Using Support Materials to Increase Referralsstring(45) "Using Support Materials to Increase Referrals"

When it comes to business networking, are you receiving as many referrals as you would like to be getting?  If not, I recommend that you look at the support materials and techniques you are currently using and then continue reading for some effective ways to influence people to refer you. Some of these suggestions may not work for everyone, however the idea is to select those that you think you can apply in your own business or profession.


Whenever you have an opportunity to distribute your materials, do it. Bring products, samples, brochures, or a presentation book. Many networking groups provide a display table where members can place these items. If people can see, touch, hear, or smell samples of the product or service you provide, they are more likely to use and recommend your company. Occasionally, you may want to offer special, members-only prices or services. When the members of your network use your services or products, they are much more likely to refer you.

Presentation Books

Everyone who is active in networking groups can benefit by developing a presentation book. Invest in a high-quality binder that attractively displays samples of your products or services, brochures, photographs, etc. Take this to your meetings, set it on the display table or place it where you are sitting during the meeting.

Free Presentations or Demonstrations 

Many business professionals offer to speak free of charge to service clubs or business organizations as a way of getting exposure and promoting their business. If your product or service is conducive to this approach, tell the members of your personal network that you offer this service, and accept speaking engagements as bona fide referrals. Ask them to mention you to the program chairs of organizations to which they belong.

If you are well prepared and do a good job at these presentations, you may find yourself getting many more speaking offers and a lot of new business. This technique is effective for almost any profession and it’s particularly helpful for consultants, financial planners, therapists, accountants/CPAs, and attorneys.

Door Prizes

Smart business professionals know that people who have tried their products or services will probably use them again. I highly recommend that you offer door prizes regularly at your networking groups at the appropriate opportunity and be sure to attach your business card so the winner knows where to get more and who to get it from.

Keep in Touch Regularly

Meet people outside of your normal networking meetings whenever you can. Write emails, cards or letters, send articles that might be of interest, call to check in, let them know about a local business mixer, have lunch, play racquetball, tennis, or golf.
Reinforce the relationship with a thank-you note. When someone gives you a referral or some important information, send them a thank-you note or gift basket. This reinforcement will strengthen the bond and encourage that person to think of you again.


Knowing how to get referrals is really a matter of knowing how to be helpful to the people you associate with and how to ask for help in return. A successful referral marketing program involves creating an effective support system for yourself that is mutually beneficial and works to the advantage of others.

However, all the networking in the world serves no purpose if you don’t follow up effectively with the people you meet or who are referred to you. I’ve seen people who work hard at making contacts, but their follow-up was so bad that the contacts were lost. It is as if they networked halfway and then completely lost sight of the potential to generate business by referral. Follow-up letters, messages, and phone calls set the stage for further contact. All things being equal, the more you’re in contact with others, the more business you will generate. Today, more than ever, there is no excuse for not following up. Why? Because we all have many modes of communication and there are many companies that produce numerous follow-up cards, thank-you cards, and contact methods especially designed for networking.

Schedule “reconnection calls” regularly. These calls enable you to remind the new contacts who you are, where you met them, and what you do, as well as help you stay in touch with your long-term contacts. If you don’t follow up with a phone call or letter, you will surely lose many business opportunities.

Which of these support materials and techniques have you successfully used for your business? I’d like to hear about it in the comments section.

Converting Referrals Into Customers or Clientsstring(46) "Converting Referrals Into Customers or Clients"

Getting referrals is great—however, until your prospect makes a purchase, you’re looking at only potential business. The number of referrals you convert into customers or clients actually measures the true success of your efforts.

Active, Not Passive

The only way to generate referrals is through other people. Although this method can work with new and developing relationships, I have designed it to be used primarily with strong relationships, people with whom you share a strong common interest over a long period.

The heart of the method is active, not passive, recruitment of referral sources. You can, of course, put the system in motion the moment someone tells you he or she knows someone who may need your products or services. But don’t wait around for referrals—go find them. The more high-quality referrals you can generate, the better your business will be.

You should recruit referral sources that meet the following six criteria:

  1. Those who want to, or can be inspired to, help you.
  2. Those who have time, or are willing to make the time, to help you.
  3. Those who have the ability, or can be trained to do, the things you want them to do to help you.
  4. Those who have the resources necessary to help you.
  5. Those who have relationships with the types of people you want to target.
  6. Those who would make good referrals for people you know.

It is crucial that your sources meet all, or most of the six criteria, in order to guarantee a long-term, sustainable referral relationship. Time and time again I have worked with frustrated business owners who can’t understand why they are not getting the referrals they should. On the surface, they seem to be doing all the right things. In many cases they discover that they have misdiagnosed the VCP Process® with their referral sources, or they are actively working with referral sources that don’t meet most of the six criteria above.

To strengthen your relationships with them, it is very important to do periodic one-to-one meetings to get better acquainted with them. This helps you to understand the specific kinds of help you’ll need from them. And although a strong relationship with them is by itself one of the best referral generators, you’ve decided to use other tactics as well. One of the best ways to motivate your sources is to offer them help in using this referral-generating system to get their own customers and business opportunities.

Initial Contact

After you’ve compiled your list of excellent prospective referral sources, your next action is to begin contacting them. What’s the best way to get your message to them? Should you send them a letter, email or text them, or arrange to meet them in person? Any of these formats could work; however, your first communication with a prospective source is best done by telephone. It’s more personal and friendly than a written message, but it is more convenient for both you and your source than a face-to-face meeting.

