Who Has Inspired You?string(21) "Who Has Inspired You?"

I’m often asked, “Who has been an inspiration to you during your life?”
My answer is that there are a handful of people who have influenced me in terms of business and personal development. I’d like to tell you about four who have impacted my life both professionally and personally.

Michael E. Gerber

The first is Michael Gerber. Michael is an icon in the field of management. He wrote the book “The E-Myth” (entrepreneurial myth). I did not know Michael when I read the book, which I first picked up when I started BNI®. One of the things that really resonated with me was that he talked about systems, systems, systems. You have to write everything down and create systems. Make it replicable and sustainable. AND you have to learn how to work on the business, not just in the business. There are so many things that Michael wrote that I applied to BNI. I truly believe that BNI, as an organization today, exists the way it does because of the influence that “The E-Myth” had on me.

What really amazed me is that going forward almost 20 years, I finally had the opportunity to meet Michael and spend a fair amount of time with him. He visited me at my home, which reinforced my attitude about his knowledge and business acumen. He is amazing. I highly recommend that you read his book. He absolutely makes a difference in people’s business lives.

Jack Canfield

Number two is for personal development as much as business development, and that is Jack Canfield. You may know Jack from the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” book series which has sold over 500 million copies worldwide. I’ve gotten to know Jack really well and I think he is an amazing guy. He invited me into the Transformational Leadership Council (TLC), which I have been a member of now for a number of years, serving on their board and membership committee.

For somebody who has sold 500 million books and is as well-known as he is, oftentimes ego enters the room several minutes before they do. Not so with Jack. He is easy to talk to, very well-read, low ego, very intelligent, very personable, very driven, and very connectable.

Here is one of the things that I really love about him. He is highly engaged when he is at a seminar. He is up front, listening to everyone’s presentation and taking copious notes. I have learned a lot from Jack; he is a great guy. I urge people to read his books on success, such as “The Success Principles,” and read any of the Chicken Soup books – they are outstanding.

Stewart Emery

The third person is someone who may not have the name recognition as the first two, however he has really influenced me personally and has influenced BNI. It is Stewart Emery. Stewart has written a number of books including, “Success Built to Last.” I highly recommend that book. He has also written the book, “Do You Matter?” It’s about branding and design of a business, which is really good. I think Stewart is one of the great minds of our time. He has come up with some ideas that are really powerful, two of which I talk about often.

The first is culture eats strategy for breakfast. I love that concept. Culture eats strategy for breakfast. If you are part of an organization that has marginal culture and great strategy, you’re not going to do well as an organization. If you are part of an organization with great culture and a marginal strategy, you will probably do pretty well. If you are an organization that has great culture and a great strategy, you are going to beat the competition every day of the week.

The second thing that I learned from Stewart is the concept that became the basis for the book we co-authored together, “Who’s In Your Room?” The idea is that, assuming you let somebody into a metaphorical room that you create and you can’t ever let them out, would you think twice about who you let in? It’s a great concept and it is particularly relevant for BNI chapters and networking groups because if you bring people in, you realize that you are going to be with these people for a long time and can never get rid of them if you let them in. I appreciate Stewart for sharing this brilliant concept with me, and with all of us.

Sir Richard Branson

I got a chance to meet Richard Branson, entrepreneur and founder of the Virgin Group, several times through my visits to Necker Island. I’ve spent time with him there and got to know him reasonably well. He is gracious, kind and patient with people. He can connect to anyone at any level of an organization and make them feel empowered and good about themselves. He knows how to relax and have fun, and he’s a great host. I love that he has absolute laser focus on anyone he meets; he gives his undivided attention to them. He talks with that person as if they are the only one in the room, maintaining eye contact with them the whole time. I have gone to school on Richard and his ability to network effectively with all people at all levels of an organization, and I’ve learned a lot from him.

So those are people who have influenced me both personally and professionally.
Who has inspired you? I invite you to think about two or three people who have made a difference in your life and share why & how in the comments section.

I believe gratitude is a good thing. I suggest that if you know these people personally, or if you can connect with them somehow, let them know that they have influenced your life.

 

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Give Valuable Information to Get More Business

Give Valuable Information to Get More Businessstring(46) "Give Valuable Information to Get More Business"

We all want to do business with people we know and trust. So, how do you build rapport and create trust with new contacts at business networking events? One way is to offer value-added advice – solid, helpful information provided out of a genuine concern for another person.

For instance, a real estate agent may be talking with someone at a networking event who is not ready to buy a home today, however they are considering it soon. The agent could say something like this:
“Well, I know you’re not interested in buying a home right now. When you’re ready to start looking, I highly recommend checking out the north part of town. Many of my clients have seen their homes appreciate in the 10 to 20 percent range, and from what I understand, the city is thinking about building another high school in that area.”

This example shows that it is possible to offer relevant information that has something of value without being too salesy. A statement like this acknowledges that the person is not currently in the market, and yet it still demonstrates the real estate agent’s expertise, making them memorable when it’s time for the new contact to begin house hunting.

This model can be effective for consultants, accountants, financial planners, coaches, and for most professionals in a service-based industry in which knowledge is the main product. 

Give a Little Test Drive

Some people are concerned about giving away their intellectual capital for free. I say look at it this way: very few people are going choose to work with you if they’re not sure you can do the job and provide what they need.

