Building Relationships Archives - Dr. Ivan Misner®
elephant

How to Network with the Elephant in the Room

Experienced networkers understand that networking is not always a perfect 100% satisfaction guaranteed activity. A member can sometimes have a problem with another person in their networking group. However, instead of talking with this person to resolve the problem, the member avoids this person due to their personal discomfort, and the unresolved problem can grow into a larger situation. Now, the situation has created “the elephant in the room”, which could cause drama within the networking group.

Drama can occur in any group where wide varieties of people and personalities interact. This is also true in business networking groups that meet weekly for in-person or online meetings. If the physical avoidance between these two members is obvious to others at the networking meeting, the negativity from the situation could be felt by others in the group as “the elephant in the room”, potentially causing drama within the group.

What is “the elephant in the room”?

The elephant in the roomis defined as “a metaphorical idiom for an enormous topic or controversial issue that is obvious or that everyone knows about but no one mentions or wants to discuss because it makes at least some of them uncomfortable”. The member, due to discomfort, ignored the initial problem with the other person and avoided them during the group meetings. Therefore, the unresolved problem grew into a larger situation that became very obvious to the other members of the networking group. The initial problem between these two members evolved into “the elephant in the room” for the entire networking group. So, how do you tame and remove the elephant? Here are three of the most common situations why a networking group might have “the elephant in the room” and my suggestions for gracefully taming each of them:

Elephant #1: Poor Referrals

The reason for joining a networking group is to build strong relationships with the members to refer business to one another. Normally, this is a win-win for the member receiving the referral because their business grows with a new client, as well as a win for the member who gave the referral because of Givers Gain®. However, a small percentage of referrals may be poor referrals. They take up time but do not result in closed business. When something goes wrong and a member receives a poor referral, this can create the first elephant.

People who are experiencing a problem with a fellow member tend to talk about the problem to other members instead of talking directly with the fellow member that they are experiencing the problem with. This can actually make the problem worse.

Talk with the member giving you poor referrals.

In most of these situations, nothing was wrong with the actual referral. Usually, the problem was simply caused by miscommunication. Do not perpetuate problems by avoiding open, honest communication with others. Take the time to talk about it in a non-confrontational way. Talking right away will avoid making these awkward situations even worse.

Elephant #2: Personal Disagreements

Networking would be so much easier if people were not involved. Although networking is all about building relationships with people, personal disagreements are inevitable and problems occur. Avoiding each other due to discomfort and not talking with each other to resolve the disagreement creates the second elephant.

Focus on the solution rather than on the problem.

If you only focus on the problem, you become an expert on the problem. All too often, when facing a problem, the first thing we tend to do is focus on the negative situation. This tends to move us further from finding a way to fix it and that does not help the problem.

You must begin to start focusing on ways to resolve the situation by focusing on solutions. Rather than react, take the time to fully analyze the problem then make a list of possible solutions. When we think of ways to overcome our problems, we are prepared for the next problem down the road. Often, all that is needed is honest and direct communication between the two members to solve the disagreement.

Elephant #3: Breakups Between Members

Networking groups tend to attract like-minded people. Sometimes they bring two of their members together for more than just business. Over the years, I have known many couples that dated, fell in love, got married, and started a family together all because they first met at their networking group. On the other hand, this can quickly create the third elephant if the relationship ends badly and the two members remain in the same group after the messy breakup.

Take the higher ground and continue to network.

Given the value of your network, it is worth working through those feelings if you find yourself in a breakup with another member of your networking group. Do not lose your network of valuable referral sources you have built. The more professional you remain following the breakup, the higher your regard will be by your group. Therefore, remember not to talk badly about the other person or discuss the breakup situation with other members of the group.

Whatever the reason, many people involved in business networking may one day face a situation with “the elephant in the room”. Remember not to focus on growing the problem but on growing your business. Do not burn bridges with people in your group by avoiding them or the uncomfortable situation. Instead, talk to them about your concerns. You never know what the future will bring. You might end up being friends and valued referral partners with the former elephant.