Before you call, plan your call carefully. Decide which topics you want to cover. Remember, the purpose of your call is to ask for support in generating referrals, to give a brief overview of your plans, and to schedule an appointment to discuss your plans in detail. Here are a few guidelines:

  • Begin with an appropriate greeting and small talk.
  • State the purpose of your call and the amount of time you need.
  • Ask whether this is a good time to talk.
  • Get into the heart of your conversation by offering the person you are calling something of value. For example, explain how the topics you want to cover will help them.
  • Tell your prospective source that you’d like to have their help in generating referrals for your business and ask for a meeting to discuss the details.
  • Schedule a face-to-face meeting, an online video meeting, or a telephone call.
  • Tell them you have some information for them to review.

Scripting Your Call

Although you shouldn’t expect to follow it mechanically, you may find it useful to prepare a script to anticipate how your first contact may go. To show you how to do this, we’ll invent a fictional character, Dr. Mark Star, whose goal is to recruit a referral source, Trudy Grossman, who might help him secure a radio talk show interview with her friend Ethel Clearchannel to promote his new book. Here is how a potential contact could play out:

Greeting: “Hi, Trudy.”

Small talk: “How are you doing? . . . How’s your family? . . . Did you go anywhere over the weekend?”

Purpose: “Trudy, the reason I’m calling is to see if you can help me get a radio talk show interview to promote my new book. And I’d also like to show you how I can help you generate referrals for your business. Right now, I’d like to give you a quick overview of some ideas I have and get your reaction to them. Is this a good time? If you’re interested, we can arrange to discuss them later in more detail.” (If yes, continue.)

Overview: “As I’m sure you know, getting referrals is one of the best ways to generate business. I’ve been reading about an approach for generating referrals and I’ve prepared a plan that will help me attract more customers and business opportunities. It’s practical, and I believe it covers everything. If you’re interested, I’d like to show you how to use the system for your business, too. Are you interested?” (If yes, continue.)

Scheduling the meeting:  “Great! I’d like to meet with you as soon as possible — say, within the next week or two — to tell you my ideas. It should take about an hour. When would be the best time for you?”

Close: “Okay, Trudy, I’ll send you an outline of what we need to discuss and some information that will help you understand how the system works. You should get it in a day or two. If you have any questions before we meet, please don’t hesitate to call. It was great talking with you. I look forward to our meeting on ____ at ____. (date and time)

Based on the guidelines and sample script, develop an outline that you can use for your initial contact with your prospective sources. After you’ve practiced this process, you can fine tune your script and begin making calls that can help lead you into closing referrals into business.

Successful Business Networkingstring(30) "Successful Business Networking"

Let’s talk about the word “networking”. It has become so overused that some business professionals can no longer define it. Many people think that networking is only about going to social mixers or after-work business events, where they shake a few hands, collect some new business cards, and, of course, give away some cards of their own. Sadly, they truly believe that’s all there is to networking. To be fair, we could say that they are engaging in social networking. However, that type of activity should never be confused with business networking.

As the Founder & Chief Visionary officer of BNI® I have seen the definition of business networking change and evolve over the past 38 years. This is my definition of networking:
“Networking is the process of developing and activating your relationships to increase your business, enhance your knowledge, and expand your sphere of influence or serve the community.”

Notice the key word is relationships.

Successful networking of any kind starts with the genuine desire to build relationships for the purpose of giving and receiving business. If someone is only networking to gain and not to give, they will never be successful.

Building Relationships should be one of the most important components of your business. And the best way to do that is by FARMING not by hunting. It is all about cultivating relationships – taking the time and giving the energy to help them grow and flourish. Think like a good farmer does: they know when to tend to their crops and when to harvest them. If you over pick or try to harvest too soon, you’ll be left with nothing. However, if you continue to care for and maintain your crops (and your business relationships), they will grow abundantly and provide bountiful results for you.

Business professionals who are the farming type of networkers go to networking events because of the opportunities to meet new people. They do not use those events as face-to-face cold calling opportunities. They understand the importance of meeting someone and then building a relationship with them. They go well beyond the ‘hunting’ style of meeting people, which is simply adding another name to their contact list.

Build Deep Relationships

I’ve said this for years: If your network is a mile wide and an inch deep, it is not powerful. To maximize your business relationships, you need to go beyond knowing someone’s name, their job, and where they work.  A deep network contains the contacts that you know much more about, and those who usually know much more about you. You want to find out about their family, their interests, their hobbies, their goals. That is how you build a strong, deep network.

Social capital is also an important component of building strong relationships. Social capital is like financial capital. In order to amass financial capital, you have to invest and grow your assets. You need to have money in the bank before you can make a withdrawal. Relationships are very much the same, particularly referral relationships. You must support and help others with their business before you can ask for their help.

Two Views of Business Networking

I have found that businesspeople tend to fall into one of two groups when it comes to their views about networking. For many people, the current mind-set is that networking is a passive business strategy, rather than a proactive marketing tool. This attitude results in a scattered and often ineffective networking approach that consequently wastes the businessperson’s time, and their money. It’s no surprise that when people feel they’ve been wasting their time and money on something, they are understandably not going to want to continue that activity.

On the other hand, some professionals do consider networking a proactive marketing tool for their business. How can you tell? They make it a significant part of their marketing and business plans. They have networking goals. They may even include a budget line item for networking. Most importantly, they practice it and live it every day. They realize that their networking team is there to keep an eye out for potential customers for them. When you “target talk”, that is, when you hone in on exactly what type of client you are looking for, the result will be better, more qualified referrals from your networking partners.

