Let Me Introduce You to Bobstring(27) "Let Me Introduce You to Bob"

dsc02883.JPGWhen my daughter Cassie was only 8 years old, she made a little stick man, which she named “Bob,” from a small piece of red pipe cleaner and gave him to me. That’s Bob and me to the right by the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, last year.

Why is Bob in a picture with me, halfway across the world from my home, eight years after Cassie originally gave him to me?

Well, it all started when one of my business trips prevented me from attending a Girl Scout event that Cassie was participating in. I felt bad that I couldn’t make the event, so I took a photo of Bob and myself in the mirror at the hotel and sent it to Cassie, telling her Bob and I were thinking about her and congratulating her on her achievement. She liked it so much that I started sending photos of Bob whenever I could.

Throughout the years of travel, I have always stowed Bob safely in my briefcase and, whenever possible, I have someone take a picture of the two of us to send back to Cassie.  More often than not, I can immediately see what the heck is this guy’s deal? written across people’s faces when I ask if they’d mind taking a picture. Once I explain what the photo is for, however, it’s amazing how people’s responses change.

You see, one of the great things about running a successful international business is that you get to travel a lot. Yet one of the really bad things about running a successful international business is that you have to travel a lot . . . when ydsc04437.JPGou have small children, that can be a real challenge. People, especially those with children of their own, understand that. So when I explain the purpose of taking a picture with a goofy little man made out of pipe cleaner, people realize I’m not actually nuts after all and that Bob is really a family tradition that keeps me connected to my daughter.

The thing is, we can all take a lesson or two from Bob.

First off, Bob is a great example of how the smallest gestures can forge powerful connections between people.

I may not be able to be with my daughter at times when I want to be, but the simple gesture of sending her a picture of Bob and me keeps us connected. This same concept applies to keeping you connected with your networking contacts. You may not be able to attend every event you’re invited to or have lunch with every one of your contacts on a weekly basis, but you can find simple strategies to stay connected, such as giving them a quick call to check in or sending them a card.

Second, Bob is a terrific representation of why it is so important to explain the value you (and your business) bring to the table, and not to assume that people understand.

Think about it. When my unsuspecting “Bob photographers” initially respond to my request for a picture with my tiny red traveling companion, they see a man who probably belongs in a room with padded white walls, holding a contorted piece of pipe cleaner and smiling like it’s his best friend. Why do they react this way? Because they don’t understand the value Bob brings to the table as a powerful connector.

Once Bob’s specific purpose and role are explained in a way people can understand, his value is undeniable and people want to help me and applaud my dedication to my family. This is the same with explaining the value you and your business present to your networking partners–assuming people know the value you bring to the table is simply to leave money on the table every day.

Cassie is now about to turn 18, and she graduated from high school last week. She’s off to college in September, but I still plan on sending her photos of Bob and me as we travel around the world.dsc04974b.jpg

Bob’s looking a little worn with his travels (and I guess I am, too), but as long as I’m on the road, Bob will continue to be my traveling companion, Cassie will see evidence of our adventures, and she will always know we’re thinking of her as we travel the globe.

For more photos of Bob and me, go to: Facebook Photos of Bob.

June 23rd Teleseminar with Keith Ferrazzistring(41) "June 23rd Teleseminar with Keith Ferrazzi"

Early last week, I posted a blog about Keith Ferrazzi’s new book, Who’s Got Your Back, and how the book outlines imperative success strategies for developing meaningful relationships through networking efforts and accomplishing any goal.keithferrazzi2.jpg

I got quite a few comments on that post from blog readers who are really interested in Keith’s book and the subjects he covers, so I wanted to invite everyone to a teleseminar that I will be doing with Keith on Tuesday, June 23 at 3 p.m. (Eastern Time). You can sign up for the teleseminar by clicking here.

