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.

 

 

 

Related Blog Posts:

Is Your Network a Mile Wide But an Inch Deep?

Is your personal network deep or shallow? Chances are, it is…

READ MORE

Do six things a thousand times

In this classic video, I talk about productivity and setting priorities. This Ivanism..

READ MORE

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. 

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.

 

 

 

Related Blog Posts:

The Power of the VCP Process®

The Power of the VCP Process®

The VCP Process is the foundation of everything I teach about business…

READ MORE

Followup System

The 24/7/30 Followup System

Today’s topic comes from Dr. Misner’s book Avoiding the Networking…

READ MORE

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.

 

 

 

Related Blog Posts:

Building Up Your Power Team

How do you increase the number of referrals your networking contacts are helping pass…

READ MORE

Developing Your Target Market

In the second edition of my book “Networking like a Pro”, I share…

READ MORE

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?  

 

 

 

Related Blog Posts:

The Power of the VCP Process®

The VCP Process is the foundation of everything I teach about business networking…

READ MORE

Networking is more about farming than it is about hunting

Over the years, I have observed that most business professionals go…

READ MORE

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.

 

 

Related Blogs and Podcasts:

Networking – the TRUE Definition

A recent Google search for “what is networking” provided almost six billion results!…

READ MORE

Episode 565: LCDs in Your Weekly Presentation (Classic Podcast)

The LCD in the title does not mean “liquid crystal…

READ MORE

Exceptional Performance is Not Achieved by Looking for Exceptionsstring(65) "Exceptional Performance is Not Achieved by Looking for Exceptions"

Throughout my business career I have been reminded countless times that exceptional performance is not achieved by looking for exceptions. There are numerous people who want “great” results but don’t want to put in “great” effort. I truly think that if people spent half as much time focusing on the fundamentals of success in the areas they are interested in – they would get twice the results that they are currently getting. Instead, I see way too many people searching for ideas and then arguing with people about what works (especially with people who have already achieved success in that area).

Taking Exception

I once read an article by a friend of mine who was talking about Tony Alessandra’s Platinum Rule (treat people the way ‘they’ want to be treated, not the way ‘you’ want to be treated). The piece was well written about Tony’s material. Then I saw that some guy posted a comment saying this was a horrible idea because people don’t always know what’s best for them. Really? That seemed crazy to me but in case I was overreacting, I checked out some of this guy’s other writings. I looked at his comments on other people’s posts and he was ALWAYS the guy taking an opposing position. He disagreed with virtually everyone about virtually everything. I then looked at his original posts and discovered he was a total loser! He clearly jumped from business to business and didn’t appear to be successful at anything. The best thing this guy seemed to do was argue about everything; he seemed to be an expert at taking exception to other’s views.

Results Without Effort?

Shortly after I read my friend’s article about the Platinum Rule, I received an email from a person who had visited some BNI® networking groups. They wrote me to say:

“I am interested in how I can provide my extensive list of contacts to a local networking group without having to attend the weekly meetings… we can [only] attend once a month to a meeting… but we still [want to] adopt the group’s ethos and principles of such a well-structured program.”

That request got me to thinking…
I’d like to win the Tour De France, but I don’t like all that peddling.
I’ve always thought it would be amazing to win an Olympic medal but come on, is all that conditioning really necessary?
I would have liked to become a medical doctor but, can I do it without all the blood and internal organ stuff?
I would love, really love, to be a military General – but boot camp? Seriously, do I have to do boot camp?
And most coveted of all – a Nobel Peace prize. That would be so amazing! But must I change the world in some important way? Surely, there must be something less I can do and still get the same results – right?

If only wishing made it so. But it doesn’t. 

Looking for exceptions to what’s been proven to work seems to be the norm for many people. However, those who are constantly searching for exceptions to validate their reasons why the disciplined hard work that has made others successful won’t work for them, will, in my experience, only find one overriding truth–the exceptional people who have achieved success through consistent, disciplined action are, in fact, the only real exceptions to the norm.

I’d like to know your thoughts. Feel free to share your comments below.

 

 

Related Blog Posts:

Yeah, But I’m Different

An old friend of mine, Don Osborne, shared with me some material…

READ MORE

IMG_2_Opt-2

Why You Shouldn’t Always Follow the Golden Rule

What I’m about to tell you will seem….

READ MORE

Crucial Conversations

Crucial Conversationsstring(21) "Crucial Conversations"

Most of us have heard the phrase “It’s not so much about what you say, it’s more how you say it that really matters.” I learned the hard way how true that phrase really is. Conversations can be tricky–especially when one or more of the people involved are upset.

