Don’t Do THIS at Your Networking Meetingstring(42) "Don’t Do THIS at Your Networking Meeting"

Imagine yourself sitting in an important meeting with your biggest client when you get a text message. Would you stop listening to your client and completely ignore them so you could respond to the text?

What if you got a phone call . . . would you stop in the middle of your presentation as you were pitching your most important customer about your newest product in order to answer the call? 

The answer to both questions is – of course you wouldn’t! That would be a blatantly rude move on your part, and it would put your most valued client relationship at risk.

So, why in the world would anybody even consider looking at their phone during a business networking meeting??

To be clear, a good reason for looking at it, picking it up, or using your phone in any way during any type of networking meeting does not exist!

One of the fastest ways to ruin your credibility and earn a reputation of being rude, unprofessional, and undeserving of referrals is to use your phone during a networking meeting. It virtually screams to your networking partners: I don’t care what you have to say because I have better things to do right now, and this meeting is unimportant to me.

If you want positive results from your business networking efforts, then that is the last thing you would ever feel about, or say to, anyone in your network. And yet, if you are using your phone during meetings with your referral network, I promise you–not only is that the exact message you are sending them, you’re also wasting their time and yours.

Click the short video for the story of what I actually heard during an online business networking meeting.

I couldn’t believe it!

Practice Active Listening

We all understand that there is a great deal of overlap between in-person and online networking. However, networking online only works when you are engaged during the entire meeting. You need to learn about your fellow members – their business, their best customers, and their target markets, so you will know how to recognize referrals that you can give to them. Effective networking and building strong business relationships both require active listening. To do that, you have to be fully engaged in every part of the meeting, giving all of your attention to whomever is speaking. Skip the multi-tasking, keep your focus.

Now, I do believe in taking notes. When someone mentions who a good referral would be for their products or service, and I immediately think of a person in my network, I’m going to write that down so I can follow up after the meeting.

Remember, great networkers go to networking events with the intention of building relationships. That means you need to be an active participant in the entire process to get any substantive results.

My recommendation is to check your phone one last time before your networking meeting . . . check that it is completely turned off and don’t turn it back on until you leave the meeting, whether it is in-person or virtual.
Remember, networking meetings and phones don’t mix!

Networking Is About More Than Just Talking Businessstring(51) "Networking Is About More Than Just Talking Business"

Many people think that networking consists only of talking about business and exchanging cards. That is a misconception, which is definitely part of it. However, it is not all of it.

In a networking group, you want to talk about more than just business with your fellow members. A referral relationship is more than, “I do business, you do business, let’s do business.” A much better approach is to find common ground on a personal level, make connections with other people, then talk about each other’s businesses.

The longer I’ve been involved in networking, the more I’ve seen the power of personal interests in making connections with potential referral partners. Successful networking is about building personal relationships. If you remove the personal part from the equation, you limit the amount of business that can happen.

The GAINS Exchange

Years ago, I developed the GAINS Exchange for BNI® members. The acronym stands for Goals, Accomplishments, Interests, Networks, and Skills. The idea is to have people share personal and professional information about themselves in those five areas to find overlapping interests or activities. For instance, if you and I have a common goal of completing a marathon, that gives us something more to talk about. We share both a goal and an interest, which opens the door to an engaging conversation and strengthens our connection.

In one BNI chapter I worked with when I was testing this out, there were two participants who had known each other for more than a year but had never done business with each other and really hadn’t made any connection at all. It wasn’t that they didn’t like each other; their businesses were very different, and they didn’t seem to have anything in common. They did not want to do the GAINS Exchange together. However, once they did, they found that they were both coaches for their sons’ soccer/football teams. They quickly became close friends and started helping each other conduct certain aspects of the soccer practices and shared coaching techniques.

Guess what? Within a few months after they started interacting on a personal level, they started passing business to each other. That’s right – they began referring business to each other. Two guys who had barely spoken to each other for a year because they had so little in common, ended up doing business with each other because they built a relationship over soccer, over football. Who would have thought that? I certainly didn’t, and yet when I saw the results, I knew that this was an essential business technique for people to build their business by referral.

Using GAINS Effectively

I recommend that BNI members use the GAINS Exchange every time they have a One-to-One meeting with fellow members. It is most effective to take turns – I talk about my Interests, both personal and professional, and then YOU talk about your Interests. Then I talk about my Accomplishments, and you tell me about yours, and so on. By doing it back and forth, you each have the opportunity to ask questions that allow you to discover your common interests. This is the foundation for a successful, mutually beneficial business relationship.


