Networking Is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

The fact is, networking truly is a marathon of an endeavor–it’s most definitely not a sprint.  I have met so many people who practice what I call ‘hyperactive networking’ and they mistakenly approach networking at the speed of an all-out sprint–they want to be absolutely everywhere and meet absolutely everyone and they go, go, go ALL of the time until they soon inevitably burn out, ‘collapse,’ and give up.

It’s a real shame because if these people would, from the beginning, just slow down and take the time to develop a networking strategy and understand that networking takes time, patience, hard work, dedication, commitment, and endurance, they would be reaping great rewards from their networking efforts instead of exhausting themselves with nothing to show for it in the end.

Networking at its core is about taking the time to build genuine, trusted relationships.  Sure, visibility is important, but without building trust right along with it, visibility won’t get you very far in the long run.  You can run around all day long going to networking events and shaking people’s hands, but if you’re not spending time following up and developing trust with the people you meet, then you haven’t really achieved much of anything that will actually give you results from your networking efforts–do not confuse activity with accomplishment. 

So, what are your tactics for pacing yourself in the marathon of networking?  What actions do you take to strategically build relationships?  I’d love to hear from you so please share your thoughts and ideas in the comment forum below–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.”

If You Don’t Get This, You Won’t Succeed at Networking

In this brief video, Roger Green and I talk about the two styles of engagement (Relational vs.Transactional) and The VCP Process®.

Throughout the course of my research, I’ve found that, on the average, when it comes to networking, men’s behavior typically goes in one specific direction, and women’s behavior goes in a very different direction. It’s very important to understand this but what’s even more imperative to understand is the VCP Process®–if you don’t get VCP, nothing else you do will work at networking; you have to understand VCP.

Remember: Generating business through networking is a referral process; not a sales process.  After watching the video, please share your thoughts in the comments section regarding the VCP Process®–which part(s) of the process do you currently excel at and which part(s) do you feel you might need to work on?  Do you believe your are better at certain parts of the process due to being either transactional or relational, or because of your gender?

The Fine Line Between Comedy and Competency

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®.  Nine 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 9 of the series.  Enjoy.

THE FINE LINE BETWEEN COMEDY AND COMPETENCY

(Part 9 of 12 of the “Navigating The VCP Process® To Networking” Series)

In Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 , Part 4, and Part 5 of this series, we introduced and re-introduced the concept and steps of The VCP Process® to Networking for our readers through brief anecdotes, relevant comparisons, and sometimes even humorous situations.  For Parts 6 and 7 we even shared with you video trainings from the both of us.

Last month in Part 8, we suggested some behaviors that you can use on a weekly basis to increase the number of referrals you receive.  And, as a result, we got a couple phone calls complimenting us about how last month’s blog post clearly outlined what type of behaviors a successful networker should be practicing on a weekly and monthly basis – and we were asked to provide more.

Exactly three weeks ago, I posted in this very blog about The Ten Commandments of Networking a Mixer.  I’ve been talking about these specific 10 guidelines for years that I recommend people follow when attending Chamber functions, Association meetings, and various business mixers.  I’ve been interviewed on radio and television before and many times I bring up these same 10 guidelines.  And I’m so committed that they should be a part of a successful networker’s toolbox that these same 10 guidelines are taught in-depth in Referral Institute regions all across the globe.

After reading my recent blog post about the Ten Commandments of Networking a Mixer, TR came to me with a smirk on his face and began some mischievous questioning.  He started by mentioning Harvey Mackay’s “take” on the same exact topic.  Now, Harvey is a friend of mine and I’ve even invited him to speak to my networking organization before (of course the audience absolutely loved him).  So, I proceeded to ask TR where he was going with his questioning.

TR replied, “In Chapter 71 [Yes, Harvey’s books have that many chapters] of “Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty”, Harvey writes about The Ten Commandments of Networking as wellAnd, according to him, Commandment #2 is:

~I will NOT confuse visibility with credibility – mine or anyone else’s~

Ivan, I believe that’s a pretty powerful guideline that successful networkers should follow.  Why is this Commandment not included in YOUR list?

After a very long pause, I proceeded to explain that it’s okay for different people to have different viewpoints.  And this led into a very productive conversation about how one person’s viewpoint isn’t correct, and one person’s viewpoint isn’t incorrect – they are just different.  And, this leads us to the relevance of the above story into today’s blog post in which we fulfill our blog readers’ request to provide MORE DETAILS on exactly what type of behaviors a successful networker should be practicing on a monthly basis.

