Telling Your Company’s Storystring(30) "Telling Your Company’s Story"

If you want to get referrals from your networking efforts, people must know about your business. There are two kinds of audiences that need to know your company’s story. One is the people you interact with directly while networking. These could be people you meet and exchange pleasantries with at a chamber of commerce event, or people in a dedicated referral networking group such as BNI®. These are the people you want to build relationships with so that they may become reliable sources of referrals for you.

The other audience is people you don’t meet, at least not right away, but who are told about you by your networking partner or referral source. They are your prospective clients or customers that your networking partners are connected to.

Your Unique Selling Proposition

Many businesspeople think that word-of-mouth marketing is about telling everyone they meet everything they do, and that getting more referrals is simply a matter of talking to more people. Quite the opposite. In fact, it is often boring to people and overwhelming with much more information than they can remember.
In getting your message across, less is more.

You want to come up with a succinct, memorable unique selling proposition (USP) that you can use at all your business networking events.

Your USP is a brief description of the purpose of your business, stated in the most concise and compelling way possible, in order to help others understand the unique value of what you do.

A good USP simply tells people what you do in a manner that gets them to ask how you do it. Think of it as your answer to the inevitable question about work: “What do you do?” 

THREE STEPS TO CREATE YOUR UNIQUE SELLING PROPOSITION

  1. Focus on two or three target markets for your business – groups of people for whom your product or services are best suited. 
  2. Identify some challenges facing your target market that you and your business can help solve. 
  3. Create a one- or two-sentence USP using this formula: “I help ____ [target market] ____ [solve this problem].”

USP Examples

Your unique selling proposition tells people the type of client you work with and the benefits you provide to them.

“I work with bright, successful, family-oriented business owners who are so busy on the immediate that they lose sight of the fundamentals that can affect their family’s financial well-being.”
– a financial advisor

“I help nonprofit organizations connect with their community through the game of golf.”
– a golf fundraising specialist

“I work with municipalities on capital improvement projects in the areas of water, wastewater, and drainage.”
– a project engineer

An effective USP is short and straight to the point. When you share it with someone who fits your target market, or who knows someone in your target market, it should elicit the question, “How do you do that?”, which leads to further conversation about your business.

This is a great way of telling your company’s story while highlighting how you can help others. It is important to have a good USP because it describes your business in terms of the needs it can fill and allows people to decide whether they want to learn more.

What is YOUR one-or-two sentence unique selling proposition? I invite you to share it in the comments.

Referrals Work Both Ways

Referrals Work Both Waysstring(24) "Referrals Work Both Ways"

When you receive a referral from your networking group, it directly benefits your business. When you give a referral to someone in your group, it strengthens your network while benefiting your referral partner.

If you have a growing customer base, you’re going to be generating a lot more business for your referral partners. To strengthen your referral network and keep your business growing, you need to make sure your networking partners can handle all the referrals you will be providing.

Because referrals work both ways, it is important to build trust and develop deep relationships with your fellow networking members. You want to have One-to-One meetings with them; get to know them and their business well enough to understand the scope of their services and products. You can ask them detailed questions about their company to find out who their ideal customers are and how they are able to best serve them. This will help you identify possible referrals for them. You may want to ask about their plans for business growth to determine if they can accommodate the potential increase in clients from future referrals.

When you offer your referral partner a business opportunity they can’t handle, several things can happen. They may try to provide the product or service but do a poor job, upsetting the customer – your friend or colleague – which can damage your reputation.

They may pass the referral along to another businessperson that you don’t know, taking control of your referral relationship away from you and putting your reputation at risk. Or they may decline the referral, forcing you to spend additional time finding another person to give the referral to. You may have to go outside your network to put the prospect in touch with someone who can get the job done, which defeats the purpose of your referral network. You may even have to admit to your contact that you cannot help them after all.

Your ability to handle referrals from your network is equally important to your network’s ability to handle referrals from you. If your business grows big and strong but your referral network doesn’t, you will eventually become a network of one.

To keep this from happening, recruit new people and new professions to extend your network for the benefit of all members and take every opportunity to enhance your networking partners’ businesses. A true master networker works on building not just their own business, but the businesses of their fellow networkers, too.

