Go from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be

Go from Where You Are to Where You Want to Bestring(45) "Go from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be"

My friend Jack Canfield is a best-selling author with hundreds of books, including The Success Principles and the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. He has also been my guest on The Official BNI Podcast. This blog is from my podcast conversation with Jack about how to get from where you currently are to where you want to be. We discuss his book, The Success Principles, and the companion book, The Success Principles Workbook, which helps people integrate the principles into their personal and professional success stories.

Many people read helpful books like The Success Principles and are excited about the ideas they get. However, many don’t do the things that they learned about – sometimes they need more support. Jack shares some ideas, exercises, and activities from The Success Principles Workbook which provide a way to integrate and apply the principles.

Recognizing OUR Part in Creating Our Experiences

It’s easy to talk about taking 100% responsibility and giving up blaming and complaining. But to actually do that requires some interaction with you and your thinking process. There is an exercise called ‘The Difficult and Troubling Experience Exercise’ where you answer a series of questions such as “What’s a difficult or troubling experience in your life – at work or at home?” And then “How are you creating it?” Because we’re always doing something to create the current situation.

Jack shares the story of a person he met who was getting robbed all the time, and Jack asked him, “Where do you live?” He said, “New York.” Jack said, “In an apartment?” He said, “Yeah.” Jack: “What floor is it?” He replied, “The first floor.” Jack asked him if he had bars on the apartment windows to which the man answered, “No.” “Do you have triple locks on the door?” “No.”  “Do you have a alarm system to alert the police if someone breaks in?” “No.”
Jack then asked him, “What are you pretending not to know? You live on the first-floor apartment in New York City. So, one of the next questions is what are you pretending not to know? And then the question is – What’s the payoff for keeping it like it is?”

What’s the cost of keeping the situation like it is?
What would you rather be experiencing?
What actions would you need to take to create what you really want?
On a scale of one to 10, are you likely to do that?
And when will you do that?  

These types of questions take you through a process of looking at what’s not working in your life and how you’re creating it. You’re not a victim but there’s something you’re doing to either create, promote, or allow it to happen.

Life Purpose

Jack recommends three exercises to help us get clarity about our life purpose.

  1. It’s important to have a vision. He suggests creating a vision for seven different areas of your life.
  2. Goal Setting. Turn your vision into goals and create an affirmation for each of your goals.
  3. Create a mastermind group. Determine the five or six people you would like in your group and decide the date by which you’re going to call them. Meet with your mastermind group virtually or in person every two weeks.

 

Accountability Partner Culture

For business success, find an accountability partner to talk to every morning. Tell them five things that you plan to do that day to achieve your breakthrough goal, and then they tell you five things they are going to do to achieve their breakthrough goal. The next day, you hold each other accountable for the five things you each said you would do.
Do this for five days each week.

I find that many people like this concept, however they say, “I don’t have time to do that.” What I think is crazy, is they’re stuck in their life and they’re having challenges. They’re not making things work, but they don’t have a few minutes a day to do one thing to help themselves.

Create an accountability partner culture. Take five minutes, once a day. The reality is you can’t afford NOT to do it. As humans, we avoid doing the things that are uncomfortable or difficult, even if they have the greatest long-term benefits.

Often, we never do the big goals or make the big breakthroughs that you do when you have an accountability partner and a mastermind group. Those five minutes every morning are so valuable. Jack told me, “It’s literally been one of the greatest secrets of my success and the people in my company.”

One Thing at a Time

Many people spend way too much time doing things that are ineffective and then they don’t have the time they want for their family, for self-care, for exercise, meditation, or even healthy eating. It can be overwhelming when you try to do everything at once. When we are overwhelmed, we usually don’t do anything.
Do one thing at a time, space it out, and then integrate it, so that it becomes part of your natural experience – it becomes a habit.

Jack recommends that people create FOUR new habits a year. Resist the urge to do more than that. If you create four new habits a year – for your health, business, home – AND you stick with them, in five years you’ll have 20 new habits! The habits that you have are what get you where you want to go. OR, if they are bad habits, they’re keeping you stuck. Implementing positive changes, over time and consistently, can change your life and help you get to where you want to be.

I love Jack and appreciate how much he shares to help others be successful. Check out his website, his blog, and the many free resources he offers. I can tell you firsthand that he is somebody who walks the talk. He doesn’t just talk about success. He lives the principles that he talks about.

3 Ways to Attract the Customers You Deserve

3 Ways to Attract the Customers You Deservestring(43) "3 Ways to Attract the Customers You Deserve"

Businesspeople know that they need to get more customers to grow their business and reach their company goals. One of the best ways to gain new clients is through referrals from the people in your networks. I have found that an effective way to receive referrals is to be the go-to problem-solver for your desired target market.