In an effort to move their network (or audience) through the VCP Process to Networking®, many business professionals who are members of Strong Contact Networks like BNI meet on a weekly basis.  And, each week they are given an opportunity to say something about themselves or their business – usually about 1 to 2 minutes.  Every week, these professionals each make a choice on which topic, messaging, and subsequent behavior to display or exhibit while they are addressing the entire group or meeting.

Today, we’d like to bring attention to 2 options one could choose from:

  1. Displaying behaviors to be perceived as LIKEABLE
  2. Displaying behaviors to be perceived as COMPETENT

Which is right?  Which is wrong?  Which is right for you?  Which is wrong for you?

These are all good questions to ask and this leads us back to what my response to TR was earlier which is:  One person’s viewpoint isn’t correct, and one person’s viewpoint isn’t incorrect – they are just different.  And, let me add – choose wisely.

Therefore, someone who week in and week out chooses to use their 1 to 2 minutes to display behaviors to encourage people to like them is most certainly entitled to do so.  Some examples of these types of behaviors are:

  • Delivering jokes
  • Performing attention-getting skits
  • Rhyming
  • Reciting a poem

However, if you choose these behaviors we kindly ask that you not lose sight of the goal which is to move your network through the VCP Process® from Visibility to Credibility all the way to Profitability.  And, if people only know you for your jokes, they may surely like you and remember you (i.e. Visibility) but you may risk not ever providing them with enough information that proves you are good at what you do – which ultimately increases your chance of getting referrals from them (i.e. Credibility).

On the other hand, someone who chooses to use their 1 to 2 minutes to display behaviors to impress people and prove they are good at what they do is certainly entitled to do so.  Some examples of these types of behaviors are:

  • Sharing client testimonials
  • Announcing achievements
  • Explaining why they are “better” than their competition

However, if your network only hears sound bites of your successes and don’t ever really get the chance to truly know you as a person (i.e. the likability factor), you may risk alienating yourself as someone only focused on work.  Or worse yet, they may consider you boring.

Therein explains the fine line between comedy and competency that today’s business networkers face.  And, some may even consider it a challenge.   When moving your network through the VCP Process®, it’s recommended that you first get someone to LIKE you through various Visibility behaviors.  But, it cannot stop there.  It’s encouraged that you then commit to displaying various Credibility-building behaviors so that they believe you have the COMPETENCY in your profession to handle their referrals.  Then, you will you increase your chances of consistently pulling your network all the way to Profitability and receiving a steady stream of referrals.

In closing, today’s focus has been simply to expand your thought process on exactly what options you have available to you when it comes to which behaviors you can choose to display to your network on a weekly or monthly basis.  Displaying behaviors that allow you to be perceived as both LIKEABLE and COMPETENT is our recommended solution.  Combine them together and interchange them back and forth when relevant to make sure your network truly likes you and also believes you will take great care of their referrals.  One without the other or used too infrequently may not deliver you the results you expect from your networking efforts.

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 10 called “Authenticity is the ‘New’ Audacity.”

Want to Achieve Networking Success with the Opposite Sex?–Advice for Women & Men

Last week I posted a summary of the conclusions my Business Networking and Sex co-authors and I came to after surveying over 12,000 people and conducting months of research.  I promised that this week I would post advice for both women and men in achieving networking success with the opposite sex so below I’ve outlined some key tips Frank De Raffele, Hazel Walker, and I put together.

We Say . . .

We’re all trying to get to the same place.  It will be much more profitable for all of us if we can help each other along the way.  Here are a few things to guide your success in networking with the complementary gender:

For the Ladies

  • Don’t get stuck in the credibility phase of the VCP Process®.  Ask for what you want.
  • When asking for help, communicate clearly exactly what it is that you want.
  • Make time for networking.
  • When speaking to men, try to impress them and share your accomplishments.
  • When spoken to inappropriately, speak up about it immediately.
  • Dress for business at business events.
  • Put systems in place to track your business.
  • Stay in contact with and follow up on leads, referrals, and acquaintances made.
  • Diversify your networks.
  • Remember that networking is ultimately about getting business, so ask for both business and referrals.
  • Convey an image to others that you are a serious businessperson, in all that you do.
  • Get educated about referral systems.
  • Don’t lump all men into the same group.

For the Guys

  • Slow down and build the relationship.
  • Work through the VCP Process® in the proper order of its phases.  Don’t race through the credibility phase.
  • Make and maintain eye contact.
  • Listen and ask relational questions.
  • Don’t assume that women don’t take their business seriously.
  • Don’t hit on women at networking events.
  • Edit what you are about to say, using filters to sift out what is not business appropriate.
  • Stay in contact with and follow up on leads, referrals, and acquaintances made.
  • Stay informed about the best, most current, and cutting-edge networking practices.
  • Develop and use systems for your networking activities.
  • Make time for networking.
  • Speak to relate, not just to impress.
  • Remember that women are at networking events for business gain, just as you are.