When I first started BNI® in the mid-1980s, there were only a handful of chapters while the organization was in its very beginning stages, and it was still small enough that I was able to make personal visits to chapter meetings. One day, I got a call from a chapter president who asked if I would come to their next meeting and offer some insight into how they could improve because they were having some challenges keeping their networking group running smoothly and effectively.

I was happy to help however I could, so I went to their next meeting, sat back, and observed. When the chapter president called me to the front of the room and asked me to offer my feedback, I stood up and began to go over my list of suggestions and changes they should make to improve their effectiveness. Suddenly, one of the chapter members raised her hand and said, “Excuse me but who in the heck do you think you are, sashaying in here and telling us everything you think we’re doing wrong?!–You don’t know anything about us!”

Respond or React

How did I respond?  I didn’t respond . . . I reacted. I went with my gut reflex, which was to defend myself, saying that I was the founder of the organization. I tried in vain to argue that my points were valid and that they needed to listen to what I had to say if they wanted to improve. The way I handled it was completely ineffective because, in a heated situation where somebody was obviously very upset and already convinced I was the enemy, I had no strategy for guiding the conversation in a positive, solutions-focused direction.

That day, on my commute back home from the meeting, I spent the first twenty minutes fuming about how rude the woman was to me. I had gotten up early to drive over to their chapter meeting, taking time out of my day to go above and beyond to help them! In the privacy of my own car, with my blood boiling, I drove through traffic flaring my nostrils, vehemently muttering several choice words (which I will not detail here) while I verbally bashed them for being so ungrateful.

Then I started to calm down and think about how I might have handled the situation differently and it was during that same car ride that I came up with BNI’s corporate policy on customer support and handling customer complaints. Here are some of the points from that policy.

Important Points

  • Remember–people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
  • Listen and let them talk.  Then . . . listen, listen, listen.
  • Ask questions.  Then . . . listen!
  • Acknowledge the information.
  • Understand their complaint and ask how you can help.
  • Follow up.
  • Thank them.
  • Remember–diplomacy is the art of letting someone else have your way.  Be diplomatic!

Some years later, I came across the book, Crucial Conversations, which teaches people how to prepare for high-stakes situations, transform anger and hurt feelings into powerful dialogue, create situations where it is safe to talk about almost anything, and to be persuasive not abrasive.

Some of the tactics and strategies in the book were right in line with what I outlined for BNI’s policy on dealing with tense situations. It also has additional tactics that are immensely helpful for ensuring that whatever it is you are trying to say in any given situation is presented in the best possible way (i.e., “how you say it”) to achieve the best possible results for everyone involved.

I think that ALL conversations are crucial on some level because once you say something you can’t take it back and saying the wrong thing may have tremendously negative repercussions. Whether you are conversing with your fellow networkers, your business associates, or with loved ones that are closest to you, it’s always best to know what you want to say and how you want to say it before anything comes out of your mouth.
Take it from someone who learned this the hard way.

 

 

 

Related Blog Posts:

Phone

What’s the Best Way to Follow Up?

When I taught management-theory classes at a Southern California college…

READ MORE

Getting Along

The Importance of Getting Along With Others

When I was very young, my mother gave me a paperweight…

READ MORE

Five Myths About Flexible Work

Five Myths About Flexible Workstring(30) "Five Myths About Flexible Work"

This blog is from an article that Manar Morales and I co-authored. A variation of the article was originally published with the Harvard Business Review at this link.

“Flexibility might be great in theory, but it just doesn’t work for us.”

We have literally heard this statement hundreds of times over the years. It doesn’t matter what industry we’re talking about — whether it’s tech, government, finance, healthcare, or small business, we’ve heard it. There’s always someone who works from the premise that “there’s no way flexible work policies can work in our organization.”

In reality, flexible work policies can work in any industry. The last two years have proven this. A 2021 Harvard Business School Online study showed that most professionals excelled in their jobs while working from home, and 81% either don’t want to go back to the office or would choose a hybrid schedule post-pandemic. It’s important to recognize, however, that flexibility doesn’t always look the same — one size definitely does not fit all.

The Myth of the Five C’s

You may be wondering, “If you can recruit the best candidates, increase your retention rates, improve your profits, and advance innovation by incorporating a relatively simple and inexpensive initiative, then why haven’t more organizations developed flex policies?” This question will be even harder for organizations to ignore after we’ve experienced such a critical test case during the Covid-19 pandemic.