I’m going to share a mini course on how to attract your ideal customer from the book, The Connector Effect, which I co-authored with Graham Weihmiller and Robert Skrob.

Let’s get started. There are three parts to this exercise and all three need to be completed for best results. Within two minutes or less, write a response to each of these questions or requests. Don’t overthink your answers and know that the more you treat this as a lightning-round type of exercise, the more you’ll get out of it.

  1. Describe Your Ideal Customer

Many would-be marketers fail because they never define a target client. Instead, they use words like “everybody” or “anybody.” Defining a target market gives your referral partners a mental picture of the best customer to refer to you.

Answer the following if your clients are consumers:

  1. Think of a person who is already a great customer for you: what area do they live in?
  2. What is their family status and profession?
  3. How does their household income compare with the average?
  4. What are they planning, bragging or complaining about?

If your clients are other businesses, answer these questions:

  1. Think of a company that is already a great customer for you: What line of business is that customer in?
  2. What’s the approximate size?
  3. Who makes the buying decisions for your product or service?
  4. What’s the problem they are trying to solve when buying your product?

When you are specific, you are serving your fellow members in your networking group by giving them a clear idea of your ideal patron. The more detailed you are, the more effective they will be in finding those referrals for you.

  1. What problems are you solving for them?

Too many businesspeople talk about their products and services. This sounds self-serving, however, talking about the problems you solve makes you into a giver who attracts customers.

  1. List at least three problems your good customer has that makes them ideal for your business.
  2. What is the worst thing that could possibly happen to your clients if their problems aren’t solved?
  3. What is the best thing that can happen once their problems are solved?
  4. Do you have success stories to illustrate how you help your customers? (Client testimonials are a great way to give your network a clearer idea of what exactly you deliver, and they demonstrate that your group members can trust you to deliver what you promise.)

  1. Perfect Your Presentation

Now that you’ve identified examples of your experience as a problem-solver, let’s pull the above information into a brief presentation that you can share during business networking meetings, industry events, and business mixers.

Here are the three elements of the perfect business introduction:

  1. State your professional classification.
  2. Tell a brief story about a problem you solved for a customer.
  3. Request a referral – “who do you know who is [insert target customer] who suffers [from the issue you corrected in the brief story].” Be specific!

It’s important to remember that each presentation is only about ONE particular problem that you solved for your client. Avoid the laundry list – if you overshare by telling everything you do, it will dilute the effectiveness of your presentation, resulting in few, if any, referral opportunities.

These three steps will help you develop presentations that attract the customers you want from your referral partners.
Once you learn how to create these presentations for your business, you can also use this skill for any club, charity, or campaign that you lead to develop an easy and memorable way to talk about those activities, too.  

I’d like to hear your feedback and results from doing this exercise. Share your story in the comments section.

Eight Categories of Referral Sources for Your Business

Eight Categories of Referral Sources for Your Businessstring(54) "Eight Categories of Referral Sources for Your Business"

Referrals are often the most profitable way to gain new customers. And the only way to get referrals is through other people in your network.
I’ve found that most networkers only focus on existing clients as their main source for business referrals. However, there are seven other referral sources which can also be developed to generate opportunities for new referrals.

  1. Satisfied Clients
    One of your best referral sources is satisfied clients. Having firsthand experience with your products or services, they are true believers and can give convincing testimonials about you. Stay in touch with these customers; they are your top fans, your best promoters, and they can be very effective in helping others decide to do business with you.

  2. People in Your Contact Sphere
    A Contact Sphere is a group of businesses and professions that complement, rather than compete with, your business. Each of them has customers who can benefit from the services of the others. For instance: event planner, caterer, photographer, and florist.

  3. People Whose Business Benefits from Yours
    These are the people who get more business when you get more business: your suppliers and vendors. If you sell workbooks, the printer who prints them for you benefits. It is in these other businesses’ self-interest to give you referrals.

  4. Others with Whom You Do Business
    Think about the people you go to for your personal and professional needs. Your own business may not have anything to do with dentistry or hairstyling or automobiles, but in your everyday life you do business with a dentist, a hairstylist, auto mechanic, and many more. If you’ve been using their services for some time, they probably know what you do and that you’re a reliable, trustworthy person. Sometimes this is all the recommendation a potential client needs.

  5. Staff Members
    Except for customers, no one understands better than staff members how your products or services perform. Every member of your staff from all departments gives your business a boost when they talk with their friends, neighbors, and people they meet in their daily lives. Remember that working for your company will always be a part of your former staff members’ history, too, and is often part of their conversation with prospects as well.

  6. People to Whom You’ve Given Referrals
    You’re more likely to get a referral from someone to whom you’ve given a referral or helped them in some way. The best networkers believe in the “givers gain” philosophy (what goes around comes around). The more you give to others, the more you’ll get in the future.