During your first One-to-One with another member, you may want to start with Interests first, which are often the beginnings of a relationship.

It’s okay to go out of order, as long as you each get to talk about all five of the GAINS topics.

 

 

Keep in mind that your GAINS Exchange information will need to be updated a few times each year. When one of your Goals becomes an Accomplishment, it needs to be noted. If you learn to speak Spanish, add it to your Skills section. Joining a Rotary Club is another Network on your GAINS profile. The most successful networkers meet with their fellow chapter members more than once, allowing them to find out what’s new.

  • Goals are how we help one another. It’s much easier to give referrals to someone when you know what they are trying to achieve
  • Knowing someone else’s Accomplishments lets you build their credibility.
  • Interests help us find common ground and build rapport.
  • Discovering each other’s different Networks lets us connect one another to diverse professionals.
  • Skills provide more credibility and open doors to doing business.

Business networking really is much more than simply telling someone what you do for work. It’s all about referrals. The goal is to build relationships with people that you know and trust. When you know and trust them, you are going to have the comfort to refer them to others and they will do the same for you.


By talking about more than just business with our potential referral partners, we find common, non-business interests that endear us to the other person. We move beyond salesperson and become a friend.

I’d like to hear from you. How has talking about more than just business helped you build your professional relationships?

 

 

 

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The Referral Gatekeeperstring(23) "The Referral Gatekeeper"

When I started my first business, I knew I wanted referrals to play a key part in my overall growth strategy. The only problem was I didn’t know exactly what I needed to do to accomplish that goal. So I joined some business associations, started networking more, and did everything I could to generate word-of-mouth marketing. I began to realize that I wasn’t the only one trying to get more sales through referrals. A lot of other business professionals were attempting to do the same thing.

It also occurred to me that the people I knew were different from the people the next person knew, who were different from the next person’s contacts, and so on. I might get a few referrals from my own network, but I could probably get a few more referrals from the other person’s network, and the ones beyond that, almost without limit.

Then I thought, “What if I became the hub?” If all the other people out there were trying to do the same thing I was, perhaps I could position myself as a type of gatekeeper between other people’s networks. If someone wanted to buy a new home and needed a real estate agent but didn’t have one in their own network, they would come to me and see whom I knew.

The Letter

I composed a letter that I sent out to my client and prospect list several times a year. Today you could send out a quick email to your database. However, I recommend that you send a hard copy in the mail at least once a year so you stand out from everybody else who is emailing your clients. This is a sample of my letter:

Dear________:

I really believe in the process of referrals, so part of the service I provide is to be sure to refer my clients and associates to other qualified businesspeople in the community.

Attached is a list of areas in which I know very credible, ethical, and outstanding professionals. If you’re looking for a professional in a specific area I’ve listed, please feel free to contact me.  I will be glad to put you in touch with the people I know who provide these services.

Sincerely,

Dr. Ivan Misner

 

It is important to note that in this letter that I just listed professions (areas of expertise); I didn’t list names and phone numbers. I wanted my clients to contact me so I could personally put the referral and the contact together, so I could build business relationships through being the go-to guy. I didn’t want to become a glorified phone directory. I wanted to become known as an effective networker, and that would only happen if I made the connections myself. 

The result was that others would ask someone on my client list, “Whom do you know who does XYZ?” If they didn’t know anyone, then they would send that person to me.

How Did It Help My Business?

  1. It encouraged me to continue building and deepening my relationships with others, even if I didn’t think they could help me right away. Our natural tendency is to nurture relationships with those we feel can help us the most. Yet the fact is, we never know who another person knows, so we should take every opportunity to build relationships with the people we meet. Bob Smith might not be a good referral partner for me, but he could be ideal for Jane Doe, another person I know.
  2. Becoming a gatekeeper had a positive effect on my credibility. I wanted to be the go-to guy in the business community–the person others came to if they needed a referral for anything. This meant that I would be deepening relationships with people I might not otherwise have gotten to know. Since people do business with people they like and trust, who do you think got their referrals when they needed someone with my products and services? . . . Yep, me!

I mailed the letter four times in the first year. I didn’t get a single reply until the third time. After that, the floodgates opened and I got responses every time I sent it. I gradually cultivated a reputation as a gatekeeper by doing this and I no longer had to send out my letter several times a year. People came to see me because they heard I knew a great number of businesspeople in the community.                    

It is hard to understate the importance of becoming a gatekeeper for anyone seeking to grow a business with word-of-mouth marketing. It’s a strategy that gets people to contact you for a referral, and it also opens a dialogue with people about what your business is all about and how you can help them. This leads to more business with existing clients as well as new business with prospects.

