Enrolled, Not Soldstring(18) "Enrolled, Not Sold"

I know many people don’t like being “sold to.” And many businesspeople really dislike the feeling of having to “sell” others on their products or services. They may have a great product, a great idea, a great service, and yet they have a hard time communicating that to the prospective client or customer. My friend, Conscious Communication Coach & Speaker, Scott deMoulin, says we should think of it as enrolled not sold, because our goal is not to sell someone the facts, features, and benefits about what we do. We want to enroll them for their needs and wants with our services and products as their solution.

Often people will engage in a version of premature solicitation when they try and push the sale before they have built a relationship. We must remember that the foundation of the relationship is trust. Stephen, M.R. Covey, author of “The Speed of Trust,” said that when trust exists, the speed of business goes much faster, and the cost of business is reduced dramatically. And the opposite is true; when trust isn’t there, it’s more expensive to advertise and market, and then business slows way down. Trust is a critical ingredient in sales; it is a force multiplier.

Overcome Fear with Preparation

Whether someone is going to be speaking from the stage at an event, speaking in front of fellow members at their business networking group, or getting ready to talk with a prospective client, they need to prepare. Preparation can help alleviate the anticipation, anxiety, or fear about doing something they don’t feel ready for. When you prepare yourself for what you’re about to do and you prepare for any possible change in the upcoming conversation, fear doesn’t have to be an emotional response.

Scott says it is typical to feel adrenaline, the fight or flight energy that happens when you get ready to go on stage. The question is, how do you interpret that energy? One person interprets it as fear, and they freeze. Another person interprets it as excitement, and they know they’re now ready to go. When you’ve done your preparation, if you know the anatomy and syntax of a good quality speech, and you have a mind-map so you don’t lose your spot, it’s very easy to overcome that fear. Change the meaning of the fear and change the outcome.

The One-to-Many Approach

For successful business networking, you want to get to know your referral partners – the members of your networking group. You begin to build relationships with them during the regular group meetings and through individual one-to-one meetings. At your weekly chapter meeting, you want to educate your fellow members and explain what it is that you do. You are not going to the meeting to sell, you are there to educate them on how to identify a potential referral for your business outside of the weekly meeting.

I recommend that you share stories that talk about the impact your service or product has for clients. Andy Bounds calls this “the Afters”. What does someone’s life or situation look like after you do what you do? How do they feel after doing business with you?

At some point, you may decide that you want to add more business opportunities and communicate one-to-many through a lunch-and-learn event or a podcast. These are great ways to reach many people at one time. If you can educate rather than sell, if you can ask great questions instead of just telling what you do, you’re going to have better engagement and more enrollment for your products and services.

When you can leverage yourself by talking to multiple potential customers at a time, that’s working smart, not hard.

Avoid This Mistake

One of the biggest mistakes professionals make when enrolling clients is trying to sell the facts and features to someone. That is not why people buy. Through education, sharing the trends and latest information about your industry, and understanding their needs and wants, you build trust in the relationship to be able to ask. Don’t tell, don’t sell – ask for their reasons rather than giving them yours.

 

Remember, referrals are really about enrollment as opposed to selling. You want to position yourself as an expert, not a salesperson.

I’d like to hear your thoughts, share them below. 

Don’t Reinvent the Wheelstring(26) "Don’t Reinvent the Wheel"

As businesspeople and networkers, and even in our personal lives, we often make things harder than they need to be. In the business world, there are endless opportunities to learn from the successes and mistakes of others who have ventured into the entrepreneurial waters before we did.  There is an abundance of tried-and-true techniques – for communicating, for sales, and general business practices. In fact, there are so many that some of them seem too simplistic to truly be effective.

So, what do we do?
We re-evaluate them, we “improve” upon them, and we overcomplicate them. Possibly worse, we sometimes just abandon the old way and try to start over from scratch. Yet all we succeed in doing is making things harder than they really are.

Often, we think we are smarter than those who came before us. Maybe our egos prevent us from listening to those who have more experience. The trouble with reinventing the wheel is that it exposes us to the danger of history repeating itself.

