I had a conversation this week with a florist who was bemoaning the commitment he’d made in becoming a member of a local referral marketing group. He complained that he had never considered himself a natural networker and had assumed joining the group would jumpstart his networking efforts. But after five months, he still felt uncomfortable trying to build relationships with people he considered to be virtual strangers. He still felt like he had no real networking experience and that he didn’t have a clue how to develop the necessary networking skills that would make his membership worthwhile. He said it would probably be better for him to stop wasting time and just quit the group.
Here’s what I told him: It’s never too late to start creating your networking future. You can make a new start right here and now, no matter what wrong networking moves you may have previously made.
Start by taking stock of your networking strengths and weaknesses and use that knowledge to make goals and plans for yourself. Implement weekly networking strategies and be clear with yourself about what you need to work on to improve your networking skills. Just as in building a new house, you need a strong, stable foundation on which to construct your “networking home.” First things first: You must set goals, develop a plan and start accomplishing networking steps.
If you feel a lot like the florist when it comes to the current status of your networking efforts, here are seven keys to create your new, successful networking future:
1. Start by setting networking goals. Networking goals are vital. They keep you focused on the steps needed to network your business every day. Careful attention should be paid to this process.
2. Block out time to network. Carve out time in your weekly schedule for networking. To meet your goals, you must dedicate time to networking.
3. Profile your preferred client. Describe your preferred client in very specific and strategic terms. Knowing exactly whom you want to attract to your business as a client or customer–and being able to clearly, concisely and quickly describe that preferred client to everyone from your mother all the way down to the CEO of a Fortune 500 firm–is a vital step for networking success.
4. Recruit your word-of-mouth marketing team. Begin recruiting the individuals who will serve as your ambassadors. They are critical to your success. Why? Because networking, by definition, is a team sport. You win only when others are winning alongside you.
5. Give to others first. There is tremendous power in te law of reciprocity in networking. You will find that there are great benefits to giving to others in your network first, before expecting anything in return.
6. Create a network relationship database. Organize the people you know into a network database. An organized network database saves you time and energy in the long run.
7. Master the top 10 traits of a successful networker. Set a high bar for yourself by aiming to master the top 10 characteristics that define a master networker. This gives you something to aim for and a way of assessing where you stand now, relative to that goal.
Most entrepreneurs pay lip service to education! OK, maybe not you . . . you’re actually taking the time to read an article on business. I’m talking about the average entrepreneur.
Ask a number of businesspeople if they’d be willing to attend a seminar on building their business, and three-quarters of those in the room will raise their hand and say yes! Tell them that it is four weeks from tomorrow at 7 p.m., and only a handful will actually sign up!
It used to surprise me when I heard that 50 percent of all businesses fail in their first three years. Now that I’ve been in business for several decades and have seen many entrepreneurs come and go, I’m somewhat surprised that 50 percent actually make it past three years!
Maybe I’m being a little harsh . . . but not much. One thing I’ve learned is that most successful entrepreneurs embrace a “culture of learning” in order to excel. Personal and professional self-development is a journey–not a destination. It’s 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. Part of working “on” a business is one’s professional development.
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.”
With that in mind, here’s an action item for you this week. Look at your financials (or checkbook, or credit-card statements) for the past year. What have you spent for 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 to help you build your business–and sign up for something this week! Don’t put it off any longer.
If you want to earn more, you need to learn more! Oh, and reading this blog from time to time won’t hurt, either.
On a daily basis, I am surrounded by people who know that connecting with others to network their businesses is extremely important. However, I am often surprised at how many people don’t put enough effort into purposefully strengthening their network relationships. The fact is, you want to be in solid with the people who constitute your network, and vice versa. You want to be the first name that comes to mind when those in your network scratch their heads and wonder, “Hmmm . . . Whom could I go to with that problem? Who would be a good fit for that referral?”
Going the extra mile provides you several ways to stand out and be positively memorable. Focus on things that you can do to demonstrate the unforgettable value you bring to the table as a network member. Even though our networking is about business, not social relationships, you have to admit that people like people who help them. If you help someone, he or she, in turn, wants to help you.
