Expose Yourself!–“Navigating the VCP Process(R) to Networking” Series

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®.  Four 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.  Today, we’re proud to share with you Part 4 of the series.  Enjoy.

EXPOSE YOURSELF!
(Part 4 of 12 of the “Navigating The VCP Process® To Networking” Series)

In Part 3 of this series, we encouraged Business Networkers to honor the chronological steps of the VCP Process®.  In other words, we pointed out that generating a steady stream of referrals takes an investment in time — as well as in the people in your own network.  Take action, we recommended, and become visible.  However, be cautious about “too much Visibility”.

Today, we’d like to revisit and expand upon the following concept that was introduced last month:  If you put yourself out in the marketplace as a person of value, others will want to connect with youYour role is to EXPOSE YOURSELF to your local business community in a valuable way so that people feel a personal connection with you and feel compelled to assist you.

Let’s dig deeper . . . If you’ve sought out Business Networking training and education in the past, you’ve most likely heard the following phrase: “It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.  However, today, we ask the question: “WHAT…do they know you for?”

You see, we believe that there is a strategic way to go about gaining Visibility in your local community.  We believe that if you lead with positive intentions and follow up with valuable contributions, professionals will, in time, feel a personal connection with you and feel compelled to assist you (i.e. pass you qualified referrals and/or connect you with Referral Partners).  Attempting to expedite the VCP Process® is almost never a good decision.  And sometimes, it may even backfire.

You may have observed this type of behavior before where people shift into what’s considered to be ‘Visibility’-overload.  In other words, every chance they get they’re doing random “stuff” (yes, that’s the technical term) to be visible without having any sort of thought out strategy.  Do you know what a “Drive-By” is at a networking event?  It’s when someone’s strategy (of lack thereof) is to meet everyone at a mixer.  As such, they’re focused on passing out their business cards to anyone and everyone versus staying in a conversation for longer than 60 seconds.  Has this ever happened to you?  What was your perception of this person?

This and other “Random Acts of Networking” ultimately defeat the overall objective which is to build trust and credibility through cultivating relationships.  Our fear is that people might be placing a lot of time into gaining Visibility, but NOT being able to capitalize on it.  And, it is for this reason that we’d like to introduce the term HYPER-Visibility™.  It’s when people try to get everyone to know them, see them, and hear them through a variety of different means in an effort to expedite the VCP Process® to Networking.  Whereas, in actuality, it typically backfires and may even be detrimental to their reputation and perceived as overkill.

As alluded to before, try not to be plagued by HYPER-Visibility™ and ask the question:  “WHY…do people know you?”

Is it because you:

  • Have volunteered to setup and break down your visitors table at your weekly networking event?
  • Have recently been awarded the “Helping Hand Award” in your local community?
  • Have numerous satisfied clients/customers who say positive things about you?

Or, is it because you:

  • Are at every single networking event in your local community (i.e. you’re everywhere!)?
  • Are the person who adds people to your weekly newsletter without permission?
  • Are constantly conducting ‘off the wall’ introductions (called Sales Manager Minutes in BNI) in an effort to be remembered?

Please be cautious that sometimes if those (albeit memorable, but) ‘off the wall’ introductions have nothing to do with training your network, they may not serve you well.  Being over the top could actually push some people away who might otherwise be keen to learning more about you.  Please also be aware that sometimes when you’re in roles of increased Visibility, your actions are clearer and even amplified.  For example, if you volunteer to help support your local networking group – or even any association or charity – your visibility will be enhanced and you’re typically in the spotlight or under a microscope.  Be cognizant, be strategic, and be prepared.

Visibility is an intricate part to the VCP Process®.   When strategically planned out, this exposure could be your biggest ally.  When attained for no particular rhyme or reason, it could be your biggest enemy.  Hmmm . . . food for thought, isn’t it?

