Where Does Your Business Come From?string(35) "Where Does Your Business Come From?"

Where does your business come from? In a survey of roughly 4,000 people at the BNI.com website, roughly 73 percent of the respondents said that they get most of their business from networking and referral activities. Only 12 percent get most of their business from advertising and less than 10 percent get most of their business from cold calling!

What I find amazing about this is that most colleges still focus on courses on advertising, and most big companies still train their new salespeople how to cold call! Despite that, most entrepreneurs and salespeople (according to this survey) don’t get the majority of their business from these two methods.

Where do you get most of your business from? Comment here on this blog and take the survey (and others) at this LINK.

Get Your Networking Program Off the Groundstring(42) "Get Your Networking Program Off the Ground"

It’s often been said that “starting is the hardest part” of a project. Well, building your business through networking and word-of-mouth marketing for your business is no exception.

Here are four things you can do to get your program off to a strong start:

1. Don’t be a cave dweller: Get out and meet people!
2. Know how to ask for the referral. Learn and develop specific techniques that will help you hone your ability to ask for the referrals you want.
3. Consciously select at least three business or networking groups to join in the next three months (chambers of commerce, community service groups, trade associations, strong contact networks such as BNI, etc.).
4. Develop a creative incentive to encourage people to send referrals your way (If you’re a music store owner, for example, you might send music tickets to people who refer business to you).

The bottom line is: Get out there and make diverse contacts, be specific in your approach, and help others in creative and enthusiastic ways–so they’ll want to refer you business!

Why Do You Network?string(19) "Why Do You Network?"

I have a series of surveys on networking up at my company website. One of them asks, “What is your primary objective for networking?” I have to admit I’m a little surprised that 75 percent of the responses were for “new business” (see below). I would have guessed that would be the largest percentage, but I didn’t expect it to be that high.

I understand that most entrepreneurs and salespeople network to some extent for all three reasons (new business, education, career advancement), but I didn’t realize that most networked primarily for new business.

What are your thoughts about networking for new business, education or career advancement?

Entrepreneurs, Stay in Your Flamestring(33) "Entrepreneurs, Stay in Your Flame"

While attending the Kuala Lumpur Global Networking Conference for BNI in Malaysia last week, I heard a presentation that really resonated with me. The presentation was given by Penny Power, founder of Ecademy.com. Penny is not only an extremely knowledgeable and successful entrepreneur but also a good friend of mine.

Penny’s presentation focused on the concept of entrepreneurs “staying in their flame.” She explained that an entrepreneur’s “flame” is where he or she is the most passionate and excited about his or her business and where he or she truly enjoys what he or she is doing. When an entrepreneur is in his or her flame, work doesn’t really seem like work and the entrepreneur perceives his or her tasks as effortless. If entrepreneurs are able to focus on the aspects of business which keep them within their flame, it allows them to achieve their best.

On the flip side, Penny explained that entrepreneurs  can get caught up in aspects of business that don’t come naturally to them and that they aren’t good at. Working their way through such tasks takes away their energy and leaves them exhausted and devoid of passion. Entrepreneurs  stuck in this situation are “working in their wax,” and they are not nurturing their full potential or doing what will allow them to thrive.

The solution to this problem is that “your wax is someone else’s flame.” In other words, your weakness is someone else’s strength, someone else’s passion. As your business grows, the key to staying in your flame is to delegate the things you don’t like or aren’t good at to employees who actually enjoy doing those tasks and are great at them. Learn to recognize what kind of work keeps you in your flame and what kind of work keeps your employees in their flame because, as Penny says, “flamework” is infectious!

Achieving Excellence in a Networking Groupstring(42) "Achieving Excellence in a Networking Group"

During a recent interview, I was asked what my thoughts are on why my networking organization, BNI, has become so successful. Well, I’ll be the first to admit that success didn’t happen overnight. It took me 23 years, and a lot of bumps along the way, to learn what it takes to operate a successful networking group anywhere in the world. But as I told the interviewer, I attribute BNI’s success to some key steps that are sure to move any networking group toward achieving excellence. I’d like to share some of them with you here:

1. Education, education, education. Take advantage of the staggering amount of resources on networking that are available. Some examples are:
SuccessNet archives, networking articles at Entrepreneur.com, networking books, Audio CDs, etc., etc.

2. Choose quality business professionals to join your networking group. Don’t take the first person with a pulse and a check.

3. Follow the system! When a system is proved to be successful, there is a reason it works. Don’t reinvent the wheel.

4. Pass quality referrals. The only thing more important than passing a lot of referrals is passing quality referrals. Both are important, but quality must lead the way.

5. Attendance is key to a group’s success. Networking groups that have poor attendance always end up having problems down the road. Have you ever gotten a haircut over the phone? Of course not. We’ve learned that you cannot get or give referrals if you don’t show up.