Networking Takes Time and Money

Networking Takes Time and Moneystring(31) "Networking Takes Time and Money"

A BNI® Executive Director told me that before becoming a BNI Member in 2014, they had a home security business for 16 years. For five of those years, they spent $5,000 USD a month to advertise in the Yellow Pages part of their local phonebook. They spent $300,000 USD in five years to get some leads! They only got leads – people who were calling around to two or three companies listed in the phone book. As the leads dwindled, they invested in a membership in BNI, a global networking organization, and within two years the amount of business they received was at the highest level of what was achieved from all the Yellow Pages advertising. Their monetary investment in their membership was substantially less than $5,000.

Business networking takes time AND money. To be effective, you must invest in both.
By investing the time to build relationships with fellow members of the group, this person received real referrals – a warm introduction to customers who were looking for their services.

Oftentimes people get so caught up in the money part of networking, that they neglect the building relationships part and the time that is necessary for successful results. Paying more money does not always mean that you get more results.     

Track Your Results

How do you know if your networking efforts are paying off for you? You can do some simple tracking.
How many business organizations do you belong to?
How much time do you spend in networking efforts with people in that organization?
How much money does it cost to belong to the group? This includes travel to meetings, meals, and other expenses in addition to the membership fee.
How much money have you made from business generated in each of the organizations?
Which people in your groups are the ones giving you referrals that result in closed business?
Are you consistently thanking those people, and are you looking for ways to also give referrals to them

If you are paying for group memberships and are simply “busy” with networking activities without creating deep business relationships, it is hard to reach the goals that you want to achieve. By measuring the time and money you give to your networking efforts, you will be able to adjust your networking strategies to make them more effective in getting the results you want.

Thank You for Closed Business

In BNI, the members use a mechanism called Thank You for Closed Business (TYFCB) to track the amount of business generated between, and for, each other. Reporting the TYFCB provides a way to recognize the people who pass quality referrals to other members. It also allows each BNI Chapter to see the combined results of their networking efforts in tangible numbers. Many of the 10,400+ global BNI chapters regularly generate $1+ million USD each month for their members.

In fact, in the rolling last 12 months, BNI Members generated $18 Billion USD in Thank You for Closed Business! That’s an enormous figure. Because it can be hard to imagine a billion of anything, we’ll explore that figure in another way.  

Let’s look at time – time measured in seconds. If you measured $1 Million in seconds, it would be 1.65 weeks. If you measured $1 Billion in seconds, it would be 31.7 years! And $18 Billion would be more than 570 years!! That is a LOT of business resulting from referrals between networking members!

Beyond the Dollar Figures

Yes, tracking our networking activities can show us the dollar figures that result from those efforts. However, there is more beyond those figures that may be harder to see. There is also the community impact. We all live in the smaller economies of our cities, towns, and neighborhoods. Those networking dollars help to stimulate local economies and contribute to the huge economic engine that is moving all over the globe.

It takes time to build a business – you have to spend time cold calling; you spend time talking to your existing clients to get referrals; you’re going to do advertising which costs money. Oh, and how do you make the money? You make the money by spending a lot of time doing direct selling. To me, networking is so much easier than direct selling. And it’s a great use of your time because it truly is about farming not hunting

You may be in business alone, but you do not have to BE alone in business when you are part of a powerful network. Successful business networking takes time AND money. Investing your time with like-minded, positive people, and building strong business relationships will help you reach your goals.

If you were paying $5,000 a year for your network – how would you treat it differently than you are now?  Try treating it like that type of investment and see what results you get.

What Is One Thing That’s Working?string(35) "What Is One Thing That’s Working?"

Sometimes a networking or business group becomes so obsessed with what isn’t working that they lose sight of what is working. This is especially true when they are having challenges and struggling.

I have found that the best thing to do is ask the members:
“What is one thing that is working for you in the group?”

When I did this activity with BNI® Chapters in years past, I always heard:
“Referrals. I am getting business.”
There were also many other answers that were frequently given:

  • I’m building great relationships.
  • It’s brought out the best in me.
  • I’m a better speaker than I was before BNI.
  • It’s increased my knowledge of other people’s businesses.
  • I’ve learned how to listen more proactively.
  • It gives me a support group.
  • It helps me set marketing goals.