  7. People Who Have Given You Referrals
    People who give you referrals for business, or direct others to you for advice, are demonstrating that they think highly of you and what you do. If they didn’t, they would refer people elsewhere. Strengthen and nurture these prospective referral sources; don’t take them for granted. Show your appreciation with personal communication and by referring prospects to them.

  8. Other Members of Business Referral Groups
    Referral groups are set up by their members mainly to exchange business referrals. A typical weekly meeting of such a group includes time devoted exclusively to networking and referring business. Get to know your fellow members to build mutually beneficial relationships that help each other’s businesses grow.

Community Service Organizations

As you think about the people you know in the eight different groups of referral sources, you may find that many of them are from community service groups you are involved with. These types of organizations give business professionals an opportunity to give something back to their community and to make valuable contacts.

While these groups exist primarily for community service, they also provide an excellent opportunity for businesspeople to meet regularly and develop relationships.
Local service organizations are usually populated with the movers and shakers of the community. Those who are long-term, active, and contributing members of such groups usually end up befriending people who can open doors and present little-known opportunities for them.

With any business organization, particularly service clubs, it is very important to remember that making effective contacts and building deep business relationships is a journey, not a destination.

Savvy professionals who know and cultivate their most likely referral sources get the largest number of high-quality referrals, and the more referrals they get, the more revenue they generate in the long run.

I urge you to make a commitment to reach out and connect with at least one person from two or three of these eight commonly untapped referral sources to start developing and strengthening your business relationship with your potential referral partner.

Successful Business Networking: Do You Need to Know How to “Sell?”

Successful Business Networking: Do You Need to Know How to “Sell”?string(70) "Successful Business Networking: Do You Need to Know How to “Sell”?"

The answer is YES. Master networkers know that sales skills are absolutely required for successful referral marketing. Those skills are needed in every part of the process – not just in closing the sale with the prospect.

There have been numerous businesspeople I’ve met over the years who are fantastic networkers and they think that just because they know how to network, they don’t need to know how to sell. They assume that people will like them and then, because they like them, their products or services will sell themselves. This kind of mentality is unfortunate because people who think this way often leave business on the table.

There are three steps in the referral marketing sales process where selling skills are essential.

To Get the Referral

From the very beginning, you must sell yourself to your potential referral source.
Remember, a referral is not a guaranteed sale. A referral is an opportunity to talk with, and possibly do business with, someone to whom you’ve been recommended. You still have to close the deal. You have to make it clear that you know how to sell, and that you can and will provide the products or services that you are expected to provide. And that the customer will be happy with both the process and the result – which will reflect favorably on the person that provided the referral.

If you are unable to make that first “sale,” your potential referral source won’t become a referral partner. They won’t be inclined to risk their reputation and relationship with the prospect and won’t do their part to sell the referral.

To Get the Appointment

Beyond selling yourself to the referral source, you have to sell yourself to the prospect to get that first appointment. Yes, the referral helps a great deal, but you still have to convince the potential buyer that the appointment is worth their time and is likely to result in a favorable outcome for them.

I strongly recommend that networkers avoid being aggressive, indecisive, or evasive at this point. The prospect has been in contact with your referral provider and is expecting a high level of professionalism and respect from you in your approach. Be confident that a mutually beneficial deal is in the works and communicate this to the potential client with your attitude and actions. Strive not to embarrass your referral partner that connected you with this person.

To Get the Sale

Once you have made the appointment, you have to persuade the potential customer to buy your product or service. This is the part that usually comes to mind when you hear the word “sell.” Your integrity is paramount at this stage. They should know exactly what to expect from you – no hidden charges, no unexpected exceptions, and no bait-and-switch.

The number one thing to remember is to make your referral provider look good when you are talking with the person they referred to you. You need to demonstrate that you know how to sell to the prospect in a way that doesn’t reflect poorly back on them. They want to be confident that you will consult with the potential customer, discover their needs, offer solutions based on those needs, give them some options, and you won’t force a sale if you know you are unable to provide a good solution.

Note that in referral marketing, closing the deal with your prospect is neither the beginning nor the end of the selling process. To get to this point, you will have made at least two other sales, as noted above. To build and maintain the long-term relationships that characterize successful referral marketing, you have to follow up with both your new client and with your referral partner as part of the total sales process.

Sales skills are important in business networking. Some people are better at closing sales than others. Having the knowledge and skill to generate the referral, then having the knowledge and skill to close the sale, gives the businessperson a significant advantage.

The sales process is all about keeping an ongoing relationship with the client or customer, AND with your referral partner. This is something that the best referral marketers know and understand. “Sell” is a word that should be in every networker’s vocabulary.

