The-Willing-Conversation

The Willing Conversationstring(24) "The Willing Conversation"

Do you recall playing with magnets as a child? Depending on which way you turned the magnets, they were either attracted to or repelled by one another. As an adult, we may find ourselves feeling six years old again when we make a phone call to a referral who turns out to not be a referral at all. Similar to a magnet turned the wrong direction, you are not being embraced. Rather, you are being resisted. The referral you were given that should have been a “warm introduction” quickly turns into a cold call.

We all want good referrals – people who want to talk to us. We want to give and receive referrals that are willing conversations about the products and services we offer. To receive more effective referrals from the members of our business networking group, we must help them understand our business and our target market enough to identify a good referral for us.

Here are four tips to follow that can lead to more willing conversations.

  1. The Needs Assessment

It is our responsibility to be very clear and specific with our referral partners about what constitutes a good referral. This is a combination of an ideal prospect profile and the problems that we can solve for them.

This is an example of a clearly defined target market is for a corporate coach:
A small to medium-sized company with fewer than one hundred employees. They are closely held, often family-owned, and regional with locations in three or fewer states. They pride themselves on higher-than-average retention of their employees due to a reputation of treating them like family. They are in a competitive industry and are committed to gaining an advantage.

  1. Your Unique Selling Proposition

Do you have dozens or hundreds of competitors in your marketplace? You probably do. That means your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) is very important because it allows you to stand out among your competition.

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

What are you saying that makes you stand out? What do you do that your competition cannot touch? At the very least, figure out what you do better than your rivals and go beyond simply saying “good customer service”.

  1. Why Are You in Business?

What is your passion? Why do you go to work? Unfortunately, one of the most popular answers to this question is “To make money.” That’s the worst answer a business professional can ever give.

Why are you in your profession? How do you change lives? That’s what the referral partners in your business networking group need to know. Remember, passion is referable. You need to go deep and identify your “why” if you want to truly connect with people on a personal level.  

  1. What is Your Emotionally Charged Connection?

Your Emotionally Charged Connection (ECC) is a phrase, leading to a story, that your referral partners can recite when referring to you.

We all have an ECC. It was something that happened to you, often during childhood, that lays the groundwork for who you are as a person. It can be positive or it can be negative. Many people are not consciously aware of their Emotionally Charged Connection, yet it is the reason we get up in the morning and do the things we do every day.  It’s driven by the heart, not the checkbook or the head–there’s a big difference.
You can read about my ECC here.

The better you become at sharing the information in these tips with your business networking group, the more likely you are to feel like the magnet that attracts instead of the magnet that repels. Your referral partners will be able to give you good referrals that lead to the willing conversation.

What have you shared with your network that has helped you gain willing conversations with prospective customers?

Storytelling In Businessstring(24) "Storytelling In Business"

I am a big believer in storytelling in business and using stories to make a point. If you’ve seen one of my presentations or trainings, you’ve seen me tell a story – you’ve experienced a story with me. Storytelling is about tapping into a passion about some topic. It is about taking the listener to a place that is visceral, visual, concrete, emotional and possibly unexpected.

For many years, I have used the formula for a good story that I learned from Robert Dickman, author of The Elements of Persuasion.

  1. A story is a fact
  2. Wrapped in emotion
  3. That compels us to take action
  4. That transforms us in some way

The key to this formula is that a good story compels people to take action, and that action transforms or helps them in some way. I always try to re-live a story, not just re-tell a story. An important aspect of storytelling is to make it sound fresh and alive. Re-living the story gives you that same excitement as when you first experienced it or heard it. It is the kind of passion that you need to apply to your business.

The Power of Storytelling While Networking

The power of storytelling in a networking situation is that it captures people’s attention and provides a way to connect with them on a more personal level.

A trait that great networkers develop is to have a story that is theirs and that is personal, coming from positive or negative background – it doesn’t matter. An effective story creates a link from your experience to what you’re doing in your business now. This helps people understand the connection between where you come from, to what you do, and why you do it.