6. Pick great leaders! Don’t settle for who’s willing, but select who’s best! Leaders can make or break a group. It happens all the time.

7. Keep positive people with a solutions-focused attitude in your group. OK, here’s another way to say it–move out the constant whiners! Some people complain as though there were an award for it. Replace them. Find people who focus on building something great rather than complaining as though it were an Olympic event. Seriously, why accept mediocrity when excellence is an option? People, just like water, tend to seek the path of least resistance. The problem is that the path of least resistance may not be the best path. If you expect the best from your fellow networking group members, you will get it. If you expect less than the best from your members . . . you will get it. Expect the best. You’ll get better results, really.

After all, if following these steps could build BNI into an organization with more than 5,000 thriving chapters in more than 36 countries, then I’d say it’s worth giving them a try!!

I ‘Absolutely’ Refuse to Participate in a Recession!string(64) "I ‘Absolutely’ Refuse to Participate in a Recession!"

Last month I wrote a blog article headlined: “I Refuse to Particpate in a Recession.” It clearly resonated with many entrepreneurs. A lot of people posted responses to this blog with a clear understanding of how to apply this idea. There were, however, some who e-mailed me directly with a bad case of the “Yeabut Syndrome.” It goes like this, “Yea but” Ivan, things are different for me or different in this area or different in this business or different in my situation or different in my alternate universe, etc., etc.

Sometimes I feel like saying to these people, “Yes, you are different than the people I am talking about. You will fail; they will not” (oh, sorry, gotta remember–must keep that as internal dialog).

I’ve been through three recessionary periods in my business. I don’t need a crystal ball; I have history. Here’s what my history tells me: People with a strong network will survive and even thrive during downturns in the economy. I’ve seen this repeated over and over. Here’s how it plays out in my networking organization, BNI .

[Cue music and fade away to a vision of the past].

The first three to four months of all the past recessionary periods, membership tends to slow. Not as many people join. They say things such as, the economy is bad, I can’t afford it, things are different in my universe, etc., etc. Then something amazing happens. People start to realize that they better do something and do it quickly! They finally recognize that a recession is here and their business is going to “hell in a handbasket” right before their eyes. At this point, the magic happens. They get “networking religion.” They realize that they better get out of their cave and really, really network to build their business and that they’d better do it quickly. Then we start getting more and more people trying to join the organization (some can’t join because they waited too long and their profession is already taken)!

[Cue music and fade back to today].

So here we are today. It looks like we are in the beginning of an economic downturn. You have a choice to make. Are you going to wait six months, like many of the people I’ve seen in the past–or are you going to take control of your business and get a head start on your networking efforts? Only the strong, smart, and “networked,” suvive a recession.

You still have time to start and/or improve your existing personal network. If you’ve been active in networking, now’s the time to get back to basics and reintroduce yourself to the fundamentals. If you’ve done some networking but need to really expand it, take yourself to networking school. Immerse yourself in materials that will help you. Here’s a good place to start for almost 80 free articles on networking: Entrepreneur.com Networking column archive. If you haven’t done much to build your personal network, what are you waiting for? The recession to be over? By that time, your business will be over! Start now!

There’s an old Chinese proverb: When is the best time to plant an acorn? The answer is 25 years ago. When is the second best time? The answer is today.

So, share with me–what are you doing to improve your network today?

Customer Service Alone Won’t Ensure Referralsstring(51) "Customer Service Alone Won’t Ensure Referrals"

This past weekend I found myself explaining BNI to the father of one of my son Trey’s friends. After I gave him the basic rundown, he said, “That sounds like a great concept. But I’m known for giving excellent customer service, so I don’t really think I need to go out of my way to get referrals.”

I wasn’t at all shocked to hear him say that because I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard others assert that giving good customer service will guarantee that people will refer business to them. This is a common misconception, but it is not based on reality.

Many, many business owners believe that good customer service is the number-one way to cultivate word-of-mouth marketing and referrals. It’s not. It’s a good policy–one that’s vital to the health of your business–but it’s not at the core of building a referral-based business.

People have come to expect good customer service. In fact, they demand it in today’s marketplace. When considering customer service and its role in the referral process, it unfortunately works much more effectively in reverse: People are more likely to talk about your business when they’re unhappy with you than when they’re happy with your service.

So if you want to build your referrals, as I told the man I was speaking with on Saturday, you have to actively cultivate your referral sources and not rely on good customer service alone.