How do you sharpen your sales skills and/or keep an ongoing relationship with your clients/customers?

Getting Comfortable With “NO”string(33) "Getting Comfortable With “NO”"

For business networking success, you need to build deep relationships; learn how to help people; and support your professional connections in some way. However sometimes, just sometimes, you need to say “no” to requests that are made of you.

It’s important to recognize when someone’s opportunity is your distraction. That begins by knowing your own personal or professional mission. Typically, these are situations where their project is not on mission for, nor compatible with, your business or your life. In these situations, you need to learn how to say no. Remember, the word “no” can be a one-word sentence. It’s just not a sentence that I like to use very often; and I think there are a fair number of people that feel the same way.

Don’t get me wrong, I am totally good with saying “no” to people when it is necessary. The secret is how to get comfortable saying “no” and doing it without sounding like you don’t care.

Six Ways to Say “No”

I personally have found that these suggestions are very effective when they are used with respect and sincerity.

I don’t do that.
Sometimes the request and the response I give are very simple.  For example, when someone tries to get me to have a piece of cake or pie – I simply say “thanks, but I don’t eat processed sugar.” When they say something like, “oh, just a bite,” I am comfortable telling them they should feel free to have my bite because I don’t eat sugar.

If I said yes, I’d let you down.
An effective way to tell someone “no” is to tell them that you believe you would let them down if you did what they are asking. It might be because you don’t have the bandwidth, the knowledge, or the expertise to do fulfill their request. In any case, you’re not the person to help make this idea a success and you don’t want to disappoint them.

Refer them to someone more qualified.
When I say “no” to someone, I usually try to refer them to someone else who is more suited or qualified to help them. I like to refer them to someone whose mission is more aligned with the project they want help with.

Propose something else.
When you are unable to do something that you’re being asked to do, offer something else instead. For example, I’m often asked to send some type of communication to my entire mailing list. My answer is always “no.” However, with people I know and trust, I propose something else to maintain the relationship. I offer to post it on my social media instead and that generally works just as well. 

Don’t Seinfeld it.
In the old TV series, Seinfeld, the characters often came up with some crazy, complicated excuse or subterfuge that ended up getting them in more trouble than if they were candid from the start. Always be polite while being honest and direct.

When you say it, mean it.
Be a broken record; be firm. Sometimes, people simply don’t want to take “no” for an answer. I try to be polite, smile, and continue to repeat what I said before.

Saying “No” Due to Someone’s Poor Planning

I once had someone send me a document that they needed to have completed IMMEDIATELY for an important deadline. Mind you, they could have sent the document to me several months earlier. Due to their poor planning, they waited until the last minute to send it to me. At the time, I was out of the country on business with back-to-back trips scheduled over the next few weeks and they were aware that I was in the midst of my travels.

Regardless, they emailed me, my assistant, and my wife THREE times in two days! In between my meetings, I sent them a message and said, “I’m sorry you have a problem, but your project is not my priority due to your poor planning. You had months to send this to me and you sent it at the last moment (when I’m swamped) and you want it right now. NO. I am not able to do it right now.”

I had to be firm with my reply declining their request. I also put the responsibility back in their court, making it very clear why I said NO. Their poor planning did not need to become my priority.

One important reminder: don’t become addicted to “no.” I look for opportunities to help people and to say yes. It’s only when I truly cannot help or when I know I am not a good fit for their request that I say “no” to people.

You have to be clear in your mind whether something is actually an opportunity or a distraction. And then get comfortable saying “no” when it is the best answer for you.

Thinking Big

Thinking Bigstring(12) "Thinking Big"

This is my belief about thinking big. Our vision controls our perception, and our perception becomes our reality. Don’t become so attached to a limiting belief that you can’t see what is possible. Move past limiting beliefs and move towards meaningful beliefs. Think big.

The size of your success is determined by the size of your belief. Think little goals and expect little results. Think big goals and smash other people’s expectations of you. You know, it takes the same energy to think big as it does to think small. Sure, if you think big, you’re sometimes worried about whether you can achieve those dreams or not. But when you think small, you’re disappointed in yourself because you didn’t achieve the success you want. Personally, I would rather be a little bit worried than disappointed in myself. Think big. It takes as much energy as thinking small, but you can end up in a much better place.

Be a Product of Your Decisions

Do not let small minds convince you that your dreams are too big. There are those voices rattling around that will stand on your shoulder and tell you why that dream isn’t realistic. I had that. Remember the story of my dream of having 10,000 chapters? Did I let that guy influence my dream? No, I didn’t. Don’t let small minds influence your big dreams. I’ve seen ordinary people do extraordinary things throughout my career. I believe anyone can do extraordinary things with the right mindset, plan, and effort.