Keith and I will be discussing the one key thing that the world’s top business leaders and entrepreneurs rely on to achieve extraordinary results and record-breaking success–building the right relationships and leveraging them at the right times. We will also be joined by Andrea J. Lee, bestselling author of Multiple Streams of Coaching Income and a leading entrepreneur who excels at building powerful relationships in order to accelerate success.

Even if you can’t make it to the live call, go ahead and register anyway because Elizabeth Marshall, host and founder of AuthorTeleseminars.com, will send you a recording of the call after it’s over. In the meantime, if you have any questions e-mail Elizabeth at host@authorteleseminars.com.

Click here to save your spot on the call and, whether you attend the live call or listen to the recording, come back and leave a comment. I’d love to hear your feedback!

Stop The Fearstring(13) "Stop The Fear"

While attending the iLearningGlobal.tv Launch Conference in Las Vegas this past March, I met a woman from San Diego, Calif., named Gloria Boileau. Gloria happens to be a very accomplished lady. Currently working as an executive coach, she is a former trial specialist who prepared witnesses and clients for jury trials. She’s also a renowned international speaker and image expert, and she has just published her first book.stop-the-fear-book.jpg

As Gloria and I spoke, she began explaining the concept of her new book, Stop the Fear. She started off with a good point: We are a society that has become so dependent on fear that it has permeated itself into nearly every aspect of our lives. All we have to do is turn on the TV or open up a newspaper to realize just how true this is. I am always emphasizing how important it is to refuse to participate in a recession, and the reason I drive that point home so often and so repeatedly is because everywhere we turn, we have people telling us that the “doom and gloom” state of the economy is only getting worse and that we should be afraid . . . very afraid, they say.  I say, whether it’s the media or it’s your friends and family, don’t listen to them and don’t be afraid!

The economy goes in cycles. It’s as inevitable as death and taxes. It would obviously be ridiculous to waste your entire life panicking about the fact that you know you’re going to die one day, or to spend your entire work day bemoaning the fact that the government is going to take a significant chunk of your hard-earned money. These are inescapable facts of life, just like economic fluctuations. Why, then, are so many people wasting their time worrying about how “bad” the economy is and cutting back on efforts to build their business when they should be focusing on networking and drumming up more business during what is only an inevitable, temporary financial downturn? Why? Because Gloria’s point is right–fear has permeated our society, and people are letting it paralyze them instead of focusing on taking control of what they can by taking positive action.

In Stop the Fear, Gloria explains, “Fear is a four-letter word which creates an emotion that weighs a person down and prevents them from realizing their potential.” In other words, fear is a choice. Whether you struggle with fear surrounding economic flucuations, or you fear something else such as failure, pain or embarrassment, we all fear something to some degree–and fear can keep us from achieving important goals.  Gloria’s book outlines 12 simple strategies for overcoming fear that can help anyone, anywhere, redirect his or her focus so fear doesn’t stand in the way of success.

If you’re interested in finding out more about Stop the Fear, please click here.

Looking for More Referrals? Remember the GAINS Exchangestring(55) "Looking for More Referrals? Remember the GAINS Exchange"

So often, I see people who are frustrated about not getting more business referred to them. After all, they say, isn’t that what business networking is all about?

What many of these people don’t seem to realize, however, is that they need to actively share information about themselves with the right people before they can expect to have business referred to them by the people in others’ networks.

I discuss this very concept in my latest show on yourBusinessChannel. The fact is, it’s not enough that you’re great at what you do and can offer a lot of value to new clients. To win referrals from networking, you need to ensure that your contacts have all the necessary information about you and your skills so they can go out and persuade third parties to come and purchase your product or service. It’s amazing how many people fail to recognize this.

There are actually five key things that are essential for the members of your network to know about you before you can expect them to refer business your way. Equally, you need to know these same five things about them so you can reciprocate. I call this process of reciprocal sharing of information the GAINS exchange, based on the first letter of each of the five essential informational points: Goals, Accomplishments, Interests, Networks, and Skills (first discussed in my book, Business by Referral).