In closing, we’d like to recommend that you consider that there are actually two different interpretations to the title of this blog post “Expose Yourself!”  First, it can be interpreted as the means by which you strategically and professionally navigate the first step of the VCP Process®.  Or, it can be interpreted that sometimes when you are too visible or seeking visibility for the wrong reasons (or with the wrong approach) you actually “Expose Yourself!”  Moving forward, our recommendation is to conduct an inventory of what steps you’re taking on a weekly basis to become visible within your own local community.  Then, decipher if they are effective at doing the job of helping you move beyond Visibility to Credibility.  If not, then please consider revising or replacing

We 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 5 called “Audit Your Activities.”

Business Networking & Sex: Survey Says . . . Time Spent Networking

In this short video, I share a portion of the results from the survey of 12,000 businesspeople on which my most recent book, Business Networking and Sex: Not What You Think, is based.   The results I discuss here indicate that there is a very powerful, direct linear correlation between the time spent networking and business success.

You’ll also hear some colorful comments in the video relating to the book and my co-authors (e.g., “Frank, you’re a bad, bad boy . . .” ;-)).

After watching the video, please leave a comment explaining whether you feel the indication of the statistics is true or lacking based on your personal networking experience.

Business Networking and Sex: Survey Says . . . Transactional vs. Relational

In this short video, I share a portion of the results from the survey of 12,000 businesspeople on which my most recent book, Business Networking and Sex: Not What You Think, is based.   The results I discuss here indicate that men and women act differently when it comes to the VCP Process®, transactions, and relationships.

Based on your experience, would you say these results jive with what you’ve found to be true in the networking world?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section–I’d love to hear them!

Too Much Visibility?–“Navigating the VCP Process(R) to Networking” Series

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®.  Two 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.  Today, we’re proud to share with you Part 3 of the series.  Enjoy.

WHEN IS TOO MUCH VISIBILITY, WELL, TOO MUCH ‘VISIBILITY’?
(Part 3 of 12 of the “Navigating The VCP Process® To Networking” Series)

In Part 1 of this series, we introduced you to the moniker – The Networking Nomad™.  In short, this moniker describes the type of networker who appears to be misinterpreting the very definition of Business Networking.  Click here to review that blog post.  In Part 2 of this series, we recommended you understand that ‘perception is reality’ when it comes to networking – and we encouraged you to be careful about whether or not your network perceives you as a PREDATOR or a PARTNER.  Click here to review that blog post.

Today, we’d like you to give some serious thought to the very first letter in the VCP Process® to Networking.  In short, your goal should be to first enter Visibility with people, then perform activities that will help you build trust and Credibility with them, and finally through time and the strengthening of that relationship, they will most likely pass you consistent referrals in the Profitability stage.  After all, “It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.

Years ago, only the elite networkers were privy to this powerful concept.  These days, chances are this valuable information has trickled down to the average networker.  This is both a good thing – and a bad thing.  From our perspective, the good thing is that the average networker is now aware of this concept.  The bad thing is that the average networker typically misinterprets and mismanages the implementation of this concept.  Don’t agree?  Please hear us out . . .

Remember the movie “A Few Good Men” with Jack Nicholson where he forcefully delivers the famous line “You want the truth?  You can’t handle the truth!”?  Well, the facts are clear and the truth in business networking is that the average networker’s strategy doesn’t focus on successfully navigating through the VCP Process® and doesn’t focus on finding Referral Partners whom they cultivate long term, mutually beneficial relationships with to provide them consistent referrals.  Or worse yet, the average networker has no strategy at all.

The goal of networking is to build the ultimate network of professionals who, when asked:

  • Can and will support you
  • Can provide you with information to make you more valuable
  • Can vouch for you
  • Can lend you their credibility when introducing you to people in their networks
  • Can refer to you on a consistent basis

If you put yourself out in the marketplace as a person of value, others will want to connect with you.  Your role is to expose yourself to your local business community in a valuable way so that people feel a personal connection with you and feel compelled to assist you.  Most people have no concept of this strategy.  That’s what makes it so potent.  And then the dilemma is that a large percentage of those exposed to this strategy will never do the hard work that it takes for success to become a reality.  But, as noted above, the average networker typically misinterprets this concept.