 

Sales Quenchersstring(15) "Sales Quenchers"

I recently became aware of a new sales training system called Sales Quenchers that I am very impressed with. Since networking and sales go hand in hand, I think this program will be an extremely beneficial resource for many entrepreneurs and salespeople eager to hone sales skills and increase sales. I’m always keeping an eye out for new and different resources that can help take business to the next level, and Sales Quenchers is the first system I’ve come across that is fully trackable and provides both online and mobile, on-demand sales solutions. This is great because no matter where you are, provided you have the appropriate technology at hand, you have instant access to advice from 25 of the world’s top business and sales experts including Brian Tracy, Zig Ziglar, Bob Burg and… OK, I’m now on it, too.

I strongly encourage anyone involved in sales to visit the Sales Quenchers website and browse through the pages. I don’t doubt that you’ll be as impressed as I initially was (which is why I chose to become involved with the program).

I Refuse to Participate in a Recession!string(39) "I Refuse to Participate in a Recession!"

Many economic gurus are saying the “R” word …. recession.For the most part, the U.S. economy has been strong and business has been good for the past decade.However, the economy goes through cycles. Even if we don’t see a full-blown recession, business is slowing for many people.

Unfortunately, every time the economy takes a downturn, the fallout is felt strongly by salespeople, business owners and professionals alike.Successful business professionals learn from the past.For some, this will not be our first recession.

So what did we learn from previous economic downturns?In the early ’90s, right in the middle of a nasty recession, I was at a business mixer in Connecticut meeting many local business professionals.It seemed that everyone was feeling the crunch from the slow economy.Throughout the entire event, the favorite topic of discussion was how bad the economy was and how things were getting worse.The whole affair was depressing because nearly everyone was obsessed with the problems of the economy and its impact on his or her business .

I was introduced to one of the many real estate agents attending.Given the decrease in property values in the state, I was leery of asking this gentleman the standard “How’s business?”question.He shared with me, though, that he was having a great year.Naturally, I was surprised and asked, “You did say you were in real estate, didn’t you?”
Yes.”
“We are in Connecticut, aren’t we?”
“Yes,” he said with a slight grin.

“And you’re having a good year?”I asked.

“I’m actually having my best year ever!” he said.

“Your best year!”I said in amazement.

After thinking for a moment I asked him, “Is this your first year in real estate?” “No,” he replied with a laugh. “I’ve been in real estate for almost 10 years.”I asked him how he was doing so well, given the conditions of the economy and the stiff competition.He reached into his pocket and pulled out a badge that said:

I AbsolutelyRefuse to Participate in a Recession!

“That’s your secret?”I asked.”You refuse to participate in the recession, so business is booming?”“That’s correct,” he said.”While most of my competitors are crying the blues about how bad business is, I’m out drumming up a ton of business networking with my contacts and generating referrals.”

Considering what he said, I looked around the room and listened in on people for a whileas they complained about how bad business was.While nearly all were commiseratingwith one another, I concluded that very few were actually networking and working on seeking new business.As a result, very little business was actually being accomplished.If you want to do well in business, you must understand that it does absolutely no good to complain to people about tough times.When you complain about how bad business is, half the people you tell don’t care and the other half are glad you’re worse off than they are.

While you cannot control the economy or your competition, you can control your response to the economy.Referrals can keep your business alive and well during an economic downturn.During the last recession, I watched thousands of businesspeople grow and prosper.They were successful because they consciously made the decision to refuse to participate in a recession.They did so by developing their networking skills and learning how to build their business through word of mouth.

Don’t let a bad economy be your excuse for failure.Instead, make it your opportunity to succeed.While others are looking at the problems, those of us looking for opportunities will not only get through a bad economy but will prosper.

Taking a Poll of Your Audiencestring(30) "Taking a Poll of Your Audience"

Many times, as I am speaking to entrepreneurs all over the world, I will “poll” the audience for answers to some questions. It is a simple tactic that gives me a ton of great information. Asking questions of my audience gives me stats that can be very useful. For example, I’ve found that almost 90 percent of the entrepreneurs I’ve talked to love their work, but only about 15 percent enjoy doing the marketing it takes to get that work.

This type of information can be very powerful when I use it in my presentations. In fact, I was speaking with Dawn Lyons (a director with BNI and a Referral Institute franchisee), recently, and she described a poll she did at a  Behavior Styles training event in Wisconsin. A participant was telling her how his boss always receives referrals “on the spot” from brand new clients, and how that strategy has never worked for him. He was actually wondering whether something was wrong with him.

Lyons decided to poll the audience. She asked, “How many of you have been taught that you should meet with a client, close the deal and then on the spot ask them for additional referrals?” The answer was a resounding yes from the crowd. Then she broke it down to this: “How many of you have been incredibly successful with this approach?” Not one hand was raised in the audience. Her next question was, “How many of you have been moderately successful with this approach?” Again no hands were raised. “How many of you have had a decent amount of success?” No hands again! “OK, how many of you have had at least one person give you referrals on the spot?” Finally one gentleman, a sales consultant, raised his hand out of the entire group.