Goals: What are the objectives that are important to you; what are the problems you want to solve? Not just financial and business goals, but also personal and educational objectives.

Accomplishments: What big projects have you completed in business or as an employee? What are your accomplishments as a student or parent?

Interests: What are the things you really enjoy doing? The music you like to listen to, the hobbies you spend time on, the sports you like to play or watch? People are more willing to spend time with people they share interests with.

Networks: Each of your contacts is a part of many networks. Do you know what these are, how big they are? Each of us has the potential to connect with hundreds or thousands of people if we cultivate these resources.

Skills: What do you do especially well? What are the professional areas in which you excel? Don’t be afraid to share this information with your contacts, and learn about the talents and abilities of the people in your network as well.

These are not mysterious pieces of information. They are facts we are exposed to every day, if we look for them.

By remembering the GAINS exchange, you can make sure you don’t overlook this essential information about your networking contacts.

Who’s Got Your Back?string(26) "Who’s Got Your Back?"

A couple of weeks ago, one of my employees attended the launch of my friend Keith Ferrazzi’s new book, Who’s Got Your Back, and she came into the office the next day raving about the presentation Keith had given. “You would have loved it,” she said. “He talked all about how success is created by developing relationships based on trust and how important accountability is to achieving goals–his stuff is right on point with everything you emphasize that effective networkers do.  Plus, the stories he told to illustrate his key points were really, really powerful!”whos-got-your-back.jpg

I’ve known Keith for quite a few years now, and I wasn’t at all surprised to hear that he gave a great presentation. After all, not only is he an extremely interesting guy, he’s the epitome of a master networker. He has one of the most diverse group of contacts of anyone I’ve ever known, and his first book, Never Eat Alone, is a bestseller. After I read Never Eat Alone, I found myself constantly referring to it in conversation and recommending it to people. Who’s Got Your Back is just as influential, and I have no doubt that it’s on its way to becoming Keith’s second bestseller.

No matter what it is you want to achieve, building relationships with the right people–people you trust who will hold you accountable so you can’t fail–is the strategy for success. With this new book, Keith offers the blueprint for accomplishing any goal.  It’s a must-read for anyone wondering how to develop meaningful relationships through their networking efforts.  If you aspire to achieve more in business and life, Who’s Got Your Back outlines some imperative strategies to get to where you want to be.

To learn more about Who’s Got Your Back, click here.

Also, Keith is currently traveling throughout the U.S. promoting the book. If you’re able to catch one of his presentations, I can assure you that you won’t be disappointed.  You can find out the exact cities and dates of his book tour by clicking here.     

Ponder Pearls: Thought for the Daystring(34) "Ponder Pearls: Thought for the Day"

[NOTE: The link for this website is no longer valid.]

Last year I started writing for a great company called Ponders & Principles, which publishes a “Thought-A-Day” software program called Ponder Pearls, and I’d like to offer all of my blog readers a free Ponder Pearls subscription.  ivan-giftcard.jpg

Ponder Pearls can be installed on any personal computer, and each day positive, entertaining and inspiring thoughts are delivered to you via a small window that pops up on the bottom right corner of your computer monitor.  The program contains a remarkable array of categorized thought series ranging from content by bestselling authors such as Brian Tracy and yours truly to sacred world texts, and you can also choose from a variety of themes such as “innovators and entrepreneurs,” sports coaches and athletes,” “Founding Fathers of the U.S.” and many, many more.

Hundreds of excerpted thoughts from my books and seminars are included in the Ponder Pearls software, and I’m in the process of sending in even more of my content to be distributed daily.  When I started using Ponder Pearls last year, I was so impressed by it that I invited Alex von Allmen of Ponders & Principles to come present the software at the 2008 BNI National Conference in Orlando.  The BNI directors and members who attended the conference loved the Ponder Pearls concept; I’ve had many of them contact me since then and say that they love getting my networking content and the other daily thought series they selected delivered to them daily.

