My 8-Year-Old Self and Technologystring(33) "My 8-Year-Old Self and Technology"

A few years ago, I was walking to my gate at the Toronto, Canada airport. The terminal was crowded and as I walked, I heard a soft but steady swooshing sound coming up behind me. I looked up and saw a red monorail drive past. I immediately had an incredible flashback to my first visit to Disneyland, California, circa 1964. I was about 8 years old, and I was in awe of all the amazing things that I witnessed, most of which were in the Tomorrowland exhibits.

The Disney monorail was the first daily operating monorail in the United States. In the flashback of my early visit to the park, I remembered wondering if something like this would ever be commonplace. It was amazing to see it operating at the Toronto airport, especially since it was going right through the building, much like it did in Tomorrowland many years ago.

As I stood at the airport watching the monorail go by, I realized that during that same Disneyland visit (or one soon after), I also spent time gawking at the first ‘push button’ telephones and the first ‘touch screen’ computer monitor (it had 9 sections and the only thing you could do was play tic-tac-toe on it). The push button phones transitioned into regular use in the following decade, but the touch screen technology took many more years to become common in our daily lives.

There was also the Carousel of the Future! I remember the video phone concept they were showing. The vision back then was to have the phone company do video conferencing. Well, that certainly has come to pass – in many more and different ways than people thought about back then.

Today, I can see who is at my front door while I am in my office, which is a separate building, 52 steps from the back of my house. I carry my telephone in my pocket and can send messages, information, and photographs to people around the country, and around the world, in a minute or less. I attend meetings, conduct trainings, and host webinars, meeting people from different time zones and different countries, while sitting in my office with my computer. I make guest appearances and do media interviews without getting on an airplane, train, or even driving my car.

The glimpse of future technology and the possibilities it could bring was fascinating to 8-year-old me. I’ve seen and used many of those futuristic ideas that were on display in Disneyland, and I know there are many more to come.

What technology did you first see at a Disney Park or at a World’s Fair? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comment section below.

Creating a Successful Elevator Pitchstring(36) "Creating a Successful Elevator Pitch"

For a long time, I really didn’t like the expression “elevator pitch.” It just drove me crazy. Then everybody started using it all over the world and it has become part of the language of business. The “elevator pitch” metaphor developed out of the hypothetical situation that you are literally in an elevator with one minute or less to say who you are and what you do. What would you say? And that becomes your elevator pitch.

It is important to remember that this is not a sales pitch. It is a creative and succinct way to generate interest in the listener about your business.

These are my seven rules for creating an engaging elevator pitch.

1. Don’t do your elevator pitch in an actual elevator.

An unsolicited pitch in an elevator is basically face-to-face cold calling, and very uncomfortable for the one receiving it. I’ve been a victim. Don’t be a perpetrator. Unless someone asks you what you do, simply say “hello” or “good day” to them. The elevator pitch is meant to be utilized outside of the elevator and in the proper environment.

2. Make it compact and real.

It needs to be short. This is a quick pitch; you’re not reading from War and Peace. Your pitch should be more like a work of art than a science project. Make it succinct and expressive; something you practice carefully, and present professionally and cohesively. You also need to be natural. You want to rehearse, so that you are authentic and can talk without sounding rehearsed.

3. K.I.S.S.

Keep it simple. Don’t try to explain everything you do in the very short amount of time you have. It will either be too much information (which goes against rule number two) or too vague to be of any value. By keeping your elevator pitch simple, you have a better chance to catch the listener’s attention, engage them with your creativity, and create interest in your products or services.

4. Avoid using jargon.

Be aware of speaking “your work” language – industry terms or acronyms that you regularly use as a professional with others in your industry. At any point while you’re talking, if someone has to say, “What does that mean?” you have officially lost them. Push the button for the next floor and exit now. (I know, you’re not actually on an elevator, but you really have lost them because they are not understanding you.)

5. Share your USP.

Your USP is your Unique Selling Proposition. It is a brief summary of your business that helps others understand the value of what you do. One example of how to craft a concise USP is to alter a bland, general statement such as, “I’m a coach and consultant.” to something like this instead, “I help people work less, make more, and create referrals for life.” This is short, powerful, and informative. It is the perfect combination for part of an effective elevator pitch.

6. Start with the benefits.

My friend, communications expert Andy Bounds, calls this “the afters.” For your elevator pitch, this could be something as simple as, “I help people increase their sales by 33%.” or “I help people double the number of new clients they take on per month.” You want to focus on the benefits to the client “after” the product or service you provide, which invites conversation about how you do that.

7. Pass the eyebrow test.

Another good friend of mine, Sam Horn, author of Talking on Eggshells: Soft Skills for Hard Conversations, and Someday is Not a Day of the Week, writes about the “eyebrow test.” If what you say to someone causes their eyebrows to go up, you’ve got their attention! You’ve left the listener wanting more, and that’s precisely what you want to accomplish. On the other hand, if the listener’s eyebrows scrunch down, you’ve just confused them. Find a new pitch.