Asking For Expert Advice From Your Personal Mastermind Group

Every good business network can become a personal mastermind group that is accessible by its members to gain knowledge and information from the other members. Even though you are networking to receive referrals for your business, you also gain access to this diverse group of business professionals in your network. If you have not been asking for expert advice from your fellow members, you are missing out on an amazing benefit: a personal mastermind group.

A powerful business network not only can help you expand your business, it also can help you improve your business. There is nothing more powerful than having a room full of people who are ready and willing to help you succeed as your personal mastermind group. However, asking for expert advice from your fellow members requires a little finesse. Here are a few thoughts to ponder when you want to ask someone in your network for advice.

Five Tips to Consider Before Asking For Expert Advice

1. Before you ask for something, give something.

It is important to build some social capital with the people in your network before you start asking for favors. Seeking help from people before you have given anything is a little like trying to get a withdrawal from your banking account without having put anything into it first.

2. Restrict your requests for advice to that person’s area of expertise.

Otherwise, you risk putting a fellow network member on the spot and making him or her uncomfortable.

3. Do not have hidden motives.

If network members believe you are seeking advice as a subterfuge for promoting your own services, they will not only be offended and unwilling to help you, they may also feel less confident about your ability to help them.

4. Avoid potentially controversial and sensitive issues.

This may sound like common sense, however if you delve too far into the personal topics, you could cause discomfort and damage the relationship.

5. Do not ask for advice that people would normally charge you for.

A quick question or two is fine, however you want to avoid excessive questioning. There is a difference between soliciting free advice and encroaching upon asking for free services. You do not want to do anything that will jeopardize the strong business relationship you are building with them.

The Rewards When Someone Is Asking For Expert Advice

Receiving a request for your expert advice can lead to so much more. An owner of a small creative-services firm wanted to relocate to another state. However, she became frustrated with the difficulty in communicating with the various state agencies that were two time zones away. Her plans came to a standstill.

The business owner decided to ask for expert advice from the certified public accountant (CPA) in her networking group during an upcoming one-to-one meeting. She provided a brief overview of her situation to him. The CPA was very knowledgeable about the state that she wanted to move to. The business owner was rewarded for asking for his help. He quickly provided her lots of expert advice on moving her business.

Furthermore, the CPA was also rewarded for giving his expert advice. The owner of the creative services firm hired the CPA to help resolve her problems with the move. Then, she transferred all of her financial and record-keeping functions to his firm. Plus, she also referred to him three other business owners as potential clients. In return, the CPA connected her with a major new customer. Surprisingly, all of this happened from a single request of asking for expert advice from one member of a networking group to another. Givers Gain®

Build your business networking group and grow your personal mastermind group too. Think about the expert advice you would love to discuss with someone. Then, you and your fellow chapter members can invite these various business professionals to visit your chapter. If one of them decides to join your chapter, you will have someone to build a strong relationship with to turn to for the expert advice you seek as part of growing personal mastermind group.

36 years

36 Years of Growth, Passion, Inspiration, and Changing Lives

BNI is approaching 36 years of consecutive growth since it launched in 1985. I do not know of any other organization in the world that can point to that. In those 36 years, there have been many disruptions including recessions, wars, and major weather events (such as earthquakes, wildfires, and tsunamis). Nevertheless, BNI has continuously grown for 36 years.

2020 has been full of many of these disruptions in addition to a global pandemic, which led to people spending most of the year in “the great pause”. However, I believe we can actually help even more people this year recover and grow, too. Today, BNI has the most comprehensive set of collateral material, educational content, and technology available to help support and change the lives of business owners worldwide. Therefore, our local BNI members have every resource needed to help support and change the lives of their local business community.

Watch this video to learn about the special tool I used in 1985 to open 20 BNI chapters in that first year. The theme for this advice will help anybody in any business.

36 Years of Passion and Inspiration

Over the years, I was passionate about spreading the word and helping more and more people succeed in their business. Nothing great in life has ever been done without a little bit of passion. Although I love the technology, processes, and systems we have today, the one thing we need for chapters to grow is passion. What first made you passionate about BNI? Think about this and share your “MY BNI” story with other business owners. Share your passion with them and help inspire them to change their lives. I want you to inspire people. I want you to inspire people to inspire other people. Take away all the stuff and you can still inspire others to grow. Trust me, I had nothing but one sheet of paper and a ton of passion for what BNI could do for others. I was passionate about helping people with their circumstances to change their lives, and we grew and accomplished great things together.