It Goes Beyond Referrals

When a networking group follows a proven system that encourages education and practices accountability and maintains a positive environment, the members of that group benefit in many ways beyond referrals. As you can see in the answers above, they experience personal growth, professional development, and a trusted, supportive group of like-minded people.

Successful networking groups attract quality business professionals, striving to seek a balance between members with many years of experience and those who are newer to their industry. They create a diverse network that includes people with different interests and backgrounds who bring a wide range of ideas and connections that can lead to opportunities for fellow members.

Focus On Solutions

If you focus on problems, you become an expert on problems. If you focus on solutions, you become an expert on solutions. This is true for people AND for groups or organizations. By asking the members to talk about what’s working for them, it reminds them of the tangible, and intangible, benefits of growing their business through referral marketing with their networking group.

This simple question is one of the best ways to help a group that is challenge focused or obsessed about problems to get to the point where they can do a Mindset Reset.

What is one thing that’s working for you in your networking group? I invite you to share in the comments.

Give Up the Excuses and Invitestring(30) "Give Up the Excuses and Invite"

Many professionals and entrepreneurs know that whatever the current business climate might be, their networking groups are a consistent place for business referrals, resources, and support. Relationships built with like-minded people who want to help each other succeed are the ones that can sustain a business in challenging times.

I’ve heard wonderful stories from people whose investment in building strong relationships has made the difference in their business surviving and even thriving.

However, I am also surprised when those same people who say, “I love my networking group!” are often the ones who consistently attend the meetings alone. Without a visitor. Without inviting a friend to go with them.

I’m hearing a lot of excuses about why professionals who love business networking aren’t inviting other people to enjoy it, too. These are some of the excuses:
‘The economy is not good.’
‘The economy is too good.’
‘I don’t know anyone to invite.’
‘People I invite don’t show up.’

Well, guess what? I’ve been hearing the same excuses for the past 36 years! 

Why Invite People to Network with You

If you have received business from your networking groups, you KNOW the benefits of referral marketing. Remember, it’s okay to share. It’s okay to share those business opportunities with others, especially with people that you already know.

Think about every place you do business with – either professionally or personally. THEY may be looking to grow their company or increase their client base. As one of their customers, you obviously know, like, and trust them enough to give them your business, so why not invite them to meet your networking group?

There are enough business opportunities for everyone. When you embrace a Givers Gain® attitude and an abundance mindset, you know that sharing opportunities with others can bring beneficial connections, increased business referrals, and the joy of helping someone else succeed.

The Excuses

The Economy

When the economy is not good, people are struggling, they may not know where to turn to for help with their business – they need their networking group.

When the economy is good, people need their networking group because their competition is making it difficult for them to be successful. A trusted group of fellow professionals becomes a reliable source of referrals in ALL economies.

Don’t Know Anyone

Guess what? In the early days of BNI® I once said these words, “I don’t have anybody else to invite.” Well, was I wrong! A BNI Member gave me suggestions that helped me find lots of people to invite.
More ideas of who you can take to visit your networking group:
Your company’s vendors
Your company’s customers and clients
Your family and friends
Your neighbors – personal near your home, and work neighbors near your office

People you like. People who are fun. People you care about and want to help.
There are LOTS of people just waiting to meet your networking partners. Invite them.

They Don’t Show Up

“People I invite don’t show up.” That has happened to me. Yes, I’m the Founder of BNI, the world’s largest networking organization, and it has happened to me, too. It’s okay.

Dr. Mark Goulston says, “We have a lot less control over winning or losing at something than we do over trying or quitting something. Always try. You can eventually win. If you always quit, you can never win.”

This is so true. Get over the fear of rejection. Someone who says ‘no thanks’ to your invitation does not diminish your success in any way. Keep inviting. Some will say yes, some will say no. Continue inviting anyway. Keep giving people the opportunity to learn about networking.

Remember, excuses don’t bring results. You can have excuses, or you can have success.

Think back to your first visit with your favorite networking group. Think about the person that let go of their excuses and decided to invite YOU to that meeting.

Whether your business networking is in-person or online, you can extend an invitation to have someone visit the meeting with you.
Give up the excuses and INVITE. You’ll both be glad you did.