If your business does not have a tangible product, you only have your technical expertise to demonstrate your capability to help them solve their problem. Think about it – when you’re ready to buy an automobile, it doesn’t matter how much research you’ve done on a particular model, you’re probably not going to sign on the dotted line until you’ve taken the car for a test drive.

The same is true for your prospective customers. Give them a little test drive to show how it would feel to do business with you. If you are a marketing consultant, give them a few ideas on how they can increase the exposure of their business. Don’t go overboard; simply offer a technique you read about or tried with one of your clients. Just give them something they can try to see if it works for them.

This way of offering advice lead to a positive conversation with new contacts while you’re networking, and it also increases the likelihood of them contacting you when they have a future need for your type of service.  

Prospective Referral Sources

Remember that your networking group members are also your prospective referral sources. Consider the ways that you can give them valuable advice related to your specialty or profession. Perhaps you can tell them about an upcoming change in procedures that will affect them, give tips on how to initiate the changes they will need to make, or provide other pertinent information that can help your chapter members achieve success.

One of the goals of a master connector is to help your networking partners feel that you are a link to privileged and helpful information. The advice you give may lead prospective referral sources to seek you out for answers to their own questions, which is a great way to remind them of what you can do for others.  

Here are some tips to help you decide what to share with your network and how to share it with them:

  • Make a list of the topics that you feel comfortable and confident giving advice on.
  • Decide whether you will share information formally, such as in a newsletter or a presentation at your networking group, or informally, such as a personal note.
  • Determine how frequently you will provide updates on the topics.
  • Ask your sources to think of others who might benefit from your advice.
  • Periodically ask your network members if they find your information useful. You can ask them if they have other questions or topics that you can share, too.
  • Be sure that your network members know that they can tell you if they no longer wish to receive your updates.

Offering valuable information to your network will not only help them, it will also keep you on their minds and encourage them to refer you and speak highly of your professional knowledge to people they know.

A Giving Approach

I learned about the power of giving when I was in my first management position working for private industry. I went to each member of my team and asked, “How can I help you?” By offering to help people with this simple question, I built strong relationships with them and learned what it was that they needed most from me.

I later discovered that this approach worked very well in promoting my consulting services in my own business. I would find ways to help people – even if it meant not selling them my services. The attitude of helping with a ‘giving’ approach was a way to build my credibility and it brought people back to me later when they had a need.

When it comes to building rapport and creating trust, offering value-added advice is one of the best ways to do so. Everyone can benefit when you give valuable information to your business networking group and networking partners.

Have you found it beneficial to share some of your expertise with potential customers? I’d like to read about your experience in the Comment section.

Be a Motivational Speaker for Your Business

Be a Motivational Speaker for Your Businessstring(43) "Be a Motivational Speaker for Your Business"

When you watch or listen to a motivational speaker such as Jack Canfield, Brian Tracy or John Maxwell, can you feel the passion flowing through their words and actions? Think back to a speaker’s presentation at a convention or seminar you attended. Was there an energetic buzz in the room afterward? Were the other attendees excited about what they heard?  Usually the answer is YES. However, do you know why?

The hidden element behind a motivational speaker is passion. They have an uncanny ability to share passion through their words, which helps listeners remember their message.

When it comes to business networking success, our personal challenge is to have an extraordinary message that captures the essence of our business and highlights our unique selling proposition (USP). Our USP sets us apart from the competition and helps us get more referrals from our networking groups.

Tapping Into Your Business Passion

Are your referral partners excited about your business? If you’re not sure, ask yourself: Are YOU excited about what you do? Are you passionate about what you do? Hopefully, your answer is yes – you are excited and passionate about your business. You need to convey that feeling to your potential customers and clients, and to your networking partners.

Increasing the excitement about your business can be easy. You can capitalize on your passion and spotlight your uniqueness by answering these questions from your heart rather than your head.

  1. WHY are you excited about your business?
  2. As a professional, what do you do that makes you look forward to going to work each day?
  3. How does your work fulfill you?
  4. What element of your work do you enjoy the most ? Why?
  5. What can you say about yourself or your business that your competition cannot say?

Your answers will help you tap into your passion and incorporate it into your daily message about your work. I believe that successful people have passion about what they do, and it shows in how they describe their business. They are working in their flame and not in their wax.

Public Speaking Tips

After you identify your passion about what you do and develop your USP, it’s time to put them together for an effective business presentation. Whether it is a one-minute presentation, ten minutes, or more, these tips can help make it more comfortable and less stressful when speaking in public.

  1. Be prepared. Have reference notes about what you plan to say and review them ahead of time. Avoid reading them word-for-word.
  2. Be specific. Focus on just one or two parts of your business each time you speak on it. By being specific, you can talk about something you know well and will feel more at ease.
  3. Use visual aids. PowerPoint slides can help you stay on track. In-person handouts assure that your audience takes home important information.
  4. Remember that you are the expert. Nobody knows your business as well as you do. Speak confidently about your experience and your expertise.
  5. Be creative. If talking to a large group makes you uncomfortable, try starting with a Q&A session and share your information in response to the questions.
  6. Tell stories about your business. Make sure to relive the story, don’t just retell it. Relive the story as though you were experiencing it again; this will give you the same kind of excitement you had when it happened and will draw the audience in to the experience with you.