Successful networkers also have a specific ask. When the business relationship has been established and you are at the point where you can ask for a referral, or they ask how they can help you, be prepared. Have clarity about exactly what you want and know how to concisely share your goal or idea with your networking partners.

Storytelling Can Be Inspiring

Dr. Mark Goulston has said that “a story is a portable storage unit for one’s dreams, fears, hopes, humor and sorrows that people visit–or visits people–from time to time for them to stay in contact with their humanity.”

When you include stories while training your teams or employees, you may find increased engagement and attentiveness. Storytelling can help them embrace the new ideas you are sharing or better retain the information you’re giving. The story you tell may inspire someone to set a bigger goal or move beyond their comfort zone to achieve more in their professional life. Sharing a story, a personal part of yourself, can make a deeper and more personal connection to those you work with, including your customers and clients. Effective storytelling is an important part of one’s emotional intelligence.

Some years ago, I was at a storytelling event hosted by the Academy Award-winning movie producer, Peter Guber, who said that “what if” is more powerful than “how to” in a story. Very true, indeed. Getting people to think of the possible rather than simply look at the present can truly help make a great story. And a great story can make a great impact in business.

Have you experienced a great story in your work or professional life?
Do you use storytelling in your business?
I would love for you to share in the comment section below.

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.

How to Leverage International Connectionsstring(41) "How to Leverage International Connections"

In 2018, I wrote an article for Entrepreneur.com about the future of face-to-face being online. I felt it was inevitable that business networking would go online because of technology, such as mixed reality and holographic imaging, becoming more and more prevalent in the next decade.

Thankfully the technology was available to help us transition with the global challenges of 2020 and now we are doing much of our work, and our networking, online. With our adaptability and willingness to change as solutions and options become available, we are able to network with businesspeople all around the world. Those options bring new opportunities for all of us to develop and leverage international connections for our business.

Identify Who You Want to Meet

If you want to expand and scale your business internationally, you need to identify the types of international businesses that you want to work with.

What country or continent are they located in?
What specific industry are they in?
What products or services do they specialize in?
Do you want to work with suppliers or buyers?
Who is the person from that company that you want to meet?

With that information, you are then able to find the types of organizations and events that can give you the kinds of contacts you’re looking for. Remember, networking is a contact sport; you must go out, make the effort, and get involved; become engaged in the organizations where you invest in membership. You also have to diversify the kinds of networks that you belong to. A local Chamber of Commerce and Industry is a fantastic network in your local community.

If you’re looking for international business, you want be part of a global organization that does international business. Attend events like the annual BNI® Global Convention, where thousands of professionals from dozens of countries are looking to meet and build relationships with other businesspeople. Trade groups, business councils, and professional peer organizations are all excellent places to create mutually beneficial connections.

 

Know the Type of Referrals You Want to Receive

Your company may be in a position to open new international revenue streams by finding opportunities to sell your products or services in a new country. Developing connections and relationships with the people you previously identified can lead to the referrals for those opportunities.

Other companies, particularly those that provide local services, may just want to get additional business through international referrals. I have seen dentists, and even a landscape architect, get new clients from international connections that led to referrals. Again, it is important to be specific with what you want and then identify those potential connections to help you reach your goals.

Our current technology provides many networking options, making it easier than ever before for everyone to participate, engage, and network on a global level. I’d love to know how you have leveraged international connections to grow your business. Share in the comments below.

Business Leadership Lessons for Difficult Timesstring(47) "Business Leadership Lessons for Difficult Times"

Today, more than ever, you need your network to help you through difficult times. When your business faces challenges, it is your network of friends and associates that can help you get through. As the Founder of BNI® , which operates more than 10,000 networking groups in over 70 countries, I have learned the importance of this firsthand. I’ve also learned that it starts with our own actions.

You Must Believe

First, you must believe that you can pivot your business and find ways to help more people. You must believe in what you can do for people during the challenging times.