When you have a proactive mindset and attitude about networking, and you focus on building strong, mutually beneficial relationships with like-minded people, you will be well on your way to successful business networking.




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learning to embrace change

Ready. Set. Change.string(19) "Ready. Set. Change."


The concept of “change” often evokes a mix of thoughts and emotions for people. Webster’s dictionary defines change as altering the form of something. While change might trigger unease or fear, it is an inevitable aspect of life. As we scrutinize our lives and think about what changes we wish to bring about, the question is – how prepared are we to initiate them?

Here are 13 proactive strategies to guide you in making transformative changes and help you create your new reality.

Define Your Core Values, Purpose, and Passion:
Begin by understanding your values, your purpose, and what you are passionate about. Clarity about these aspects of yourself will provide a strong foundation for the changes you want to implement.

Identify Clear Goals:
Pinpoint your desired outcomes through specific, well-defined goals. Clearly articulating what you want empowers your journey towards change.

Shift Your Focus Toward Desires:
Redirect your focus from what you want to avoid to what you desire. This shift in perspective enhances positivity and helps propel you toward your goals.

Visualize the Ideal:
Create a vivid mental image of your perfect scenario and the outcome you desire. Visualization helps manifest your aspirations by providing a clear blueprint.

Connect with Emotions:
Deepen your visualization by engaging your emotions. Feel the emotions associated with achieving your goals, which will intensify your motivation.

Recognize the Benefits:
Understand the advantages of the changes that you are pursuing. By recognizing the benefits of the upcoming change in your life, you fuel your determination to embrace transformation.

Cultivate Self-Worth:
You need to believe that you deserve the positive changes you’re striving for. A strong sense of self-worth propels you towards your goals. We can’t just go through the motions of our goals; we must wholeheartedly believe we’re worthy of achieving them.

Listen to Your Inner Voice:
Embrace moments of silence to hear your inner guidance. Build time into your daily routine for meditation or some peaceful quiet. Trust your instincts and accept the wisdom they offer.

Remove Obstacles:
Clear the path for change by eliminating old habits, limiting beliefs, and obstacles hindering your progress. Yes, we must do the work to first identify them, and then move past our comfort zone to remove them.

Create an Action Plan:
Develop a comprehensive plan of action, encompassing daily rituals and incremental steps. A well-structured plan keeps you on track.

Commitment and Accountability:
Stay committed to your goals and hold yourself accountable for progress. Consistency in your efforts is vital. You can reverse engineer your goals to regularly check that you are where you need to be in the process.

Curate Supportive Connections:
Surround yourself with individuals who genuinely care, support, and accept you. Positive relationships foster a nurturing environment for change. They help us be our best selves and motivate us to move forward in a positive way.

Embrace the Journey:
Embrace change as an opportunity for growth. Taking the initial step, no matter how small it may be, propels you towards your desired outcome.

In a world marked by perpetual transformation, the ability to initiate and adapt to change becomes paramount. These proactive steps offer a roadmap to navigate the process of change and actively shape your new reality.

By defining your values, setting clear goals, visualizing success, connecting with your emotions, and maintaining accountability, you empower yourself to embrace change and realize your aspirations. Remember, change is not merely an external force; it is also a tool for personal evolution and progress. Embrace the change!




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Idea Of Working Together To Achieve Better Results

Collaborative Alchemy: Turning Ideas into Gold Through Joint Effortsstring(68) "Collaborative Alchemy: Turning Ideas into Gold Through Joint Efforts"

The idea of working together to achieve better results is a concept that has been around for centuries. Whether it’s in the context of a family, community, or workplace, the notion that a group of people can accomplish more than an individual working alone has proven to be true time and time again. This understanding holds particularly strong in organizations like BNI where business professionals come together to leverage the power of collaboration and achieve far greater outcomes collectively than they could possibly attain through separate efforts.

Two key ideas underpin this concept. The first is the notion that the sum of the whole is greater than the individual parts. This idea suggests that when people work together, their collective efforts yield results that surpass the mere sum of their individual contributions. In other words, a group of individuals can accomplish more together than they could individually. This concept is often vividly exemplified in team sports, where athletes working in unison often achieve higher levels of success than any one player could individually. The same principle applies to the workplace, where a team of employees can pool their skills, knowledge, and perspectives to generate innovative solutions for complex problems.

Imagine a scenario where a team of individuals decides to work together on a project. They gather in a meeting room, armed with their laptops, notepads, some coffee and a box of donuts for extra motivation. As they dive into the task at hand, they quickly realize that their collective efforts are far more powerful than what they could achieve individually. It’s like a superhero team assembling, with each member contributing their unique superpower—whether it’s Excel wizardry, caffeine-fueled coding, or the ability to effortlessly untangle the office printer jams.

The second idea that underpins the concept of working together is the notion that 1 + 1 equals 11. This concept suggests that when two people work together, their combined efforts generate outcomes that far surpass what they could achieve on their own. It reflects the notion of synergy, where the collaborative interaction between individuals sparks creativity, innovation, and exponential growth. By working together, two individuals can engage in a dynamic exchange of ideas, challenge each other’s assumptions, and build upon each other’s strengths, resulting in an extraordinary level of collective achievement that would be unattainable when working alone.