 36 Years of Changing Lives

Today, people need BNI, communities need BNI, and countries need BNI. More than they did almost 36 years ago. I believe that together we can again make a difference in more people’s lives. Let’s make 2020 BNI’s 36th year of consecutive growth. Help me in spreading our “Givers Gain” philosophy and BNI’s mission around the world. Together, we can help other business people to get through these challenging times. Let’s celebrate 36 years of changing lives with BNI.

Passion: It’s the one thing no one can give you. With passion, you can make a difference. More importantly, you can change lives. Focus on your passion and focus on inspiring more people in your community to change their lives. They need you. Now, more than ever, they need BNI.

hunting

Networking is more about farming than it is about hunting

Over the years, I have observed that most business professionals go about networking the way our cave-dwelling ancestors went about hunting for food. If I could impart one piece of wisdom regarding networking and getting more referrals, it would be this: Networking is about farming for new contacts, not hunting them.

Premature Solicitation

Has a complete stranger ever solicited you for a referral or business? I call this “premature solicitation.” I have been its victim many times. Years ago, I was speaking at a networking event, and before my presentation, an unknown person approached me and said, “Hi, it is a real pleasure to meet you. I understand you know Richard Branson. I offer specialized marketing services and I am sure his Virgin enterprises could benefit from what I provide. Could you please introduce me to him so that I can show him how this would assist his companies?”

I replied with the following response: “Hi, I’m Ivan Misner. I am sorry. I do not think we have met before. What was your name again?” That surprised the man enough to make him realize his solicitation might have been a bit premature. I continued to explain to him. “I regularly refer people to my contacts, but only after I’ve established a strong, long-term relationship with the service provider”. He thanked me and moved on to his next victim.

Over the years, many people have shared with me their frustrations about strangers who pounce on them at networking meetings and ask for business. However, occasionally someone will share with me that they approve of using “premature solicitation”. Here is one example that I received:

Hunting Networkers

“I don’t happen to believe that you need a relationship with the person you are asking first. What you must have is a compelling story or product/service that would genuinely benefit the referral. The fact that you had not cultivated a relationship with the person has become irrelevant because, more importantly, you had been in a position to help [your contact] benefit from the introduction. If it’s of genuine benefit to the person being referred, I don’t see the problem. Who am I to deny my contacts something good?”

The relationship is “irrelevant”, according to this person. It does not matter if I actually know or trust someone. As long as the person has a worthy product, I should not “deny my contacts something good.”  I absolutely disagree, and I would ask anyone interested in business networking to keep the following in mind:

  • Networking is not about hunting.
  • Networking is about farming.
  • It’s about cultivating relationships.
  • Do not be guilty of premature solicitation.

Farming Networkers

This kind of networker is also meeting people. However, they build relationships first, instead of just adding names to a contact list. They are building referral sources to people that were referred to them by their strategic alliances. Proper networking is about taking the time to cultivate relationships. Use networking opportunities to first meet people, Then schedule additional times to connect and build trust with them. Do not ask someone for a business referral until you feel confident that the person knows and trusts you.

Networking is indeed like farming. Commit to mastering what it takes to efficiently and effectively harness the potential in your “relationship crops” and you will reap a bountiful harvest of mutually satisfying relationships and sustainable growth in your business.

Ruin Reputations

Giving Referrals Can Ruin Reputations

Referral marketing is the most effective form of advertising. However, many approach referral marketing with an “Old Faithful” attitude. All they have to do is just show up weekly to their networking events and referral business to them will simply erupt regularly like this geyser. What they do not realize is that once their trust in you evaporates, so does the water. In referral marketing, your trust and your reputation are on the line all the time.  Therefore, you need to do what you say you are going to do. You need to be professional and do what you can to not ruin reputations with others.

When you give a referral, you give away a little bit of your reputation.