When you’re networking, make an effort to build relationships with people who may be good referral partners for others in your network, and try to connect them with each other. A gatekeeper holds the keys to help others AND grow their own business. I believe that if you do this consistently, you’ll get more referrals in the long run.

Doing the Right Thingstring(21) "Doing the Right Thing"

In business and in life, we all face occasional dilemmas where it seems like the only option is to abandon doing what we know is the right thing because we feel like we don’t have a choice. However, there is always a choice. Even when doing the right thing involves making yourself uncomfortable and being willing to put yourself in a position you don’t want to be in, it’s still the right thing. That’s important to remember because we each must live with our own decisions.

I really believe that sometimes you’ve just ‘gotta do what you’ve gotta do’ in order to stay true to what you know is right. 

Years ago, when I taught as an adjunct faculty member at a university, I found myself in a predicament where the higher-ups were trying to force me to break my word and go back on a commitment I had made. It was a very uncomfortable situation that put me in a position where my job was on the line if I didn’t do something that I felt was wrong.
I share the story in this video and am glad to say I have no regrets in how I handled it.

 

 

I believe you always have to do the right thing. I made a commitment and followed through with that commitment. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do if you think it’s really right. I hope that sharing this story helps others think about the importance of doing the right thing even when it could result in losing something that means a lot to them.

The Hard Path is Easier

A few years ago, I was at a meeting of the Transformational Leadership Council (TLC is a group made up of trainers and “thought leaders” helping to transform people’s lives) and I heard Steve D’Annunzio say something in his presentation that really resonated with me. It was in his discussion about taking the easy path or the hard path in the decisions that we make throughout life.

He said, “taking the hard path often makes life easier and taking the easy path often makes life harder!”

 

I related that to my own experience as a college student stocking shelves on the night shift at a grocery store while I was finishing up my bachelor’s degree. It was a good paying position at the time that helped me pay my living expenses, however I knew I did not want it to be my career. Even then I believed that sometimes You gotta do what you gotta do to get to do what you want to do.  I learned many lessons in that job that served me well along my path to building a global enterprise. It wasn’t easy at the time, but it was part of what helped me get to the life I enjoy. 

It also relates to what I teach people in business. I’ve used this phrase for years: “It’s not net-sit or net-eat, it’s net-work!” If you want to be successful in your networking efforts, you have to work the process consistently and regularly. Some people will nod their heads in agreement and then continue to only go through the motions of business networking, refusing to do the hard work necessary to create a powerful network.

The irony is that those are usually the same people who later say this “networking” thing doesn’t work for them, and they continue to struggle in business. They take the easy path, and business continues to be hard. Conversely, I’ve seen many people who truly work hard in their networking efforts and invest their time in building deep relationships.  These are the people who consistently see great results over time. What seems like hard work at first leads to things being easier for them later.

 

I think this is something we all struggle with from time to time . . . doing the right thing when it’s not so easy to do. Yet, it is our choice. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do to get to do what you want to do. And I want to do the right thing.

 

 

 

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Follow The Platinum Rule for Networking Successstring(47) "Follow The Platinum Rule for Networking Success"

Most people have heard of The Golden Rule, commonly known as “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” While it is a good principle to live by, it does not necessarily help you in business networking or referral marketing.

Instead, I recommend that you consider implementing what Dr. Tony Alessandra calls The Platinum Rule® in your networking efforts.
Treat Others the Way THEY Want to Be Treated.

It is unwise to assume that people are just like us and want to be treated in the same way we prefer. Referral marketing relies on strong relationships, and what better way to develop a relationship then adapting how you treat someone to their wants and needs? To network effectively, you need to use the Platinum Rule with your referral partners, AND with the people they refer to you.

 

Three People Involved in a Referral

There are three people involved in a referral and all three need to be considered when deciding how to implement the Platinum Rule.

  1. You. How do you work best? What are your strengths and weaknesses? Have you identified your own behavioral style? Understanding your style will help you adapt your approach with others.
  2. The referral source. How does this person communicate best, and how do they like to be communicated with? How do they like to be treated? If you want someone to pass a referral to you, you must communicate with them in a way that they appreciate and are receptive to.
  3. The prospect. What is the potential client’s preferred method of communication? What sales techniques are most effective with this person? If you expect to get closed business from the referrals you receive, you must be willing and able to communicate effectively with the prospects in the way they prefer.

What it comes down to is that a networker’s greatest asset is their ability to be adaptable. You must always be willing to accommodate the people you are striving to develop relationships with – their comfort is much more important than yours.