In the midst of their collaboration, they encounter a few roadblocks, like the dreaded “Reply All” mishap. One team member accidentally sends an email meant for their cat-loving aunt to the entire company, complete with adorable kitten pictures and detailed instructions on how to knit a tiny sweater for a feline friend. The team bursts into laughter, realizing that even in their most embarrassing moments, they can find humor and support in each other.

Working Together has Many Benefits

There are many benefits to working together to achieve better results. One of the most significant benefits is the ability to leverage the strengths of each team member. When people work together, they can pool their knowledge, skills, and experience to create a more effective solution. This approach allows each team member to focus on their strengths and contribute to the team in the most meaningful way possible.

Another benefit of working together is the ability to learn from each other. When people collaborate, they have the opportunity to share ideas and perspectives, which can lead to new insights and approaches. This approach also helps to build trust and understanding between team members, which is essential for effective collaboration.

Working together also has the potential to increase efficiency and productivity. When people work together, they can divide tasks and responsibilities in a way that allows them to accomplish more in less time. This approach also helps to reduce the workload for each team member, which can lead to better work-life balance and increased job satisfaction.

Moreover, collaboration facilitates the exchange of ideas and perspectives, leading to new insights and approaches. By working together, individuals can tap into the collective wisdom of the group, gaining fresh perspectives and challenging their own preconceptions. This process fosters trust and understanding among team members, which are crucial elements for successful collaboration.

In the end, the team achieves remarkable results that surpass their initial expectations. Their collaborative efforts not only produce outstanding outcomes but also foster a positive and enjoyable working environment. The team realizes that working together isn’t just about productivity; it’s about creating a supportive and fun atmosphere where everyone can thrive.

The idea of working together to achieve better results is a powerful concept that has been consistently proven throughout history. Whether it is in the context of a family, community, or workplace, the benefits of collaboration are resoundingly clear. By leveraging the strengths of each team member, fostering a culture of shared learning, and optimizing efficiency and productivity, teams can attain success that would be unattainable when working alone. The whole is indeed greater than the sum of its parts, and when people come together to collaborate, the equation of 1 + 1 truly equals 11.

So, let’s raise a virtual toast to the power of collaboration and the positive impact it brings to our lives. Whether in a personal network, sports teams, or any other collaborative setting, let’s continue to embrace the strength that lies in working together. After all, the journey becomes more enjoyable, and the destination becomes even more rewarding when we join forces and combine our talents. Together, we can achieve greatness and create a future that surpasses our wildest dreams.

Get The Most Value On Your Business Networking Investment

Get the Most Value for Your Networking Timestring(43) "Get the Most Value for Your Networking Time"

As the Founder of BNI, an international organization with hundreds of thousands of members globally, I am well aware of how we are sometimes overwhelmed by commitments and obligations. And I know firsthand how important it is to make the most of your time. Have you ever tried to get back an hour you spent on something that didn’t turn out well? It’s absolutely impossible. Since we all know we can’t retrieve an hour, much less a day, of our precious time, we obviously want to spend it as wisely and effectively as we can.

So, if you spent some of your time networking for your business, you would want to get a high return on your networking investment, right? Here are some tips to help you do just that.

1. Be “on” 24/7
Be on the top of your networking game all the time – 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Networking opportunities present themselves in the most unsuspected places and at various times of day. It helps to be prepared. Always have your business cards with you and have your response ready when someone asks you about what you do. Keep it succinct and memorable by giving a brief summary of your business.

2. Learn to play golf or something else
Challenge yourself to learn the game of golf or some other activity that aligns with your skills and interests. It’s true that a lot of business happens on the golf course. And it could just as easily happen on the badminton court, the soccer field or across a pool table. Even during these “fun” activities, always be prepared for networking opportunities.

3. Have purposeful meal meetings
Get more value out of your mealtime by having a meeting that includes a meal and a specific, meaningful purpose such as business networking. These meetings are strategic and results-oriented and can provide high value for your invested time. Remember:

  • It’s not a break from work. It’s a way to build a strong, mutually beneficial relationship with each other.
  • It’s not a time to have three martinis. It’s a time to teach three things about your business to a potential referral partner and learn about theirs.
  • It’s not about trying out and critiquing new restaurants. It’s a way to help a colleague solve their problems.

4. First impressions count
Make sure you get off to a good start. Begin by taking a closer look at your appearance and your body language. Are they helping you start productive conversations? Or ending them before you can even say a word? Dress appropriately, smile when you meet someone, and maintain eye contact. Be relaxed and comfortable rather than rigid with your arms crossed. Always maintain a positive attitude.

5. Seek out a referral networking group and join a chamber of commerce
If you’re going to venture out and build a network, the first steps should be to seek out a referral networking group and a chamber of commerce to help network your business. These are strong interprofessional groups where participants typically get the majority of their business through referrals. Visit a few groups to get a feel for them and be selective when you make your commitments.

6. Sponsor and/or host select events
Find out how you can leverage sponsorship opportunities and specific events to position your business in front of key people. Of course, you need to take the initiative to do the research and make it happen. Hosting a successful business mixer can also be a powerful tool for fostering connections and expanding your professional network.

When you implement these strategies, you can strengthen your network and get more return on your business networking investment. You also increase your visibility within the community and, most importantly, you get the most value from the time you spend networking.




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Story Of Wallflower Experience At Networking Event

Look for the Wallflowersstring(24) "Look for the Wallflowers"

I was talking about networking with a good friend of mine, Dr. Mark Goulston (a well-known psychiatrist and consultant), some time ago, and he said, “People should always introduce themselves to the wallflower in the room.  Nobody attends a networking event wanting to stay in a corner and be left alone. They’re in that corner because the most technically skilled people are often socially shy. You never know when you’ll meet the next Bill Gates.”