There is an old story of two shoe salesmen who were sent to different parts of a developing nation to see if there was a market for their shoes.  After one week, the first salesman wrote back to the company and said, “No one wears shoes here. There is no market for us. Send me a return ticket.”

The second shoe salesman wrote back to the company and said, “No one wears shoes here – there’s a huge market for our shoes. Send me a large shipment.”

You must believe in yourself and the people around you. Believe that you can pivot. Believe that your network can help you in this process.

I see people in the exact same professions who believe it is possible to pivot, and people who believe it is not possible to pivot during challenging times. Whether you think that you can or that you cannot, you will probably be right.

The Importance of Passion

You must have passion about what you do. Make sure that you and your team are working in your flame and not in your wax.
Let’s be clear about passion – it does not produce commitment.
Commitment produces passion.
Commitment and passion, together, produce results.
Nothing great in life has ever been done without passion and commitment.

Leadership Lessons

It is hard to overstate how important leadership is.
Quality leadership is not about managing and complying; it is about mobilizing and inspiring.

  1.   It is about connecting with people. It is about giving clients and customers love, care, and attention.
  2.   It is about inspiring people to take action.
  3.   It’s about getting people to do six things a thousand times. Not a thousand things six times. It’s not about doing something so many times that you finally get it right – it’s about doing it so many times that you can’t get it wrong.
  4.   It’s about coaching people effectively; guiding people and helping people. It’s about showing up to help them be a better version of themselves. That’s what leadership is.

Don’t overcomplicate things. Business doesn’t have to be complicated.
It is about three things: belief, passion, and leadership.

I believe anyone can do extraordinary things with the right mindset, plan, and effort. I believe that our vision controls our perception, and our perception becomes our reality. Set a vision that makes a difference to the people around you.
Why accept mediocrity when excellence is an option?
Excellence is always an option – even during difficult times.

Your Business Has a Time-Confidence Curvestring(41) "Your Business Has a Time-Confidence Curve"

I have previously talked about the Time-Confidence Curve, which is also in my book Networking Like a Pro 2nd Edition. The Time-Confidence Curve illustrates the way that your fellow networkers must gain enough confidence in you to know that referring people to you will not hurt their own reputations.

That confidence is built in the time spent at your networking meetings such as BNI® and at other professional events where you interact with fellow members and share information about your services and products.

Similarly, your business also has a Time-Confidence Curve. It goes beyond the confidence that someone has in you personally; they must have confidence in your business to give you referrals.

Small Details Make a Big Difference

People are constantly judging us and judging how we act in our business. Small details can make a big difference in people’s impression of, and confidence in, your business.

VOICEMAIL
Keep it up-to-date and available.

Is your outgoing message friendly and helpful to the caller? A welcoming voice message, along with a prompt return call, help to build confidence.

Beware of the full mailbox. If a potential client calls your company and is unable to leave a message, it is unlikely that they will call again. If your out-of-office message says “I’ll be back from vacation on March 3rd“, answer all the messages as soon as you get back. If you wait until April to return the calls, the opportunity will be gone.

Additionally, if I’m calling someone in April and I hear the March 3rd vacation message, I think “Well, if they can’t bother to change their auto reply message, will they follow up with me and my problem?”

SOCIAL MEDIA
Keep politics and profanity out of business social media.

A few years ago, I counseled a BNI Member about the profanity they regularly used on their social media. I asked, “What are you thinking by using that type of language?” to which they replied, “What? It’s just my Facebook page.”
They also posted a lot of political stuff, which is a neutral negative. That means people are either not going to care or they are going to be upset that you said those things.

Potential clients often do research on companies, and on people they are interested in doing business with. Seeing extreme language or political views on social media may change their mind about doing business with someone.

EMPLOYEES AND STAFF
The people who represent your company have an impact on your business’s credibility.

If you have employees, their behavior can affect your referability. If a potential customer goes to a store or office and the staff is rude, short-tempered, or even ignores them, that reflects on the owner AND on the company. Help your staff understand what good customer service means in your business, then show them what it looks like by consistently setting the example.