Take the initiative in developing a relationship with someone who could be of help to you in networking your business. Here are some strategies on how to do this:
1) Be a value-added friend. Focus your attention on the kind of value you bring to the relationships you form.
2) Become a catalyst. Take the lead and be the person who makes things happen.
3) Find an accountability partner–a person to whom you can be accountable, responsible and answerable, and who cares whether (and how effectively) you implement networking strategies and meet the goals you set for your business.
4) Volunteer as a way of building visibility for your business.
5) Send thank-you cards. This is a simple but powerful two-minute activity.
6) Timely follow-up is extremely significant and it is tremendously important in pushing a relationship forward.
Going the extra mile with the people in your network not only expresses your sincerity, but it also opens the door to accept what the law of reciprocity has to offer you and your business.
I am pleased to announce that my new book, The 29% Solution, 52 Weekly Networking Success Strategies has just been released! Below is an excerpt from the book.
What do Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and “six degrees of separation” all have in common? They are all urban legends! I wouldn’t do an expose on Kris Kringle or the egg-laying rabbit. I don’t want to stir up any trouble. What I do want to take issue with is the six-degrees thing.
You’ve heard that there are “six degrees of separation” between you and anybody else on earth that you would like to meet. Right? Amazing, isn’t it? Unfortunately, it’s just not true! I know, I know–you’re thinking, “What? That can’t be! It’s common knowledge that we are all separated by six connections to anyone in the world.” Well, I hate to burst your bubble, but the idea that we are all connected through six degrees of separation is rooted in myth–not in fact.
The legend originally stems from several “small world experiments” conducted by Stanley Milgram in the 1960s and ’70s. These experiments involved sending folders or letters from a group of people in one part of the country to a specific person (whom they did not know) in another part of the country. The people were told to get the material to someone who might know someone who would know the individual to whom the material was to be delivered. This process formed a chain of connections linking the people together. It was, in fact, found that the letters or folders that eventually arrived in the right person’s hands took, on average, between five and six connections or degrees. This part is true; however, if you look closer, you will discover the problems that exist within the blanket statement that “we are all connected by six degrees.”
First off, though the average number of links for people who got the material through to the final contact was five or six connections, the majority of the connections that were made ranged from two to 10 (the average was five to six). This means that roughly half took more than six and roughly half less than six. Well, you say, that’s the average and I would agree that there’s nothing wrong with addressing this concept by the average, but there’s one small problem. The overwhelming majority of people in all of Milgram’s studies never got the material to the intended recipient at all! In Milgram’s most successful study, “217 chains were started and 64 were completed–a success rate of only 29 percent.” That’s right–a success rate of less than one-third of the participants! So what this means is that 29 percent of the people in Milgram’s most successful study were separated on average by six degrees from the final contact person. However, that means that 71 percent were not connected at all!
But wait, I’m afraid it gets worse. This was Milgram’s most successful study. In another of his studies, only 5 percent of the participants completed the chain, which means that 95 percent of the people in the study never made the link to the person they were supposed to connect to at all–ever! Don’t shoot the messenger, but I am afraid to tell you that we are not “all” connected with everyone in the world by six degrees of separation. We’re just not . . . not all of us.
So why would I, someone who has devoted most of his professional career to business networking, be telling everyone about the Achilles heel of this iconic concept upon which a lot of networking pros hang their hat? Well, there are two reasons. First of all, I believe this myth creates complacency. The thought that everyone is absolutely connected to everyone else on the planet by six degrees gives some people a false sense of expectation and thus lulls them into a sense that the connection is bound to happen sooner or later, no matter what they do. Second, and most important, the studies’ findings indicate clearly that some people are better connected than others. I believe that’s important because it means that this is a skill that can be acquired. With reading, training and coaching, people can develop their networking skills, increase their connections and become part of the roughly 29 percent of people who are, in fact, separated from the rest of the world by only six degrees.
Milgram’s work was revolutionary. It opened up a whole new world of discussion and understanding. It has, however, been romanticized. The mythical version of his findings does no good for anyone. It gives people a false sense of security or an erroneous world view of the networking process. I believe we do live in a “small world” that is becoming smaller and smaller; and I also believe it is possible to be connected to anyone in the world by only six degrees. I just don’t believe that “we are all” connected by six degrees, and Milgram’s own findings support that.