While giving a good referral will enhance your relationship, a bad referral will hurt it. This is extremely important when referring someone to your client or customer. If the person you referred does a poor job, your relationship with your client will suffer. You may even lose that customer due to the lack of trust they now have in you for giving them that bad referral. Now the geyser is dry.

Therefore, the biggest risk in referral marketing is not the person you are referring to someone. The biggest risks are the referral giver’s reputation and the risk to their business relationships with others. Get to know the people you are referring to others. Find out as much as you can about the services they offer. Plus, make sure they have integrity. If you do not take the time for this, your reputation is at risk. Finally, never give good referrals to people who do not want them or cannot handle them with the same integrity and professionalism you use with your clients. Do not be this guy. You do not want to refer someone to your client, and your client is expecting a geyser. However, the only result your client experiences is a dripping faucet in the middle of the night instead.

Everyone can Ruin Reputations

However, I am not saying that you accept 100% of the blame and responsibility for the bad referral. Referral marketing is more than just you. Everyone is involved in a threeway referral relationship. The person being referred to your client can do himself permanent damage by performing poorly or dishonestly. He agreed to a service contract or sales transaction with your client. What expectations has your client had in the past when working with you? You can share these same client expectations you experienced with the person you are referring to your client.

Even your client has some responsibility for the bad referral. Your client needs to clearly explain to you the exact service, product, or assistance they are looking to you to help them to find the right person to refer to them. Therefore, their expectation should be reasonable. If they are looking for a “small fountain” when discussing the possible referral with you, they should not be expecting a “large geyser” later on when working with the referral. However, they should also not be receiving a “little drip” either. Especially if they prepaid for the “fountain”.

Even Old Faithful is not as faithful as it used to be.

Tourists visit Yellowstone National Park in (mostly) Wyoming, USA every year to see the Old Faithful Geyser for its frequent and somewhat predictable eruptions. Rumors claimed that the eruptions occur hourly. People speak of the average time between eruptions. This is misleading and these rumors could ruin reputations with the tourists expecting to view the geyser based upon an exact schedule of when the geyser will erupt next. The mathematical average between eruptions of Old Faithful is currently 74 minutes, but it doesn’t like to act average! Intervals can range from 60-110 minutes. The world’s most famous geyser, Old Faithful in Yellowstone, currently erupts around 20 times a day. These eruptions are predicted with a 90 percent confidence rate, within a 10-minute variation. I do love a good statistical report to end a story.

LinkedIn

Stop! Don’t Pitch on LinkedIn

Raise your hand if you’ve been cold-called on LinkedIn? OK, I can’t really see you but, I’m guessing most of you have.  I know I have.  It happens to me almost on a daily basis on LinkedIn. Let me give you a real-life example of a recent one. I recently accepted a request to connect with me on LinkedIn from a person who I’ll call Greg.

I’m calling him Greg because… well, that was his name.

When he sent the request, he wrote to me and said,

“I love connecting with founders of companies where we can share mutual connections.  Let’s connect and share insights if you’re open to it?”

I accepted. He wrote back.

Thanks for connecting with me Ivan, I appreciate it!  Anything exciting you’re working on at BNI? Let me know if I can be a resource to you in any way, and thanks again for connecting!

So far, so good.  This was a great start.  But wait… two days later (without waiting for my reply) he wrote his pitch:

Hi Ivan, We have developed a new generation project management tool that leverages artificial intelligence and that allows you to automate your teamwork and always know that you have the best organization in place. I’m sure it would be a great help for you and your teammates in BNI as we already have many clients from your industry using it. You can discover it here with this link if you are interested:  [I’m leaving it out to protect the guilty.] Hope you find it useful and I’d love to hear any feedback you have! All the best, Greg

OK, so now I knew he wasn’t really connecting to share insights.  He was connecting to pitch me.  I didn’t respond. He wrote again a few days later.  He said,

Hi Ivan, I hope you are doing well. I’m contacting you because I really need your help and have something great for you and your business in return. We are a young startup and have created a revolutionary intelligent project management tool that leverages artificial intelligence to automatically plan the work for you. There is no such product that exists today and the increase of performance that you can get with it is just mind-blowing. You can discover our software here: [Leaving out for the guilty again.] and I would be glad to exchange with you on the subject and show you how it works and how it can be a game-changer for your business. We will also offer you amazing pricing conditions as being part of our early adopters. I hope you can help me out and we will for sure over-deliver for you in return. Let’s talk? Best regards, Greg

I so did not respond to that. He wrote again a couple of days later.