This comment really resonated with me, and it reminded me of a time a few years ago when I was at a party put on by Virgin Galactic relating to the testing of White Knight Two and SpaceShip Two. I walked outside the party and looked over in the corner by the pool where I saw a man standing by himself looking uncomfortable and very much out of his element. Then I noticed who it was. It was the legendary Burt Rutan, Founder of Scaled Composites, and designer of the SpaceShipTwo! He was by himself at a party with hundreds of people celebrating the work of the company he founded as well as Virgin Galactic.

This was an opportunity I could not pass up. So, I went up and introduced myself to him.  I asked him if he went to many of these events, and he said, “Counting this one – that would be one.”  I asked him why he decided to go to this one, and he said, “Because Richard asked me to come.”  By the way, that would be – Richard Branson, the Founder of Virgin Galactic.

Although he didn’t seem very outgoing in this setting, he did seem good with having a conversation, so I pushed on. I said to him, “It must be incredible to see this amazing, long-term vision come to fruition.” He nicely replied, “This isn’t my long-term vision of what the company can do.”  I’m sure I was visibly surprised as I asked him, “What’s your long-term vision?”  He said, “Well, I believe the company can push forward past sub-orbital flights and expand to allow space tourists to do orbital flights around the earth.”  I naively said, “That’s an amazing long-term vision.” He replied, “That’s not my long-term vision.”  I was really surprised and said, “Okay, what’s your long-term vision?”  He replied that he felt “the company could provide orbital flights to passengers who could then stay at a hotel in space for a short period of time.” At this point, I’m completely blown away, and I once again said, “That’s an amazing, long-term vision,” and, yet again, he said, “That’s not my long-term vision.” At this point I’m all in, and I’m completely fascinated with this visionary, so I again asked, “What’s your long-term vision?” He replied, “I believe we can launch flights into orbit, stay at a hotel in space, and then take flights around the moon and back – that’s my long-term vision.”

Burt was probably in his late 60’s when we had this conversation, and I asked him one final question, “When do you think that vision can become a reality?” And he replied, “I think it can be done in my lifetime.”

The British have a term for what I felt at that moment – “gobsmacked.” I was utterly astounded by this man’s vision, and I was incredibly honored to have had this opportunity to talk with him.

I founded the largest referral networking organization in the world, and I’ve met tens of thousands of people during my tenure in BNI. I can easily say that this was one of the most interesting conversations I ever had with someone at a party or networking event. Burt Rutan’s (and, of course, Richard Branson’s) vision of what can be done through their entrepreneurial efforts has left an indelible mark on me.

The important lesson here relates to Dr. Goulston’s belief that we should always look for the “wallflowers” in the room. Not everyone of them will be a “Burt Rutan” but I’ve found that most of them are interesting and well worth the conversation. Just every now and then, you might meet a Bill Gates or a Burt Rutan, and that makes the effort of finding those wallflowers worth it.

Do you have a story to share about talking with someone who was alone at a networking event? Or have you had your own “wallflower” experience when someone came over to talk with you at a meeting or event?




Photo courtesy of:
File:Burt Rutan – Cropped.JPG” by Steve Paluch is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

How To Follow Up People For Networking

Why many networkers fail to follow up (and how to reverse this trend)string(69) "Why many networkers fail to follow up (and how to reverse this trend)"

This guest blog is from Shelly Lefkoe, my long-time friend and fellow member of TLC (Transformational Leadership Council). I recommend her book to all my readers.

Imagine running a marathon. You run past mile marker 25. Then mile marker 26. Just 1/10th of a mile left to go. You still have gas in the tank. The finish line is in sight. But instead of running any further, you walk off the path and go home.  Sounds silly, right?

But many otherwise smart people do something similar when it comes to networking.

They make connections. They have great conversations. They get contact information. Then they are never heard from again.  From the outside, we can’t understand why this happens.

We know the value of following up with new contacts. We get remembered. We build relationships that are crucial to furthering our businesses and careers.

And if we don’t follow up, we miss all that.

So what stops smart people from following up?

To answer that question, let’s examine a networking situation.

You have a great conversation with someone at a networking event. Maybe they can refer people to you. Maybe they could even be a client in the future.  The next day, you look at the business card, thinking you’ll send a follow-up email.  You feel uncomfortable and think, “I’ll do this tomorrow.”  This process may repeat for a few days before you forget about following up altogether.

Sound familiar?

The uncomfortable feeling was, in most cases, accompanied by uncomfortable thoughts such as:

  • “I can’t figure out what to say.”
  • “They don’t really want to hear from me.”
  • “I’ll sound stupid.”

These thoughts are almost like stop signs. We see, and we obey.

Most typical advice tells you to argue with interfering thoughts such as these. But in my 30 years of helping people make long-lasting changes to their lives, I’ve found a better way.

We find the beliefs that lead to the thoughts, and then we change them.

Here’s how this works.

Each of these thoughts points to a limiting belief.

  • If you keep thinking, “I can’t figure out what to say,” you may have beliefs such as “I’m not good enough,” “I’m not capable,” or even “I’m not a good writer/communicator.”
  • If you have thoughts like “They don’t really want to hear from me,” you may have beliefs like “I’m not important” or “People aren’t interested in what I have to say.”
  • If the painful thought “I’ll sound stupid” shows up, then you could believe “I’m not smart enough,” or even “I’m stupid.”