There is no right or wrong way to present to an audience. I recommend that you do what works best for you and for your business in a way that is comfortable for you.

Sharing Your Passion

Many business professionals offer to speak free of charge to service clubs or business organizations as a way of sharing their expertise while getting exposure for themselves and their business. If your product or service is conducive to this approach, tell the members of your personal network that you offer this service, and accept referrals for speaking engagements. Ask your referral partners to share your information with the program chairs of organizations to which they belong, such as chambers of commerce, Rotary, Kiwanis, or the local group of their industry professionals.

REMEMBER: These speaking engagements are NOT a sales pitch. You are there to provide expert information and education to the group and its members.

If you prepare well, incorporate the public speaking tips, and do a good job at these presentations by sharing your passion for your work, you may get many more speaking offers and a lot of new business. I know of a BNI member who took this advice and built her speaking resume by sharing information at chambers of commerce, professional organizations, civic and community groups, high schools, and with active-duty military personnel. Those connections led to being featured on local television, radio, and teaching a class at a community college, all of which helped her business grow.

Remember, nothing great in life has ever been accomplished without passion. When you are passionate about the solutions you provide for your customers and clients, and you share that excitement with your network and your referral partners, they become motivated to help you. When you become a motivational speaker for your business, great things can happen.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. How do you share your passion for what you do?

Related Blog Posts:
https://ivanmisner.com/support-material-techniques-for-increasing-referrals/
https://ivanmisner.com/conquer-your-fear-of-public-speaking/
https://ivanmisner.com/be-passionate-not-pushy/

Go from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be

Go from Where You Are to Where You Want to Bestring(45) "Go from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be"

My friend Jack Canfield is a best-selling author with hundreds of books, including The Success Principles and the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. He has also been my guest on The Official BNI Podcast. This blog is from my podcast conversation with Jack about how to get from where you currently are to where you want to be. We discuss his book, The Success Principles, and the companion book, The Success Principles Workbook, which helps people integrate the principles into their personal and professional success stories.

Many people read helpful books like The Success Principles and are excited about the ideas they get. However, many don’t do the things that they learned about – sometimes they need more support. Jack shares some ideas, exercises, and activities from The Success Principles Workbook which provide a way to integrate and apply the principles.

Recognizing OUR Part in Creating Our Experiences

It’s easy to talk about taking 100% responsibility and giving up blaming and complaining. But to actually do that requires some interaction with you and your thinking process. There is an exercise called ‘The Difficult and Troubling Experience Exercise’ where you answer a series of questions such as “What’s a difficult or troubling experience in your life – at work or at home?” And then “How are you creating it?” Because we’re always doing something to create the current situation.

Jack shares the story of a person he met who was getting robbed all the time, and Jack asked him, “Where do you live?” He said, “New York.” Jack said, “In an apartment?” He said, “Yeah.” Jack: “What floor is it?” He replied, “The first floor.” Jack asked him if he had bars on the apartment windows to which the man answered, “No.” “Do you have triple locks on the door?” “No.”  “Do you have a alarm system to alert the police if someone breaks in?” “No.”
Jack then asked him, “What are you pretending not to know? You live on the first-floor apartment in New York City. So, one of the next questions is what are you pretending not to know? And then the question is – What’s the payoff for keeping it like it is?”

What’s the cost of keeping the situation like it is?
What would you rather be experiencing?
What actions would you need to take to create what you really want?
On a scale of one to 10, are you likely to do that?
And when will you do that?  

These types of questions take you through a process of looking at what’s not working in your life and how you’re creating it. You’re not a victim but there’s something you’re doing to either create, promote, or allow it to happen.

Life Purpose

Jack recommends three exercises to help us get clarity about our life purpose.

  1. It’s important to have a vision. He suggests creating a vision for seven different areas of your life.
  2. Goal Setting. Turn your vision into goals and create an affirmation for each of your goals.
  3. Create a mastermind group. Determine the five or six people you would like in your group and decide the date by which you’re going to call them. Meet with your mastermind group virtually or in person every two weeks.

 

Accountability Partner Culture

For business success, find an accountability partner to talk to every morning. Tell them five things that you plan to do that day to achieve your breakthrough goal, and then they tell you five things they are going to do to achieve their breakthrough goal. The next day, you hold each other accountable for the five things you each said you would do.
Do this for five days each week.

I find that many people like this concept, however they say, “I don’t have time to do that.” What I think is crazy, is they’re stuck in their life and they’re having challenges. They’re not making things work, but they don’t have a few minutes a day to do one thing to help themselves.

Create an accountability partner culture. Take five minutes, once a day. The reality is you can’t afford NOT to do it. As humans, we avoid doing the things that are uncomfortable or difficult, even if they have the greatest long-term benefits.

Often, we never do the big goals or make the big breakthroughs that you do when you have an accountability partner and a mastermind group. Those five minutes every morning are so valuable. Jack told me, “It’s literally been one of the greatest secrets of my success and the people in my company.”

One Thing at a Time

Many people spend way too much time doing things that are ineffective and then they don’t have the time they want for their family, for self-care, for exercise, meditation, or even healthy eating. It can be overwhelming when you try to do everything at once. When we are overwhelmed, we usually don’t do anything.
Do one thing at a time, space it out, and then integrate it, so that it becomes part of your natural experience – it becomes a habit.