We believe fear has created stumbling blocks for many organizations when it comes to flexibility. Companies either become frozen by fear or they become focused by fear. It is focus that can help companies pivot during challenging times. In the years that we’ve been working with companies on flexibility, we’ve heard countless excuses and myths for why they have not implemented a flex policy. In fact, the Diversity & Flexibility Alliance (DFA) has boiled these myths down to the fear of losing the 5 C’s:

  1. Loss of control
  2. Loss of culture
  3. Loss of collaboration
  4. Loss of contribution
  5. Loss of connection

Addressing the Fears

Myth #1: Loss of Control

Executives are often worried that they’ll open Pandora’s box and set a dangerous precedent if they allow some employees to work flexibly. They worry that if they let a few employees work from home, then the office will always be empty and no one will be working. The answer to this is structure and clarity. We can virtually guarantee that any organization that correctly designs and implements their flexibility policy will not lose anything.

To maintain control and smooth operation of your organization, it’s imperative that you set standards and clearly communicate them. Organizations should provide clear guidelines on the types of flexibility offered (for example, remote work, reduced hours, asynchronous schedules, job sharing and/or compressed work weeks) and create a centralized approval process for flexibility to ensure that the system is equitable.

It is also helpful to have a calendar system for tracking when and where each team member is working. You must also commit to training everyone on these standards — from those working a flexible schedule, to those supervising them, to all other coworkers. Education and training will help your team avoid “flex stigma,” where employees are disadvantaged or viewed as less committed due to their flexibility. Training can also help organizations to ensure that successful systems and structures that support flexibility are maintained.

Myth #2: Loss of Culture

While you may not see every employee every day, and you may not be able to have lunch with people every day, culture does not have to suffer with a flexible work initiative. However, it is essential that teams meet either in person or via video conference on a regular basis. DFA recommends that companies and firms first define what culture means to their individual organization and then determine how they might maintain this culture in a hybrid or virtual environment.

Many organizations with whom we’ve worked reported that they found creative ways to maintain culture during months of remote working during the pandemic. Many DFA members organized social functions like virtual exercise classes, cooking classes, happy hours, and team-building exercises to maintain community. Additionally, it’s important to take advantage of the days when everyone is physically present to develop relationships, participate in events, and spend one-to-one time with colleagues.

Myth # 3: Loss of Collaboration

As long as teams that are working a flexible schedule commit to regular meetings and consistent communication, then collaboration will not be compromised. It’s important for all team members to maintain contact (even if it’s online), keep tabs on all projects, and be responsive to emails and phone calls. We always recommend that remote teams also meet in person occasionally to maintain personal contact and relationships. For collaboration to be successful, remote employees must not be held to a higher standard than those working in the office. Additionally, technology should be used to enhance collaboration. For example, when companies are bringing teams together for brainstorming sessions, virtual breakout rooms can facilitate small group collaboration and help to ensure that all voices are heard. Some organizational leaders have also incorporated regular virtual office hours for unscheduled feedback and informal collaboration.

Myth #4: Loss of Contribution

We have often heard leaders say: “If employees are not physically at their desks in the office, then how will we know that they’re actually working?” But with endless distractions available on computers these days (from online shopping, to Instagram, to Facebook, etc.) you really don’t know what your employees are doing at their desks, even if they are in the office. In fact, they could be searching for a new job (that offers flexibility!) right before your eyes. It’s important to clearly communicate what is expected of each individual and trust that they will complete the job within the expected timeframe. All employees should be evaluated on the quality of their work and their ability to meet clearly defined performance objectives, rather than on time spent in the office.

Myth #5: Loss of Connection

Technology now enables people to connect at any time of the day in almost any location. Meetings can be held through a myriad of video conferencing applications. Additionally, calendar-sharing apps can help to coordinate team schedules and assist with knowing the availability of team members. Even networking events can now be done virtually. For example, one of our team members created a system for scheduling informal virtual coffee chats between partners and associates to maintain opportunities for networking and mentoring during the pandemic.

It’s important to know what your employees and stakeholders prefer in terms of in-person, hybrid, or virtual-only connection. In a survey conducted by BNI of over 2,300 people from around the world, the networking organization asked the participants if they would like their meetings to be: 1) in-person only, 2) online only, or 3) a blend of online and in-person meetings. One third of the participants surveyed said that they wanted to go back completely to in-person meetings. However, 16% wanted to stick with online meetings only, and almost 51% of the survey respondents were in favor of a blend of meeting both in-person and online. This is a substantial transition from the organizational practice prior to the pandemic, with a full two-thirds of the organization saying that they would prefer some aspect of online meetings to be the norm in the future.