Networking at Conferencesstring(25) "Networking at Conferences"

There are prime opportunities for networking at Conferences and Trade Shows, whether they take place virtually or in-person. We often attend these events with the single idea that we are there to take something away – information, education, free samples. However, don’t overlook  the many ways to make new contacts and connections that can be useful to spread the word about your business.

Four Suggestions for Networking at Conferences

  1. Make new friends. Conferences are a great opportunity for making new connections. Don’t hang out only with the people you already know. Mix it up! Sit next to and talk to different people throughout the show. Go beyond a short and friendly greeting of hello with a smile. Introduce yourself and then ask about them and their business.

  2. Meet the competition. Trade shows are events where you can meet hundreds of people if you have a booth. Remember to meet and talk with the other exhibitors as well; do this as an attendee, too. They are all there to generate new business and meet new contacts, just like you are. These are the people you’ll want to follow up with first after the event.

  3. Let your voice be heard. If the conference has workshops, volunteer to speak. Presenting at a business conference is a marvelous way to attain more exposure for your company and your own area of expertise. To obtain this opportunity, you’ll want to plan in advance by meeting the coordinators of the event well ahead of time.
    My recommendation is, when you attend a conference for the first time, make it a point to introduce yourself to the person responsible for booking the topics and speakers for next year’s event. Begin developing a relationship with this individual for the next year now.
  1. Be social. If the trade show you’re attending has a mixer or other networking event, don’t miss it! These are wonderful ways to make initial contact with people you’ve never met before. It pays to be there…many times over!

Don’t view these social events as the chance to close a deal, but rather as the first step down the long, profitable road of friendship and mutual benefit with a new referral marketing partner.

Follow-Up is Crucial

Of course, all of this good advice is worthless if you don’t engage in the critical follow-up process after the event. Plan a time to make a phone call, schedule a lunch meeting, or to send an email as a way of following up with the new connections you made. This is essential to build the foundation for a strong business relationship.

The most important thing I can impart to you is that you must approach this with a sense of wanting to learn as much as you can about the other people that you meet, instead of trying to tell them all about you.

Keep these points in mind when you have the chance to attend a conference or a trade show. Intentionally move out of your comfort zone to make new business contacts in addition to taking away information and education from the event. When you apply the tips in these suggestions, you’ll gain a whole new level of networking success.

What suggestions do YOU have for successful networking at trade shows and conferences?

Networking for the Life of Your Business

Networking for the Life of Your Businessstring(40) "Networking for the Life of Your Business"

Smart professionals know that business networking is essential for their success. They are active in select groups and organizations where they consistently participate and build relationships with other members. And the most successful entrepreneurs plan for, and are committed to, long-term networking for the life of their business.

It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Networking truly is a marathon; it is definitely not a sprint. When we join a Chamber of Commerce and Industry, or the professional association for our vocation, or a referral marketing group such as BNI®, we plan to be part of that group for many years. We build it into our strategic plan because we know that membership in these types of business networking groups is important as our company grows over time. We decide that we are going to be intentionally networking for the long haul, not just for a short trip.

Don’t confuse activity with accomplishments. Business networking is not about bouncing here and there, or approaching it with a go-go-go attitude. Making a quick appearance at a multitude of events just to be seen is usually unproductive.

Visibility is Only the Beginning

Visibility is important; it is part of the VCP Process®. Visibility is indeed good, however we have to build Credibility and invest the time to turn Credibility into Profitability for the process to work. This is done by building relationships. Successful entrepreneurs take their time and get to know the members of their business networking groups. Learn about their businesses and find out how to help them reach their goals, then teach them how to refer business to you. Remember, if your network is a mile wide and an inch deep, you will never achieve the success that you want.

Invest the time to develop a networking strategy that fits YOU. Understand that networking takes time, patience, hard work, dedication, commitment, and endurance. Networking longevity is about building genuine, trusted, and mutually beneficial relationships that are bountiful for years.  

Which of your professional memberships have you had the longest?

Building an Effective Knowledge Networkstring(39) "Building an Effective Knowledge Network"

As a business professional, you need a constant supply of information to achieve success. It is important to stay aware of issues and trends, and to keep up with technological and economic changes, all of which help you stay competitive. Perhaps you have already discovered that it is nearly impossible to keep up with all this information on your own. There is simply too much of it.