A successful elevator pitch is a clear and concise message that communicates who you are, what you do, and how you can help others. It should be memorable and easy to understand so that people can easily refer you to potential clients or customers.

When you attend networking, business, and even casual events, introduce yourself to others using your elevator pitch. This will help them remember you and what you do. 

I’d like to hear about your elevator pitch. Share it below, thanks!

 

 

 

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Avoid Networking Fatiguestring(24) "Avoid Networking Fatigue"

I’m going to share a secret that may sound counterintuitive: you can actually network TOO much.

What??? The Founder of BNI®, the world’s largest networking organization, says you can network TOO MUCH?

Yep. That’s right.

Now you may be wondering, “How can that be?” Well, let me tell you a little story.

Years ago, when I was traveling through the midwestern U.S., I heard people talking about a woman they referred to as the Queen of Networking. She was known as the consummate networker. She had hundreds, perhaps thousands of contacts, which gave her a broad network of people from all different walks of life. She was well known in her community as the go-to person for anything that anybody needed. Those who had seen her said she was at every networking event and managed to talk to each person in the room.

It was no surprise that she and I ended up at the same event one evening. She pulled me aside to talk. She seemed anxious and upset, and I wondered why the Queen was so distraught. Then she revealed something unexpected. “Ivan,” she said, “I know everyone keeps calling me the Queen of Networking, but I’m not seeing any increase in business whatsoever!” She said that her networking efforts weren’t producing results for her. She continued to tell me about all the groups that she went to, all the people she met, how she had made very good contacts, but… she wasn’t getting any solid business from all her efforts.

Shocked, I asked her how many events she was attending each week. She replied, “Between five and ten a week.” Then I was really shocked! That was her problem–she was spreading herself too thin!

Think about the VCP Process® – Visibility leads to Credibility which leads to Profitability. She wasn’t seeing real results, even with her obvious talent for making contacts and gaining visibility, because she never got to the heart of what business networking is all about – building relationships.  She was focused so heavily on visibility that she had lost sight of the credibility part.

She was so busy running around and making appearances that she wasn’t learning how to actually “work” the business networks she had created. She neglected to build meaningful relationships with people and develop credibility with them; and you can’t get to profitability without credibility.

Activity is Not an Accomplishment

She had the same problem that many businesspeople have: when it comes to their networking efforts, they view “activity” as an “accomplishment”. This usually results in having a network that is a mile wide, but only an inch deep. You have to take the next, and most important, step with the people in a wide-reaching network. You must devote the time to develop the kind of rapport with some of them that allows them to get to know, like, and trust you, and want to pass business referrals to you.

Many professionals, full of energy and excitement, attend lots of networking meetings. Their lack of results is not due to a lack of activity, effort, or enthusiasm about getting out there and meeting new people. The problem is they are constantly going here and going there, and they never stop long enough to invest the necessary time to establish the kind of long-term roots that can lead to an ongoing, reciprocal referral relationship.

I told the Queen, “If your network is a mile long but only an inch deep, you’ll never have a powerful network,” I suggested that she do more one-to-one meetings with potential referral partners and focus on building mutually beneficial relationships to establish her credibility in the community.

The moral of this story? Don’t try to be the “Queen” or “King” of networking. If you focus solely on making as many contacts as possible, constantly being on the go, and trying to keep track of hundreds of people you don’t really know, networking fatigue is sure to follow.

Instead, focus your business networking efforts on building relationships. You’ll see an improvement in referrals, and you will also establish deeper credibility within your network.

 

 

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Are you Saying Too Much?string(24) "Are you Saying Too Much?"

I see so many professionals who try to tell everything they do in 30 seconds or less when talking about their business with potential referral sources. It goes by so quickly that the listeners miss most of it; many of them tune out after the first few items on the list. They are giving out lots of information without explanation and saying it way too fast. It’s like they are trying to get others to drink from a firehose and expecting them to absorb all of it. When you say too much, they hear nothing.

I encourage you to focus on one thing at a time from your areas of expertise. Remember, you are not marketing to your referral partners. Rather, you are training them on who and what is a good referral for you and your business. Your networking team is there to keep an eye out for your potential clients. When you “target talk”, that is, you explain exactly what type of customer you are looking for, the result will be better and more qualified referrals.

Specific is Terrific with LCDs

If you can break the description about your business down to its smallest components – very specific aspects about each of your products and services – and then focus on just one aspect of your business during your networking presentations, it works much better than providing a long laundry list of things you do or using a vague and meaningless term like “full-service.”

I call these your LCDs – Lowest Common Denominators. By using the LCDs when talking about your business, you will find that you become much more effective in training your referral partners. They will learn more about each thing you do and be able to recognize when they are in front of someone who really does need your services.

For instance, a residential real estate professional might give different presentations about first-time home buyers, townhomes, single-family-homes, investment properties, downsizing for empty-nesters, buying a larger home for a growing family, and so forth.

This skill set is especially productive when you are meeting weekly with a strong contact network such as BNI®. The difference between trying to say it all each week and focusing on one aspect of your business each week is huge! The impact that this will have on your referral sources is significant. As you discuss each LCD, share an example with a client story, things you can show and tell that will cement this part of your business in your referral sources’ minds.