(By the way, over the decades, I’ve worked with five Harvard PhDs who believed “I’m stupid” despite the obvious evidence to the contrary. This shows you can have a belief even if it makes no sense to the outside world.)

When I first met my client, Ted, he decided he needed to network to grow his plumbing business.  He joined BNI but, at first, would avoid the meetings.  He kept feeling like he was less than the other professionals who he felt were “smarter” and more successful than he was. I helped him discover that he believed “Others are smarter than me,” “I’m not good enough,” and “No one wants to hear what I have to say.”

The next time I spoke to Ted, he had attended a meeting and didn’t have all those old feelings anymore. He kept going.  Eventually, he did gain referrals through BNI and now has a successful plumbing business.

Most of us have a little Ted in us. We have doubts and concerns that keep us from taking important steps to grow our businesses, like following up with potential referral partners. When we get past them, we can act swiftly to reach our goals.  However, you may not be convinced yet.  You might think …

“My beliefs are not why I don’t follow up, I just don’t have the time.” 

Ivan Misner has provided fantastic templates for writing a follow-up email. These take seconds to use.

“I don’t have time” is a reason we give when we’re uncomfortable about a task. Look inside. Imagine you were given a day off from work and all responsibilities. You are about to write a follow-up email.  How does that feel?

If you feel fine about it, why not do it now? But if you feel uncomfortable, you’ve just learned something useful.  You can find the belief causing your discomfort and do something about it.

Next step

In my book, co-written with Vahan Yepremyan, titled “Hitting the Wall: Eliminate the Beliefs That Sabotage Your Business and Your Life,” I detail the specific process for finding and changing your limiting beliefs. When people use this process, they report that their attitudes, feelings, and behaviors improve with great ease.

Often we unconsciously avoid things that are uncomfortable, but when the discomfort goes away, we can charge ahead with full force.  If you’ve ever felt you were driving with the brakes on, get my book, but more importantly, read it. It will make a massive difference in your life.

Hitting the Wall: Eliminate the Beliefs That Sabotage Your Business and Your Life is available on and anywhere books are sold.

Click here to get the book on Amazon.

tips for successful business

Tips for Hosting a Successful Business Mixerstring(44) "Tips for Hosting a Successful Business Mixer"

Hosting a successful business mixer can be a powerful tool for fostering connections and expanding your professional network. While it might seem like a challenging endeavor, you’ll be okay if you remember that your primary purpose is to facilitate networking. With that in mind, I offer eight tips that can contribute to the effectiveness of your business mixer.

1. Strategic Planning

Start planning the event at least eight weeks ahead of time. This window allows you to effectively invite a diverse range of guests, ensuring a healthy mix of professionals attending. You can also encourage potential attendees to donate door prizes to enhance engagement.

2. Optimal Venue Selection

If your office space or building is sizable enough, consider hosting the mixer at your place of business. This provides exposure to your workspace and also creates a casual and comfortable environment for networking. Make sure that the venue you select has is easily accessible and has enough parking for the attendees.

3. Showcase Products and Services

Dedicate specific areas that are marked with clear signs for attendees to display information about their products and services. This encourages interactive conversations and information exchange among participants OR the networkers.

4. Designate a Welcoming Committee

Appoint a group of “Visitor Hosts” who will warmly greet arriving guests. Name tags should be prepared for everyone, ensuring that each guest completes theirs properly. To encourage a dynamic networking environment, limit the availability of chairs by only having very few in the room. This will prompt people to actively mingle.

5. Engage in Networking Exercises

Kickstart the mixer with a brief networking activity. This could involve participants meeting three new individuals or finding someone in a related field to discuss their most effective networking strategies. These icebreakers cultivate meaningful interactions.

6. Innovative Mixer Ideas

Add excitement to your event by incorporating innovative concepts. For instance, organize a “Meet Your (Business) Match” session where attendees with similar professional backgrounds gather in designated zones (examples: finance, real estate, health care). Alternatively, you can introduce a fun twist by having guests draw cards with the names of famous duos, encouraging them to find their “partner” during networking (examples: Romeo – Juliet, Mickey Mouse – Minnie Mouse, Lois Lane – Clark Kent, Han Solo – Princess Leia, John Lennon – Paul McCartney).

7. Stay Focused on Networking

Focus on the primary purpose and fundamental objective of facilitating networking throughout the event. While it might be tempting to take the spotlight with speeches or presentations, remember that keeping the atmosphere conducive to connections is the priority.

8. Efficient Closing

When concluding the mixer, allocate around ten minutes for introductions and door prize distribution. Briefly acknowledge everyone and express gratitude for their participation, reinforcing the networking aspect of the event. Remember to start the event on time and to end on time.

The success of a business mixer lies in your ability to foster an environment where professionals can engage, share insights, and create valuable connections. By adhering to these tips, you can establish an event that can benefit your own business and provides a platform for others to expand their networks and collaborate effectively.

Remember, the core focus should always be on networking, and by prioritizing this objective, you will be well on your way to hosting a successful business mixer.

If you have hosted networking mixers before and have additional tips to offer, or if you have an interesting story to tell about your experience with hosting a mixer, please share it in the comments section.




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Human Behavior And Caterpillar Behavior Story

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Nature is a treasure trove of fascinating phenomena, often defying human understanding and challenging our perception of the world around us. One such enigmatic behavior is exhibited by processionary caterpillars, a group of insects that exhibit an eerie and puzzling tendency to walk in endless circles until they meet their demise. One of the first people to write about them was Jean-Henri Fabre in the early 1900’s.

