by changing direction every time a customer or associate suggests a new product or service. The mission gets lost in a frantic scramble for business before the original idea ever gets a chance to pay off.

So, even if you think you know your mission, it will serve you well to pause periodically, analyze your business and, if necessary, refocus on your mission and philosophy.

What’s the Payoff for Developing an Effective Word-of-Mouth Strategy?

Developing an effective word-of-mouth strategy that results in a strong referral-based business takes endless time, energy, effort and, above all, commitment. The actions and steps necessary to create a successful referral-networking campaign are simple, yet far from easy; they take tremendous dedication and drive, and results can be a long time in coming.

So why should you put forth the time and effort to develop a word-of-mouth strategy for your business?  Because, if you commit to doing it right and don’t give up, the payoff can be unbelievably high.

In fact, many businesses have become so adept at referral marketing that they get most of their sales through referrals and spend little or no money on advertising — and they never have to place cold calls. Some of these businesses hire most of their employees through referrals, manage complex financing arrangements and even procure necessary products through referral contacts they have cultivated for many years.

But a referral-based business can reward you in ways beyond those measured in dollars. Dealing with people you like and trust is a better way to live and work than sparring with strangers all day long. You may even find the relationships you form with your referral sources more important than the dollars your new customers bring you. Such relationships are central to both the referral-generation process and the satisfaction you derive from your work.

So, the next time you find yourself doubting whether your networking efforts are really worth it, remember: If you don’t give up, and you continually devote yourself to working on making your word-of-mouth strategy better and better, the payoff can be enormous both financially and in terms of happiness in business and life.

Successful Businesses Need an Edge

It’s no secret that the economy goes through cycles. Each time it takes a downturn, unfortunately, salespeople, business owners and professional service providers feel the fallout.

Data released by various sources, including the SBA and American Entrepreneurs Association, reveal that more than 50 percent of all businesses close their doors within their first seven years. During a recession, the rate of business failure rises more dramatically. Not included in the statistic cited above are the departments, plants or whole divisions closed by large corporations when times are tough. In today’s ever-changing business environment, if you want to be successful, you need to have an edge over your competition.

Most businesses rely on advertising in one or more ways to try to get an edge. However, if you offer the same products or services through the same means to the same targets as your competitors, it’s difficult to achieve an edge. This means you need to be very creative in order to be competitive in today’s marketplace. Creativity in marketing your business has become a basic tenet for today’s successful company or professional practice. Here’s a great story of how one business exemplified creativity at its finest in order to gain an edge:

Three store owners shared adjacent storefronts in the same building.  Times were tough. In hopes of picking up sales, the store owner at one end of the building put a sign over his front entrance that said, “YEAR-END CLEARANCE!!!”  At the other end of the building, a second owner responded with his own sign: “ANNUAL CLOSE-OUT.”

The store owner in the middle knew that he had to act fast or he’d lose a lot of business. After careful consideration, he hung a larger sign over his front door that read, “MAIN ENTRANCE.”

The moral of this story: You can’t control the economy. You can’t control your competition. But you can control your response to the economy. And you can control your response to your competition.

If you have a great example of how you’ve used creativity to get an edge over your competition, I invite you to share it in the comment section. Your story could be just the encouragement other business owners need to get their imaginations in gear!


A True Givers Gain Achievement

In 1998, my wife Elisabeth and I co-founded the BNI-Misner Foundation, a nonprofit program supporting charitable causes. We created the foundation because we truly believe in the philosophy of Givers Gain, on which we founded BNI, our worldwide business networking organization. Simply put, Givers Gain means that if you help others, others will want to help you in return (think “what goes around comes around”).

Now, thanks largely to the generosity and kindness of BNI members and directors around the world who also believe firmly in the Givers Gain philosophy, as of May 2010, the BNI Foundation has contributed more than $1 million to charities around the world since its inception 12 years ago.

The foundation has a focus on children’s educational programs but allows donor-directed contributions as well. Looking back on the significant contributions the foundation has been able to make, I am continually inspired by the willingness of BNI members worldwide to give of themselves to help others. They made it possible to donate more than $100,000 to the 9/11 relief effort, $72,000 to tsunami relief, more than $25,000 for Haiti earthquake relief and tens of thousands of dollars for Hurricane Katrina relief. The foundation has built preschools in India, built preschools and a library and put tin roofs on schools in Indonesia, bought school uniforms for students in Kenya and stocked a library in South Africa with books.