Your “knowledge network”, which is what I call the information component of your network, is made up of your most knowledgeable sources. These are the people who can provide you with the knowledge and expertise for success and business growth.

Fortunately, the knowledge you may lack is always someone else’s specialty, allowing you to turn to others for the help you need. That is why you want to set up your network’s information component with a group of contacts who know and understand what you must do to achieve success in your business, AND who have the experience to help you achieve your goals.

Categorize Your Knowledge Network Members

It is paramount to know in advance whom to contact and where to go to get the information you need. Here are suggestions for the types of people to include in your information network:

  • People like you: There are some distinct advantages to seeking out people who have the same goals and interests as you, and who are also striving to achieve the same thing you want to achieve. They are collecting the type of information you need, and vice versa. Partnering with them can help you both get the information faster by sharing the research efforts.

  • People who ARE in your profession: As a rule, your best information sources will be people who are successfully doing what you want to do (perhaps in a different location or serving a different clientele). They will know about the trends and issues in your field and may have experienced some of the challenges you are now facing. They will have current directories, and information about upcoming events related to your profession, as well as relationships with vendors you may need to hire.

  • People who WERE in your profession: Find out why they are no longer in that field. What happened to their business? What are they doing now? Did they make the right decision to leave the profession? Talk with those who were successful and those who were not. This information may be valuable in helping your future business planning.
     
  • Authors: People who write or produce books, articles, audio, and video about your profession are key subject experts. They usually have broad and deep knowledge about procedures, systems, technologies, tactics, and developments in your field. A few tips from these individuals could save you money and time.

  • Regulators: People who regulate, audit, or monitor professionals in your field can certainly tell you stories about the legal, procedural, and operational pitfalls that you might run into. Additionally, they probably know how to survive those pitfalls. You may even discover legal loopholes that can make life and business easier.

  • Trainers: The wonderful thing about trainers is that they specialize in imparting knowledge. They help people understand the basics; they introduce new technologies, procedures, and techniques. It is beneficial to gain access to their training materials; if necessary, sign up for training sessions.

  • Consultants: Business professionals use advisors and consultants to help them solve problems that they find difficult to handle alone. Some consultants are generalists, while others are specialists. Most are skilled in assessing problems.

  • Members of professional organizations: People who are active members of trade, business, and professional groups are prolific sources of information. Their membership gives them access to directories, newsletters, seminars, presentations, calendars of events and more. By networking, they stay in touch with current developments in their industry. Spending time with them will help you discover new ways to do things.

Identify Your Knowledge Network Members

Begin by writing the names of people that you know, or that you know of, who fit into each of these eight categories. List as many names as you can think of before you do anything else. Aim to identify at least three people in each category.

If necessary, you can use a name in more than one category, but it’s better to come up with as many individuals as possible. Remember, it is information that you want from your knowledge network, more people = more information. Once you have as many names as you can think of for each category, go back and fill in the contact information for each one.

When you have a full list of people in each of the categories, start connecting with these people to enhance and improve your knowledge network. Connect with them on social media platforms. Attend the same networking and business meetings that they do so you can make an introduction and start a conversation with them. Begin the process to build a professional relationship. AVOID selling to them and asking for help before you establish the relationship.

You can build an effective knowledge network, your own ‘think tank’, by following these steps and using your existing contacts, along with making new ones. By doing so, your network and the information you need to build your business will expand and grow.

Buck Up Blog

Buck Up Buttercupstring(17) "Buck Up Buttercup"

For many of us, a great amount of our business life and personal life is taking place on video calls. There are tremendous benefits to these video interactions, and there are certainly some challenges, too.

Why Does Everything Have to be a Video Call?

Video calls aren’t quick or easy, they require planning. We’re not just going to talk to someone, we’re going to be looking at them, and they will be looking at us. There is the time needed for personal primping to look our best. There is time needed for tidying up our background, and we need to do background noise abatement before a planned call. We have to do our tech test and check our equipment prior to the call to ensure we have a quality video connection.