Hi, Ivan Hope, you found our site valuable!   I’d love to share some insights with you over a quick call. When would you be available? Greg

I didn’t respond. The next day he wrote, Hey Ivan – making sure you saw my last message.  Any thoughts?

Yes, I had plenty of thoughts, none of which would be appropriate to share.  So, instead, I wrote back… No thanks.

He responded almost immediately, Hi Ivan. Thanks for the feedback.  For my personal knowledge, may I ask you why?

Hmm, I thought – does he really want to know why?  OK, I decided, I will tell him why. I wrote back.

Because you don’t really know what I do, you don’t know anything about me (other than what you’ve read), and we have no relationship (which, if you knew anything about me, you’d know is important).  This is a “cold-call” via LinkedIn and it is against everything I teach in my business.  This “pitch” is the very thing I write about NOT doing to people.  You asked and that is the unvarnished truth.

He replied almost immediately, Interesting. So how do I reach out to you?

I replied.

I do business by referral.  That takes time and effort.  I recognize that “cold-calling” does as well.  I just choose not to do business that way and it is a strategy that has worked well for me and most of the people who follow my work.

He replied almost immediately.

I get a lot of referrals. But right now I’m reaching out to people like you in a cold way because that’s the only way I can potentially get to talk to them. I was just asking for some help as a young and dynamic entrepreneur that has a really disrupting product. Remember how it was hard in the beginning…

I responded,

I do.  That’s how I learned that networking is more about farming than it is about hunting.  It’s all about the relationships.  That’s how I built the business.  Reaching out “cold” is not the only way to talk to people.  It is the most expedient way to “feel” like you are doing something but not the only way to do it and I would argue – not the best way.  Those are my thoughts on the subject.  I need to run now. Use the advice, don’t use the advice, that is up to you. Good luck. Ivan

I also sent him a link about the VCP Process in networking.  I’ve never heard from him again.

Now, I don’t want to pick on LinkedIn.  It can happen on any social media platform.  It’s happened to me on Facebook, Twitter,  and even BNI Connect (I know – that one is really frustrating to see). This is not just a LinkedIn issue.  However, it does seem to happen a lot more there for me.  In either case, cold-calling is cold-calling no matter what form it takes.  But, it never hurts to ask, right?  Wrong.  Check out my video here to learn why: https://ivanmisner.com/never-hurts-ask-right/

Business Networking Diversity

Business Networking Diversity

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 should have in common with you is that they should be really good at what they do.  Create a personal network like that, and you’ll have a network that can help you succeed at anything.

It is human nature to build friendships with people that are like us.  The problem with surrounding ourselves with similar people is that they also tend to have similar contacts and know the same people as us.  When networking, it may be difficult to make connections with new people or companies with whom we desire to do business. In running a large business networking organization for over the past three decades, I often speak to people who tell me they want to network exclusively business professionals who have similar clients.  Although it is good to include these people in your personal network, networking with them exclusively would be a tremendous mistake. When it comes to business networking diversity, you never know who people know.  One of the important keys to being successful at building a powerful personal network is diversity.

A diverse personal network enables you to increase the possibility of including connectors or “linchpins” in your network.  Linchpins are people who in some way cross over between two or more clusters or groups of individuals; this allows them to link groups of people together easily.  The best way to increase the number of possible connections in your network is to develop a diverse network. The strongest networking groups I have seen over the years are generally the groups that are diverse.  I believe that one of the problems in understanding this concept is a somewhat built-in bias that many people have about networking with individuals that are outside their normal frame of reference.  Let me share a story:

An incredible voice, an incredible connection from networking diversity.