Why am I telling you all of this?  I’m sharing these things with you because I truly believe that the more people genuinely give to others, the more successful they will be themselves. I fully attribute the worldwide success of BNI and its members (read some of their stories here) to this very concept. When you give to someone else because you want them to succeed, everybody wins, and you’re setting yourself up for success because the more good you do for others, the more good others want to do for you.

Starting this week, make a continuous effort to conduct your networking efforts, your business and your life with the philosophy that Givers Gain. Help people because you can and because you want to, and you’ll be amazed by the things you can achieve for yourself as a result.

To find out more about the BNI-Misner Charitable Foundation, click here.

Become a fan of the BNI-Misner Charitable Foundation on Facebook by clicking here.

It’s Not WHAT You Know, But WHO You Know–True or False?

How many times have you heard the phrase “It’s not what you know, but who you know” when it comes to determining success??  I’m willing to bet that over the course of your life to this point, you’ve heard it a lot.  Do you think it’s true?  Well, it’s not–it’s false.  It’s not what you know, or who you know–it’s how well you know them that really counts.

Here’s the difference.  How many people do you know?  Open up your e-mail address book and count the names.  You know as many people as are listed n your e-mail address book and probably a lot more.  Now, reach into your pocket and pull out your car keys.  How many of the people you know would you hand your car keys to?

Surely, now you understand that the importance of how well you know a person.  A contact is a person you know but with whom you have not yet established a strong relationship.  A connection, on the other hand, is someone who know you and trusts you because you’ve taken the time to establish credibility with that person.

Your network must not only be broad but also deep.  When you rely on others to cross-market your business or promote your program to a client, you’re not asking a simple favor.  For true referral networking, you need relationships that are deeper than mere contacts; you need strong connections, established well in advance.

So, beginning this week, focus on taking the time and energy to cultivate deep relationships by giving your referral sources anything and everything you can to help them succeed.  These will be the relationships you can count on when you need powerful connections because it really isn’t what you know or who you know–it’s how well you know them, how well they know you, and how well they know the people you want to meet.

Learning to Use the Law of Reciprocity: 4 Tips

I posted a blog this past Monday explaining what networkers need to know about the law of reciprocity, and I promised that I’d follow up today with some tips on what to keep in mind as you learn to use the law of reciprocity in your networking efforts. Below you will find four very important things to remember:

Tip No. 1–Giving means helping others achieve success. What is your plan to contribute to others? How much time and energy can you spare for this? Do you actively seek out opportunities to help people? You could volunteer to help out with something that’s important to someone in your network, offer advice or support in time of need, or even work hard to connect someone to a valuable contact of yours.

Tip No. 2–The person who helps you will not necessarily be the person you helped. Zig Ziglar says, “If you help enough people get what they want, you will get what you want.” In other words, what goes around comes around. If you focus intently on helping others, you will achieve success in the end.

Tip No. 3–The law of reciprocity can be measured. It is a myth that networking cannot be measured and, in my latest book, Networking Like a Pro, my co-authors and I use the Networking Scorecard Worksheet, part of the Certified Networker Program offered through the Referral Institute, to measure networking. If you apply the law of reciprocity, you will see your weekly total networking score gradually rise.

Tip No. 4–Success takes getting involved. Contrary to Woody Allen’s assertion that “90 percent of success is just showing up,” you have to do more than simply be present to be a successful networker. If you join a chamber of commerce, become an ambassador. If you join a BNI chapter, get involved in the leadership team. If you join a civic organization, get on a committee. The law of reciprocity requires giving to the group; it will pay you back many times over.

A master networker understands that, although networking is not the end but simply the means to growing a business, service to your network of contacts must always be uppermost in your networking activities. Once you have established a solid reputation as someone who cares about the success of others, the law of reciprocity will reward you with an abundance of high quality referrals.

Being a True Leader

One of the subjects I get asked about often in interviews is leadership.  I’ve learned quite a bit about leadership through my role as founder and chairman of BNI, the world’s largest business referral organization. But I’ve also been extremely privileged to be able to build relationships with and gain insight into the subject from some of the world’s top leaders in several fields and industries.