The last time I was on Necker Island, I heard Richard Branson say that if people aren’t calling you crazy, you’re not thinking big enough. I love that. And he’s absolutely correct. To inspire others, though, you must first inspire yourself. If you want to be big, you need to start thinking big and behaving big. Don’t be a product of circumstances. Be a product of your decisions. One of my greatest lessons in life was learning that I can alter my circumstances by first altering my beliefs, then my attitude, and eventually my behavior. If you have the power to change lives, grasp it.

Think big. Think big, my friends. Think about how you can change people’s lives. Anything less is not a good use of our opportunity.

The Power of One Conversation

The Power of One Conversationstring(29) "The Power of One Conversation"

Sometimes one conversation can create the pebble-in-the-pond dynamic that changes people’s lives. It may be a kind word to someone you know who is feeling overwhelmed or despondent. It may be a helpful gesture to someone you don’t know who needed to feel noticed that day. It can even be an invitation to a business networking event. This is the story of one such invitation.

The Power of One Invitation

A realtor in the U.S. was attending a local Chamber of Commerce mixer where a woman introduced herself and they began talking. At the end of the conversation she said, “I am part of a business networking group and we have breakfast every Wednesday morning. I’d love to invite you to breakfast, would you like to come?” He replied, “Absolutely.” On the following Wednesday he attended the meeting and was very impressed. He felt welcomed when he arrived and was pleasantly surprised with the structured way the meeting was run and with the business referrals that were being passed between the members. After the meeting, he chatted with some of them, and they invited him back for a second visit the following week.

The next week when he returned to the networking group, he found out that there could only be ONE residential realtor in that chapter. The member who was the realtor happened to be someone he knew, and she said to him, “You ought to think about starting your own chapter.” She then gave him the name and contact information of the person who could answer any questions if he wanted to find out more about it.

He called that day and after an hour-long conversation they decided to start a new BNI® chapter. That chapter grew into a group of businesspeople who built deep professional relationships with each other. Along with passing referrals that turn into revenue for each other’s companies, they care about and support each other.

A Culture of Caring

When devastating wildfires went through their community, 900 houses were lost. Several of the chapter members and their families were among those evacuated from their homes. Their fellow BNI members welcomed them into their homes, giving them a place to stay during those fires.

Yes, that one conversation between two attendees of a networking event was very powerful. It brought together dozens of people who created a group with a culture of caring and of welcoming visitors. They’ve passed referrals that have generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in closed business for the members of the group. That one conversation grew into a caring community that goes beyond a weekly chapter meeting. It brought together people who support each other with a Givers Gain® attitude and a genuine desire to help each other succeed.   

Do you have a networking story about one conversation?  I invite you to share it here.

What to Do If You Get a Bad Referral

What to Do If You Get a Bad Referralstring(36) "What to Do If You Get a Bad Referral"

Today’s professionals know that building a network of strong relationships is important to receive good referrals for their business. However, sometimes we receive a referral that is just not that good. It may be that the referral needed something outside our scope of services or products. Sometimes they don’t need anything at all, or they weren’t expecting your call and don’t want to talk with you.

What does one do after receiving a bad referral? My experience is that clear, open, honest, and direct communication that is professional and polite is the only way to solve the problem. It is impossible to get to the heart of the situation without a conversation.

Three Tips for Dealing with a Bad Referral

  1.   Always speak up when you get a bad referral and talk to the person who gave it to you. Tell them tactfully, but tell them! I’ve talked to many people who say, “Oh, I can’t tell someone that the referral they gave me was no good.”

    My reply is, “You can’t afford not to tell them.” Be direct without apologies. Simply say, “This is what happened. I wanted to come to you before I just assumed it was a bad referral,” and then listen to what they have to say. You can listen to an example here.
  2.   Be positive and make sure they know it was the referral they gave that was bad, and not their effort. Let them know that you appreciate them thinking of you and your business. The best way to ensure that you don’t get bad referrals is to teach people what you consider to be a good referral. This is different for each person and varies widely among professions. You cannot assume that everyone in your networking group knows what kind of referral you are seeking. You need to be specific and clear about what constitutes a good referral for you and educate your referral partners.
  3.   If that doesn’t work, go to your networking group’s membership committee. Don’t talk to other people in the group. It is extremely unhelpful when people talk about each other and not to each other first. Share your concerns with the membership committee. They may have received other complaints about that member giving bad referrals. A good membership committee of a chapter will have a conversation with them and take appropriate action as needed.

Bonus Tip: Track Your Referrals

An effective way to make sure you get good referrals is to monitor the referrals you receive. This can be helpful in several ways. It shows you how often you get referrals, who your referral sources are, the quality of the referral, the status of it, and how much money successfully closed referrals bring to your business. If you don’t know this information today, you may want to consider implementing a tracking system for monitoring your future networking efforts. Over the years, I have observed that people who use systems generate more business.