So I invite you to take advantage of the free subscription to Ponder Pearls that I’m offering.  Once you’ve used the software for a few days, I’d love to hear what you think of it. So feel free to come back and leave a comment.

Getting your free subscription is easy:

1. Click on the gift card graphic above.
2. Enter “bni” in the “Gift Code” field (under the blue Ponder Pearls logo banner).
3. Create your free Ponder Pearls account by following the prompts.

Enjoy this FREE service. If you have any questions, simply e-mail Erin@bni.com.  

Let me know what you think.

Three Keys to Successfully Using Written Testimonialsstring(53) "Three Keys to Successfully Using Written Testimonials"

We know what a powerful tool testimonials can be when it comes to building credibility and generating new business (see last week’s blog on this topic), but it’s also very important to know how to successfully use testimonials and how to ask for them.

First off, there are three keys to successfully using written testimonials:

1) Ask for testimonials at every opportunity.

2) Guide the content of your testimonials.

3) Update your testimonials.

So at what point in the sales cycle should you ask clients (or other contacts) for testimonials? This is a tricky question, but in general, ask for no testimonial before its time–which may be before, at or after completion of a sale or project,depending on your client, your product or service and your own needs.

Let’s say that one month before finishing a project, you call your client to ask how things are going. The client tells you that she’s very happy with the results and that her life or business has changed for the better because of your product or service. At this point, your testimonial detector should be pinging loudly. It’s the right time to make your pitch: “That would be a great thing for other people to know about my company. Would you be willing to write me a testimonial on your company letterhead by the end of the week?”

If the answer is yes, the next step is to coach your client in writing a testimonial that fits your needs. Ask her to tell why she chose to work with you, how she benefited from your products or services, how you solved a problem for her and what other people should know about your business. What things are most people concerned about when using a business like yours? Ask her to address those issues. Don’t be afraid to offer suggestions; you’ll make it easier for her to write an appropriate testimonial, and the results will be more valuable to you.

Finally, review your testimonial file or binder at least every two to three years to identify testimonials that are no longer valid or credible. Specifically, you may want to discard or refile a testimonial that:

  •  Is from a company that’s no longer in business
  • Is/was written by someone who has left the company
  • Represents a product or service that you no longer offer
  • Has begun to turn yellow with age or
  • Needs to be updated with new statistics from the customer

One more thing: Remember the law of reciprocity? It works here, too. If you want to motivate someone to write you a testimonial, write one for him or her first.

Ask for Written Testimonialsstring(28) "Ask for Written Testimonials"

Last weekend, my wife Beth and I were on a weekend trip. We wanted to go out for a nice dinner but weren’t quite sure where to go since we weren’t all that familiar with the town we were in. As Beth perused a local magazine for restaurant reviews, I logged onto the internet to search for the top-rated restaurants in the area. We settled on a steakhouse that was a more than a little bit out of the way and not so easy to get to. Why? Because the restaurant had phenomenal reviews both online and in the local magazine. That was enough to convince us we should take our business there because we were likely have a great experience.

So it is in business. Before people come to you for a particular product or service, they often want the comfort of knowing what others have said about you. Testimonials carry a level of credibility because they come from someone who has direct experience with your product or service. Consumers generally place more trust in a testimonial from another consumer than in a business’s own marketing message. They believe the average person is unbiased and has nothing to gain from providing a testimonial. Thie business stands to gain–or lose–everything, so its own words are seen as less trustworthy.

Have you ever asked a satisfied client for a written testimonial? I recommend making this standard practice for your business.

Written testimonials can be used in many ways to enhance your credibility and set you above your competition. Here are some key ways to use testimonials:

1. Place them on your business’s website. Some websites have them strategically sprinkled throughout so there’s at least one testimonial on each page. Others have a dedicated page where a browser can view several testimonials at once.