The good news in all of this is that it is possible to be part of the 29 percent through education, practice and training. We can be connected to anyone through the power and potential of networking. In fact, by understanding that, we can set ourselves aside from our competition by knowing that being able to make successful connections is not an entitlement. Instead, it is a skill that only some actually develop. As for the 71 percent of people who are not connected and yet still believe in the six degrees of separation concept–keep the faith. You’ll always have Santa Claus.
Books are now available at your local bookstore or from Amazon.com. I’d love to hear your thoughts about the book and/or the general concept.
So many times, I hear of people joining networking groups and then becoming disillusioned because the referrals don’t immediately start pouring in. The fact is, whatever you pay to join a referral/networking group is only an admission price–it gets you into the room where opportunities may come your way, but it doesn’t entitle you to referrals. It’s not enough to simply show up and participate. You must perform to make the most of these opportunities and new contacts.
Despite the built-in structure and focus on referrals, a strong-contact group member can fail to generate referrals or to receive referrals for himself or herself. Networking skills are the number one requirement for generating more referrals. Being in the setting of a networking group simply makes it easier to use these skills. Simply being a member of a strong-contact group does not entitle you to expect or receive referrals. Nor does being a member of a casual-contact group limit the number of referrals you can generate or receive, if you have the skills and use them.
Develop the skills of a master networker by constantly looking for ways to help or benefit your networking partners and earning a reputation as someone who can get things done, no matter what the organization or situation. For example, one extremely savvy and successful networker I know records the names and cell phone numbers of every member of her networking group, and when new members join, she adds them to her “tele-rolodex” immediately. She has found that she has a better chance of seeing closed business between her contact and the person to whom she makes the referral when she can introduce them immediately–right when she learns her contact’s needs.
Do you have goals for your business? Do you have marketing goals and sales goals? We all know that goals are important. The question is, how well do we apply that knowledge?
If you don’t have any networking goals, you are, unfortunately, in the majority. Obviously you believe in the power of networking, or you wouldn’t be reading this blog. Why, then, would you wait to write networking goals for your business?
Networking seems to be one of those things that many people do as a reaction to no or slow business. It’s often forgotten. It’s rarely treated as an integral part of how we grow our businesses. Not only is it frequently neglected, but many people are haphazard and far from systematic in their approach to networking. This approach to networking can keep you from ever getting close to becoming an efficient networker. Setting networking goals helps you avoid the pitfalls of treating networking as an afterthought–as something far less than what it can be for your business.
One way to systematize and organize your approach to networking is to set measurable goals. Without a goal, you have nothing at which to aim. More important, if you don’t have a goal, you can’t measure your results.
When setting networking goals, keep in mind that each goal you create should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timed with a deadline.
Start setting SMART networking goals and you will be well on your way to reaping the great rewards of successful networking!
It’s not called “net-sit” or “net-eat,” it’s called NetWORK! Effective networking is all about learning how to work your network effectively and appropriately.
I also believe that there are times to “notwork.” As a matter of fact, I’m fairly confident that when I’m 70 years old, I won’t say, “Gee, I wish I spent more time at the office.”
I believe that we entrepreneurs, business professionals and salespeople need to make sure to take time to . . . notwork. I do my best “notworking” at my lodge in Big Bear Lake, California. I’m writing this blog from my deck, pictured here during the day (above) and again at night (below).
Each year we have a family tradition that each family member gets to pick two things that we all do together during the time we are up here. We type it up and, as each item is completed, the family member puts his or her initials next to his or her item, and we post it on the refrigerator (we have nine years posted there so far). Last night my daughter chose S’mores around the campfire. Today, my son chose a “mental health day” (in the Misner family this means nobody in and nobody out–we hang around the house, watch TV, read, play games and mostly veg).
Success is many things to many people. To me, it’s having the time to spend in a place I love with the people I love. That is true success.
Sometimes, “notworking” is a very good thing.
We recently surveyed more than 3,000 people at BNI.com. We asked the participants what percentage of their business comes from word-of-mouth or referrals.
We found that fewer than 5 percent got no business from referrals, and more than half of the respondents said they got more than 70 percent of their business from word-of-mouth or referrals!