Patti, a BNI Director, arrived a little early to a BNI meeting that met in a private meeting room and noticed an older gentleman setting up coffee mugs in preparation for the meeting.  She struck up a conversation with the man while waiting for the BNI members to arrive.  In talking to him, she was really taken by the amazing tenor of his voice.  She mentioned to him that he had an incredible voice and asked what he did before this.  The gentleman informed her that he used to be a commentator for CNN!  He went on to share with Patti that in his later years, he wanted to work in a less hectic job as well as live closer to his daughter.  He decided to take on the job of managing these private meeting rooms because it gave him an opportunity to be close to his family while having a less hectic career later in life.

Later during the meeting, one of the BNI members, Don, mentioned in his featured presentation that his goal is to host a radio talk show someday. He was looking for some contacts that could help him pursue this dream.  After the meeting, Patti asked Don… “Do you see that guy over there (pointing to the ex-CNN commentator)?  Have you seen him before?”  “Yea,” said Don, “he’s the guy who sets up the coffee for our meeting.”  Patti said to Don, “Did you know that he used to be a broadcaster for CNN?”  Don said, “I had no idea!!!”  Patti suggested that Don introduce himself. Don had seen the man on many occasions but had not struck up a conversation with him because he felt that they had little, if anything, in common.  The truth is when it comes to networking – not having a lot in common with someone may mean that they can be a connector for you to a whole world of people that you might not otherwise be able to meet. This resulted in creating an incredible connection for Don in the broadcasting industry. Don now hosts a local radio talk show.

Diversity in your network is the smart thing and the right thing to do.

Staying in Touch With Your Clients

Staying in Touch With Your Clients

Your business thrives by networking. Staying in touch is an important part of the networking process. Networking is much more than making contact with others and getting new business from them. The golden rule of networking is staying in touch with your clients. You strengthen your business relationships by fostering solid relationships with clients.

During “The Great Pause of 2020”, we started working from home. We created a plan to get through this situation with our businesses. Because we could not go to our usual places to network face-to-face with others, we took action and learned how to network online to stay in touch with people. Now, we need to plan on what we are going to do when society returns to the “new normal”. We need to get back in touch with those people that you have not seen or spoken with recently by focusing on strengthening these business relationships.

Here are six ways for staying in touch with your clients and strengthening your business relationships:

Spread out your phone calls.

Regular contact is important right now regardless of the type of relationship with your clients. Two short phone calls are more beneficial than one long call. Each phone call becomes an opportunity to strengthen the relationship and to enhance your credibility.

Schedule the phone calls predictably.

Stay in contact with your clients. Train them to expect to hear from you at certain times. If you usually contact certain customers during the first week of every quarter, they will come to expect it and will budget time for you.

One phone call leads to the next phone call.

Before concluding your telephone conversation, schedule the date of your next phone call. With this commitment, you are more likely to follow through. This practice establishes a chain of contacts, with each phone call leading to the next.

Assume responsibility for your phone calls.

Take the initiative and stay in touch with your customers. When clients do not feel cared for, they are more likely to leave. You are more likely to head off potential problems by staying in touch with them by picking up the telephone and calling them these days.

Invite them to your online networking events.

One way of making sure to stay in contact with your customers is to invite them to join you at your online networking events. This is a great way to introduce your customers to other people.

Stick to your plan for staying in touch with your clients

Occasionally your clients will telephone you. Do not let this interfere with your contact schedule. Do not count it as one of your prescheduled phone calls when they initiate the phone call.

People need their network, now more than ever. Maintain a powerful personal network by telephoning your clients and adopting these tips right now. You will have a stronger business tomorrow because of the actions you take today by staying in touch with your clients.

converting prospects into customers

Converting Prospects Into Customers

Your referral source has done her job and emailed you a referral. If she is a BNI member, she passed you the referral via BNI Connect. Now it’s time to contact the prospect. But be careful: The purpose of your first contact call is not to make a sale or even ask the prospect if he has questions about your business. If, and only if, the prospect asks, should you present your products or services during this first contact call. Remember, when converting prospects into customers, you must first build a relationship. It may take a while, but if you follow these recommendations, you’ll speed up the process of closing the deal.

Do your homework.