When it comes to telling people about what you do, the deeper you go into the specifics the greater your success will be. Specific really is terrific – talk about ONE product or ONE service that you offer, and the benefit that it provides to the customer.

One of the Best Presentations I’ve Ever Seen

Many years ago, I visited a BNI chapter meeting where I witnessed one of the best presentations I’ve ever heard at a weekly networking meeting. The member who gave it was a florist who focused on the details of a single rose. Watch the video to hear the story of what the florist did and said that made his presentation so successful. You will learn why specificity is key in talking about exactly what it is that you do.

If you struggle to come up with talking points about your business at your weekly networking meetings, watch this video for ideas. I offer a simple strategy for pre-planning your presentation topics for an entire year. You will never again have to “wing it” for your presentations because of uncertainty in how to describe what you do.

Remember, focus on ONE aspect of your business at networking meetings to give your referral partners a clear understanding of how you can help the people that they know. Avoid saying too much if you want to be heard and remembered.

I’d love to hear how LCDs and specific presentations have worked for you. Please share your thoughts in the comments below.  Thanks!

Want Business Referrals? Go Get Them!string(37) "Want Business Referrals? Go Get Them!"

Through all my years in business networking, the best referral efforts and results that I’ve seen have happened by design. It is intentional; it does not happen by accident or wishful thinking. It seems that many businesspeople view referral marketing somewhat like the weather: “Sure, it’s important, but what can I do about it?”

Generating referrals through business networking efforts can be planned and nurtured.  Business owners, entrepreneurs, sales representatives, employees, and even individuals who serve in a volunteer capacity can get results with a well-structured system – a referral plan for their business.

Too often, I have seen professionals waiting for business to come and walk through their door. They think because they are good at what they do, people will come flocking to them. Well, the truth is – it doesn’t work that way! You must take charge and bring the business in to you, no matter what your occupation or how good you are at what you do.

Think about someone who dreams of opening their own store. They have a business plan, they find their ideal location, they spend their time, money, and energy getting everything set up and preparing for the opening day and they are so excited when that day arrives! The lights go on, the door is unlocked, the sign says OPEN and…. people are just walking by. The line of customers they imagined never materializes. And then they realize – they have to get out there and meet the people who are their potential clients, and meet the people who know the people who could be their customers.

So it is with referral marketing. You can’t simply wait for people to come to you. If you want to succeed, you have to go get your business, or better yet, have someone else get it for you through referrals. How do you do that?

Find a business networking group in your area and visit one of their meetings. Make connections with other professionals who may have clients that need your products or services. Begin building relationships with like-minded people who want to grow their business AND help others do the same.

The bottom line is – don’t wait around. Do something! Develop a business networking plan that puts you in contact with the right people. Make your plan and then take action.  

 

 

 

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Humility: A Trait of Great Networkersstring(37) "Humility: A Trait of Great Networkers"

Humble people don’t think less of themselves, they just think of themselves less. Some of the best networkers I know are humble. In fact, many of the most successful people I’ve ever met have been remarkably humble. Humility and being successful are not mutually exclusive.

I remember going to a political function when I was in my late teens. I had decided that I wanted to help with a campaign for a particular individual whose platform I appreciated. Then… I met him. Someone who was high up in his campaign introduced me to him. When he realized that I was a lowly college student, I almost immediately lost his attention. His eyes were darting across the room looking for someone more successful than me. He ended up being very dismissive and came across as incredibly arrogant.

After that encounter, I decided not to help in his campaign. Instead, I picked someone running for a different office. This person was engaging and friendly, and he was respectful of people that didn’t appear to have much to offer. He spoke with everyone, rich or poor, educated or uneducated. He welcomed my involvement and activity in his campaign. Within six months, I was running his entire regional campaign office. I put hundreds of hours into the campaign and helped that person win office.
That experience taught me a lot about the kind of leader I wanted to be as I became more successful in life.

Humility Costs Nothing

Humility costs nothing and yet it yields tremendous returns. Being humble sounds simple enough, however, many people wonder what it actually looks like. I have observed that there are many ways to show humility. These are some important traits that humble people display:

  1. First and foremost, their ego does not enter the room before they do.
    Jack Canfield, who is a friend and has been my guest on The BNI Podcast, is a very humble person. He has sold over 500 million books, and when I’ve gone out to dinner with him, he’s easy to talk to and very personable; he never tells people who he is. He is a great example of this trait.
  2. They are approachable – they are friendly and easy to talk with. Their body language is open and inviting; they smile and say hello to others at events and networking meetings.
  3. A humble person is a good listener and asks questions during a conversation. They show a genuine interest when talking to others, asking them about their business; asking what do they love about what they do? They talk about the other person more than they talk about themselves.
  4. They maintain eye contact in a conversation and stay engaged in the discussion. This shows genuine interest in whomever they are talking with. That is one of the things that Richard Branson does amazing well. I remember going to a party once and taking my 17-year-old son with me. I have a photograph from that evening of him talking to my son, Trey, with complete eye contact and total engagement in the discussion. Branson is a billionaire, he didn’t have to give a young kid his time, but he did and it’s a great example of how humility plays out positively in being a great networker.
  5. They are comfortable making people feel at ease and thanking people when appropriate. Gratitude is often lacking in today’s business world. Expressing genuine and sincere gratitude is a wonderful trait of humility.
  6. Humble individuals tend to have an abundance mentality; they have an awareness that there is more than enough for everyone. They tend to have a positive attitude and focus on solutions rather than simply complaining about problems.
  7. They are situationally aware and have strong emotional intelligence.
    Emotional Intelligence is the ability to manage relationships with other people and humble individuals do this well.
  8. They are not self-absorbed. They know their strengths and are comfortable with who they are. They don’t behave as though the world revolves around them. They certainly don’t have the Prima Donna Syndrome.

Most importantly, they practice what I call Givers Gain®, which is predicated on the age-old concept of “what goes around, comes around.” Humble people approach life with a certain amount of altruism and strive to make a difference in the lives of others.

As we become more successful in life, it is critical to maintain one’s humility. That humility will serve you well if you want to connect with people. No one is perfect with this all the time. The process is a journey, not a destination. It is something we must always strive for. 

If you achieve success in business, demonstrate real humility regardless of people’s expectations. Be someone who is engaging and caring, as well as knowledgeable and successful. Above all, remember that humble people don’t think less of themselves, they just think of themselves less.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, leave a comment below. Thank you.

 

 

 

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Gain Visibility Through Volunteeringstring(36) "Gain Visibility Through Volunteering"

One of the first steps to take when networking for your business is to become more visible in the community. Remember that people need to know you, like you and trust you in order to refer you. Building connections relies on fostering familiarity, trust, and likability among peers who can potentially refer you to the people they know.

Volunteering can position you to meet key people in your community. It connects you with people who share your passion. It gives you opportunities to demonstrate your talents, skills, and integrity. It can also help you build credibility by showing your ability to follow up and do what you say you are going to do. It instantly expands the depth and breadth of your network.

People who volunteer demonstrate their commitment to a cause without concern for personal gain. Therefore, your volunteering efforts should be with organizations or causes for which you hold genuine interest and concern. If the group’s administrators or other volunteers perceive that you are in it primarily for your own gain, your visibility will work against you and will undermine your own goals.

Choosing the Right Organization

Volunteering is not a recreational activity. It is a serious commitment to help address and fulfill societal needs. Choosing the right organization or cause that aligns with your passions and interests requires a thoughtful and strategic approach.

Ask yourself these nine questions:

  1. What do you enjoy doing for yourself in your leisure time?
  2. What hobbies bring you fulfillment and satisfaction?
  3. Are there any sports or games that you excel in and can teach to others?
  4. What aspects of life bring you joy and satisfaction?
  5. Which social, political, or health issues are you passionate about because it personally relates to you, your family, or your friends?
  6. Based on your answers to the first five questions, what are three organizations that appeal to you and align with your interests? Examples include youth leagues, clubs, libraries, activist groups, homeless shelters, religious groups, food banks. Select the one that resonates with you the most and conduct thorough research online and in the community.
  7. After you have researched this group, does it offer opportunities conducive to your personal or professional objectives? If so, visit the group to “try it on” – gauge the atmosphere and dynamics. You may want to visit a few times.
  8. After you have visited this group, reflect on your experience. Do you still want to commit your time and effort? If so, continue to #9.
  9. Are other group members satisfied with the organization? Identify three people representing different tenures to interview and assess their satisfaction with the group. (Consider choosing a new member, a two- to three-year member, and a seasoned five+ years member to interview.)

Once you’ve done the research required to satisfactorily answer these nine questions, join the selected group and begin to volunteer to bolster your visibility. Seek leadership roles that will demonstrate your strengths, talents, and skills. In other words, volunteer and become visible. It’s a great way to build your personal network and solidify your presence within it.

A multifaceted approach is required to expand your visibility and build credibility through volunteering.

Strategic Engagement: Identify opportunities within the organization where you can effectively leverage your skills and expertise.

Consistent Participation: Regular involvement in volunteer activities reinforces your commitment and fosters deeper connections with fellow members.

Effective Communication: Articulate your objectives and aspirations clearly to fellow volunteers and organizational leader to foster mutual understanding and collaboration.

Proactive Leadership: Assume proactive leadership roles to showcase your capabilities and influence positive change within the organization.

Continuous Learning: Embrace opportunities for personal and professional development within the volunteering sphere which will enrich your skill set.

Volunteering serves as an invaluable platform to contribute to the greater good of the community while increasing your network and positioning yourself as a reliable and esteemed figure within your professional sphere.

By embracing the spirit of altruism and active participation, you can expand your network and also leave a lasting impact on the causes that you champion. It’s through these collective efforts that we forge stronger, more vibrant communities that are grounded in the values of empathy, collaboration, and shared purpose.