Referrals and Reputations

When you give a business referral, you give a little bit of your reputation away. So when you are giving referrals, make sure to give good ones. Talk to the potential customer about your networking partner and how they can possibly help them. Ask permission to have your friend call them before you share their phone number. If you give someone a bad referral it can seriously hurt your reputation in your networking group and in the business community. Of course, when you give a good referral, it helps your reputation.

For years I have said that one of the strengths of a BNI® networking group is that most of the members are friends. One of the potential weaknesses of a BNI group is that most of the members are friends. Accountability is key.

If you find yourself in a situation of getting a bad referral, follow the first tip above and talk to the member who gave that referral. You never know what might come out of that conversation.

Four Ways to Grow Your Businessstring(31) "Four Ways to Grow Your Business"

We all want sustainable growth in our business. The question is: where to begin? Success expert and author Brian Tracy said, “When all you have is a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail.”

We can do more than walk around with a hammer. I think we can be more strategic by identifying four ways to grow your business and examining the pros and cons of each.

  1. Advertising

This is often the first place businesses go to drive growth, especially if they don’t know where else to start. There are numerous advertising options available including online, television, radio, print, newsletters, billboards, coupons and other promotions, bus benches, and even posting a business card on the local community bulletin board.

The Pros of Advertising

  • The potential to reach masses of people in a short time frame.
  • Very little work or effort because an expert is hired to do it.
  • It can generate a large volume of leads.
  • It can be targeted to specific demographics and to different geographic areas.

The Cons of Advertising

  • Potentially the most expensive way to grow a business.
  • If an advertising campaign is not strategically executed, it could have zero results.
  • Some statistics show that 80% of sales come after at least five impressions or contacts with potential customers. There needs to be a commitment to a long-term strategy with advertising campaigns.
  • Consumers are bombarded with ads, and it can be difficult to break through the clutter and capture their attention.

  1. Public Relations

Public relations (PR) manages the message between a company or individual and the public. Good PR helps build visibility, boost credibility, and enhance the reputation of a brand or company through storytelling, and by promoting a company’s products and services. This is usually accomplished through press releases, feature stories on television news broadcasts, and/or articles in newspapers, magazines, or websites.

The Pros of PR

  • It is a cost-effective approach to building positive awareness about a brand.
  • PR is an efficient tool for building credibility, especially through media relations.
  • The third-party endorsement and support of a quality journalist who covers a story about your company can be invaluable.
  • Good PR can enhance and amplify other marketing efforts.

The Cons of PR

  • PR is generally about brand building. It is not about immediate sales.
  • It takes time to build relationships with both journalists and with the public. Public relations results are not instantaneous.
  • Measuring the results of any marketing initiative is critical. However, it is often difficult to evaluate the success of a PR campaign because it is not traditional marketing.

  1. Cold Calling

About ninety-seven percent of salespeople don’t like to make cold calls. That means the remaining three percent who claim to like cold calling are either lying or are gluttons for punishment. If so many salespeople dislike cold calling, why do they continue to do it? Perhaps it is that cold calling may seem to be the most direct route to conceivable new business.

The Pros of Cold Calling

  • It allows someone to hone their skill of leaving the prefect voicemail message which will never be returned by most of the prospects being called.
  • Cold calling builds character, which is supposedly good for you.
  • If you make enough cold calls, someone will eventually take pity on you and just maybe buy something.

The Cons of Cold Calling

  • It’s a cold call.
  • It can take hundreds of cold calls before there are any signs of potential success.
  • There are hundreds of calls to follow up with.
  • Cold call recipients often reject the caller or just hang up on them.

  1. Networking and Referrals

One of the best opportunities for new business comes in the form of a referral. A referral is the most qualified form of new opportunities and is also a compliment to you and your business. Think about it: there is often nothing to gain on the part of the person giving the referral except their desire to recognize how great you are by allowing you to take care of their family, friends, and business associates.

The Pros of Networking and Referrals

  • The closing ratio for referred clients is 300 – 700 percent higher than for cold call leads.
  • Referred customers stay four times longer than non-referred customers.
  • Clients from referrals buy 3-4 times more in the first year than those from other sources.
  • Referred customers are more likely to refer you to their family, friends, and co-workers in the future.

The Cons of Networking and Referrals

  • Quality referrals cannot be purchased. They must be earned with the investment of time and energy needed to develop deep business relationships.
  • Without a referral marketing system or strategy, referrals can be infrequent and random.
  • Profitable referral relationships take longer to develop because they are based on trust.