Train employees how to take an effective message if someone calls for you while you’re out. Then return the call promptly.

Feedback is Your Friend

Whether it is good or bad, feedback can be helpful. Ask people who have used your company for their feedback. What did they like? What would have made the experience even better for them? Use that information to make thoughtful and positive changes in your organization.

Call your own phone to hear your voicemail message. If you have employees, call from a number they don’t know and see what the response is. If you have a building that is open to the public, walk in the front door and look around as though it is your first time. Experience your business in the same way potential clients will experience it.

It is not only what you do at networking meetings that affects your referability. Your behavior in every arena impacts your credibility with referral partners and prospective new customers. It takes time for both you and your business to gain the confidence that people need to refer new customers to you.

Business Growth During Economic Challengesstring(42) "Business Growth During Economic Challenges"

When the economy is slow, new business is harder to get. What can I do to build my business in a challenging economy?

I’ve heard this question many times over the years. The fact is that every economy goes through cycles, and business slows down for some people. My recommendation is – don’t join the ranks of miserable complainers. Use the time to improve your networking skills.

If you want to do well and have business growth during economic challenges, understand that is does absolutely no good to complain to people about how tough things are. When you complain about how bad business is, half the people that you tell don’t care, and the other half are glad you are worse off than they are.

Six Ways to Improve Networking Skills

  1.   Diversify your business network. If your network is a mile wide but only an inch deep, it is too shallow. You need to have networks that are broad and deep. Business networking groups such as BNI® are the deep part of that; they are where you build strong, mutually beneficial business relationships. You also want to participate in your local Chamber of Commerce & Industry, as well as in other professional organizations.
  2.   Refuse to be a cave-dweller. Get out there and meet people at business events, especially during a slow economy. Go to networking events with a positive attitude and decide that you refuse to participate in a recession or in any negativity. Learn how to work the network meetings that you attend and put forth the effort to do so. It is not called net-sit or net-eat. It is called network.
  3.   Learn networking systems and techniques that apply to the different organizations to which you belong. Focus your efforts on educating others about our business rather than trying to make a sale. Have a Givers Gain® attitude by asking how you can help others before asking them for referrals.  
  4.   Be prepared. Before a meeting, prepare effective introductions and presentations to share with your fellow members. Find ways to use whatever is going on in the economy as a way of marketing. Make it positive for your business, not negative.
  5.   Develop your contact spheres. A group of business professionals who have a symbiotic, noncompetitive business relationship with you are more important than ever. A referral to one person in the group is often a referral to many because each member of the contact sphere has products or services that the client can benefit from.
  6.   Establish a goal and reverse-engineer it. Know what you want to accomplish and share your goal with your networking group. Do the G.A.I.N.S. exchange with your referral partners. G.A.I.N.S. is from my book Business by Referral; it stands for Goals, Accomplishments, Interests, Networks and Skills.  

Your Network is Your Advantage

When you are part of a trusted network that you have established over time, and consistently participate in a positive way, you develop a huge advantage over the competition. You are building your business through networking, through referrals, through word-of-mouth. Your competition is just going to have to rely on increased advertising, while you have a powerful network to draw upon. If the times are tough around you, look for opportunities to market and use your network as the vehicle to do that. Be creative about working with your business network.

I have seen thousands of businesspeople grow and prosper during economic challenges because they developed their networking skills and learned to build their business through word-of-mouth marketing.

Don’t let a slow economy be your excuse for failure. Instead, make it an opportunity to succeed. It is not what you know or who you know. It’s how well you know them that really counts. In a tough economy, it is your social capital that has value. Make good use of it. While others may struggle, you can thrive.

You can’t control the economy. You can’t control the competition. You CAN control your response to any situation. Referrals can keep your business alive and strong, even during economic challenges.

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.

Symptoms of a Good Referralstring(27) "Symptoms of a Good Referral"

As a professional, do you want to get more referrals? Of course, everyone says YES. Here is a technique that you can use now that will directly lead to generating more word-of-mouth business for you.