Are you already an active volunteer?  If so, what organization do you volunteer with and how has it helped you gain visibility within your community?  I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comment section below.  Thank you!

Goal Setting NOW for Future Successstring(35) "Goal Setting NOW for Future Success"

Goal Setting is a strategy to help you choose where you want your business to grow to in a certain amount of time. The challenging part is that you actually have to think about your future. Really take the time and think about it, even if it is only for a few hours. When I talk about setting goals, I find that people are somewhat like a bobblehead doll. They nod their head and say, “Yeah, I need to set goals.” Yes, they do. We all do. Goals are your vision of where you want to go.

Every year for the last 45+ years (yes, even before I started BNI®), I plan time at the end of the year to reflect. I start by looking at the past year to see how it played out according to my plan. Where it worked, I celebrate. Where it didn’t work, I analyze why. More importantly, I contemplate how I could make it work.

Then, I do my real vision making. I think about what I want to achieve during the next year, and also three to five years out. Lastly, I give consideration to where I will be in 10 years. I started this annual process when I was a young man in my early 20’s. In fact, I created a 40-year plan for myself way back then. You can see that plan here.

Truly, anything past five years is an educated guess. I get that. It is also something else. It’s a game plan. It is a vision for where you want to go. Your one-year plan should be very specific. Your 3-5 year plan should be strategic. And anything longer than 5 years is highly strategic, as seen in my 40-year plan.

Use 3 Levels to Set a Goal

When I set a goal, I generally set three levels of that goal.

The High Goal

If the moon and the stars all align and everything is perfect or better than expected, and it all comes together, I can hit this goal number. By the way, this is where most people set their goals at, this really high number. However, people always struggle to reach this “everything is going to be perfect” goal. If you do reach this goal, you feel like dancing on the roof.

The Low Goal

This is the complete opposite. If everything went wrong; if the sky and moon fell and there was an apocalypse, how bad would it be? What are the low levels of what you can hit? Select this number. This number is the basement floor level. If you can’t reach this goal, you may be in the wrong business.

The Middle Goal

This one is the actual target goal. This goal number is somewhere in between the high goal and the low one. I know it’s a stretch, but I can do it. This is the key goal. It is the number I put out to the world because I know my high and low-level goals.

Your Action Plan

Now it’s time to reverse engineer your goals. Take these three levels, especially the target goal, and determine where you will need to be in 3 months, in 6 months, and 9 months to reach 100% of your target goal within one year. Where will you be every month to reach that target goal? You have to work it out to a monthly figure, a monthly goal.

Remember, you cannot hit a target you are not aiming at. That’s why you must set your targets and then you’ve got to identify each of the monthly small steps to get to those targets. Otherwise, you are going to be six months along and realize that you are nowhere near to being close to your goal.

Finally, create an action plan for those goals. I’m a real believer in the Law of Attraction, and the word “action” is part of the word “attraction.” So, you have to take action. You need to have action steps for what you are going to do along the way. What specifically do you have to do to hit that target in 3 months? In 6 months? In 9 months, and in one year?

I realize that, to some people, it may sound silly to break your goals down this much. Yet, if you don’t know what you are aiming for, you will never hit your target. Long-term goals can seem too far away; they may feel too massive to be something that you can do right now. Breaking them out into more manageable time frames can be extremely beneficial.

If you cannot do the important steps of reverse-engineering and creating an action plan, it is highly unlikely that you can set an achievable goal. By utilizing these strategies, your goal setting efforts today can help you and your business be more successful in the future.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Have you done goal setting with the three levels? Share in the comments below.

 

 

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The Benefits of Mentoringstring(25) "The Benefits of Mentoring"

It is common knowledge that if you want to improve your own skills, teach someone else. You can help transform someone’s life by taking them under your wing and helping them learn something new. Bonus – you will probably find that you are getting better at it, too! Mentoring is a reciprocal journey of growth and learning, a dynamic process that enriches both the mentor and the mentee.

The essence of mentoring lies in recognizing opportunities to guide and support others, perhaps someone who mirrors your earlier self in the business world. Embracing the role of mentorship entails selflessly sharing knowledge and insights, guiding others to success while helping them sidestep the pitfalls you once encountered. Teaching someone else can also act as a refresher for what you have previously learned and may get you refocused on areas that may have been forgotten.

Chess Club

In my book, The Networking Mentor, I tell a story about a gentleman who coached his 10-year-old son’s chess club. Well… that story is actually about me. I coached my son’s elementary school chess club and I thought, “This is going to be easy enough, I’m pretty good at chess.” Then I realized – I had never studied the game. I read one book in high school, and I was totally self-taught. Guess what? You can’t teach kids that way; you must know what the chess moves are. So, I had to learn what a fork, a skewer, a pin, a ladder – these are all terms for moves in chess – I had to learn what they were so I could coach the children. Well, the funny thing is that I was a pretty good player and I regularly played with a friend of mine. One day he said to me, “Man, what are you doing?” And I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “Your game has really gotten better.” I said, “Oh, I’m coaching 10-year-olds.” He said, “No, really. What are you doing?” I replied, “Seriously. I’m coaching 10-year-olds.”