The difference between the genders when it comes to networking is a great advantage, not a disadvantage.  By following the tips we have outlined above, you should be able to develop more productive relationships with members of both sexes.  Also, be sure to visit www.BusinessNetworkingAndSex.com if you would like to follow the latest developments on the subject of business networking and the genders.

Audit Your Activities — “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®.  Five 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 5 of the series.  Enjoy.

 

AUDIT YOUR ACTIVITIES
(Part 5 of 12 of the “Navigating The VCP Process® To Networking” Series)

In Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 , and Part 4 of this series, we introduced and re-introduced the concept and steps of The VCP Process® to Networking for our readers through brief anecdotes, relevant comparisons, and sometimes even humorous situations.

Today, we’d like to share with you one laser-focused Power Habit that you can use on a weekly basis to increase the number of referrals you receive. And, that Power Habit is based upon the following underlying Success PrincipleIt’s not always about the ACT of the ACTIVITIES that one should focus on. It’s the ANALYSIS of those ACTIVITIES that produces your greatest results.

A close friend of ours, Jim Cathcart (www.Cathcart.com), is listed in the professional Speaker Hall of Fame and is a very well-known author and speaker on the topic of Sales.  In fact, for 3 years in a row Jim has been selected as one of the Top 5 Speakers on Sales & Service.  So, I guess what we’re saying is that we believe “Jim knows his stuff!”  And in a recent conversation, he said: “Things that are measured tend to improve.”

It got us thinking that nothing could be truer, especially in the process of getting referrals.  Many networkers actually become Referral Institute clients because they want the trainers to hold them accountable for their weekly actions so that they get improved results.  We actually steer them towards an amazing online referral tracking tool called Relate2Profit (www.Relate2Profit.com) to help them hold themselves accountable.  But for today’s conversation, let’s take baby steps.  Let’s talk about something you can do with tools you already have at your disposal…a pen and your Daily Planner.

Our focus is measuring your weekly activities and how they relate to moving people in your network through The VCP Process® all the way from Visibility through Credibility to Profitability.

Here are the recommended steps:

  • First thing every Monday morning block off 5 minutes.
  • Write down the names of 5 people who you want passing you steady referrals.
  • Next, in your Daily Planner block off a 2 minute segment of time for each of the 5 days of the week.
  • Then, during each of those separate 2 minute segments choose 1 of the 5 people who you want passing you steady referrals.
  • Finally, TAKE ACTION by doing something to help YOU move that person (who YOU chose) through The VCP Process® to networking on your behalf.

For example, if you are only at Visibility with 1 of those 5 people, what can you do in those 2 minutes to help you move to Credibility with them?  Or, if you are only at Credibility with 1 of those 5 people, what can you do in those 2 minutes to help you move to Profitability with them?

At a loss for ideas on what you can do in 2 minutes to help compel someone to pass you referrals?  Here’s a brief list of activities that you might want to consider:

  • Search the web for an article relevant to their professional (or personal) goals and email it to them.
  • Go to their Facebook timeline or LinkedIn profile and comment on one of their recent posts to show that you care about what they care about.
  • Send them an email acknowledging that you’re aware of who an ideal client is for them…and let them know you’ll continue to be on the lookout.
  • Call them up and invite them to accompany you on a meeting you already have scheduled with a prospective client of yours.

As noted above, this is a recommended series of actions that we suggest you implement on a weekly basis.  If you do, the COMPOUND EFFECT of these weekly Power Habits will deliver you massive results in the medium and long term with your business relationships.

If this seems too simplistic to you right now, please take special note of the following.  In a recent survey over a 12 week period, when asked if they REGULARLY dedicated just 2 minutes for each of the 5 days of the week to perform ANY of the above recommended actions towards staying “top of mind” with prospective Referral Sources…less than 50% of the respondents reported that they did not.

This means that people have identified key Contact Sphere Professionals who should be passing them referrals.  BUT, they go weeks and weeks without performing small actions to compel these people to pass them referrals or even to stay top of mind!

Where would you fit into this survey?

In closing, we’d like to recommend you consider that the above Power Habit that can be performed is actually only 15 minutes of your work week.  If you work a standard 40 hour week, it’s less than 1% of your time investment for that week.  We believe that there should be no excuse for not dedicating 1% of your work week to “staying top of mind” with prospective Referral Sources.  Do you agree? 

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 6 called “The ABC’s of Business Networking”.

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