Here’s an example:

Ivan met a woman years ago who told him she was the consummate networker – 100’s of contacts and a wide-ranging network of people from all walks of life.  Then one day in a conversation with him, she dropped a bombshell and said her networking efforts weren’t paying off.  She went on at some length about all the groups she went to, people she met, and how she made all these contacts but wasn’t getting any business.  The truth is that she was so busy running around and making appearances that she wasn’t learning how to actually ‘work’ these networks and build deep relationships.

A music teacher once told his students: “Lousy practice makes a lousy musician.”  The same holds true for networking; lousy networking makes a lousy networker!  This is why “practice doesn’t make perfect – perfect practice makes perfect.”

In closing, we’d like to recommend that you consider reflecting back upon your own networking journey and ask yourself:  “Have you exhausted all opportunities in your local community to attend Business Networking and/or Referral Marketing Training workshops?  Have you sought out an expert or someone that has proven results from their networking efforts that you can ask to be your accountability partner?  And…if you have attended workshops in the past, what are the results you’re getting today?  If you’re not getting the number of referrals you expect, maybe it’s time to revisit those workshops?”

We 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 4 called “Expose Yourself!”

New Blog Series with Top Referral Marketing Trainer TR Garland!

In this video, TR Garland and I announce the launch of our new, 12-month, BusinessNetworking.com blog series  “Navigating the VCP Process® to Networking,”

TR is not only my good friend, he is one of the top referral marketing trainers in the world and he and I co-authored the #1 Amazon Best-seller Building the Ultimate Network together.  I am really excited to be doing this new blog series with TR because he is in the top 1% across the globe in regard to understanding how to implement referral marketing effectively and this series is going to be a huge resource for people in learning how to understand and  implement the VCP (Visibility, Credibility, Profitability) Process® effectively to produce real, business-boosting results from networking efforts.

Whether you’re a businessperson, an entrepreneur, a novice or seasoned networker, or simply someone who wants to learn, be sure to come back to this site on Monday (2/20/12) which is when we will be posting the first blog in the series! 

So what do you think?  Are you as excited about this new series as TR and I are?  Leave us a comment and let us know your thoughts . . .

What Do You Do When People You Don’t Know Ask For Business?

I received an e-mail this year from a man named Robert and it contained an excellent question.  The full message read:

Good morning, Dr. Misner.

I was wondering if you could answer a question for me.

When it comes to networking and being a connector, how do you handle requests from people you barely know (or don’t know at all) who ask you to give them the names of your contacts so they can connect with those people for their own ventures or projects?

For example, I received a message from a woman I met years ago via the Chamber of Commerce. She was laid off by the Chamber and now is attempting to find her niche. She sent me a message on LinkedIn that read:

“Hello and Happy summer! Do you know personally any life/disability agents or financial planners? I need to meet as many as possible in RVA to see if they can use our medical services at Portamedic to complete the medical portion of the insurance applications. Please forward any names to me if you do. Thank you.”

This is a great question, Robert.

When people contact me with requests like the one you’ve described, I refer them to my article on the VCP Process and explain to them that though I appreciate them reaching out to me, we’re not even at “visibility” yet.  In order for me to feel comfortable referring them, I would need to build a relationship over time that gets us to strong “credibility.”   When most people read the article, they move on to someone else because they think that networking is about “direct selling” and they don’t understand that it is about long-term relationship building.

How would you respond to this and what is your “policy” for giving referrals?  Please leave your feedback in the comment section.

 

Jack Canfield Talks about Why the VCP Process® Makes Sense

A couple of weeks ago, Jack Canfield and I did a one-hour interview where we talked about business networking and success principles.  In about a month, the video of the interview will be available to view on Jack’s website (www.JackCanfield.com) in the “Inner Circle” section.