2. If your business attracts a lot of walk-in clients, it’s helpul to display your written testimonials, each encased in a plastic sheet protector, in a three-ring binder labled “What our customers say about us” or “Client Testimonials.” Keep this binder on a table in your reception area, where your customers can browse through it while waiting for services. It’s a good way to connect with your prospects and enhance your relationship with current clients.

3. Include testimonials with your business proposals. This works best if you have a wide variety to choose from; you can include a section of testimonials that are most relevant to a specific proposal.

If you make it standard practice to ask clients and contacts for testimonials, you’ll build your credibility and your business.

Be sure to check back next week ,when I’ll present the three keys to successfully using written testimonials and explain how to ask for testimonials.

Networking with Confidencestring(26) "Networking with Confidence"

You know, it continually amazes me how often I meet businesspeople who are at the top of their game in the business world, but who struggle with confidence when it comes to networking meetings.

How can these men and women–who are remarkably impressive performers in other areas of business–find networking so difficult?

It was this question which inspired me to make a new video, which you can watch here on yourBusinessChannel.com.

The truth is, there are a lot of reasons people struggle with networking. Sometimes it’s just confidence, but sometimes it’s organization or a lack of experience as well.

In the video, I give my Ten Commandments of Successful Networking, and I set out to give step-by-step practical guidelines covering everything you need to do to be a highly confident, successful business networker.

Here’s a little taste of what I recommend:

  • Teach yourself to listen and ask questions more. Be like an interviewer and ask questions that get other people to open up. A great networker has two ears and one mouth–and uses them proportionately!
  • Never push to close a deal at a networking event. Networking meetings are all about developing relationships with other professionals. They represent the beginning of a sales process, not the end.

Watch the video here for the remaining eight commandments.

How Do the Master Networkers Do It?string(35) "How Do the Master Networkers Do It?"

If you’re reading this blog, you’re obviously interested in networking. And if you’re interested in networking, then you’ll want to know about a fascinating international survey that was conducted recently.

Two thousand business professionals from all over the world were asked about their views on what contributes to social capital and what makes an effective networker. I discuss the survey results in my latest show on yourBusinessChannel, which you can watch here.

One of the most interesting things to come of the survey was a list showing the top 10 traits of successful networkers, ranked in order of their perceived importance to networking. The list clearly shows that successful networking requires a concerted effort over years to build social capital. It’s a long-term strategy.

Here are traits 10 through six (To hear the top five traits, watch the show here.)

10. Master networkers never miss an opportunity. They constantly busy themselves managing their contact database, passing on business cards, setting up meetings and whatever else they can do to work their network.

9. Master networkers are sincere, and they let other people know it by giving them their undivided attention when they are speaking.

8. Master networkers enjoy helping others whenever they can. This doesn’t just mean referring business–it’s the little things, too. Like helping someone move to a new office or sending on a news clipping that might be of interest.

7. Master networkers always thank people who have done something for them. They understand that showing gratitude is not only courteous, it cultivates relationships.

6. Master networkers are never off duty. Networking comes so naturally to them that they gladly seize every opportunity, whether it’s a networking meeting or the line at the grocery store.

Commit to Lifelong Learningstring(27) "Commit to Lifelong Learning"

Since practically no college curriculum in networking exists (despite its importance in the world of entrepreneurial business), you’re pretty much left to your own devices to find training in the art and science of this set of skills. The fact is, if you want to be a successful networker, you need to commit to lifelong learning on the subject of networking.

 

This may sound like a huge task at first, but it’s actually not as daunting as it sounds. The truth is, networking is something you can train for on the job–in fact, that’s the best way. By putting it into practice, you not only learn how to apply and fine-tune your approach, but you also build your business at the same time. In many ways, it’s less work and more fun than some of the traditional approaches to building your business.