Jack recommends that people create FOUR new habits a year. Resist the urge to do more than that. If you create four new habits a year – for your health, business, home – AND you stick with them, in five years you’ll have 20 new habits! The habits that you have are what get you where you want to go. OR, if they are bad habits, they’re keeping you stuck. Implementing positive changes, over time and consistently, can change your life and help you get to where you want to be.

I love Jack and appreciate how much he shares to help others be successful. Check out his website, his blog, and the many free resources he offers. I can tell you firsthand that he is somebody who walks the talk. He doesn’t just talk about success. He lives the principles that he talks about.

3 Ways to Attract the Customers You Deserve

3 Ways to Attract the Customers You Deservestring(43) "3 Ways to Attract the Customers You Deserve"

Businesspeople know that they need to get more customers to grow their business and reach their company goals. One of the best ways to gain new clients is through referrals from the people in your networks. I have found that an effective way to receive referrals is to be the go-to problem-solver for your desired target market.

I’m going to share a mini course on how to attract your ideal customer from the book, The Connector Effect, which I co-authored with Graham Weihmiller and Robert Skrob.

Let’s get started. There are three parts to this exercise and all three need to be completed for best results. Within two minutes or less, write a response to each of these questions or requests. Don’t overthink your answers and know that the more you treat this as a lightning-round type of exercise, the more you’ll get out of it.

  1. Describe Your Ideal Customer

Many would-be marketers fail because they never define a target client. Instead, they use words like “everybody” or “anybody.” Defining a target market gives your referral partners a mental picture of the best customer to refer to you.

Answer the following if your clients are consumers:

  1. Think of a person who is already a great customer for you: what area do they live in?
  2. What is their family status and profession?
  3. How does their household income compare with the average?
  4. What are they planning, bragging or complaining about?

If your clients are other businesses, answer these questions:

  1. Think of a company that is already a great customer for you: What line of business is that customer in?
  2. What’s the approximate size?
  3. Who makes the buying decisions for your product or service?
  4. What’s the problem they are trying to solve when buying your product?

When you are specific, you are serving your fellow members in your networking group by giving them a clear idea of your ideal patron. The more detailed you are, the more effective they will be in finding those referrals for you.

  1. What problems are you solving for them?

Too many businesspeople talk about their products and services. This sounds self-serving, however, talking about the problems you solve makes you into a giver who attracts customers.

  1. List at least three problems your good customer has that makes them ideal for your business.
  2. What is the worst thing that could possibly happen to your clients if their problems aren’t solved?
  3. What is the best thing that can happen once their problems are solved?
  4. Do you have success stories to illustrate how you help your customers? (Client testimonials are a great way to give your network a clearer idea of what exactly you deliver, and they demonstrate that your group members can trust you to deliver what you promise.)

  1. Perfect Your Presentation

Now that you’ve identified examples of your experience as a problem-solver, let’s pull the above information into a brief presentation that you can share during business networking meetings, industry events, and business mixers.

Here are the three elements of the perfect business introduction:

  1. State your professional classification.
  2. Tell a brief story about a problem you solved for a customer.
  3. Request a referral – “who do you know who is [insert target customer] who suffers [from the issue you corrected in the brief story].” Be specific!

It’s important to remember that each presentation is only about ONE particular problem that you solved for your client. Avoid the laundry list – if you overshare by telling everything you do, it will dilute the effectiveness of your presentation, resulting in few, if any, referral opportunities.

These three steps will help you develop presentations that attract the customers you want from your referral partners.
Once you learn how to create these presentations for your business, you can also use this skill for any club, charity, or campaign that you lead to develop an easy and memorable way to talk about those activities, too.  

I’d like to hear your feedback and results from doing this exercise. Share your story in the comments section.

Eight Categories of Referral Sources for Your Business

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Referrals are often the most profitable way to gain new customers. And the only way to get referrals is through other people in your network.
I’ve found that most networkers only focus on existing clients as their main source for business referrals. However, there are seven other referral sources which can also be developed to generate opportunities for new referrals.

  1. Satisfied Clients
    One of your best referral sources is satisfied clients. Having firsthand experience with your products or services, they are true believers and can give convincing testimonials about you. Stay in touch with these customers; they are your top fans, your best promoters, and they can be very effective in helping others decide to do business with you.

  2. People in Your Contact Sphere
    A Contact Sphere is a group of businesses and professions that complement, rather than compete with, your business. Each of them has customers who can benefit from the services of the others. For instance: event planner, caterer, photographer, and florist.

  3. People Whose Business Benefits from Yours
    These are the people who get more business when you get more business: your suppliers and vendors. If you sell workbooks, the printer who prints them for you benefits. It is in these other businesses’ self-interest to give you referrals.

  4. Others with Whom You Do Business
    Think about the people you go to for your personal and professional needs. Your own business may not have anything to do with dentistry or hairstyling or automobiles, but in your everyday life you do business with a dentist, a hairstylist, auto mechanic, and many more. If you’ve been using their services for some time, they probably know what you do and that you’re a reliable, trustworthy person. Sometimes this is all the recommendation a potential client needs.

  5. Staff Members
    Except for customers, no one understands better than staff members how your products or services perform. Every member of your staff from all departments gives your business a boost when they talk with their friends, neighbors, and people they meet in their daily lives. Remember that working for your company will always be a part of your former staff members’ history, too, and is often part of their conversation with prospects as well.