I had offered to help the chess club thinking that it would be great to spend time with my son and his friends. I didn’t occur to me that I would become a better player through coaching them! By helping these young chess enthusiasts, I had to brush up on my game and do my homework to learn the names of the moves and the strategies that I had done intuitively for years. I was amazed at how my game improved by coaching elementary school kids, and so was my friend.

Time Investment

Some people say they don’t have time to be a mentor. To them, I say, “Find a way to make the time if at all possible.” You see, every time I was a mentor to someone it was also a learning experience for me. When I was given topics of concern from people I mentored, I always did some research and looked at my own files to see if there was something I could offer to help them through the issue. I came to realize that I was improving myself while I was helping them.

To those who claim a lack of time for mentorship, I urge reconsideration. Mentorship isn’t merely a commitment of time. It’s an investment in personal and professional growth – for both of you. The same is true with mentoring people to network better.

Networking and Mentoring

The process of mentoring people to be a better networker not only benefits the mentee, it also benefits the mentor. Just as coaching young minds in chess strategy compelled me to refine my own game, serving as a networking mentor prompts a refreshing review of learned principles and a reinvigoration of neglected areas. And there is immense gratification in watching someone grow, reach their goals, and achieve success.

The mentoring relationship is working as long as you continue to receive and/or give value to the relationship. I have personally had some mentoring relationships where I started as the mentee and, over time, it evolved to where I was a peer mentoring my mentor on certain issues. That’s when you know you’ve developed a long-term friendship. Ideally, a strong mentoring relationship evolves into a lasting connection and friendship. In the realm of business networking, mentoring yields mutual benefits.

Whose Story Are You In?

Every single one of us has people in our lives who have made a difference. We all have someone in our story who influenced the path we took, or perhaps motivated us to carve our own path. These are the mentors we’ve had along the way and their impact can be life changing. By devoting time and attention to a mentoring relationship, both parties reap deeply powerful and meaningful rewards that extend well beyond simple financial gain. As we mature and gain more experience, we have the opportunity to transition from being a mentee to also being a mentor.

We all have people who are in our story. I believe the real powerful thing in mentoring is to ask: Whose story are YOU in? Whose life are you making a difference in? It is part of a Givers Gain® attitude – what goes around comes around. Someone has helped me; now I’m going to help them, or someone else, be successful. It becomes about the difference you can make in other people’s lives; that is what creates a meaningful life.

Perhaps there is someone who already considers you a mentor, or maybe you know someone you would like to mentor – someone who reminds you of yourself when you were just getting started in your career. Or it could be a new member in your business networking group who needs someone to guide them and share the best practices for success. If so, don’t let the opportunity to be an active mentor pass you by.

They will benefit from your experience, advice, and perspective. Your encouragement can help them gain confidence along their journey. You both can realize improved skills while building a mutually beneficial, long lasting business relationship.

When you selflessly share your wealth of knowledge to help others succeed and help them avoid making the same mistakes you made, they will benefit greatly and so will you. I believe in the power of mentors to make a positive difference in other people’s stories.

Do you have a story about one of your mentors? Have you mentored someone else? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

 

 

 

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In Networking, Relationships Are Currencystring(41) "In Networking, Relationships Are Currency"

How many times do you think the following scenario happens?
A professional (maybe even yourself) goes to a business networking event, meets a lot of good people, then leaves and never talks to any of them again.

It happens way too often, right? So… why does it happen?

It’s not because they didn’t like the people they met or that they never want to see them again. It’s usually because, like so many others these days, they are a busy person with a full schedule and there is so much going on they can’t even remember if they ate   breakfast, let alone remember to reconnect with the individuals they met at a networking event.

That’s unfortunate because those new contacts are where future business opportunities are born, IF you start to cultivate a relationship with them.

Contacts are valuable, and your relationships are currency. When it comes to your contacts, it is how well you know each other that counts, not how many contacts you have. It’s the ones that you turn into lasting relationships that make a difference.

Try making 10 cold calls to introduce yourself. How well did that go for you?
Now if you call five people that you already know and tell them you’re putting together a marketing plan for the coming year, and you would greatly appreciate any help they may be able to provide in the form of a referral or new business contact, do you think those results will be better? Of course they are. You already have a relationship with those people and most of them are glad to help.

You’ll always get better results from efforts to deepen relationships with people you already know than starting relationships with strangers. What is the best way for you to grow and utilize your relationships? Watch my video and read more below for more information.

Four Steps to Get Started

  1. Give your clients a personal call.Find out how things are going with the project you were involved in. Ask if there is anything else you can do to help them. Important: Do not ask for a referral at this point.
  2. Make personal calls to all the people who have helped you or given you a business referral.Ask them how things are going in their business and in their life. Learn more about their current activities so you can refer business to them.
  3. Put together your list of the Top 50 people you want to stay in touch with this year. The list should include anyone who has given you business in the past 12 months (from steps 1 and 2) along with any other prospects you have connected with recently. Send them a personal, handwritten card on the next public holiday (In the U.S., it would be Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, etc.). Or send a ‘thinking of you’ card with a message that you hope the year is going well.
  4. Two weeks after you send the cards, call them (yes, a phone call) and see what’s going on. If they’re past customers or people that you have talked to before, now is the perfect time to ask for a referral. If they are prospects, perhaps you can set up an appointment to meet for coffee, learn more about their business, and find out if their plans might include using your products or services.