Fabre experimented with the caterpillars by arranging them so they would walk in a circle to see how long it would take one of them to realize its mistake and change course.  He assumed it would take just minutes or maybe hours.  However, to his horror, they walked in a circle for more than a week before they started dying.

A Mirror for Us

The natural world often offers a mirror through which we can reflect on our own behaviors and choices. The intriguing behavior of processionary caterpillars, known for their endless circular marches, holds uncanny resemblances to certain patterns of human behavior that lead to negative consequences. By looking at the parallels between these caterpillars and human actions, we can gain insights into the complexity and the unintended consequences that can emerge from seemingly innocuous choices.

Much like processionary caterpillars, people often find themselves caught in repetitive patterns that lead to unfavorable outcomes. These patterns can be observed in various aspects of life, from personal relationships to societal trends. I have personally witnessed it many times within networking groups that refuse to change their unproductive behaviors despite the marginal results of the group. The inability to break away from these patterns, despite evidence of their harmful effects, is reminiscent of the caterpillars’ persistent adherence to their circular marches.

The caterpillars’ circular marches, while seemingly devoid of rationality, also reveal the dangers of stubborn adherence to a status quo that is not working. All too often I meet people who are happy in their hole, and they don’t want a ladder. Just as the caterpillars march in circles despite the evident signs of danger, people sometimes continue down destructive paths simply because they are unwilling to consider alternatives.

A Cautionary Tale

The processionary caterpillars’ behavior, driven by an innate inability to perceive alternatives, serves as a cautionary tale about the importance of critical thinking. This echoes the human tendency to make decisions based on habits, biases, and preconceived notions rather than a rational evaluation of options and more importantly, the ability to engage in behaviors that have proven to work over and over again by other successful individuals.

The inability of processionary caterpillars to adapt their behavior when circumstances change, holds a mirror to human resistance to change. People frequently find themselves clinging to outdated beliefs (often because they “seem” easier), or methods even when they are no longer effective. This inability to alter course to do something known to work can lead to stagnation, missed opportunities, and a failure to address pressing issues within the organization.

The behavior of processionary caterpillars holds disconcerting parallels to certain negative patterns of human behavior. The tendency to blindly follow someone leading them in circles, resisting change, conforming to group dynamics, and perpetuating destructive cycles is a reminder of the intricate interplay between individuals within a group.

Ultimately, the story of processionary caterpillars serves as a cautionary tale that prompts us to reflect on our own behaviors and the potential consequences of our actions. Just as we study and learn from nature, we should also strive to learn from the mistakes and behaviors of people who have a track record of success, using their stories as opportunities for self-improvement and growth.

Don’t just follow the leader – follow the leader who is taking you towards success.

Risk taking and Adversity in Learning

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One law of human nature is to want more – more horsepower, more serenity, more intimacy, more money, more power, more life. However, getting “more” is often an uncomfortable business. To reach the juiciest apples, we have to climb high, we have to reach out, and we take the risk of falling off the ladder.

This risk taking journey requires us to tread on uncertain ground and is often uncomfortable, whether physically, financially, socially, and especially emotionally. The path to attaining more is seldom paved with comfort; we spend a lot of time feeling awkward, inept, and out of our element. We grapple with physical strain, financial uncertainty, social unease, and the rollercoaster of emotions where terror and exhilaration dance a reckless tango on our nerves.

The Pursuit of “More” Takes Learning

Reaching for “more” necessitates learning, and learning makes us feel like children again, with all the excitement, wonder, and fear that blended together and colored our earliest experiences. It’s not the subject matter of what we are learning that is transformative; rather, it is our starting point and how far we’re trying to reach that make the difference.  Learning is not an absolute; it is relative, profound, and personal. The journey of a paraplegic rediscovering the complexities of walking is as intense as that of a teenager learning to drive. The uphill struggle of a downhill skier learning to snowboard and conquer the half-pipe aligns in spirit with a manicurist embarking on the entrepreneurial journey of running their own shop. The ordinary – something that is routine for one, becomes an extraordinary success for another.

Adversity – a Catalyst for Growth

In learning, we all start from adversity. We don’t make enough money, we dislike our job, we don’t know enough, can’t climb the mountain. Adversity is a catalyst for growth; it may creep into our awareness as dissatisfaction, a natural manifestation of personal growth, or it may be forced upon us by accident or catastrophic illness. Regardless of its guise, we intensely desire to move the arc from adversity to triumph, from struggle to victory. Along this path, we encounter fresh ideas, hone new skills, embrace evolving beliefs, and adopt new attitudes. We face down adversity and stretch ourselves toward success. We improve.

To improve, we must weigh the desired end against the pain of getting there.  No risk, no gain. If we opt for comfort and ease, we forgo the rewards of accomplishment. And yet, if we take to heart what professional athletes are taught and “do something every day that scares you a little,” we stretch our boundaries and move into new territory. As we move beyond our comfort zones, change occurs, we gain more self-confidence, making it easier to push boundaries, and emboldening us to confront and tackle greater challenges. We convert nervous energy that once sent jitters cascading within us into kinetic energy.  We become unstoppable.

In the grand tapestry of existence, our journey is a quest for “more.” More growth, more understanding, more mastery of self. This pursuit is not for the faint-hearted or the seekers of ease. It is for those who dare to defy complacency, who revel in discomfort for the promise of growth, and who understand that the pinnacle of success is reached through valleys of unease.