A voice-only phone call involves very little preparation for our personal appearance, and our office or house doesn’t have to be meticulously cleaned to talk with someone on the phone. And remember, we DID conduct business – quite successfully – by regular phone calls for years!

Is It Okay to Just Say NO to a Video Call?

Of course it is. Simply say… “Let’s do this by phone please.” When stated professionally and respectfully, most people respond to that statement with “Sure, a phone call is fine.” 

During the workday, I sit at my desk for hours. Sometimes I prefer to walk around and talk. I use a headset while stretching my legs during the phone call. It is a comfortable way to have a productive conversation.

Some people worry that others will automatically assume that the reason they don’t want to be on video is because they don’t like how they look. Personally, I don’t generally care what other people think about unimportant things. If it troubles someone, I suggest using the “I need to walk around” reason. 

Are Some Types of Calls Better on Video?

Absolutely! Meeting with a new client is definitely a good time to use a video call. Having that eye contact and seeing a smiling face helps to build the business relationship right from the start.

Having a video call with someone you haven’t seen in a while is also a good idea.

If you are doing a presentation for a prospective customer, a video call can be a very effective way to meet with their entire team of decision makers.

Video Call Etiquette

Most of the business etiquette for in-person meetings applies to video meetings. You can build and maintain your professional credibility by using these suggestions. 

  • Be on time – which means you need to arrive five minutes early. Because everything on a video call is highly visible, even arriving a few minutes late will be noticed. If you are unavoidably going to be late, contact the person who is leading the meeting by text, phone and/or email.
  • Know the status of your microphone – always know when you are muted or unmuted. Costly mistakes happen when others hear something they shouldn’t because you think you’re on mute when you are openly broadcasting.
  • Stay focused. Put your multi-tasking urges aside for the duration of the call. Others can tell if you are checking your phone, typing, or talking to someone else who is in the room with you.
  • Make eye contact by looking directly at your camera more than you are looking at the video feed of yourself and others. 
  • Don’t interrupt when someone is speaking. By waiting 1-2 seconds after they have finished talking, you can avoid “double speak”, which is when attendees speak over one another, and no one is heard.
  • And for goodness’ sake – wear pants!!! You need to be fully dressed for ANY video call. I haven’t seen the pants thing yet, but I did have a woman who bent over directly in front of the camera and left nothing to the imagination.

 “Zoom fatigue” may be a real thing but I ask you to think of the alternative. What if Covid happened in 1991 instead of 2021?  Virtually everyone would be out of business!  There wouldn’t be video-call-fatigue, there would be bankruptcy.
Zoom fatigue – you kind of need to get over that.  I mean, Buck up Buttercup.

We need to FOCUS ON THE BENEFITS of today’s available technology that provide the opportunity to not only survive, but to thrive.

Ignoring You is Easystring(20) "Ignoring You is Easy"

We are designed to empathize with and endear those who are in our direct line of sight. We rely on personal interaction as a reminder of the people in our professional networking world. In business we cannot afford to be in the category of “out of sight, out of mind”.

Five Ways to stay visible to your customers, prospects, and referral network

  1. Email – One of the easiest forms of communication can also be the least effective. Emails are quickly dismissed because they take such little effort, and we receive so many of them. Because most of them are solicitations, avoid sending out only “spam”. Be sure that your emails offer value and always make them as personal as possible so you don’t unintentionally irritate your friends and business associates.
  2. Phone – That goes for texting too – make them as personal as possible. Most people can tell if the message is a “group” blast rather than personally tailored to them. Some will take it as a friendly reminder that they wanted to talk to you, however, many will just hit delete when they realize you’re making a generic sales pitch. Remember that your phone also makes calls, and you can actually talk on it. Sometimes a 5-minute call to a client from their business consultant (you) will go far to create loyalty with your company.
  3. Social Media – Whatever your social media preferences are, you’ll want to be active on those platforms with three to five posts each week. Moreover, only one-third of your posts should be focused on business. Why? It is possible to have hundreds of connections without any real friends. They want to know you as a person first, then as someone who has passion, and finally as a businessperson who shares about their profession.
  4. Face-to-Face – As we have more opportunities for in-person interactions, look for occasions to meet with referral partners. Perhaps it is sharing a meal while strategizing how to help each other’s business or stopping by your customer’s shop to say hello while you are in the area.
  5. Thank-you Cards – Ahh, the forgotten art of a handwritten note! Think back to the last letter that you received in the post or mail. How did you feel reading the words that someone took the time to write especially for you? It is easy to do and so appreciated. One suggestion is to keep some blank thank you cards and envelopes with a stamp on them in your briefcase or vehicle. Write the card immediately after the meeting or appointment, then drop it in the nearest mailbox.