Dawn turned to the original gentleman who asked her the question and simply stated, “It’s not you. See, many times we are taught techniques that simply don’t work for the majority. Maybe your boss is fantastic at it because he has 25 years of experience. Maybe it is because he works from 100 percent referrals.”

So you see, polling your audience is a great way to collect information instantly and even be able to give a great lesson from it. Try using it in your next presentation.

The Levels of Referralsstring(23) "The Levels of Referrals"

A BNI member asked me the other day if it’s possible to learn to distinguish the difference between weak referrals and quality referrals. The answer is YES. Below are the things to consider in distinguishing between weak and strong referrals.

There are varying levels of referrals, starting at a level that’s just one step above a cold lead. These types of referrals are ranked in quality from lowest to highest. Number one is the lowest-ranked type of referral (the least desirable) to give and receive, and number eight is the highest (most desirable). You can use the referral level rankings below to help distinguish quality referrals from weaker ones.


1. Names and contact information only: Getting the name and contact information from a referral source is better than nothing—but not much.
2. Authorization to use name: This indicates you’ve established good credibility; however, the work of developing the prospect still rests with you.
3. General testimonial statement and/or letter of recommendation and introduction: This is a noteworthy accomplishment, and it demonstrates that the referral source trusts you.
4. Introduction call: This takes the effort on the part of the referral source up another notch and paves the way for communication from you.
5. Note or letter of introduction, call and promotion: This implies an even higher level of commitment on the part of the referral source. It is an outright recommendation of your business accompanied by a description of its features and benefits.
6. Arrange a Meeting: Here your referral source is acting as a facilitator for you. This conveys to your prospect that your referral source has a deep trust in and approval of your business.
7. Face-to-face introduction and promotion: Your referral source is now actively engaged in selling your product or business, rather than just being a meeting facilitator.
8. Closed deal: After your referral source has described the features and benefits of your product or business, he then closes the sale. This is the highest level of referral you can achieve.

Graphic Designers Love a ‘Logo-Ectomy’string(50) "Graphic Designers Love a ‘Logo-Ectomy’"

I am absolutely convinced that some people believe a logo can be changed on a whim! I was reading another blog recently and came across some interesting comments about my company, BNI. The graphic designer said on her blog (referring to BNI), “…the organization is wonderful, they do great work, but their logo is SO ’80s… really needs to be punched up and brought into the new world!”Of course, since the company started in 1985, she made an assumption that the logo was done in the ’80s. It wasn’t.  It was designed in the mid ’90s, with a minor revision around 2002 [and a major revision to the “overall” branded look again in 2011 by an international graphic design company].  Her comments really got me thinking about some other major brands and their logos, some of which haven’t changed very much or at all for almost 100 years!

Take a look at some of these logos: Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Disney and IBM. These babies haven’t changed for many, many, years. Talk about “so ’80s“…what about ’60s? Anybody for ’50s, ’40s… or turn of the century.

Coca-Cola

You see, the secret to branding is not about being pretty, sexy or modern; it’s about credibility and identity. Within my company, BNI, we have been building a brand for more than two decades. When I started the company in the early ’80s, we had an entirely different logo. I made changes every couple of years until I learned about the need to be consistent, to establish a brand and leave the logo alone!

McDonalds

We adopted what we use now in the mid-’90s with that minor revision in 2002 and a major revision in 2011.  It is currently a registered trademark in almost three dozen countries! To change the logo and branded look “again” would be a major undertaking, not to mention a great way to dilute my brand recognition in all those countries. That is exactly what you do when you mess with your logo…Coca-Cola knows this, McDonald’s knows this, IBM and Disney know this. Changing a logo for an international company is not just changing brochures and signs. It involves major trademark issues with international repercussions.  Most graphic designers don’t fully understand what a monumental undertaking it is to change or alter trademarks globally.  It is very, very complex, time consuming and expensive.

Disney

You see, there is a difference between being up-to-date with your marketing materials and changing your main identity in the marketplace. Most people have their own opinions about what looks good and what doesn’t look good. All I know is that when people see a company’s logo, they are going to immediately identify with that company. That is the goal of branding with a logo. I’m not talking about an unprofessional logo; there are some logos that NEED to be changed for many reasons. But when you are talking about a company with a logo that has worked in dozens of countries around the world–well, the logo might not be a real problem. Making changes just to “update” the look is not good business unless there is an important reason to let people know that it is a new and improved company–new management, new focus or new mission. Barring that, it’s a bad idea, and experienced graphic designers (especially those with global brands as a client) know that.

IBM

Oh, sorry, I’ve got to take a call…a web designer thinks I need to revise this website!

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All brands, product names, company names, trademarks and service marks are the properties of their respective owners.

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