In the chasm between aspiration and achievement, amid the realm of uncertainty, lies the wonderful experience of growth—an eternal dance of risk, resilience, and reward.

I’d like to hear from you. If you have a story about how you took a risk or faced adversity in order to grow, share it in the comments.




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Building Authentic Business Relationship

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In the world of professional relationships and business growth, networking plays a pivotal role. As the founder of BNI, an organization built on the foundation of referrals and networking, I have witnessed firsthand the transformative power it holds. So, let’s take a look at what this marathon should look like – with a little humor added in.

Building Authentic Relationships:
It’s Not Like Speed Dating!

Networking is about building authentic relationships, not just accumulating contacts. It’s not a speed dating event where you collect as many business cards as possible and hope for the best. Nope, that won’t cut it. It’s essential to invest time and effort in getting to know others on a deeper level. Remember, it’s not about exchanging pleasantries and pretending to be interested while secretly plotting to make a sale. Building rapport, trust, and a genuine connection requires a commitment to building long-term relationships. Treat it like a slow-cooked meal; let the flavors develop over time!

Establishing Credibility and Trust:
Actions Speak Louder Than Words, and Bad Puns

A successful networker understands the significance of establishing credibility and trust within the business community. And what better way to establish credibility than through consistent effort and delivering on your promises? Show up, be reliable, and provide value to others. But wait, there’s more! How about sprinkling in some humor to lighten the mood? Just make sure your networking humor doesn’t fall flat like a pancake. Remember, a good joke can break the ice, but a bad joke might just make people feel as cold as an iceberg!

Imagine that you’re at a networking event, and you strike up a conversation with a potential client. You are both discussing your businesses when you drop a perfectly timed pun. They chuckle, and suddenly the tension eases. You’ve established a connection beyond the ordinary small talk. So go ahead, let your sense of humor shine through. Just be careful not to overdo it.

The Power of Referrals:
Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Referrals are the lifeblood of successful networking. However, they’re not something that magically appears with the snap of your fingers. Oh no, referrals are more like that delicious meal you wait hours for at a fantastic restaurant. They take time to cook. As connections grow stronger and trust deepens, individuals become more willing to recommend your services or products. So, don’t rush it. Patience is key, just like waiting for that dessert you’ve been eyeing on the menu. Trust me, the referral soufflé will rise beautifully when the time is right!

Now, let’s imagine a scenario. You meet someone at a networking event who expresses interest in your business. Instead of bombarding them with sales pitches, take a different approach. Build a genuine connection, show interest in their business, and find ways to support them. Remember, networking is a two-way street. If you provide value and support to others, they’ll be more inclined to refer you to potential clients or partners. And when those referrals come flowing in, it’ll feel like winning a delicious food-eating competition—except without the stomach ache and gained weight!

The Depth of Connection:
Skip the Small Talk and Embrace the Quirkiness

While a sprint may be a quick burst of energy, networking thrives on the depth of connections you develop. It’s not about how many people you can engage within a short period, but rather the quality and depth of those relationships. So, minimize the small talk and embrace the quirkiness! Find common interests, share your passions, and let your authentic self shine when you network with people. After all, it’s the quirks and unique qualities that make us memorable. Just be careful not to overshare; we’re aiming for memorable, not creepy!

Imagine attending a networking event where everyone is wearing the same professional mask. The conversations revolve around the weather, the latest industry trends, and the most boring aspects of business. Sounds dreadful, right? Break free from the mundane! Instead of blending in, embrace your quirkiness. Talk about your love for comic books, your passion for knitting tiny hats for your pet turtle, or your secret talent for juggling oranges (for me, it’s catching and releasing venomous snakes back into the wild – that’s always a conversation starter). Be memorable, be authentic, and watch as those connections deepen like a well-developed plotline in a gripping novel.

Patience and Long-Term Vision:
Marathon Training with Snacks and Dance Breaks

Networking is a journey that requires patience and a long-term vision. It’s like training for a marathon, but with more snacks and dance breaks. Sure, there will be times when progress seems slow, and the finish line feels distant. That’s when you break out the snacks and groove to your favorite tunes. Keep that networking stamina high! Embrace the ups and downs, celebrate the small victories, and keep your eye on the prize. Remember, it’s not just about reaching the finish line; it’s about enjoying the process and the connections you make along the way.

Let’s envision a networking event as a vibrant dance floor. You’re wearing your networking shoes, grooving to the beat, and mingling with other professionals. You may stumble a few times, but you pick yourself up and keep going. As you dance, you share stories, exchange ideas, and forge connections. And when the DJ plays your favorite song, you let loose and celebrate the joy of networking. So, don’t forget to pack your favorite snacks, keep those dance moves handy, and embrace the marathon with a smile on your face.

Networking truly is a marathon, not a sprint. It involves building authentic relationships, establishing credibility and trust, earning referrals, fostering deep connections, and embracing a long-term vision. By understanding and embracing the principles of networking, individuals can unlock its true power in creating opportunities, fostering collaborations, and achieving professional success.

So, lace up those networking shoes, grab a handful of networking-themed snacks, and let’s embark on this marathon together. Embrace the journey, cultivate authentic relationships with a sprinkle of humor, and forge lasting connections that will propel us forward on our path to success. And don’t forget to laugh along the way because, let’s face it, networking can be serious business, but a little humor makes the journey all the more enjoyable!

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