  6. People to Whom You’ve Given Referrals
    You’re more likely to get a referral from someone to whom you’ve given a referral or helped them in some way. The best networkers believe in the “givers gain” philosophy (what goes around comes around). The more you give to others, the more you’ll get in the future.

  7. People Who Have Given You Referrals
    People who give you referrals for business, or direct others to you for advice, are demonstrating that they think highly of you and what you do. If they didn’t, they would refer people elsewhere. Strengthen and nurture these prospective referral sources; don’t take them for granted. Show your appreciation with personal communication and by referring prospects to them.

  8. Other Members of Business Referral Groups
    Referral groups are set up by their members mainly to exchange business referrals. A typical weekly meeting of such a group includes time devoted exclusively to networking and referring business. Get to know your fellow members to build mutually beneficial relationships that help each other’s businesses grow.

Community Service Organizations

As you think about the people you know in the eight different groups of referral sources, you may find that many of them are from community service groups you are involved with. These types of organizations give business professionals an opportunity to give something back to their community and to make valuable contacts.

While these groups exist primarily for community service, they also provide an excellent opportunity for businesspeople to meet regularly and develop relationships.
Local service organizations are usually populated with the movers and shakers of the community. Those who are long-term, active, and contributing members of such groups usually end up befriending people who can open doors and present little-known opportunities for them.

With any business organization, particularly service clubs, it is very important to remember that making effective contacts and building deep business relationships is a journey, not a destination.

Savvy professionals who know and cultivate their most likely referral sources get the largest number of high-quality referrals, and the more referrals they get, the more revenue they generate in the long run.

I urge you to make a commitment to reach out and connect with at least one person from two or three of these eight commonly untapped referral sources to start developing and strengthening your business relationship with your potential referral partner.

Successful Business Networking: Do You Need to Know How to “Sell?”

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The answer is YES. Master networkers know that sales skills are absolutely required for successful referral marketing. Those skills are needed in every part of the process – not just in closing the sale with the prospect.

There have been numerous businesspeople I’ve met over the years who are fantastic networkers and they think that just because they know how to network, they don’t need to know how to sell. They assume that people will like them and then, because they like them, their products or services will sell themselves. This kind of mentality is unfortunate because people who think this way often leave business on the table.

There are three steps in the referral marketing sales process where selling skills are essential.

To Get the Referral

From the very beginning, you must sell yourself to your potential referral source.
Remember, a referral is not a guaranteed sale. A referral is an opportunity to talk with, and possibly do business with, someone to whom you’ve been recommended. You still have to close the deal. You have to make it clear that you know how to sell, and that you can and will provide the products or services that you are expected to provide. And that the customer will be happy with both the process and the result – which will reflect favorably on the person that provided the referral.

If you are unable to make that first “sale,” your potential referral source won’t become a referral partner. They won’t be inclined to risk their reputation and relationship with the prospect and won’t do their part to sell the referral.

To Get the Appointment

Beyond selling yourself to the referral source, you have to sell yourself to the prospect to get that first appointment. Yes, the referral helps a great deal, but you still have to convince the potential buyer that the appointment is worth their time and is likely to result in a favorable outcome for them.

I strongly recommend that networkers avoid being aggressive, indecisive, or evasive at this point. The prospect has been in contact with your referral provider and is expecting a high level of professionalism and respect from you in your approach. Be confident that a mutually beneficial deal is in the works and communicate this to the potential client with your attitude and actions. Strive not to embarrass your referral partner that connected you with this person.

To Get the Sale

Once you have made the appointment, you have to persuade the potential customer to buy your product or service. This is the part that usually comes to mind when you hear the word “sell.” Your integrity is paramount at this stage. They should know exactly what to expect from you – no hidden charges, no unexpected exceptions, and no bait-and-switch.

The number one thing to remember is to make your referral provider look good when you are talking with the person they referred to you. You need to demonstrate that you know how to sell to the prospect in a way that doesn’t reflect poorly back on them. They want to be confident that you will consult with the potential customer, discover their needs, offer solutions based on those needs, give them some options, and you won’t force a sale if you know you are unable to provide a good solution.

Note that in referral marketing, closing the deal with your prospect is neither the beginning nor the end of the selling process. To get to this point, you will have made at least two other sales, as noted above. To build and maintain the long-term relationships that characterize successful referral marketing, you have to follow up with both your new client and with your referral partner as part of the total sales process.

Sales skills are important in business networking. Some people are better at closing sales than others. Having the knowledge and skill to generate the referral, then having the knowledge and skill to close the sale, gives the businessperson a significant advantage.

The sales process is all about keeping an ongoing relationship with the client or customer, AND with your referral partner. This is something that the best referral marketers know and understand. “Sell” is a word that should be in every networker’s vocabulary.

How do you sharpen your sales skills and/or keep an ongoing relationship with your clients/customers?

The Power of One Conversation

The Power of One Conversationstring(29) "The Power of One Conversation"

Sometimes one conversation can create the pebble-in-the-pond dynamic that changes people’s lives. It may be a kind word to someone you know who is feeling overwhelmed or despondent. It may be a helpful gesture to someone you don’t know who needed to feel noticed that day. It can even be an invitation to a business networking event. This is the story of one such invitation.