What’s more, becoming a master networker is a journey, not a destination. You might reach the 29 percent of people who are truly connected by becoming a master networker, but that’s not the end of your efforts because a master networker is one who is constantly improving his or her skills and learning new ones. Now the challenge is to stay in the 29 percent and learn to secure your footing.

So in your never-ending journey toward peak networking performance, I recommend you do three things:

1. Keep reading.

There are hundreds of articles and dozens of books out there on networking, word-of-mouth marketing and referral marketing. I strongly recommend reading Bob Burg’s Endless Referrals, Susan RoAne’s How to Work a Room and The Secrets of Savvy Networking, Robyn Henderson’s Networking for $uccess, Bill Cates’ Unlimited Referrals, and Jan Vermeiren’s Let’s Connect. Some of my own books that will help you develop your networking skills are Truth or Delusion, The World’s Best Known Marketing Secret, Masters of Networking and Business by Referral.

2. Practice! Practice! Practice!

Find networking groups that believe in education as part of their regular meetings. If they help by guiding you, you can practice the networking ideas you are continuing to learn as you participate.

3. Seek out reputable training programs on networking.

I highly recommend the networking content on iLearningGlobal.tv, Brian Buffini’s referral training for the real estate industry, and the Referral Institute. Look also to your local business development and entrepreneur centers for workshops, experiential learning and in-depth training in networking and word-of-mouth marketing.

Lifelong learning continually sharpens and hones your skills. Would you trust the growth of your enterprise to someone who’s not skilled in one of the most effective ways to grow your business? Probably not. So take the initiative to continue your learning on the subject of networking by enrolling in a course, attending a workshop or reading the next book. Think about how the knowledge and skills you derive from these resources can continue to build and enhance your business by effective networking.

If you have a favorite educational resource on networking, please share it by leaving a comment.

Networking Lessons From Naturestring(30) "Networking Lessons From Nature"

Recently, when visiting our favorite Napa Valley winery, Chateau Montelena, my wife and I decided to take a tour of the agricultural side of the operation.  The vintner shared with us the technique the winery uses to ensure the quality of the juice from the grapes year after year after year regardless of the climate–a technique known as “dry farming.”

As he explained the benefits of dry farming, I began to see a business metaphor emerging for how referral marketing works for those businesses that understand doing business by referral.

When vineyards are dry farmed, they are not irrigated, dry season or rainy.  As a result, the roots of the vines must grow deep to get to the year-round underground supply of water, no matter the climate.  This reminds me of how we teach business owners to develop deep-water relationships between themselves so that they can support growth no matter the climate–the economic climate.

Doing business by referral truly is not about getting rich quick.  We want to be able to produce a bumper crop of referrals year after year after year regardless of the climate.

That is the gift of dry farming:  the stability of the juice’s quality.  Just like the dependability of Chateau Montelena’s wine, we feel that deep-water relationships ensure a dependability in our own business stability unavailable to the average business owner.

There is another metaphor from nature that helps to illustrate the strength of doing business by referral–that is the story of the giant redwood trees in Northern California.

The giant redwoods average a height of 85 meters or 250 feet!  You’d think that with such an amazing height they would also have a deep, deep root system.  But they don’t.  They actually have a fairly shallow root system, much like our California eucalyptus trees.  The California eucalyptus trees tend to blow over easily in heavy winds, but not the giant redwoods.

You see, the giant redwoods also use an amazing technique to remain upright when those around them fall.  They intertwine  their roots with the roots of their neighbor, thereby supporting one another when the winds come.  When one is under the direct pressure of the wind, the others help to hold it in place, not allowing it to succumb to the destructive forces of that wind.

Relationship marketing puts you in a similar position as those giant redwoods.  When you learn the intricacies of doing business by referral, you begin to metaphorically intertwine your roots with the roots of those with whom you are networking.  When the economy pressures one member, the others help hold him in place!

This is why networking and relationship marketing are so important–especially in a tough economy.

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