  • Now that you are familiar with the four ways to grow your business and understand the pros and cons for each, you can make an educated decision about what will work best for your business. It is likely that you will use (or already have used) a unique blend of all four of them. As a businessperson, I have used all of them at some point in my career.

My experience from more than three decades of growing and running a business is that referrals are the least costly form of business growth, and they typically produce better long-term results.

I invite you to share your experience and thoughts in the comment section.

Why Wait for a Class Reunion to Network with Former Classmates?string(63) "Why Wait for a Class Reunion to Network with Former Classmates?"

On my very first day in graduate school, I went to an 8-hour weekly class (yes, really– 8) that had a total of two professors and ten students. One of the professors spent the first two hours talking about the elite network of peers that we were going to be working alongside for the next two years and how we were going to build relationships that would last the rest of our professional careers.

Sadly, even though I ended up founding an international networking organization, I have never passed a business referral to, or received a referral from, one of my high-level fellow classmates. After graduation we all spread out to chase our professional goals and didn’t keep in touch.

Keep in mind that I was working on my doctorate in the early 1980s and I finished it in ’93, well before social networks were available to help people keep in touch. Fortunately, the internet now offers a multitude of options to help you reconnect with old school friends  and convert those past relationships into current relationships, and perhaps useful connections for your business.

Today’s Opportunities

I offer three networking suggestions that can help you effectively connect with your former classmates before a reunion or in between class reunions.

  1.   Contact your school’s alumni services department

Alumni departments really want to find out what is going on with the students who have graduated there. Colleges and universities have created networking affinity groups and other opportunities to help students keep their relationship with each other as well as with their universities. You can share news about your business that may catch the eye of your fellow graduates.

Because I reconnected with the universities that I went to and shared my story, I got published in the alumni magazines, was recognized as an Alumni of the Year, and was  asked to speak at two commencements.

  1.   Reconnect on Social Media

LinkedIn is the largest business only platform and you are likely to find many of your former classmates there. A complete LinkedIn profile includes your educational background in addition to your professional experiences.

Facebook is a social networking site that makes it easy for you to connect and share with family and friends online. I hear many stories about how people have reconnected with classmates and childhood friends they have not seen in years. I even had an alumni party at my house because I started connecting with old classmates on Facebook.

  1.   Gently Seek Referrals

I think social media is best used as a brand-building tool. However, you can use it to turn followers and connections into sales IF you do it tactfully.

Write an occasional post on your pages asking your contacts if they know of someone who might be a potential customer for your business. You can also occasionally mention a special deal or announce a special event that your business is having and encourage others to “like” and “share” your posts with the people in their networks.

Remember that the VCP Process® always applies – Visibility, Credibility, Profitability. Before you start asking for referrals, you must be at credibility with people. And you build credibility by building relationships. If you are constantly using hard sales tactics with your social media network, they will drop you or unfriend you. 

You Don’t Have to Wait

You don’t have to wait for a reunion to connect with your former classmates.
Do these three things:
Contact your school’s alumni services.
Reconnect using social media.
Eventually seek referrals, doing so tactfully and gently.

After reading this, I encourage you to connect with a former classmate in the next week by using one of the options above.
Then come back and leave a comment about your experience or post it on my social media. I’d love to hear your classmate connection story!

My Business Travel Tips

My Business Travel Tipsstring(23) "My Business Travel Tips"

As the Founder of BNI® I have been fortunate to travel extensively for business and for pleasure, meeting many wonderful people from dozens of countries. These global opportunities have resulted in an accumulation of numerous tips about international traveling.

Most people know that business travel in your home country requires planning and organization. However, many businesspeople fail to realize that traveling abroad for work has unique challenges. So today I am sharing my tips for business travel which I think can be helpful for anyone taking a trip, domestic or international.

Before You Travel

  1. Research your destination – If you are going to conduct business in another country, learn about the local culture and customs. Read the local news to be informed about events that could cause delays during your trip. This advance planning also allows you to schedule time to complete all of the work you need to do AND have time to relax and see the sights.
  2. Your Passport – Check the expiration date on your passport. If you need to renew or apply for a passport, allow plenty of time for processing and shipping.
    Check with the country you are traveling to as some have a requirement for a passport to be valid for a certain amount of time beyond the date of entry into their country.
  3. Visa – Research the Visa requirements to enter the country to which you are traveling. Be sure to carry the minimum currency requirement to enter the country.
  4. Exchange Your Currency – You may find better exchange rates by ordering foreign currency from your local bank or credit union a week before you leave.
  5. Medical Requirements – Find out if visitors are required to get any special inoculations or show certain medical documents to enter the country.
  6. Mobile Phone – Contact your service provider for information about an international travel plan that will fit your needs. Other options are country-specific or region-specific SIM cards for phone and data access. 
  7. Weather – Check the weather forecast for your destination the week before you travel to help select climate-appropriate clothing.