Understanding Behavioral Styles

Understanding the four different styles of behavior is an excellent way to gain knowledge about how to adjust your sales and marketing program to the style of communication most comfortable to the customer. It is also beneficial to determine how to best connect with your fellow networkers. All clients and all networkers prefer communication in a manner that is most familiar to them. Knowing their personal behavioral styles helps you customize a sales or networking approach for each unique individual.

In the book Room Full of Referrals which I co-wrote with Dr. Tony Alessandra and Dawn Lyons, we offer insight into the following four different behavioral styles:

Go-Getters: Driven, Bold, Decisive, Strong Desire to Lead

Promoters: Energetic, Outgoing, Fun-Loving, Positive, Talkative

Nurturers: Patient, Helpful, Understanding, Sentimental, Reserved

Examiners: Effective, Efficient, Thorough, Research-Oriented

When you pay careful attention to the behavioral characteristics of others, you will improve how you communicate with them by effectively adapting to their style. Strive to accommodate the behavioral style of your referral source when you’re working them, and of your prospect when you connect with them. If you seek to find out how people want to be treated and then treat them that way, you can establish a smooth-running referral relationship that can help your business grow. 

You Don’t Know Who They Knowstring(30) "You Don’t Know Who They Know"

If you belong to a networking group that focuses entirely on your preferred target market, chances are you’ll be in a group of people who are a lot like you. Is that a good thing? Not necessarily. A group that consists of lots of people who are like you tends to hang out together and is likely to have many of the same contacts that you have. This limits the size of your network and the diversity within it. Of course, it is good to have some people like you in your group, and it is important to have people who are not like you as well. It is a mistake to assume that someone who is in a totally different industry or social group or market than yours can’t possibly know anybody you would like to meet and do business with. You don’t know who they know.

Even when you share a target market with many other professionals in the group, you can’t really tell from the roster how effective they will be as referral sources. You have to be in the group a while before you learn who they know and how likely they are to pass along good referrals. This information is often shared in open networking before and after the chapter meeting in conversations such as: “Tell me about some of your favorite clients.” “Who do you like working with and why?” “What kind of work do you like to do best?”  It takes weeks, sometimes months, to develop the kinds of relationships that bear fruit–and until then, you don’t know who they know.

Similar People Have Similar Contacts

Groups that are built primarily on a social model tend to be homogenous. It is simply human nature for people to cluster in groups according to age, education, income, profession, race, neighborhood, religion, social status, etc. Hanging out with people similar to ourselves makes it easier to carry on conversations, share similar experiences, and compare notes. It typically does not expose one to new experiences or new points of view, and it certainly provides very few opportunities to open new avenues in business or marketing.

I’ve come across many people who want to form business-to-business networks. They think, I’m after this market, so therefore I need people just like me all around me. So who do they get? They get people who are just like themselves. This includes people in businesses that are very similar to their own, who may not want to share their databases with others. It can also include some people who have the same kinds of contacts, oftentimes even the exact same individuals. Creating a networking group with such similar people for the purpose of generating referrals is usually very ineffective.

Networks tend to form naturally among clusters of people who are like each other and who know each other to varying degrees. Your friends tend to be friends with one another. However, if you want a powerful network, you obviously want different contacts and different kinds of contacts. 

Diversity is Key

Diversity is key in a referral group, and not only in the classic sense of diversity–race, gender, religion, ethnicity–but diversity in types of businesses, too. I’ve met people who didn’t want to join a referral network because there was a painting contractor in the group who came to the meeting wearing overalls. The fact is, painting and other contractors often have great contacts. You don’t know who they know – whose houses they are painting or working on and what kind of connections they’ve made.

A diverse set of personal contacts enables you to include connectors or linchpins in your network. Linchpins are people who in some way cross over between two or more clusters or groups of individuals. They have overlapping interests or contacts and can easily and naturally link your group with other group, creating shortcuts across ‘clumps’ of people. The strongest business networking groups are those that are diverse in many ways. They are the ones that tend to have the most linchpins.  A master networker strives to become a linchpin between as many networks as possible.

 

I believe that it is important to build a diverse network of professional contacts that include people with different interests and backgrounds. The only thing that they need have in common with you and the other people in your network is that they should be really good at what they do.

Remember, you don’t know who someone knows until you get to know them.

Ten Commandments for Business Networking

Ten Commandments for Business Networkingstring(40) "Ten Commandments for Business Networking"

It amazes me the number of people I meet who are at the top of their game in the business world, and yet they struggle with confidence when it comes to networking meetings. I wonder how they find networking so difficult when they are remarkably impressive performers in other areas of business.