One of the biggest mistakes that people in business and in sales make is not listening to those who have experience. For some reason, they assume that they themselves know better . . . and the truth is, they don’t. There is nothing like experience; it beats education every day of the week. The only thing better is a combination of education and
experience . . . or a willingness to learn from other people’s experiences.

Avoid the Danger Zone

These are three common warning signs that you may be falling into the danger zone of reinventing the wheel or repeating work.

  • Instead of solving a problem, you invent new features to cover it up.
    First, it is poor customer service to add features to try and distract from a known issue with a product or service. Instead of wasting time coming up with new features on an old issue, invest the time to investigate the old issue and make minor changes on existing features to elevate the whole product.
  • When something with a history doesn’t work perfectly, you think it might be easier to start over.
    Without a doubt, there is always a reason why things got to where they currently are. Instead of erasing all the work of those who came before you, do some research. Talk with your predecessors and learn about the motivation that led to the choices that created the current situation. Chances are you will discover the core problem and be able to make strategic moves to target the issue, rather than completely starting over.
  • You forget that the wheel you’re thinking about reinventing is a common wheel that many businesspeople are faced with.
    Is your wheel unique to you? Or is it something that others in your profession are dealing with? If the latter, it is highly possible that many other people are also working to reinvent that wheel right now. Perhaps it is a standard business practice in your field that simply doesn’t work. Instead of putting forth resources, such as time and money, to tackle it on your own, do research to find out if there is a group in your field that is already exploring the issue. If you are working to forge new paths at the same time others are trying to do the same thing, it’s likely that you could work more effectively as a team and avoid wasting valuable resources.         

Simple Ideas Can Have a Big Impact

There are many basic sales techniques that a successful salesperson knows to be effective. They don’t look for something more complicated or involved because they know from their own experience, and from the experience of others, what works in sales and what doesn’t work. If you’ve read my book, Masters of Sales, you may have read things that seemed too simple to be effective, or you may have read ideas that you’ve heard before. Instead of being dismissed, these tactics and ideas should be embraced. Truly successful networkers and businesspeople learn from other people’s success. They remember that it is often the simplest ideas which have the biggest impact.


We can learn from others’ mistakes and avoid dooming ourselves to make the same bad decisions. We can also learn from others’ success and utilize their knowledge and experience so that we don’t reinvent the wheel.

Is there a simple lesson you have learned from another businessperson or fellow networker that has helped you achieve success? 

 

 

 

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Networking Education in Business Groupsstring(39) "Networking Education in Business Groups"

I think that all networking groups, as well as other types of professional business organizations, can benefit from regular networking education moments at their meetings.

I personally think one of the greatest volunteer positions in a BNI® chapter is the Education Coordinator role because you have an opportunity to pour into people about the things that you’ve learned. Especially for those who have served on the chapter’s Leadership Team and had some advanced training, or if you listen to the BNI Podcasts, and if you read books on business networking (I’ve written several), you can share helpful information to help all members of the group.

I designed the BNI Podcast episodes to be easily utilized as networking education moments for business professionals. They can be presented as a short summary, highlighting two–three tips or best practices. The transcripts, or portions of them, can be copied and pasted to a digital or paper document to hand out to all members and guests at the meeting. You can also play a short clip to emphasize the topic.

Immerse in a Culture of Learning

I once had an BNI Chapter Education Coordinator say to me, “I am in a chapter where the members just aren’t listening to the podcasts. And we, the leadership team, recognize that for a chapter to be successful, everybody’s got to be working off the same playbook, we’ve got to be together as a team.”

He told me his solution. The very first week in his role as the Education Coordinator he stood up and said to the group, “I basically have two choices as Education Coordinator, and I’d like your opinion on what you’d like me to do. One, you can let me know the topics that you’d like me to talk about, and each week I’ll do a short lecture on that topic. I’ll pull material from BNI podcasts, Ivan’s books, his blog, and I’ll talk about that content for you directly. Or two, we can have a dialogue. We can share ideas on what works and what doesn’t work. Which one of those two would you prefer?” He said he knew what the answer would be, and they all said, “Dialogue, please. We want to talk.”

He then told them, “Great, I was hoping you would say you wanted a dialogue. So in order for us to have an informed dialogue, we have to do the reading. We’ll take topics that you would like to talk about, I will assign a podcast, or a blog, or some material, for you to read or listen to on that topic for the next week. And if you have listened to the podcast, or read the material, you can talk. 