Educate people on the “symptoms” of a good referral so when they’re out in the field and with other people, they will immediately know what to look for in a potential ideal client for you.

Identify the Problem to Get Relief

Think about it this way. If someone went to a medical professional and told them that they had a headache, sore throat, and were sneezing all the time, the doctor would probably ask if they spent a lot of time outdoors. If so, they might prescribe an anti-allergen treatment because, based on the symptoms, it sounds like the patient has seasonal allergies.

Notice that the description of the problem, the symptoms, came first and then came the plan for relief.

What if that could happen in your business?

Make it “Top of Mind”

Callan Rush, author of Wealth Through Workshops, refers to the “top-of-mind” problems of your prospective clients. Ask yourself: What is the greatest challenge that my customers face on a regular basis? What need does my target market have that my products or services can fill?

When you identify those problems, you can effectively share them when you are talking to others and include them in your marketing materials.

Share the Trigger Points

Think about the trigger points, an event or scenario, that happen in someone’s life which triggers that person to have a new need. For example, instead of a realtor saying, “If you know someone looking to buy or sell a home, let me know”, they can be more specific with the circumstances surrounding the target market before a future home buyer needs a real estate agent.

If first-time home buyers are the target market, the realtor can educate their network on some potential triggers leading up to the transaction of buying a house.

These triggers may include:

  • People who are recently engaged or getting married and need a place to live.
  • Couples who are expecting, or just had, a new baby and their place is too small.
  • Parents of college-age children who have left home, and their place is now too big.
    Or they want to buy a house for the college student rather than paying rent.

These are all symptoms of a good referral because they are related to activities that usually result in buying or selling a home. Coach your referral partners on how to spot the symptoms associated with people who need your produce or service as opposed to just saying “If you run into someone looking for a ____(fill in your industry), that would be a great referral.”

When you educate the people in your network about the specific symptoms or conditions that your business can solve, it becomes easier for them to give referrals to you.

I’d love to hear your comments about how you use this technique in your business.

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.

your business card

What to Do When Someone Refuses to Take Your Business Cardstring(58) "What to Do When Someone Refuses to Take Your Business Card"

Imagine handing your business card to someone at a networking event and having it handed back to you with, “Thanks, but I don’t need your card.”  How would you respond in this situation?

Business Card Etiquette 

  • I do not recommend giving someone your business card right away when you first meet them. I would wait until after you have had a good conversation with them. Listen to them talk about their business. Ask questions about how you could help them. Then, ask yourself if you believe that you have made a good connection.  Think about if you can help their business, or if they can help you with your business.  Decide if you are willing to build a strong relationship with them. If yes, I recommend asking the person if they would like to receive your business card because unsolicited cards are rarely kept.
  • A business card is a tacit invitation to make a future connection.  How you handle that connection afterward will determine how responsive your new contact will be.  So be respectful with what you do after someone gives you their card. Set a date to follow up with them. Find their preferred method to be contacted, then use it.
  • You should always have plenty of business cards with you when networking.  It still amazes me that people go to networking events and knowingly don’t bring cards with them. Bring business cards.  It is a “networking” event.
  • Just passing out your cards and collecting cards from others at a networking event is not networking — it’s card collecting — which is not a profitable way to build your business. Networking is about having conversations with people and making good enough connections that you can actually follow up with people. If you don’t make a meaningful connection, you might as well still be cold calling, no matter how many business cards you collect.
  • It is good manners to ask permission to add someone’s email to your distribution list. Unsolicited emails are rarely kept and can quickly lead to your email address being registered as spam. If you did not request the email newsletter, then reply with a request to be unsubscribed from their distribution list. If they ignore your request, use your spam filter. I use it regularly with unwanted emails.

Refusing to take someone’s offered card is just plain bad manners. What do you do if this happens to you?  Realize that some people just have little or no people skills and move on to someone who does.

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