The truth is, there are a lot of reasons people struggle with networking. Sometimes it is just confidence, and sometimes it is a lack of experience, organization, or time management.

This led me to create my Ten Commandments of Successful Networking. These are  step-by-step practical guidelines covering everything one needs to do to be a highly confident and successful business networker.

 Ten Commandments of Successful Networking

  1. Do Not Sell to Me. If we are trying to help one another get more business, you tell me your target market, I tell you my target market and when we are out in the world, we speak well of one another and refer one another. Do not try to sell to me – I’m your referral resource; you can sell through me to get to the people that I know. If I need your product or service, I will certainly call upon you. Don’t sell to me; build a relationship with me.
  2. Understand the Law of Reciprocity. If I am sending business to you, please keep me top of mind. Giving me a new client is the best thank you I can receive, and I will continue working to find referrals for you when I know you appreciate me. The Law of Reciprocity is part of social capital theory and in BNI® it is our principle core value – Givers Gain. If you help me, I’ll help you, and we’ll all do better as a result.
  3. Do Not Abuse Our Relationship. Sending me a bogus referral just to use me, my expertise, or my resources for free without asking permission first is the fastest way to lose my respect. Mutually beneficial referral partnerships are built on trust.
  4. Always Be on Time. If we have arranged a meeting to get to know one another and strategize how we can refer business to each other, don’t be late. I dedicated this time in my schedule FOR YOU, and I respect you enough to be on time. I expect the same. Don’t reschedule our appointment unless it is absolutely critical.
  5. Be Specific. Specific Is Terrific! Tell your referral partners, in a laser sharp way, how to refer to you. If you tell me your target market is “anybody” or “everybody,” that means nobody to me. The more specific you are, the easier it will be for me to find referrals for your business.
  6. Take Your Business Seriously. As your networking partner, I need to know your intentions. If your company is a hobby business, it will be difficult for me to assist you. If it is a part-time business, you are limited in the time you spend working on your business, and also in the time you have working to find referrals for me. However, if you’re working your business part-time with a goal of making it full-time, I am there for you,100%. You must be 100% in your business in order for your networking group to feel comfortable referring you.
  7. Follow Up on Referrals. When I send you a referral for potential business, please follow up with that prospect in a timely fashion– ideally within 24 hours. If you’re going out of town or will not be available for some time, a quick call, text, or e-mail to the person to let them know when you will be available will preserve your credibility AND protect my reputation in recommending you to someone I know and care about.
  1. Communicate. If I do something that upsets you, inadvertently send you a “bad” referral, or cause you to have ill feelings toward me, please communicate with me as soon as possible. I may not be aware that I have caused a problem for you. If you tell me, I can try to fix it. Referral networking is about relationships. Clear, open, honest, and direct communication is the best way to build effective relationships with referral partners.
Ten-Commandments-for-Business-Networking
  1. Protect My Reputation. Most people would rather die than risk their reputations. If I receive disparaging or derogatory feedback from a referral that I sent to you, it is as though you cut me off at the knees. Please do what you say you will do and live up to the ethical standards of your profession. Protect my reputation (and yours) by doing a good job.
  2. Prepare for Success. If you really want to grow your business, then prepare to receive more business. Does your current business plan include the next steps for your company’s growth? I will move mountains for my networking partners to ensure they get referrals on a consistent basis. 

Understanding and following these recommendations as a regular part of your business networking practices can help new and seasoned professionals network successfully. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

 

 

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In Business Networking, Desperation is Not Referablestring(53) "In Business Networking, Desperation is Not Referable"

People want to do business with people that they know, like, and trust. Business networking is all about relationships, and successful networkers know that they need to get to know potential referral partners by investing time with them.

However, there are some people who are desperate to make a sale and think that networking is an easy way to get new customers. When people demonstrate certain behaviors as part of their networking efforts, it is a tell-tale sign of desperation.

I have identified four behavior types exhibited by desperate networkers.

The Card Dealer

This is the most common form of desperation that I’ve seen over the years. The Card Dealer is a person that darts around the networking event handing out their business cards like they are the dealer at a poker table. They don’t spend time really getting to know anyone unless they think they can get something from them. To the Card Dealer, networking is mostly a numbers game. The more people they can pass their cards to, the better they’re doing (or so they think). Card Dealers tend to have a personal network that is a mile wide but an inch deep because they don’t spend time building relationships. It never works in the long-run and they just look inexperienced, frazzled, and yes – desperate.