If you haven’t listened to the material or read it, you can’t join the discussion. And we’ll know that you listened to it or read it because you’re going to have to quote something from it. For example – Dr. Misner said this and that on the podcast, or his guest, so-and-so, made this point. But if you haven’t listened to it, you can’t talk.” And they all agreed to do it.

How did it work? Well, because the members knew that they couldn’t be part of the dialogue unless they read or listened to the material, they went from a chapter where almost no one listened to the podcast on a weekly basis, to having almost 100% participation!

This is a great way to get engagement while sharing information that will help the membership in the group and out in the business world. It is a fantastic way to help the chapter immerse in a culture of learning.

The truth is, if everyone listens to or reads the material, and then you spend a few minutes talking about it, it’s so much more real. It is much more engaging than simply sitting there listening to a lecture. And actively participating in a discussion helps people retain the information better, making it more likely that they will use it in their everyday business networking activities.

Being Right Doesn’t Matter if Nobody is Listeningstring(51) "Being Right Doesn’t Matter if Nobody is Listening"

My career has involved working with business professionals and franchisees, teaching them how to coach and guide entrepreneurs, salespeople, and other professionals to generate referrals for themselves and others. I realized early on that entrepreneurs often resist being told what to do and it takes a real skill set to move them in a direction that involves hard work and the effort necessary to help them achieve the results they want.

I found that one of the biggest challenges in this process was not with the actual entrepreneur or salesperson; it was with the individual I was coaching to help them guide the entrepreneur or salesperson. These people had gone through many hours of training, had a fair amount of field experience, and had support manuals loaded with documentation to assist in the process. They were the true experts.  

However, I discovered that sometimes expertise can actually be a problem. Just because your expertise provides you with the knowledge to recognize the solution to a particular challenge, it doesn’t mean other people are going to automatically believe that you know the solution or that they want you to even tell them the solution.
Being right doesn’t matter if people aren’t willing to listen to you.

Being an Expert

So, let’s say you’re an expert. You know you’re an expert and you know you can help someone else. You also know that this “someone else” runs their own business or is an independent sales rep who chose their specific career path for good reason . . . they like the freedom of being independent. 

How do you help move those people in the right direction for greater success?

Years ago, there was a person who worked for my company who visited one of our chapters and was appalled by how badly things were being run by the members of the group. She let them know in no uncertain terms what they were doing wrong and how they needed to turn it around. Her assessment of the situation and the solutions she proposed were spot on, however, her presentation about them was all wrong. She was so blunt with the group’s members that she received an extremely negative reaction and ended up leaving the chapter in an even bigger mess than it was when she first walked in.

When I met with her to talk about how she might have done things differently, she was furious with me for not supporting her because she was right, and the members of the group were wrong. I didn’t argue that she was right–she was. The problem I had was how she handled the situation–in that area, she was completely wrong. I tried to explain this to her, emphasizing the reminder: don’t make things worse than you found them when you were trying to fix them in the first place.

She never really grasped the concept that people may not welcome her advice with enthusiasm and agree with her stance on an issue just because she was right. She didn’t work for me for much longer. Eventually, we did get an expert to work with that group who listened to them and their issues. He built relationships with the group members, and then coached them into achieving the greatness they had within them. It is important to note that this process took time and patience. Listening to them first built the necessary trust and understanding for them to listen to him later.

Two Things to Remember

  1. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

If you want people to listen to you when you are coaching them or re-directing them, they must know that you care about them. They need to believe that you sincerely want them to succeed. If they don’t know this – they will never listen to your advice.

  1. Diplomacy is the art of letting someone else have your way.

This is a saying on a paper weight that my mother gave to me when I was 14-years old while I was running an uphill battle for a high school student council race. When she gave it to me, she explained that I had to learn how to work “with” people, not “through” people. She said that it is all about collaboration, not manipulation, and she told me that even if I did know the answer to a problem, it did no good if nobody else believed me. 


That advice helped me win the student council election and it has helped me numerous times throughout my life. Sometimes I don’t use it as well as I can – however, when I do use it, things almost always go more smoothly. By the way, that paper weight still sits on my desk to this day.