Remember, this is a process, and these steps are to help you build relationships with other businesspeople. This is not for a sales pitch.

Within a few weeks, you’ll be on your way to creating and strengthening business relationships and building enough social capital to tap into for the rest of the year.

Social Capital

Social capital, otherwise known as the value behind your social contacts, is the international currency of networking, especially business networking. If you take as much care in raising and investing your social capital as you do your financial capital, you’ll find that the benefits that flow from these intangible investments are not only rewarding in themselves, they can also multiply your material returns many times over.

Choosing to put your time and energy into networking is one of the best investments you can make to secure future success for yourself and others with whom you network. This is because successful business networking is all about building and maintaining solid, professional relationships.

Relationships are part of the fabric of the development of your social capital. You must invest in the relationships if you ever expect to make a withdrawal. Relationships truly are the currency of networking.

 

 

 

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Lifelong Learning for Business Successstring(38) "Lifelong Learning for Business Success"

I used to be surprised when I heard statistics like this: 50% of all businesses fail in their first three years. Well, I’ve been in business for several decades and have seen many entrepreneurs come and go. Quite frankly, I’m more surprised that 50% of businesses actually make it past the first three years because so many of them don’t focus on, or invest time on, education for improving their business. I know that may sound a bit harsh, however…

One thing I’ve learned is that most successful business professionals embrace and engage in “a culture of learning” in order to excel in their chosen career. Personal and professional self-development is an ongoing journey – not a destination. It is always a work in progress. 

Often, businesspeople get so caught up working “in” their business that they forget to spend time working “on” their business. I believe that working “on” a business includes one’s professional development.

Most entrepreneurs only pay lip service to education (well, maybe not you since you’re  taking time to read this blog about business – but I’m talking about the average entrepreneur). When you mention education, everybody says, “Yeah, it’s really important,” and yet many people don’t consistently schedule time to listen to podcasts or audio programs; they don’t read books or blogs or watch videos to learn more about business and networking and leadership and other topics that can help them be more successful.

Ask any number of businesspeople and entrepreneurs if they would be willing to attend a seminar on building their business, and 75% of them will say “Yes!” And yet, if you continue to tell them that the seminar is three weeks from tomorrow at 7 pm, only a handful of those who initially said that they would attend will actually sign up.

Ben Franklin’s Wisdom

Benjamin Franklin once said, “If a man empties his purse into his head, no one can take it from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the highest return.”

Franklin didn’t mean to spend every penny you have on education. He meant that if you do spend money on education, it will be money well spent.

I love the enduring truth and wisdom in that quote. In fact, Lifelong Learning has been part of my personal values for most of my life. It is also one of the Core Values that I incorporated into BNI®, the company I founded in 1985.

Invest in YOU

Here’s a suggestion that can help get you started on the path to immersing and engaging in a culture of learning:

Look at your financials (or credit card statements or checking account) for the past year. Have you invested money into any type of ongoing business education? If you aren’t “emptying some of your purse into your head,” take a few minutes to think about what you want to learn that will help you build your business and then sign up for something this week. Yes, do it now.

I recommend that you invest an appropriate amount of money on learning for yourself and your business. If you don’t have any budget at all today, there is so much free material available online such as this blog, my videos, BNI Podcast.com, and other books and things from reputable leaders and authors. But still, you’re going to have to take time. And guess what? Time is money.

I think that successful businesspeople understand that if you want to earn more, you have to learn more. Be intentional about learning now to build your future success. Remember, your personal and professional self-development is always a work in progress. Invest in your education and enjoy the journey. 

 

 

 

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Facts Tell, Stories Sellstring(24) "Facts Tell, Stories Sell"

Stories can be incredibly powerful in business, and in business networking. My friend Charlie Lawson, who calls himself The Unnatural Networker, shared his perspective on why stories are powerful tools that can help people be more memorable at networking meetings and events. He told me the following story as an example.

The Travel Agent and the Honeymoon

Marie is a travel agent and BNI® Member in the United Kingdom (UK). She was in her office on a Friday afternoon, it was almost 6:00 pm and she was thinking about the upcoming weekend and dinner with her friends. Her mind wasn’t focused on doing business as she reached the end of the workweek.

However, a call came into the office and there was a lady on the other end of the line who was very upset. She was crying and Marie asked her, “What’s going on? How can I help?” Well, this lady was getting married the next day, Saturday, and then was supposed to fly off on her honeymoon on Sunday – from the UK to the Caribbean. But the problem, the reason she was upset, was because there were no flights to the Caribbean. There was a strike; there were no flights, there was nothing going on. Effectively, the honeymoon was ruined. And she was calling Marie to say, “Look, I know it’s last minute. But is there anything you could do?”