The Space Violator

This is the person who thinks that the closer they get when they are talking to you, the more you’ll be interested in what they are saying. Not true. In fact, it has the opposite effect. Which brings the question: what is the right distance to stand from someone without getting into their personal space? The answer varies based on the cultural standards of the country you are in. In North America, it’s common to have conversations at “arm’s length” with people that you meet at a networking event. In my experience, that distance is often less in some countries around the world. 

The Premature Solicitor

This is the person who confuses networking with direct selling. They meet you and immediately go into sales mode. They want you to do business with them without asking any questions about you, your business, your interests, or even your name. To this person, everyone is a target, and every target is a dollar sign. These people are the reason why many individuals don’t like to go to networking events because they feel pursued and uncomfortable by people soliciting them for business. 

The New Best Friend

Following-up with people you meet at a networking event is important. But be a professional – not a stalker. The New Best Friend is the over-eager seller you meet at a networking event  who calls you, emails you, messages you on social media, and tries to become your New Best Friend in the space of a few days. Generally, they’re not really trying to help you – they simply want to sell something to you. Granted, they may want to sell something to you because in their mind – it’s only to “help you,” however, it’s never really about you. It’s about what they want from you. Desperation oozes from every attempted contact they make with you.

 

Remember that networking is more about farming, than it is about hunting.

Keep  these behaviors in mind when you go to networking events and whatever you do – don’t demonstrate these behaviors yourself. Desperation is not referable.

Target Markets, Contact Spheres, & Power Teamsstring(51) "Target Markets, Contact Spheres, & Power Teams"

Everyone who is in business wants to do well. Successful entrepreneurs and professionals understand the importance of a strong network to help their business grow. However, building a strong network is an investment of time – time to build relationships and time to educate fellow networkers about what you do and who are your best customers.

There is also the investment of time in ourselves; we need to be really clear about our own target market which will help us identify our Contact Spheres, and then help us to strategically develop our Power Team.

Target Markets

What is your target market? Most simply defined, it is the specific set of clients whose needs you are trying to meet with your business. Instead of trying to sell to everyone, focus on those people who have the greatest potential to need or desire your products and services. When you try to be everything to everyone, you end up being very little to anyone.

Many people struggle with identifying exactly what their target market is and are often too general when talking about it. A good starting point is to have a clear understanding of who your ideal customers are. Look at your past sales to identify the types of clients that are the best fit for what you want to do. Most businesses have a couple of specific target markets for the services or products they provide.

Contact Spheres

A Contact Sphere is a group of business professionals who have a symbiotic relationship. They are in compatible, non-competitive professions. For instance: event planner, caterer, photographer, florist, and travel agent. I recently talked with my good
friend Tom Fleming, who has been involved with BNI® since 1996, about Contact Spheres and Power Teams. He shared his definition of a Contact Sphere:
Those companies in non-competing industries that serve the exact same target market that you have, which means their client list is a list of potential customers for you, too.

Tom said he thinks that the concept of Contact Sphere is a noun. It’s that list of industries that don’t compete with you but serve that same target market. And a Power Team is that Contact Sphere in action. So, he thinks of Power Teams as a verb.

I also view them as concentric circles, where the Contact Sphere is all the potential people that you could be working with, and the Power Team is the people that you are actually working with. 

Power Teams

A Power Team is a group of people that are in complimentary professions. They work with the same client without taking business away from each other. How do you build your Power Team? The first step is to get to know the people in your Contact Sphere and get to know their industries. Begin to build a mutually beneficial relationship with them. It’s important to find out as much as possible about these potential referral partners so that you can send them the type of business they are looking for. You can find a list of 10 questions to ask your Power Team partner here.

Successful Power Teams recognize that they need structure – preset meeting days, times, and locations – at least twice a month, with an agenda for the meeting. They have accountability and engagement, too. Are people showing up to the Power Team meeting and are they participating? Are they engaged in proactively generating referrals for other people on the Power Team? Effective Power Teams also have leadership and communication. Tom shares a link to a Power Team meeting agenda in BNI Podcast #775.

Start with defining a target market to be able to give your referral partners a mental picture of the best customer to refer to you. Then identify all of the professions and industries who share that target market, and who are not your competitors, to build your Contact Sphere. A Power Team is where you put the Contact Sphere to work. You work together with intention and commitment, to help each other by identifying referrals and connecting those referrals to fellow Power Team members.

Are you part of a Power Team? I’d love to hear your success stories.

