Good Customer Service Alone Doesn’t Win Referralsstring(51) "Good Customer Service Alone Doesn’t Win Referrals"

Many businesspeople are under the impression that if they provide good customer service, people will automatically refer business to them. Of course, customer service is important. But good customer service is just a prerequisite; it is a minimum expectation.

Think about it. Would you refer somebody to me if I provided lousy customer service? Of course not. Your own credibility would suffer.

Good customer service is part of what the prospect expects when you refer them to me. If you are recommending me to them, I must be something pretty special, right? And if I want to keep that customer coming back, I have to provide more than the minimum expectation of simply good customer service. I will need to provide great, outstanding, memorable customer service to really stand out.

The Misconception about Customer Service

In my book, The World’s Best Known Marketing Secret, I say that some people are under the delusion that good customer service alone was enough to enable them to build their business through word-of-mouth. This misconception about customer services is one of the delusions people have about networking and referral marketing.

People don’t refer business to you because you meet their minimum expectations. They refer you because they expect you to do a good job which, in turn, enhances their relationship with the person they are referring to you. They expect you to provide outstanding value to the prospect. They want that person to come back to them and say, “Thanks for sending me to Joe Trueblue. He had just what I needed, and the service was great. You sure know some outstanding people!”

Your referral source has a strong interest in making sure everyone comes out a winner. They know that when the happy customer comes back to you again and again, you are more likely to send business their way when the need arises. The great service you provide to the customer comes back to you in the form of a stronger relationship with your referral partner.

My friend Bob Burg, author of Endless Referrals and The Go-Giver, shares his view on what it takes to consistently receive referrals:

Of course, having an excellent product is important. However, technology today has made that commonplace and expected. In order to have qualified prospects “beating a path to your door,” you must be able to network and to market yourself and your product or service in such a way that it makes people want to do business with you and refer you to others. You need to provide them with such a great buying experience that they know they made the right decision. However, to get them there in the first place, it’s the networking and marketing that’s most important.

Being in a referral group like BNI is one of several important parts of an effective word-of-mouth marketing plan. One of the things these groups emphasize is that you need to be very specific in what you do and in how your product or service is uniquely valuable. If you use general terms, you’re at the lowest level of competitive effectiveness. And if you say, “customer service,” that’s not what people are buying.

In the book Truth or Delusion, we say that you don’t sell the process; you sell the result:

Talking about what you do does not motivate people as much as what happens to their client or friend as a result of what you do. I used to sell copiers, and I never met anybody who was buying good customer service. They were buying the ability to make photocopies quickly and reliably. They weren’t shopping for customer service, because that’s a prerequisite. It is part of what creates that end result.

The Importance of Testimonials

Referral networks often feature third-party testimonials, in which someone who has used your product or service tells the group, “I’ve used Maria’s products, and I’m here to tell you, they’re the best I’ve ever found.” Hearing it directly from someone they know is often enough to get people to believe it and act on that belief.

Testimonials are crucial to the referral process, especially within referral and networking groups. When you stand up and say, “I’ve used this person’s business, and you should use this person too, because . . .” and then go on to explain why, it is powerful and can change how people view that service provider. Your experiences become my experiences. This makes it much easier for people to refer that provider–even if they haven’t personally used their services yet.

Remember, unhappy customers are 11 times more likely to talk about your business than happy customers. Good customer service only reduces negative word-of-mouth; it doesn’t necessarily increase your business through positive word-of-mouth. Build an effective network of strong business relationships to increase your referrals.

The Butterfly Effect of Networkingstring(34) "The Butterfly Effect of Networking"

Years ago, I was relaxing on Necker Island in the Caribbean where I was meeting with about 20 business leaders including Sir Richard Branson the founder of Virgin Atlantic Airways and owner of the Island.