In the meantime, I invite you to check out the 3-minute video above where Jack talks about some of what he picked up about networking during our interview and why the VCP Process® really strikes a chord with him.

The Networking Disconnect

I was at a big networking event with more than 500 people in the UK this summer, and the person who spoke before me asked the audience: “How many of you came here hoping to do some business–maybe make a sale?”  More than half the people in the audience raised their hands. He then asked, “How many of you are here hoping to buy something?”  No one raised a hand–not one single person! This is the networking disconnect.

If you are going to networking events hoping to sell something, you’re dreaming. Don’t confuse direct selling with networking. Effective networking is about developing relationships. I know, I know . . . there’s always someone out there who says, “But, Ivan, I’ve made a sale by attending a networking event!”  OK . . . I’m not saying it doesn’t ever happen–it does.  I’m just saying it happens about as often as a solar eclipse. Face it, even a blind squirrel can find a nut. Any businessperson can stumble on some business at a networking meeting from time to time. However, when you have most of the people at an event trying to sell and virtually no one there to buy, you’re crazy if you think the odds are in your favor to “sell” at a networking event.

So why go?  You go because networking is more about farming than it is about hunting. It’s about developing relationships with other business professionals. Sometimes you go to a networking event to increase your visibility, sometimes you go to establish further credibility with people you know, and sometimes you may even go to meet a long-time referral partner and do some business. In any case, the true master networkers know that networking events are about moving through the VCP Process and not about closing deals.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

How Soon Should You Expect Profitability from a Relationship?

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve written a few blogs on the VCP Process® of networking and, since I’ve already covered visibility and credibility in detail, today I’m going to tell you what you need to know about profitability, the third and final phase of the VCP Process.

The mature relationship, whether business or personal, can be defined in terms of its profitability. Is it mutually rewarding? Do both partners gain satisfaction from it? Does it maintain itself by providing benefits to both? If it doesn’t profit both partners to keep it going, it probably will not endure.

The best piece of advice I can give you in regard to when to expect to get to profitability is to be patient. The time it takes to pass through the phases of a developing relationship is highly variable.  It’s not always easy to determine when profitability has been achieved: A week? A month? A year? In a time of urgent need, you and a client may proceed from visibility to credibility overnight. The same is true of profitability; it may happen quickly or it may take years, but most likely it will be somewhere in between. It will depend on the frequency and quality of the contacts and especially on the desire of both parties to move the relationship forward.

Shortsightedness can impede the full development of the relationship. Perhaps you’re a customer who has done business with a certain vendor off and on for several months, but to save pennies you keep hunting around for the lowest price, ignoring the value this vendor provides in terms of service, hours, goodwill and reliability. Are you really profiting from the relationship, or are you stunting its growth?  Perhaps if you gave this vendor all your business, you could work out terms that would benefit both of you.  Profitability is not found by bargain hunting. It must be cultivated. And, like farming, it takes patience.

Visibility and credibility are important in the relationship-building stages of the referral-marketing process.  But when you have established an effective referral generation system, you will have entered the profitability stage of your relationships with many people–the people who send you referrals and the customers you recruit as a result. It’s an essential part of successful relationship marketing and networking.

Moving from Visibility to Credibility

In last Thursday’s blog, I explained that visibility, the first phase of the VCP Process®, brings the opportunity to build credibility and that credibility is what will ultimately get you to profitability, where you’ll actually benefit from your networking and relationship building efforts.

So how do you move from visibility to credibility?  Well, once you and another individual achieve visibility with each other, meaning you’re aware of each other and the nature of each other’s business, you begin to form expectations of one another; once those expectations are fulfilled, your relationship can enter the credibility stage.  If each person is confident of gaining satisfaction from the relationship, then it will continue to strengthen.

Credibility is the quality of being reliable, worthy of confidence.  Credibility grows when appointments are kept, promises are acted upon, facts are verified, and services are rendered.  The old saying that results speak louder than words is true.  Failure to live up to expectations–to keep both explicit and implicit promises–can kill a budding relationship before it breaks the surface of the ground and can create visibility of a kind you don’t want.