Are you easy to ignore? If so, you had better do something about it. Knowing the preferred communication style of your clients and referral network as you implement some of these ideas will help you stay visible and remembered.

You Don’t Know Who They Know

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

What does this mean? There is a common perception that you have to meet a CEO or other influential people to get large referrals that will result in big sales.

Your friends, family, acquaintances, and referral partners probably have powerful contacts that can help you and your business. The only way to find out who they know is to ask them; give them the specific name of the person you want to meet. Never underestimate the depth of the pool that your fellow networkers are swimming in.

The Value You Bring

The value that you bring to a referral network or strategic alliance is directly related to the number of relationships you have and to the quality of those relationships. It doesn’t take a corporate executive to connect you with another corporate executive, or a rich person to introduce you to another rich, influential person. When you approach networking like farming rather than hunting, you can cultivate relationships with your fellow networkers that lead to introductions to the rest of their relationships.

Always Go to Dinner

A high-end property developer was invited to a networking group’s golf tournament to see what referral networking was all about. He only went because he loved to golf. As a big-money developer, he “didn’t need to network”. He attended the awards dinner afterward only because his foursome won.

At the dinner, he was seated next to a financial advisor who had grown wealthy through referral networking and had become a property investor. In conversation, the guest mentioned that he was having trouble getting a bank loan on a big property deal. The financial advisor said he might be interested in investing. Within a few days, they were negotiating a six-figure deal. Always go to dinner – you never know whom you are going to sit next to. Always pursue the networking opportunity at an event.

The diversity of your contacts is much more important than looking for the “big guys.” Surround yourself with quality people in a lot of different professions. Focus on the quality of the relationships you develop and cultivate those relationships on all levels. Because… you don’t know who they know.

Around the World People Want Referrals

Around the World – People Want Referralsstring(42) "Around the World – People Want Referrals"

The idea of growing your business through referral marketing is a concept that crosses cultural, ethnic, and political boundaries.

Years ago, I determined that the common denominator is because people want referrals! The public wants referrals, the business community wants referrals, it seems that everyone wants referrals. Becoming part of an organized, professional networking group is an effective way to get those referrals.

Is Business Networking Really Different?

During the time that BNI was first expanding to many countries around the world, I was frequently told that this type of networking wouldn’t work in other places. Ironically, the first time I heard “this won’t work here, we’re different” was from someone is Southern California talking about people who were 25 miles away in another part of Southern California!

I later realized that this person just didn’t want to do the necessary work to build their referral business. Rather than say, “I don’t want to do that”, it was easier to say, “we’re different here”. I was amazed that some people refused to follow the tried-and-true fundamentals that were proven to create referrals.

Building a Personal Network of Trust

You need to invest the time to gain trust and credibility within your network to generate the referrals you seek. Here are some networking tips for building relationships with foreign – and local – businesses.

  • As part of a network, keep a positive attitude and leave a good impression.
  • Maintain and cultivate your network by keeping in touch with them.
  • Do what you say you are going to do and do it when you say you will do it.
  • When asking your network for business advice, let them know that by helping you, they are also helping someone else (your customers).
  • Be cross-culturally aware. Do some research about best business practices before contacting someone in another area.

The value of having your personal network of trust applies wherever you do business.

Business is Business

My experience has shown that people in any entrepreneurial economy can use a networking system to improve their business. If this system is done within the cultural context, the networking concepts and techniques are also completely transferable from one country to another. The truth is that business is business when it comes to relationship marketing, regardless of culture, ethnicity, or political persuasion. Most entrepreneurs want to conduct business more effectively to get results.

Building business relationships through networking to get referrals is an idea that works. It resonates with businesspeople all over the world. It resonates in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Different people – different places, different countries – different cultures, different races – different religions, we all speak the language of referrals.

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