Look at this and another nine surveys on networking at this LINK.
Does this measure up to your experience? I would really like to hear from you as to whether you agree with the majority of the respondents to our survey.
Last Saturday night, my family and I decided to go out to dinner and ended up eating at a brand-new restaurant in the town where we live. We hadn’t actually heard anything about the restaurant and didn’t even know it existed, but it caught our attention as we drove down the street and we decided to try it out.
The food was exceptional and I was quite impressed with the service and the ambience, yet there were hardly any other patrons besides us in the entire place. As we finished our dinner, the owner of the restaurant walked over to our table, thanked us for coming in, and asked us how we liked everything. I told him that we would definitely come back and asked him how long he’d been in business. When he answered that he’d been in business for three months and that things were coming along slowly but surely, I asked him what he was doing to promote his business. He replied that startup costs hadn’t left him with much money for advertising but that he had a huge extended family and he was banking on the fact that with them on his side, word about the restaurant was sure to spread pretty quickly.
I looked around the restaurant (virtually empty during the dinner hour after three months in business), smiled, and said, “So, how’s that working out for you so far?”
I went on to explain to him that I was somewhat familiar with the whole “networking thing” (I revealed that networking has been my career for more than 20 years) and that people who like, care about and respect you will not necessarily always refer business to you. We chatted for quite some time and I referred him to one of my articles, “Getting Referred By Friends and Family.”
For anyone out there who is currently relying on friends and family for referrals, here are a few things to think about:
- Oddly enough, the people most familiar with you are often the most casual about giving you referrals.
- With friends and family, relationships grow out of more personal associations; therefore, it may not even occur to a family member to refer business to you–unless you make a point of asking for it.
- You need to train friends and family to refer business to you.
- One of the first things you can do is get them to listen for key words and to recognize circumstances where they can, through you, provide a solution to someone’s need or problem.
What are your experiences with referrals from family or friends?
After a recent speaking engagement I did, a woman appoached me and asked my advice on the dilemma of getting qualified referrals for a “difficult to refer” business. She was passing as many referrals as she could to others, but because her business seemed to revolve around such a niche market, the business referrals she was receiving were slim to none, and she was starting to get discouraged.
I referred her to an article I wrote a few years back that addresses this exact predicament; and since I’m sure some of my blog readers are in businesses that are more difficult to refer than others, I thought I’d shed some light on the subject here. For networkers in businesses that don’t easily generate word of mouth, there is hope for your company because there are still ways you can successfully network and build your company’s reputation.
Years ago, I learned that speaking engagements are a great short-term approach to getting new business while you’re working on the long-term process of word of mouth. You see, when you schedule an appointment with someone you think might be interested in what you’re selling, that time you spend with them–usually an hour–is very important. Well, imagine having that same one-hour appointment with 20 to 50 businesspeople in your community, all at the same time! In effect, that’s what you’re doing when you’re asked to make a presentation at various clubs and organizations.
So, how do you go about getting on the calendars of these business and service groups? It isn’t as hard as you might think. With a little creativity, you can put together a presentation that will be informational, educational and even entertaining. Most important, you can get referrals from people to help you get in front of them. Usually program chairs are scrambling to find someone different, engaging and interesting to come in and present to the group. Your job is to help them find you!
To see a sample of the letter I used to send to program chairs when I owned a consulting firm, click here to go to the article. Getting speaking engagements can make your company easy for anyone to refer and it can also get you a lot of clients while you’re busy building your business.
If you have any comments or thoughts on other techniques that are useful for businesses that are “difficult to refer,” I’d love to hear your feedback.
Where does your business come from? In a survey of roughly 4,000 people at the BNI.com website, roughly 73 percent of the respondents said that they get most of their business from networking and referral activities. Only 12 percent get most of their business from advertising and less than 10 percent get most of their business from cold calling!
What I find amazing about this is that most colleges still focus on courses on advertising, and most big companies still train their new salespeople how to cold call! Despite that, most entrepreneurs and salespeople (according to this survey) don’t get the majority of their business from these two methods.
Where do you get most of your business from? Comment here on this blog and take the survey (and others) at this LINK.