The Power of One Invitation

A realtor in the U.S. was attending a local Chamber of Commerce mixer where a woman introduced herself and they began talking. At the end of the conversation she said, “I am part of a business networking group and we have breakfast every Wednesday morning. I’d love to invite you to breakfast, would you like to come?” He replied, “Absolutely.” On the following Wednesday he attended the meeting and was very impressed. He felt welcomed when he arrived and was pleasantly surprised with the structured way the meeting was run and with the business referrals that were being passed between the members. After the meeting, he chatted with some of them, and they invited him back for a second visit the following week.

The next week when he returned to the networking group, he found out that there could only be ONE residential realtor in that chapter. The member who was the realtor happened to be someone he knew, and she said to him, “You ought to think about starting your own chapter.” She then gave him the name and contact information of the person who could answer any questions if he wanted to find out more about it.

He called that day and after an hour-long conversation they decided to start a new BNI® chapter. That chapter grew into a group of businesspeople who built deep professional relationships with each other. Along with passing referrals that turn into revenue for each other’s companies, they care about and support each other.

A Culture of Caring

When devastating wildfires went through their community, 900 houses were lost. Several of the chapter members and their families were among those evacuated from their homes. Their fellow BNI members welcomed them into their homes, giving them a place to stay during those fires.

Yes, that one conversation between two attendees of a networking event was very powerful. It brought together dozens of people who created a group with a culture of caring and of welcoming visitors. They’ve passed referrals that have generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in closed business for the members of the group. That one conversation grew into a caring community that goes beyond a weekly chapter meeting. It brought together people who support each other with a Givers Gain® attitude and a genuine desire to help each other succeed.   

Do you have a networking story about one conversation?  I invite you to share it here.

Four Ways to Grow Your Businessstring(31) "Four Ways to Grow Your Business"

We all want sustainable growth in our business. The question is: where to begin? Success expert and author Brian Tracy said, “When all you have is a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail.”

We can do more than walk around with a hammer. I think we can be more strategic by identifying four ways to grow your business and examining the pros and cons of each.

  1. Advertising

This is often the first place businesses go to drive growth, especially if they don’t know where else to start. There are numerous advertising options available including online, television, radio, print, newsletters, billboards, coupons and other promotions, bus benches, and even posting a business card on the local community bulletin board.

The Pros of Advertising

  • The potential to reach masses of people in a short time frame.
  • Very little work or effort because an expert is hired to do it.
  • It can generate a large volume of leads.
  • It can be targeted to specific demographics and to different geographic areas.

The Cons of Advertising

  • Potentially the most expensive way to grow a business.
  • If an advertising campaign is not strategically executed, it could have zero results.
  • Some statistics show that 80% of sales come after at least five impressions or contacts with potential customers. There needs to be a commitment to a long-term strategy with advertising campaigns.
  • Consumers are bombarded with ads, and it can be difficult to break through the clutter and capture their attention.

  1. Public Relations

Public relations (PR) manages the message between a company or individual and the public. Good PR helps build visibility, boost credibility, and enhance the reputation of a brand or company through storytelling, and by promoting a company’s products and services. This is usually accomplished through press releases, feature stories on television news broadcasts, and/or articles in newspapers, magazines, or websites.

The Pros of PR

  • It is a cost-effective approach to building positive awareness about a brand.
  • PR is an efficient tool for building credibility, especially through media relations.
  • The third-party endorsement and support of a quality journalist who covers a story about your company can be invaluable.
  • Good PR can enhance and amplify other marketing efforts.

The Cons of PR

  • PR is generally about brand building. It is not about immediate sales.
  • It takes time to build relationships with both journalists and with the public. Public relations results are not instantaneous.
  • Measuring the results of any marketing initiative is critical. However, it is often difficult to evaluate the success of a PR campaign because it is not traditional marketing.

  1. Cold Calling

About ninety-seven percent of salespeople don’t like to make cold calls. That means the remaining three percent who claim to like cold calling are either lying or are gluttons for punishment. If so many salespeople dislike cold calling, why do they continue to do it? Perhaps it is that cold calling may seem to be the most direct route to conceivable new business.

The Pros of Cold Calling

  • It allows someone to hone their skill of leaving the prefect voicemail message which will never be returned by most of the prospects being called.
  • Cold calling builds character, which is supposedly good for you.
  • If you make enough cold calls, someone will eventually take pity on you and just maybe buy something.

The Cons of Cold Calling

  • It’s a cold call.
  • It can take hundreds of cold calls before there are any signs of potential success.
  • There are hundreds of calls to follow up with.
  • Cold call recipients often reject the caller or just hang up on them.

  1. Networking and Referrals

One of the best opportunities for new business comes in the form of a referral. A referral is the most qualified form of new opportunities and is also a compliment to you and your business. Think about it: there is often nothing to gain on the part of the person giving the referral except their desire to recognize how great you are by allowing you to take care of their family, friends, and business associates.

The Pros of Networking and Referrals

  • The closing ratio for referred clients is 300 – 700 percent higher than for cold call leads.
  • Referred customers stay four times longer than non-referred customers.
  • Clients from referrals buy 3-4 times more in the first year than those from other sources.
  • Referred customers are more likely to refer you to their family, friends, and co-workers in the future.