Perhaps a silver lining of the pandemic will be that corporate leaders have overcome their fears of the 5 C’s and will now understand how flexibility can benefit their recruitment and retention efforts — not to mention productivity and profitability.

The-Importance-of-Price-and-Profits

The Importance of Price and Profitsstring(35) "The Importance of Price and Profits"

This is a GUEST BLOG from Per Sjöfors who is a long-time business associate and friend of mine. He has done work for me and is a trusted expert in the field. Per is a Pricing Strategy Consultant, the Founder of Sjöfors & Partners, and a best-selling author.

Profits drive every company. I know that sounds very fundamental, but, in my experience, is something that many business owners and executives do not consider enough. Consequently, in this blog post, I will provide a few practical tips on how a company can use its pricing strategy to increase profitability.

I know we all know this, but it is worthwhile to be reminded that profits provide the resources for a company to grow. Yes, investors can provide growth capital, but this will not support a company forever. Eventually, the company needs to become profitable. And it is those profits that enable companies to spend more on product development, marketing, and sales and increase competitiveness. To grow the business.

Pricing Has the Highest Leverage on Profitability

Further, consider that profit only comes from three variables. It is the total cost of running the company, the sales volume of what the company sells, and the price of what is sold. And of these three, pricing has the highest leverage on profitability. So, let’s do a thought experiment – changing each of these three by only a single percent; how will that affect profitability? Well, for the average company, it turns out that if sales increase by 1%, profitability goes up 3½%, if costs are reduced by 1%, profitability goes up 5½%, but if the price is increased by 1% or discounting is decreased by 1% profitability goes up with 11.3%. Again, this is for the average company. But no company is average.

I have created something that I called the 1% challenge. It is straightforward. The challenge: did you ever fail to change anything a single percent? Of course not. 1% is tiny.

To find out how this works in your company, we developed a calculator you can access here (registration required).

Profit Calculation

This profit calculation is valid for Fortune 500 companies, but it’s also equally valid for a hair salon, an accountant, a personal trainer, etc. And any company in between. You only need the top-level revenue and the total cost, and the calculator will tell you how much a percent price increase will increase profits in your company. 

When you start to look at your company from a profitability and pricing point of view, a lot will change. You will start thinking, “Do I have to give a 20% discount to close the deal? Maybe I should try with only a 15%, or perhaps only a 10% discount?” Likewise, you will ask yourself, “Which of all my products or services can I increase prices on, even if it’s just a little bit? Which product or service has the lowest nearby competition? Which products or services are unique and not exactly like my competitor, so if I raise the price, I will not see a loss in sales volume?” If the company has a sales force, consider reducing the discounting they can give away!

Price Walls

But, as you consider price increases, I also have one word of caution. There is something called Price Walls. These are psychological price points where sales volume changes dramatically, should you cross them. Price walls are often, but not always, on “even” numbers. Such as 5, 10, 20, 25, 50, 100, 500, etc., and this means that if the price for a product or service already is, say, $87, it is very likely that the price can increase to $97 without any change in sales volume. Likewise, if the price of a product or service is $503, reducing the price to $497 is likely to generate an increase in sales volume that could be pretty substantial. I say “could” because it is impossible to know how severe, or not, a Price Wall is without doing the willingness-to-pay research we do in my company. But you try by changing price, if done carefully.

More on Pricing

We are all familiar with how grocery stores and other retailers many times price “on the 9,” such as $9.99 or $49.99. But there are a few things to consider. First, if the product or service you sell is unique, and the price is aimed to be a message of quality and benefit, pricing “on the 9” denigrates that value. Thus, pricing “on the 9” should only be used for commodities, i.e., products or services that are equal to those sold by the competition. Furthermore, ending on a 7 is more effective in driving sales volume than ending on a 9. Ending on a 6 or an 8 is even less effective.  

Finally, consider Price Anchoring. Whenever you expose your price to a customer, ensure they first see a high price, then a lower price. As humans, we cannot not compare numbers, and if a buyer first sees a high price, the lower-priced item will appear more affordable. Since we read from top to bottom and left to right, the high price should be in the top left corner of your price list, menu, or website. It will increase your growth rate by several percent.


There is much more on this topic in my book “The Price Whisperer – A Holistic Approach To Pricing Power.” Here is a link to the Kindle edition.

1 2 3 4 19