 

 

 

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Why Do Businesspeople Help Others?string(34) "Why Do Businesspeople Help Others?"

There are only a few basic ways to inspire people to care about your business and help you build it. Basically, it comes down to relationships and rewards.  

Some people, typically family or friends, will want to help simply because they like you and want you to do well. They are motivated by the relationship itself.

In most other cases, the long-term motivation for people to want to help you and your business is not based solely on whether they like you. Business partnerships, including referral relationships, almost always include some type of mutual reward, typically in the form of financial or social gain. Both you and your networking partner have something to gain, and you are both willing to help each other achieve it.

Some people are motivated by the potential for business referrals you can give to them, while others are motivated by the prestige and opportunities created by having a relationship with you. Regardless of the underlying motivation behind them, business networking relationships can take some time to reach profitability in a substantial way. However, they are certainly worth cultivating. Ultimately, strong relationships will steer opportunities back to you because of the nature of networking itself.

Referrals are Not Reciprocal

I remind networkers that there isn’t a rule that says, “For every referral you give, you can expect one in return.” When you give more referrals, it does not mean that others will automatically do the same. It just doesn’t work that way in referral marketing.
A referral is not always reciprocal.

Effective business networking is about strong and deep relationships with your referral partners. Professionals who focus on giving first and asking, “What can I do to help you?” rather than having an attitude of “What’s in it for me?” usually find more success in their networking efforts.

I believe that most relationships will prove rewarding in the long term, even in cases where you don’t receive referrals in return. There are a few extremely successful people to whom we send referrals and who never reciprocate with a referral back to us. We’re motivated to continue helping them because they will work with the people we refer to them. That makes us look good, as it is often difficult for the average person to start a working relationship with these very successful, very busy professionals.

Additionally, if we refer someone, it opens a door that might never have otherwise opened. The new person that we are referring to our very busy friends or associates is the one who now goes out of their way to reciprocate. That becomes our motivation for helping our networking partners achieve their goals. And, in true Givers Gain® fashion, it usually winds up coming back to us in some way or another.

The Philosophy of Givers Gain

Givers Gain is not only a great way to get business, it’s an even better way to do business. These are some of the motivations that fit with the philosophy of giving.

  1. We give because we understand that in a community, what we do, others will do, and we all benefit.
  2. We give because we know that in the same situation others would do the same for us.
  3. We give because we want to give back where we have profited before.
  4. We give because when we work together, we get bigger and better results than working on our own.
  5. We give because we enjoy it.

A key element of giving is having ethical motivation. You can always give once and justify your motivation, however, giving over and over again requires a motivation that is understood by you, and by the people you surround yourself with.

Remember, in business networking, successful referral relationships are mutually beneficial with both parties being motivated by some type of reward that helps them, and their business, grow.
Can you think of some way that you have benefitted because of caring about others’ businesses and helping them achieve their goals?  

 

 

 

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Are Networking Referrals a Coincidence

Are Networking Referrals a Coincidence?string(39) "Are Networking Referrals a Coincidence?"

When it comes to business networking, “luck” is where persistence meets opportunity. There is no coincidence about repeat referrals. Those referrals come about because of the everyday activities that successful networkers consistently do to build strong referral relationships. Although it can’t be measured as easily as tracking cold-call ratios – the results are dramatic and almost never coincidental.

A misconception occurs when someone focuses on the referral rather than on the relationship that produced the referral. This leads people to the wrong conclusion that the result was coincidental. Networking is not about luck. It is about relationships.


It is unlikely that one single person is going to turn a business around or have a dramatic impact on a company’s success. However, by building relationships with a diverse group of professionals, over time those combined relationships can make a significant difference in one’s business success.

In this video, I share the story of a networker, Chris, who regarded the referrals he received from his fellow members as “chance occurrences” and failed to understand that they were the result of his relationships within the networking group.

Focus on the Relationships

As you heard in the video, Chris’s challenge was two things: repeatability and understanding. His training told him that the way to get more business was to target a certain kind of customer by calling a demographics-based list. If he didn’t have enough business, he needed to make more calls. How many more? He could figure that out, too, because the amount of business he got was directly proportional to the number of people he talked to. It was a repeatable process that he fully understood.

On the other hand, clients he got from referrals always had a story line that he couldn’t see being repeated. Sally knew Jim, who ran into Sue, who happened to be in his group and referred Chris the business. This led him to conclude that the results were coincidental and couldn’t possibly be repeated.

The reason that he focused on the referral and not the relationship is because he didn’t understand the process of building effective and profitable relationships. This led to his conclusion that all the referrals from his networking group, and the subsequent new clients he gained from them, were simply a coincidence.