The Cons of Networking and Referrals

  • Quality referrals cannot be purchased. They must be earned with the investment of time and energy needed to develop deep business relationships.
  • Without a referral marketing system or strategy, referrals can be infrequent and random.
  • Profitable referral relationships take longer to develop because they are based on trust.

  • Now that you are familiar with the four ways to grow your business and understand the pros and cons for each, you can make an educated decision about what will work best for your business. It is likely that you will use (or already have used) a unique blend of all four of them. As a businessperson, I have used all of them at some point in my career.

My experience from more than three decades of growing and running a business is that referrals are the least costly form of business growth, and they typically produce better long-term results.

I invite you to share your experience and thoughts in the comment section.

Understanding Cultural Differencesstring(34) "Understanding Cultural Differences"

Today’s global society provides many opportunities for businesspeople. To make the most of those opportunities, it is important to understand cultural differences when doing business around the world.

Keep in mind that many business and networking basics are universal across all cultures. When we concentrate on similarities with each other, the differences are much less important. When we focus on the perceived differences between each other in business, that focus can become a stumbling block to developing strong relationships, which is the foundation of business networking success.

Be Prepared 

If you are traveling to another country, begin your preparation long before you are ready to catch your flight. Research your destination. Look at the general layout of the area plus the local culture, lifestyle, and customs. Read the local news and be informed regarding any current events and holidays that are occurring while you are there.

I suggest that you talk to someone that lives where you are going. You probably already have a good contact with someone who invited you to travel to their country. Talk with them prior to your arrival to review what to expect and ask them to share some of the cultural differences. I have done this consistently over the years that I have traveled as the Founder of BNI® and found it makes a huge difference in my ability to connect in an appropriate way throughout the many countries I have visited.

You may also find this website helpful. It provides cultural etiquette information for 44 countries and can be a good reference.

Top Five Tips

  1. Learn a few key phrases in the native language of the country you are visiting. Business associates will typically appreciate any honest attempt you make at communicating with them in their native language.
  2. Be conscious of your body language. Things that you do all the time may have completely different connotations in other cultures. Even handshakes might mean something different in other countries; for some it is customary to bow instead.
  3. Consideration of Personal Space. It is very important to respect the cultural boundaries relating to personal space. Some cultural dynamics are fine with close personal interaction, while more space is customary with others. Do the research and be sensitive to cultural differences in this area.
  4. Use of slang and gestures. When using slang words and gestures in a business environment, keep in mind that what means one thing to you might have no meaning, or a very different meaning, in another culture. For example, certain hand gestures, such as pounding your fist in your palm, are considered extremely rude in some cultures.
  5. Business card etiquette. Exchanging business cards is an essential part of most cultures. The business card is considered an extension of the individual in many places and is treated with great respect. It may be customary to spend time reading someone’s business card when it is handed to you. Taking it and immediately putting in your pocket, or writing on it, can be considered impolite and may be regarded as an insult.

Giving a Presentation

If you are invited to give a presentation in another country, I have some additional tips for you. First, read everything prior to this section and do your homework in those areas.

Second, if there is a translator for your presentation, talk with them well before going on stage; the day before is preferable. Show them ALL material you have, including your notes. They can review your slides or videos to recognize anything that may be offensive to the audience. They may need your help with acronyms or with slang that is used. Tell them about any hand gestures or physical moves you make during a particular part of the presentation so they can be prepared and advise about cultural sensitivity.

Here’s a particularly effective tip. Ask the translator to have someone wave at you from the booth if you are going too fast. If they say that won’t be a problem – they are a good translator, and you can speak at normal speed (but not too fast). If they say yes, they will have someone wave at you if you’re going too fast – they are likely not a world-class translator, which means you definitely need to go slow. 

Discuss any humor you may have in your presentation with the translator to make sure the story and the humor is okay. AND… pause for one to two counts after any humor because there will be two waves of laughter. First, it will be those who know the language you are speaking, followed a few seconds later by those who are listening to the translator.

(These recommendations are applicable for both in-person and virtual presentations.)

If you are presenting an in-person keynote at an event, be prepared to have your photo taken a lot. While traveling to other countries, I have found that most people are very respectful and are often very animated in their appreciation of having you attend their event.

When traveling internationally, remember that you are an invited guest in another country. Always act professionally. It is very important to consider, understand, and respect cultural differences when networking and doing business in different places across the globe. May your travel opportunities be enjoyable, memorable, and successful!

Networking – the TRUE Definitionstring(34) "Networking – the TRUE Definition"

A recent Google search for “what is networking” provided almost six billion results! We should note that those results include computer networking. However, there are still numerous definitions for non-computer networking; the people-to-people type that so many of us want to do and for which most of us have had no formal training.

As the Founder and Chief Visionary Officer of BNI® I have seen the definition of business networking evolve over the past 37 years. And yet, the essence of what networking truly is has never changed. I share my definition in this video.

My Definition

This is my definition of networking:
Networking is the process of developing and activating your relationships to increase your business, enhance your knowledge, and expand your sphere of influence or serve the community.

The Key Word

The key word here is relationships. Successful networking of any kind always begins with a genuine desire to build relationships for the purpose of giving and receiving business. When someone is networking only to gain and not to give, they will never be successful.

Remember – networking is more about FARMING than it is about HUNTING. It’s about cultivating relationships and taking the time and energy to help them grow and flourish. Think of it like this: a good farmer knows when to tend to his crop and when to harvest it. If you over pick, you’ll be left with nothing. But if you continue to care for and maintain your crop, it will grow abundantly and provide bountiful results.