Important Items to Pack

This list is my answer to the question, “What should businesspeople take with them on a business trip that they may not normally think about?”

  1. Business cards: You never want to run out of business cards while traveling. I make sure I have enough by packing extras in my suit pockets, wallet, briefcase, and luggage.
  2. Name badge: If you do business networking while traveling, take your own professional name badge. Don’t rely on the hosting organization to do your name badge and do it right.
  3. Extra pens: Make sure you have a pen with you during all meetings.
  4. Phone and laptop or tablet: Remember to bring the chargers for your electronic items. Bonus tip: fully charge all of your devices the day before you leave.
  5. Phone battery power bank: Bring a portable power bank that will allow you to recharge your phone when electricity is not available.
  6. Power adapter/converter: Research the type of electrical adapter you need for the country you are visiting so you can obtain it before you travel.
  7. Batteries: Bring a spare pack of AA and AAA batteries for your devices.
  8. USB Drive / Memory stick: These are very helpful when you want to give a copy of a file or a presentation to someone. I always carry one or two with me.
  9. Specific tools for your business: For me, that includes many printed copies of my bio for introductions whenever I speak. Another item I pack is a PowerPoint remote clicker for the projector to be able to control the slides during my presentations.
  10. Hand sanitizer: We often shake many hands when we travel for business.
    I carry my own hand sanitizer and use it frequently and tactfully.
  11. Breath mints: As obvious as it may sound, I can assure you from experience that many people have no idea they need them.

Tips to Avoid “Jet Lag”

When we travel to other countries, we need to adjust our sleep and mealtime schedules. I attempt to eat my meals at the same time that I eat at home. However, I also pack some healthy protein snacks for when I’m feeling hungry. It is also important to stay hydrated, especially while flying – drink lots of water.

This is what I do for my sleep schedule to help with jet lag when I am flying across several time zones:
If I will arrive at my destination in the morning, I force myself to sleep on the plane even if I’m not tired. I’ve found it best to sleep as much as possible to avoid feeling completely exhausted upon arrival. I am then able to have a full first day of my trip, awake and alert.

If my destination arrival time is at night, I do whatever I need to do to stay awake as much as possible on the airplane. A short 1–2-hour nap is inevitable, but I try to limit it. Doing this makes it much more likely that when you arrive you are so tired you will just fall into bed and sleep.

If you follow one of these approaches, you’ll flip your internal clock quickly and minimize the effects of jet lag – it has worked for me for decades. If you have a travel companion, ask them to do the same so you are in sync during your trip.

I hope you find these tips helpful as you plan your next business trip.
I’d like to hear your thoughts and any additional tips you have to share.

They’ll Interview Anyone With a Bookstring(38) "They’ll Interview Anyone With a Book"

My assistant recently asked me about something I said during a presentation. She thought it seemed to contradict what I have previously shared about self-talk and the power of our words.

In that presentation I was talking about the early days of BNI®, the international networking organization I founded, and how I tried to get some publicity by contacting the local media. They asked what I was promoting and when I said, “My company,” they suggested that I take out an advertisement.

I continued telling the story by saying, “However, I discovered that the media would interview any idiot with a book, and I have 26.”

My assistant questioned the word ‘idiot’ because it seemed incongruent with my typical positive words. I realized that I hadn’t shared the context behind that line. So now I am going to share the rest of the story.

Going back to those early days of wanting publicity for my business…

Yes, the media LOVES to interview people who have written a book. And as a new author, I sure was excited when I was invited to be on a television morning show to talk about my book!

It was an early interview and I arrived on time that morning. They took me to the guest waiting room until it was my turn to join the hosts on the set. At this point, I’m feeling great; I’m feeling really good about myself and my accomplishments thus far. I am anticipating the increased interest in my organization that would result from the publicity boost of being on TV.

And then a man walked into the room. He was completely dressed as a vampire, a full-on, unmistakable vampire with the black cape, the dark eyes, and the vampire teeth. Keep in mind, that this was not October, and it was not the season for Halloween costumes.

Well, I just had to ask. I asked him what he was doing dressed like that. He reached into his cape, took out a book, and proudly said, “I wrote a book on vampirism!”

To which I thought to myself, “They’ll interview anyone with a book.”

That is the reason I said what I said in my presentation. Every time I tell the story about getting publicity for my company through interviews about my books, I always visualize that guy. Those words that I thought back then in that waiting room are fresh in my mind and I share them when I’m telling the story.

We laughed as I told my assistant all of this and she said, “Oh, I get it now. I love it!”

It’s all about the context. Sometimes you have to share a bit more information for people to fully understand your message. 

What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear them.

1 2 3 129