His reasoning wasn’t entirely off track, as far as it went. If you focus on the specific people who gave you the referral, rather than the process and relationships that allowed it to happen, then you couldn’t consistently get more business from networking. Or to put it another way: Sally knowing Jim, who runs into Sue and ultimately gives Chris a referral is probably never going to happen again in exactly that way. Yet, if you step back and ask, “Is it possible that somebody will know someone else who’s looking for my services and will then give me that referral?” It’s a whole other story—especially if you focus on building relationships so that there is always a “somebody” in your network who knows you and what you do.


Networking with a Net

Referral networking is a lot like catching fish by casting a net. Each fish comes to the net by a different path; each has a “story” that is not repeated. You don’t focus on a particular fish and then try to get it to come to the net. Instead, you focus on the action of setting the net. You know that consistently setting a net will provide fish, regardless of what path they take to get there.

The same is true for getting referrals. The process of meeting people, staying in touch, and then asking for business is something you can do time after time. You don’t have to worry about how a specific referral got to you, because you understand the process of setting your net.

Here’s the best part: Just as with fishing, your net – your network can be working for you all the time. You don’t have to be there whenever somebody you know runs into someone else who could use your product—which means you can be “fishing” in many different ponds simultaneously and reaping the rewards of new business referrals on an on-going basis.

Remember, the fisherman concentrates on the action of casting the net, not the individual path of one fish that swims into it. If they based their success on that one random fish, they could conclude that it was a coincidence.

There is no coincidence about the referrals gained through successful business networking. Your networking results are the inevitable cumulative result of the day-to-day activities related to relationship building and an indication that the system is working. Consistent referrals happen because you’ve laid the groundwork through mutually beneficial, professional relationships.

Perfect Practice Makes Perfectstring(30) "Perfect Practice Makes Perfect"

When it comes to business networking, practice alone is not enough. It must be effective practice. Simply attending meetings and going through the motions will not improve your networking or help you grow your business.

For those to whom networking doesn’t come easy, it is imperative that you continue striving to perfect your networking skills. The saying “practice makes perfect” comes into play here, but not how you might expect because that saying is only half true.
In actuality, only perfect practice makes perfect.

I once heard a music teacher tell their students, “Lousy practice makes a lousy musician.” The same is true for business networking. You can practice day in and day out networking the wrong way, and what will happen is you’ll get really good at incorrectly networking. 

Lessons From Martial Arts

In martial arts, the sensei (master) says, “Perfect practice makes perfect.” If you’re just going through the motions, you are not learning and growing. Each time you do a kata (a system of basic body positioning and movement exercises in karate), it must be done as though you were in a tournament, or as though the sensei were there observing you. It is only with that intensity of focus does one improve. The same applies to your business networking efforts. If you apply the techniques halfheartedly, you get less-than-acceptable results. 

Practicing the skills necessary to become a good networker is important. However, would-be networkers cannot expect to become master networkers by doing things in a perfunctory way, without commitment and effort.

Consider the short weekly presentation you make when you attend networking groups or various other organizations. Many people go to their meeting unprepared and unrehearsed, having only a vague idea of what they will talk about. While other members give their presentations, the unprepared person isn’t listening. They are thinking about their own upcoming presentation and how to say what they need to say. When their turn comes, they often stumble through an amateurish and marginal presentation. Yes, they practiced, but it was far from perfect practice, and the results prove it.

Lessons From Teachers

Do you think teachers wing their lesson plan? The better teachers set goals and objectives for what they want their students to learn. They spend time planning exactly what they are going to talk about in class. They prepare visual aids and handouts that reinforce the subject matter and facilitate learning from their presentation.

I recommend that, as a businessperson, you have similar goals and objectives. Ask yourself: What, exactly, do you want your listeners to learn about your business that they can pass along to prospects to create a possible referral for you?

If you are vague about your lesson plan, if you are unprepared to stand and deliver, your potential referral partners are going to leave the meeting without a clear idea of how to refer you to the people they know. You need to practice delivering your message. Standing up and winging it is not going to get you what you want. You must practice it perfectly to achieve your networking goals.

Business networking success comes with time and effective practice. You can do a review of your networking attempts and presentations with yourself or with a close business confidant after the meeting or event. What strategies did you use? Did you make a lasting impression on those you interacted with? What worked and what can you improve upon?  Perfect practice is a commitment – to you and your business.

How has practice improved your networking skills and your results? I’d like to read your comments below. Thank you.

 

 

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