Business professionals who are the farming type of networker go to networking events because of the opportunities to meet new people, not to use it as face-to-face cold calling. They know the importance of meeting someone and then building a relationship with them. They go well beyond the ‘hunting’ style of meeting people simply to be able to add another name to their contact list.

Building Relationships

At networking events, set your goal to make solid connections with people so that when you follow up with them, they remember who you are when you invite them out to coffee or lunch. Practice being interested, rather than interesting. Ask about them – their business and their current projects, instead of talking about yourself. This is how you begin building mutually beneficial relationships.

Then you can schedule additional times to connect and build credibility with them. Continue to find ways to help them, perhaps introducing them to a potential referral source or inviting them to visit your business networking group. As I said earlier, there must be a genuine desire to give, not just gain, when you are building deep relationships.

Whether personal and professional, all relationships evolve through three phases: Visibility, Credibility, and Profitability. The VCP Process® is useful for determining where you are in your relationship with others. Master networkers know that networking events are about moving through the process and NOT about making a sale or closing a deal. Skipping through the phases and asking for business without establishing a relationship will almost always result in a NO answer.

My definition of networking is congruent with my style of networking. I know it sounds simple; however, as with most things in life, it may be simple and yet not easy. Effective business networking takes time AND money. The best way to network is to connect with people. Get to know them. Build a relationship and learn about their business so you can help them get more business. Successful networking is about taking the time to cultivate relationships, always with an attitude of giving.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Share them in the comment section below.

Are-Referrals-Always-Reciprocal

Are Referrals Always Reciprocal?string(32) "Are Referrals Always Reciprocal?"

Some people think about business networking as a game of Who is giving what to whom, always wondering how they can score more.  I caution those people that there is no rule that says, “For every referral you give, you can expect one in return.” Similarly, when you hand out more referrals, it does not mean that other business professionals 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 building deep relationships with referral partners. Entrepreneurs who focus on giving first and asking “What can I do to help you?” instead of “What’s in it for me?” are usually more successful in their networking efforts.

Talk to Them

If you find that you are giving someone a lot of referrals and you are not getting anything in return, the first thing to do is to sit down with them. Be tactful and respectful. Rather than saying, “I have given you all of these referrals. How come you have not given any to me?” you can instead sit down with them and review all the business referrals you have given them in a way that shows you care about their success. Remember, it is not an interrogation: “Hey, I have given you this. I have given you that.” It is a conversation.

A good way to start the conversation is like this. “I think I have given you three referrals this year. I want to talk about how they worked out for you. I gave you this one to the ABC Company. How was that referral? Oh, that turned into business for you? What did you think of working with that person?”

Ask them how each and every referral you’ve given worked out for them. Discuss one at a time and thoroughly review that referral; ask questions about what transpired after you gave it to them. This is important. Make sure that the referrals you gave were as good as you think they were. Don’t make assumptions about them. You may have thought it was platinum and it turned out to be dirt.

Sometimes we find out that none of the referrals worked out. They may not have worked out because they were not quite as good as you thought. If they didn’t turn out as well as you thought that they would, talk about it. Ask them how you could improve in giving them quality referrals. And then listen to what they say!

By the way, that is a good question to ask even if the referrals did work out. “I am really glad that the referrals worked out. How could I improve in giving you additional quality referrals?” This is all part of building and strengthening the relationship.

How to Talk About You

After you have invested the time to talk about each referral you’ve given AND you find that all the referrals you gave to your networking partner were good and beneficial for them, you can tell them how glad you are that you were able to help them.
Then and ONLY then, do you say this:
“I am pleased that the referrals worked out for you; that is what our networking group is all about- supporting one another and giving each other referrals.” Then you can say that sending business referrals your way would be helpful to you, too. Ask if they have a few minutes now to talk about how they could find good referrals to give to you.

This is a genuine, caring, and calm conversation that comes from the intention of helping someone else. It is not based on assumptions or filled with accusations that may put someone on the defensive.

If you discover those referrals you gave didn’t work out, then I wouldn’t even go down the road of asking for reciprocal referrals. I would ask, if those didn’t work out, how can I do a better job for you? If you are doing business with someone who truly believes in Givers Gain®, they are going to ask the same of you.

Be Realistic

I am a realist. If there is someone in your business networking group that refuses to give you referrals, I can understand why you might not want to continue to refer them. However, that is rarely the case.

Remember – effective networking is about being relational, not transactional. What goes around comes around. And – it might not even come around from where you sent it. Sometimes you give a referral one place and receive a referral from someplace else. You might be getting referrals from people who you have never given a referral to.

We also want to be mindful of the value of the referrals. If we are talking about a florist and a real estate agent, the real estate agent is probably going to give the florist a whole lot more referrals than the florist is going to give to them. Although one good referral to the agent could be worth a lot of flowers for the florist. Keep in mind that it is not just the quantity, it is the quality, and the value of the referrals. All of these things have to go into the consideration.

As professionals, we must have these conversations with our networking partners. Only when you do, and find out that the referrals have, in fact, been good, can you then say, “I would love for you to be able to reciprocate if possible. Do you have time to talk about how you might be able to give referrals to me?”

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