First, contact the referral source who passed you the referral. Ask the referral source for any relevant information. As we are currently practicing physical distancing globally and working from home, the first contact meeting cannot be a face-to-face meeting at this time. Instead, the preferred format for this first meeting is to do a video conference call. However, ask the referral source to contact the prospect on your behalf to determine if the prospect wants to be contacted by you via telephone or video conference call for the first call.

If the prospect prefers this first contact call to be a telephone call, do not delay. Make your first contact telephone call with the prospect within 72 hours.

If the prospect prefers this first contact call to be an online video conference call, send an email to the prospect requesting possible dates, times, and their preferred video call platform (Facetime, Zoom, MS Teams, Gotowebinar, etc..). Please confirm the time zone if the prospect if not living in your area.

If the referral source can be present, invite the referral source to attend this video conference call with you and the prospect. This way, the referral source can introduce you in person to the prospect at the start of the video call with a more thorough briefing about you, your business and your products or services.

First Contact Telephone Call / Online Video Conference Call

Before the first contact call, look up the website and the various social media pages for the prospect’s business for additional information. Review their website to understand their business better. Use these sources of information to get to know the prospect better and to prepare questions to ask about them on the first contact call.

Reminder: The purpose of your first contact call is not to make a sale or even ask the prospect if he has questions about your business. If, and only if, the prospect asks, should you present your products or services during this first contact call.

The purpose of the first contact call is to:

  • Begin to build the relationship;
  • Get to know the prospect better;
  • Help the prospect get to know you better;
  • Find out how you can help them;
  • Position yourself to make your next contact; and
  • Judge if the prospect fits your source’s description of her.

You’ve Got Mail

Within 24 hours after the first contact call, it is recommended to email the prospect with a summary of the call, fun facts about the prospect, any information requested by the prospect, a brief note of gratitude, the next steps, and your contact information.

When you start composing your email, start by naming your referral source–a name the prospect will recognize.

Writing this email gives you a better, more controlled opportunity to convey what you’ve learned about the prospect. It helps develop your relationship to let your prospect know you find him interesting enough to have taken the time to learn a few facts about him. Express an interest in meeting him again, and advise him you’ll be calling to schedule a mutually convenient appointment for the next online video conference call.

Do not attach and send your business literature with this email unless requested by the prospect. This will avoid giving the impression that you’re interested in him primarily as a prospective customer.

Make the Call

Give the prospect a week to process this email before you follow up with a telephone call. When you telephone the prospect, ask if he has any questions from the first contact call. Plus, offer to send more information via postal mail. If the prospect indicates that he would want this, send it right away. Finally, schedule a second video conference call while on this telephone call. Hopefully soon, we will once again be able to meet people face-to-face again.

Following Up When Converting Prospects Into Customers

When building relationships, it’s always important not to let much time lapse without following up on the first contact. Within two to three days of the follow-up telephone call, you should send your prospect a note via postal mail expressing your pleasure in communicating with him. It’s still too early, though, to automatically send business literature unless requested above or to make any move toward sales promotion.

So follow up early, but don’t push beyond the prospect’s comfort level. Once the prospect has expressed an interest in your products or services, you can provide information about them, but don’t force it on him. Continue presenting your products or services, but avoid the hard sell. Focus on fulfilling his needs and interests. Your goal should be to keep your prospect aware of your business without annoying him.

If you have prepared your referral sources well, your efforts may pay off on your very first call. Most often, the prospect from a referral will need more time. Many people were financially affected by the changes from the viral outbreak. Therefore, this may not be the ideal time for them to hire you for your services. They may express an interest in talking later about your products or services and hiring you when the situation improves. Be patient when converting prospects into customers.

Business Relationships

Focusing on Business Relationships

We are in a crazy time right now and we business owners need to be thinking differently than ever before. We need to be focused on two strategies. First, you need a plan to get through this current situation with your business affected by current events. Then, you need to plan on what you are going to do as quickly as possible when society returns to normal. We all have to do something and be proactive to really make a difference by focusing on business relationships.

Watch this video with Frank De Raffele about planning your own strategies to help your business these days.