My journey to this island is a dramatic example of “The Butterfly Effect of Networking”,  a theory that a small action in one place may have a ripple effect that creates a dramatic action in another place. It is like a pebble in a pond creating ripples on the surface. For networking, it is about how a seemingly minor connection or conversation with one person may, after many ripples across the network over time, ends in a dramatic connection later in the process.  Let me share my story…

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Five Easy Ways You May be Networking Wrongstring(42) "Five Easy Ways You May be Networking Wrong"

wrongnetworkingNo matter how much practice you have networking, there are always ways that you can improve. I’ve noticed a few common mistakes with networking that you can easily fix to get the most out of your relationships.


1 – You’re showing up late to a networking event, meeting or one-to-one.

This should be a no-brainer, but so often someone will slip into the back of a meeting five, ten or thirty minutes after it has started. How many times have you gotten a text from someone saying they were running late? Or, worse, not gotten a text at all? Such a minor issue can leave long-lasting negative ramifications in your personal and professional relationship. Avoid it, and leave to your meetings or events aiming to arrive early.


2 – You’re giving the appearance of untrustworthiness.

No matter what anyone says, your outward appearance can and will affect how you are perceived by potential business connections. If your first impression of someone involves their messed up hair, wrinkled pants, and an overall disheveled look, you’re not going to want to do business with them. That being said, would you expect someone to work with you if that was their first impression? Get your act together, iron your shirt, and always be prepared with your name tag and smile.


3 – You’re not making meaningful connections.

A referral-based relationship is more than just, “I do business, you do business, let’s do business together.” It is important to establish real relationships with your connections to encourage a long-lasting, prosperous relationship. If you’re only talking shop, you’re selling yourself short.


4 – You’re only thinking about your own gain.

You simply cannot expect to get anything out of a referral relationship if all you care about is getting something for yourself. Your connections will be more likely to give you business if you show your willingness to help them. Learn to use the law of reciprocity, and see your networking efforts become prosperous.


5 – You’re forgetting the follow up.

Most businesspeople love working with someone who is considerate, and your follow up etiquette is an easy way to show just how considerate you can be. Bonus points, your follow up technique can leave a lasting impression on someone who may have not thought you were memorable. Remember, thoughtfulness always counts in the end.


Are you offending any of these networking commandments? Did I forget any cardinal mistakes? Join the discussion in the comment field below.

3 Tips for Putting the Butterfly Effect of Networking in Motionstring(63) "3 Tips for Putting the Butterfly Effect of Networking in Motion"

IvanRichardBethSome years back, I posted a blog detailing how my introduction to Richard Branson was completely the result of the Butterfly Effect of Networking.  In thinking about that blog post, it occurred to me that an important part of the reason I was able to make such effective and rewarding networking connections was the way that I thought about, and therefore went about networking. Here’s what I mean by that . . .

While it’s important to know the right things to do while networking, it’s equally important to start thinking the right way to make your networking efforts as successful and dynamic as they can be. This involves altering your mind-set. Here is an up-close look at some elements you’ll want to include in your mind-set to ensure networking success:

  1. The law of reciprocity or Givers Gain® approach.

Don’t approach networking thinking ‘I did this for you, now what are you going to do for me?’ Instead, remember the old adage Give and you shall receive? The law of reciprocity takes the focus off of what you stand to gain from the networking relationship, and in doing so, creates bonds based on trust and friendship. Put it to the test. You’ll be amazed by the outcome.

  1. Diversity in networking.

Look for groups that don’t target people just like you. In this way, you’ll broaden the net you seek to cast for referrals.

  1. Farming mentality.

It’s a long, drawn-out process to go from seeding a field to harvesting the crops and there’s no quick return. But, when you spend time and take care in building relationships, your networking will yield extraordinary results.

Approaching networking with a mentality that focuses on the process of cultivating referrals will create the results you desire. Make an effort to spend more time strengthening your friendships with those whom you wish to have as part of your networking circle and you will certainly make more and better connections.

Do you have any tips for developing a networking-friendly mindset which positions you for success?  I’d love to hear from you, so please leave your thoughts, comments, and ideas in the forum below.  Thanks!