One of the first people who comes to mind when I think about what it means to be a true leader is my friend and colleague, Brian Tracy. Brian is the epitome of a leader–he is dedicated to succeeding by helping others succeed, and he uses his depth of experience to teach others how to become leaders themselves.

Brian has classified the key qualities of leadership as integrity, discipline, responsibility, courage and long-time perspective, and he lives his life according to those qualities.  Brian was recently diagnosed with throat cancer and, true to the form of a leader who genuinely walks the walk, his positive attitude, courage and hopeful outlook for the future continue to remain rock solid.

Brian says, “When you think about it, having cancer can be a metaphor for any big problem or unexpected setback in life . . . I choose to see this as a ‘learning experience.’  Maybe I’ll develop a speech or seminar to share what I’ve learned, and the parallels with the ups and downs of normal life.”

Leadership is about using your experience and wisdom to move others in a positive direction; it’s about empowering others by serving as an example. Brian doesn’t just give presentations about leadership and advise others on how to be good leaders–he exemplifies everything a true leader should be, especially during times when it’s not easy to be in such a position.

Click here to see how Brian is continuing to inspire and motivate others through his experiences.  We can all learn more than a thing or two about being a true leader from Brian Tracy.

If Brian has inspired you to accomplish your goals and lead yourself and others to success, tell us about it by leaving a comment below.  You can also copy and paste your comment for Brian to read on his blog.

Have a Good Story… Share It!

Before television there was radio. Before radio there were books. And before books there were storytellers. No matter what the medium–stone tablets, movies, grocery store tabloids, the internet–the story is central.

A good story stays with people and compels them to share it with others. It’s as true today as it was 2000 years ago–and it’s especially true of success stories. Everyone likes to hear them; everyone likes to have one. Do you see how this aligns perfectly with word-of-mouth marketing, where referrals are based on thousands of individual success stories? You see, every time one networker passes a referral to another, she is telling a story about a need fulfilled successfully or a problem solved effectively.

You can empower your network by writing down success stories about your business so that they won’t be forgotten and they can be told to other people. You also want to encourage your networking partners to swap stories with you so you can each keep the stories on file and use them to help find and refer great business opportunities to each other.

The key is to capture a truly compelling story–one that practically begs to be shared, one that the people in your network would actually have trouble keeping to themselves. The anatomy of a successful word-of-mouth story about your business is quite simple. It has a captivating beginning, an action-packed middle and a happy ending (and, conveniently, it will in most cases naturally outline for your referral partners what your perfect customer looks like). If you’re expecting other people to act on your story and share it, it must be a compelling story–and must have a positive outcome.

Chances are you have several great success stories about your business but, if not several, I’m sure you have at least one. So to start with, I’d like to challenge you to write down your business’s most compelling success story, ask at least one person on your word-of-mouth marketing team to do the same, and then share your stories with each other.

The more stories you share with other people, the more high-quality referrals you’ll get and the more success stories you’ll generate as you continue to network your business.

‘Notworking’ is Sometimes Good

It’s not called “net-sit” or “net-eat,” it’s called NetWORK! Effective networking is all about learning how to work your network effectively and appropriately.

I also believe that there are times to “notwork.” As a matter of fact, I’m fairly confident that when I’m 70 years old, I won’t say, “Gee, I wish I spent more time at the office.”

BigBearDeckDay

I believe that we entrepreneurs, business professionals and salespeople need to make sure to take time to . . . notwork. I do my best “notworking” at my lodge in Big Bear Lake, California. I’m writing this blog from my deck, pictured here during the day (above) and again at night (below).

BigBearDeckNight

Each year we have a family tradition that each family member gets to pick two things that we all do together during the time we are up here. We type it up and, as each item is completed, the family member puts his or her initials next to his or her item, and we post it on the refrigerator (we have nine years posted there so far). Last night my daughter chose S’mores around the campfire. Today, my son chose a “mental health day” (in the Misner family this means nobody in and nobody out–we hang around the house, watch TV, read, play games and mostly veg).

Success is many things to many people. To me, it’s having the time to spend in a place I love with the people I love. That is true success.

Sometimes, “notworking” is a very good thing.

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