Marie didn’t want to promise anything because this truly was last minute, so she said, “Let me see what I can do.” And she asked one question: “Where are you going to be tomorrow morning? Where will you be in the morning before your wedding?” The lady replied, “I’ll be getting ready at my mom’s house.” She gave Marie the address and the call ended.

Then Marie called a couple of her contacts. She went online and managed to source the exact same type of honeymoon – she got the same spec hotel, same date, same budget, she even found some of the same excursions that the couple had previously planned. The only difference was that it wasn’t in the Caribbean. It was in Hawaii, in the U.S.

The next morning, she went to see the lady at her mom’s house, handed her a package and said, “You are all set to go tomorrow. The tickets normally have a £150 late-booking fee, but that’s my wedding present to you. I hope you have a wonderful time in Hawaii, and a lovely day today.”

But wait, the story didn’t end there. Three weeks later, Marie received a postcard while at her office. On one side on the card was an idyllic Hawaiian beachside scene. And the other side had a few short words, “We don’t know what we would have done without you.”

After Charlie finished the story, he then asked me if I thought I would refer business to Marie based on that story. I said, “Absolutely, no question about it.”

Remembered, Recalled, Referred

When you tell stories like this at networking meetings or at your BNI weekly chapter meeting, they help you to be remembered, recalled, and referred by your fellow networkers. When you tell a really good story, other people are able to repeat it, even if it didn’t happen to them. They could say, “There’s a great travel agent. I have a friend, this is an experience she had.” They remember the story, and are able to recall and tell the story, almost word for word, because it was detailed and powerful.

Charlie says that good storytelling is like making a recipe – baking a cake, for example. You have an ingredients list and directions for how to put the right ingredients together in the proper order for the best results.

Six ingredients for a powerful story:

1. Problem
There has to be a problem. It’s as simple as that. If there isn’t a problem, some sort of issue or challenge, you haven’t got a story. There must be a problem that needs to be overcome.

2. Solution
There’s got to be a solution as well. Sometimes we think that the solution is always going to be a happy ending; keep in mind that it doesn’t necessarily resolve in that way every time. However, we’ve got to see the problem sorted out in some way during the story.

3. Structure
You need to have some structure to the story – a start, middle, and end.
Start with the Setup. This is where you lay out the problem, introduce the characters – who’s in it, what’s the issue? What are they going through? Where are they?

The middle is about what you did. Talk about how you, the professional, helped them and solved their problem.

End with the Afters. What happened after the story finished? Did everyone sail off happily into the sunset? Was there an agreeable alternative? Or did you need to refer them to someone else for the proper resolution?
**See more about the Structure below.

4. Emotion
This is key. When people feel the emotion, when they feel what the person in the story is going through – what they’re feeling and the challenges they’re facing, they can put themselves in their shoes and really understand the situation.

5. Characterization
Talk about the people in the story, the ‘characters’ such as the goodie, the baddie, the person who can solve the problem. Sometimes the baddie isn’t a James Bond-style-villain, it may be metaphorical. In Marie’s story, the baddie is the situation of not being able to go on a honeymoon. A compelling story needs to have all those characters.

6. Details
A memorable story has a couple of details to bring people into it. In Marie’s story, we know what time of day the bride-to-be contacted her and what Marie was thinking about right before the call came in. Beware of overdoing it with details, too many can make it unwieldy and hard to follow.

Focus on What is Important

**This is more information about #3, the Structure.

In the three sections of the Structure, the setup, what you did, and the afters, you need to weight your story appropriately. Charlie says that this is where many people often miss the mark in their storytelling. They put too much emphasis on the “what you did” part. He recommends that you weight the importance of these three sections in percentage terms.

The Setup:      47½% of importance.
What You Did:  5% of importance.
The Afters:      47½% of importance.

Yes, you read that correctly. Only 5% of the importance in the story comes from what you did. As Charlie shared, here’s the thing – what you do is actually quite boring. Yes, understandably what you do is your life’s work and your business, and you love it. However, from a storytelling point of view, and to get others to refer new customers to you, what you do and how you do it is the least interesting part for those listening.

Your fellow networkers want to hear about how the client felt. How did they feel beforehand? They were obviously worried about something or upset about something, or had an issue, or needed something sorted. How did they feel afterwards? Yes, you saved them time and money. Were they happy? Relieved? Safe? The part that’s important in Marie’s story is that she helped them go on their honeymoon when they thought they could not. It’s those bits that create the emotion and get people remembering and recalling your story. It’s less about what you do, and much more about how the client felt about you and what you did, both before and after. That’s the key to a good story.

All of those ingredients, in the proper proportions, go into making a great story. It takes some work and practice to make it happen. Focus your stories on the goal to be remembered, recalled, and referred.

Storytelling is more interesting, memorable, and referable than simple facts about the products and services that you offer.
We can all use facts to TELL others about our products and services. It is the stories we tell that SELL people on thinking of you the next time they hear someone with a need or problem that you can help with.

 

 

 

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