The Butterfly Effect of Networking Explainedstring(44) "The Butterfly Effect of Networking Explained"

The Butterfly Effect is part of chaos theory, which is a part of mathematics.  It basically proposes that the flapping of the wings of a butterfly alter something extremely minute but which starts a domino effect of altering one thing after another until something finally gets altered which actually changes the weather.   So what does the Butterfly Effect have to do with networking?  Take 5 minutes to watch this video and find out!  I tell a pretty powerful story about how the Butterfly Effect caused some very unexpected things to happen in my life, resulting in an amazing experience.

As I’ve mentioned in a couple of my recent video blog posts, Jack Canfield, Gautam Ganglani, and I are currently working together on a book about networking.  Today’s video is one of several short videos I’ll be posting which cover networking topics we will be focusing on in the book.  These videos are the result of brainstorming sessions for the book and, ultimately, we want to gather stories from networkers like you who have experience with the different topics I discuss in these videos.

If you have a story relating to the ‘Butterfly Effect of Networking’ which demonstrates the power of this concept in a significant or remarkable way, please visit to submit your story for a chance to be published in the upcoming book on networking that Jack Canfield, Gautam Ganglani, and I will be publishing.  Also, I’d love for you to briefly summarize your story in the comment forum below as well.  Thanks in advance for your participation!

‘Relationships are Irrelevant!’ Really?string(51) "‘Relationships are Irrelevant!’ Really?"

Last week I wrote a blog called “Premature Solicitation,” which was about a situation where someone whom I had never met and didn’t know asked me to introduce him and his product to a very important connection of mine.

I shared this blog in a couple of venues, including one of my favorite online social networks.  A great dialog ensued with most people sharing their horror stories and frustrations about people who pounce on them at networking meetings asking for business even though they’ve never met the person before.

Every time I start to think this is an almost universal feeling of distaste for that approach to networking, I am brought back to reality by the minority of people who still think that this is actually a good networking technique.

To my astonishment, someone on the forum actually wrote:

“I don’t happen to believe that you need a relationship with the person you are asking first. What you must have is a compelling story or product/service that would genuinely benefit the referral . . .

The fact that you had not cultivated a relationship with the person has become irrelevant because, more importantly, you had been in a position to help [your contact] benefit from the introduction.  If it’s of genuine benefit to the person being referred, I don’t see the problem . . .

It’s about the benefit of what’s being referred rather than the relationship with the person asking for the referral . . .

Who am I to deny my contacts of something good?”

Wow.  What can I say?  The “relationship” is irrelevant! All you have to have is a good story, product or service and I owe it to any stranger (who says he or she has a good product) to introduce him or her to a good contact of mine!  Really? People really think this way!? According to this writer, it doesn’t matter if I actually know or trust the person wanting the business.  As long as the person has a good product (or so he says), I should refer that person because I would “deny” my contacts “something good!”

Networkers against Premature Solicitation unite!  We need to teach people that this is NOT a good way to network.  After reading my blog, a good friend of mine, TR Garland, started a Facebook page called: Facebook Users Who are Tired of Premature Solicitation (Oh My)! Take a look at it and sign up!

Also–tell me here in this blog what you think about the quotes above.  Do YOU want to get hit up by people at networking events this way?  Please tell me I’m not alone!  Networking is about relationship building–not “pouncing” on people because you think you have something good to sell them!

Premature Solicitationstring(22) "Premature Solicitation"

Have you ever been solicited for a referral or for business by someone you didn’t even know?  Michelle Villalobos, a BNI member in Miami, calls this “Premature Solicitation.” [Say that fast three times and you might get in trouble!]

I agree completely with Michelle, and I’ve been a victim of “premature solicitation” many times.  I was recently speaking at a business networking event and, before my presentation, someone literally came up to me and said, “Hi, it is a real pleasure to meet you.  I understand you know Richard Branson.  I offer specialized marketing services and I am sure his Virgin enterprises could benefit from what I provide.  Could you please introduce me to him so that I can show him how this would assist his companies?”