Transactional versus Relational

People don’t make good decisions based on fear or anger, so don’t succumb to that. In the middle of any kind of serious challenge, it’s hard to see through the fog that surrounds us. Do not get distracted by all the noise, but focus on the solution. Therefore, change your plan from focusing on business transactions to focusing on building business relationships. Use online networking to build meaningful referral sources, referral partners, and strategic alliances.

Are you doing virtual one to ones with people and talking about the various types of referrals that you are looking for. These may be completely different than what you were asking for before due to self-isolation. Be creative and think of ways to stay in business while practicing social distancing. This is a perfect time to reconnect with the people that are already in your network. Go deeper into that relationship and ask them how you can help them. And it’s okay to ask for help from your network for people that you know and have a good relationship with them.

People need their network, more than ever before. You will have a business tomorrow because of the actions you take today. Yeah, a lot of people are going to go out of business, but those with a powerful personal network are not. The people that you have in your BNI network are very supportive and in BNI, we are all willing to share those networks with each other.

Introverts

Introverts Can Be Great Networkers These Days

Being an introvert is not a networking handicap and is an advantage these days of online networking due to social distancing and self-isolation while working from home. A common assumption is that a “people-to-person” is the best type of networker. But this isn’t necessarily true. Though introverts often eliminate themselves from networking because they aren’t good at initializing conversations, they are better at the part of networking that’s more important to the relationship-building process.

Networking is a two-part process. First, you have to meet someone new and share information about yourself. The extrovert may be better at this first part of the process when face-to-face; but the introvert is better at the second part — listening to the person he or she just met online. Plus, introverts are better at asking questions. Here are a few more tips for online networking and for working at home.

Introverts and Extroverts

So, if you are introverted, put down that book and reach out to others. Stop using that as an excuse not to network. There are many techniques you can use to make online networking easier and more natural for you to greet people and introduce yourself. Networking is a skill that can be learned — regardless of your level of gregariousness. Even if you’re not outgoing or gregarious, you can form meaningful relationships with others online and support each other’s businesses.

Furthermore, if you are extroverted, stop using your isolation from working from home as an excuse not to network. Most entrepreneurs depend directly on others and have a comfort level in dealing with people. For extroverts, referral-based online marketing is still one of the best ways to build your business these days.

Take advantage of online training workshops these days that you can do from the comfort of your home office. These can teach you how to online network effectively. You’ll find that when you learn ways to handle these situations, you’ll become more relaxed and confident in an online networking setting.

You don’t have to be a people person to network, you just have to be willing to listen. A good networker has two ears and one mouth and uses each proportionally. A good networker asks questions and gets to know the other person. Once you know the other person, it’s much easier to grow each other’s business.

Networking Online

Networking Online

Because of the current health situation, a lot of us are working from home. Even if you cannot go to your usual places to network face-to-face with others at mixers, meetings, or social events, you can still take action and build up your networking online.

Earlier this week, I shared some tips for working from home. Please watch this video to learn a few things you can do right now to maintain a powerful personal network online:

Networking Online

Take a few minutes daily to reach out to a few people each day in your network and schedule an appointment to talk to them later in the week. There are many ways to connect with others, even if not face to face. The easiest way is to pick up the phone and actually have a conversation with them. If both you and that person are comfortable with setting up a video call, I recommend connecting with them at a scheduled time on Zoom, Teams, or some other platform. Not only chat about each other’s businesses but ask how they are doing personally. Find out if there are ways you can help them. Finally, it is ok to also ask them for help. We all could use a friend these days.

Now is the time to build up your online networking with your fellow BNI® members using our newest platform: BNI Online™. This will allow you to stay in touch and attend your BNI Networking meetings virtually during these days of social isolation.

If you’re not in BNI®, we are inviting local business professionals to join us online. If you know someone looking to grow their business online during these challenging times, please invite them as our guests to our online meeting. This is a chance for them to experience BNI and networking from the comfort of their home or office.

Find a local online meeting in your area:
https://www.bni.com/find-a-chapter

Please watch this video to learn some things you can do right now to maintain a powerful personal network. Now, more than ever, you need your network. Work together with them by networking online.

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