Yes, expertise is important; systems and processes are important. Equally as important is our understanding that we have to apply them in a way that shows we care.

Successful leaders coach and guide people on the ways to get them where they need to go. Those leaders help others improve their performance by supporting them through training and mentoring. They know that being right doesn’t matter at all if nobody is listening.

The Difference Between “Can’t Do” and “Won’t Do”string(60) "The Difference Between “Can’t Do” and “Won’t Do”"

I often get questions from leaders of business networking groups about what to do with a member who doesn’t participate. The member is not actively engaged, whether it’s that they are not bringing visitors, or passing referrals to others, or helping on the chapter’s mentoring or support team.

Ask the Question

My first suggestion is that the leaders of the group have a conversation with the member and ask this question: “How can we help you?”

It’s very important to begin by asking that question because if you go to a member and start criticizing them for not participating, they just get defensive. Instead, use this very powerful technique: ask how you can help them do XYZ more effectively.
It is powerful because when you ask how you can help them, they will inevitably give you one of two answers. They will give you a can’t do answer or a won’t do answer.

The person will either explain why they are having difficulty with the situation because they don’t know how to address it effectively, or they will answer in a way that illustrates that they don’t really want to do this for some reason or another.

The “Can’t Do” Answer

This story comes from my own experience with a BNI® chapter. The member was a printer who received many referrals from the group, however, he gave very few referrals to other members. We asked him, “How can we help you bring referrals?”

His answer was, “I am really struggling with this. I am having a hard time finding referrals because I don’t usually have much of a conversation with my clients other than the printing job they bring to me. They say, “I need 1000 copies of this flyer next week,” and then they leave. I don’t know if they need a CPA or a florist. I don’t know what is going on in their lives because I don’t have that kind of dialogue with them. I am struggling. I want to bring in referrals. I just don’t know how to do it.”

That is a classic “Can’t Do” answer. They want to help and participate more; they just don’t know how. When someone says they can’t do something, they are open to being coached. It is our responsibility to help those people, to teach them. Remember, we have all been a “can’t do” at some point, especially when we first started networking.

To help that printer, we recommended that he put up a board in his shop with multiple copies of each of his fellow BNI members’ business cards. Customers would pull a business card from the display and ask him, “What do you know about this person? Are they really good?” He replied, “Oh yeah. I see them every week. They’re very good.” The printer became the leading referral giver in his group. He went from a “Can’t Do” to a CAN DO, and he did it well.

The “Won’t Do” Answer

The “Won’t Do” people are a real problem in networking groups. They understand that they are not performing – and they have plenty of excuses about why they aren’t willing to do what needs to be done. When you say to them, “How can we help you bring in more referrals?” they typically say something like, “It’s really difficult for me in my profession to be able to give referrals to the people in the group.” Their excuses include they are busy… it’s too difficult… I’m different… my business is different… They are a “Won’t Do”. They are just not going to do it. It becomes obvious that they are only there to get referrals and they are not willing to give referrals for whatever reason.

My suggestion is that you open the door for them; give them a graceful exit opportunity. It is amazing how many people will remove themselves if you simply say, “It’s okay if you step down if this isn’t for you at this time. It is okay to step out and come back later when it’s more convenient.” You’d be surprised at how many people say, “I probably should step down and leave the group.” Giving them the option to leave in a positive manner allows them to save face.

If they don’t take the opportunity and want to stay because they are getting referrals, the chapter leaders need to sit down with them to explain that for their membership to continue, they must contribute back to the chapter. Whether it is bringing visitors, referrals, or supporting the group in some way, they must participate. You need to help them understand that they have to contribute within the chapter; they need to be a giver, not just a taker. At that point, they still might choose to leave the group, or they may step up and become a contributing member. Either way, it is their choice.

The concept of members being a “Can’t Do” or a “Won’t Do” applies in networking, and it also applies in management and in general business terms.
Some final thoughts:
> stay positive and solutions focused
> support people who really want to be there
> help people move out of the group who are only there to get and not to give

 

Have you experienced something similar in your networking group? Perhaps you were a member who benefited from the chapter’s help and guidance. Share your thoughts in the comments.

 

 

 

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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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