To determine how credible you are, people often turn to third parties.  They ask someone they know who has known you longer or perhaps has done business with you.  So, how credible are you?  Would the people in your network vouch for you by saying that you are reliable and honest, your products and services are effective, you keep your appointments, act on your promises, deliver results as expected, and can be counted on in a crunch?  If you’re not sure, now is the time to make a strategic effort to build your credibility; without credibility, you can forget about achieving profitability.

If you’re interested in learning more about profitability (If you’re in business, it’s safe to assume you’re very interested. ;-)), the third phase of the VCP Process®, and when you should expect to achieve it with your contacts, be sure to come back and read this Thursday’s blog.

The First Phase of the VCP Process–Visibility

Last week I wrote a blog explaining the VCP Process, which is a huge part of the foundation of networking. Because this process is so crucial to effective networking, I promised to write a blog entry for each of the three phases (visibility, credibility and profitability), and today I’m going to talk about why it all starts with visibility.

The first phase of growing a relationship is visibility: You and another individual become aware of each other.  In business terms, a potential source of referrals or a potential customer becomes aware of the nature of your business–perhaps because of your public relations and advertising efforts, because of your social media presence or perhaps through someone you both know. This person may observe you in the act of conducting business or relating with the people around you. The two of you begin to communicate and establish links–perhaps a question or two over the phone or via e-mail messages about product availability. You may become personally acquainted and work on a first-name basis, but you know little about each other. A combination of many such relationships forms a casual-contact network, a sort of de facto association based on one or more shared interests.

The visibility phase is important because it creates recognition and awareness.  The greater your visibility, the more widely known you will be, the more information you will obtain about others, the more opportunities you will be exposed to, and the greater will be your chances of being accepted by other individuals or groups as someone to whom they can or should refer business.  Visibility must be actively maintained and developed; without it, you cannot move on to the next level, credibility.

I’ll talk more about credibility next week, but it’s important to understand that visibility brings the opportunity to build credibility, and credibility is what will get you to profitability, where you’ll actually benefit from your efforts. So many times people try to jump straight from visibility to profitability, and that’s not real networking; it’s just an obvious ploy to get something from your new contacts. That’s nothing more than a bad attempt at direct selling and a big waste of time.

So, how do you go about creating more visibility for your business? What are some strategies that have really worked out well for you?  I’d love to hear your comments.

What is the VCP Process?

The key concept in referral marketing is relationships. The system of information, support and referrals that you assemble will be based on your relationships with other individuals and businesses. Referral marketing works because these relationships work both ways: They benefit both parties.

A referral marketing plan involves relationships of many different kinds. Among the most important are those with your referral sources, with prospects these referral sources bring you and with customers you recruit from the prospects. These relationships don’t just spring up full-grown; they must be nurtured. As they grow, fed by mutual trust and shared benefits, they evolve through three phases: visibility, credibility and profitability. We call this evolution the VCP Process(R)

Any successful relationship, whether a personal or a business relationship, is unique to every pair of individuals, and it evolves over time. It starts out tentative, fragile, full of unfulfilled possibilities and expectations. It grows stronger with experience and familiarity. It matures into trust and commitment. The VCP Process describes the process of creation, growth and strengthening of business, professional and personal relationships; it is useful for assessing the status of a relationship and where it fits in the process of getting referrals. It can be used to nurture the growth of an effective and rewarding relationship with a prospective friend, client, co-worker, vendor, colleague or family member. When fully realized, such a relationship is mutually rewarding and, thus, self-perpetuating.

This simple concept has made a bigger difference in more people’s networking efforts than any other single idea I’ve discussed. For this reason, I’m going to devote the next few blogs I write to explaining each step of the VCP Process individually. Come back on Monday to learn why it all starts with visibility . . . I guarantee you you’ll want to read this one!

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