OK, so what I was thinking was:

Are you completely insane?  I’m going to introduce you, someone I don’t know and don’t have any relationship with, to Sir Richard, whom I’ve only met a few times (here’s the story of the first meeting)so that you can proceed to attempt to sell him a product or service that I don’t know anything about and haven’t used myself?  Yeah, right.  That’s NEVER going to happen.

I am pleased to report, however, that with much effort, I was able to keep that little monologue inside my own head, opting instead for a much more subtle response. 😉

I replied… Hi, I’m Ivan, I’m sorry–I don’t think we’ve met before, what was your name again? That surprised the man enough to make him realize that his “solicitation” might have been a bit “premature.”  I explained that I regularly refer people to my contacts, but only after I’ve established a long-term strong relationship with the service provider first.  He said thanks and moved on to his next victim.

Networking is not about hunting.  It is about farming.  It’s about cultivating relationships.  Don’t engage in “premature solicitation.”   You’ll be a better networker if you remember that.

Passing People By Can Mean Missed Opportunitystring(45) "Passing People By Can Mean Missed Opportunity"

A good friend of mine, Patti Salvucci, runs dozens of networking groups in the Boston area.  A while back, Patti was visiting one of the groups she oversees, and she made an unlikely and very remarkable connection.  This is one powerful story . . .

A true master networker, Patti arrived early for the networking meeting in the private meeting room at Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox.  She noticed an older gentleman setting up coffee mugs for the meeting and when she struck up a conversation with him, she was extremely impressed by the tenor of his voice. She asked him what he had done before he retired.

He told her he’d been a commentator for CNN but had decided to find less hectic work and move closer to his daughter.  He now managed the owner’s suite at Fenway and enjoyed reminiscing about the famous people he’d met while in the radio business: John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela and others.  Patti was astounded.

Later, when the meeting was in full swing, one member, Don, announced that he would like to do a radio talk show someday and was looking for contacts who could help him pursue that dream.  After the meeting, Patti directed Don’s attention to the gentleman in the  back of the room and told him that the man used to be a commentator on the radio.  Don was flabbergasted.  It was better than any contact he could’ve expected, and it happened at the very meeting in which he asked for it.

The irony was that Don had seen the man on many occasions, but it had never occurred to him to strike up a conversation. After all, the man obviously had little in common with him.  What could he possibly have to offer? . . . Obviously, a lot. 😉

This story is a great lesson to all of us that we really don’t know whom we could be standing next to on a daily basis and that taking the time to find out a little bit about the people we cross paths with can bring great rewards.

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwostring(36) "Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo"

I had the privilege of attending the rollout of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo yesterday.  The spaceship rides under the center portion of the mother ship, called the WhiteKnightTwo (which I wrote about last year).

The rollout had many special guests, including California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (pictured at podium–last photo at bottom), Sir Richard Branson (pictured in second to last photo) and Burt Rutan (the designer of the spacecraft, pictured with me, here) .

The plane will carry the spaceship and its six passengers and pilots up to an altitude of roughly 50,000 feet before releasing it prior to the spacecraft’s rocket motor kicking in and taking it the rest of the way into suborbital flight (about 60 miles above Earth).  From there, passengers will be able to experience weightlessness as well as see the curvature of the Earth.

During Rutan’s presentation, he said that when he was working on the X Prize project to show that private commercial flights into outer space were possible, he spoke to several airlines to see if they would like to joint venture on the concept. None of them was interested.

He then shared with the audience that just prior to the launch of the WhiteKnightOne for the X Prize competition, he received a phone call from Sir Richard of Virgin Atlantic, who asked if Rutan were interested in working with him to help launch the Virgin Galactic spaceships as a commercial venture.  Rutan thought that Virgin was a great company to partner with because it has a history of flying passengers with a founder who is willing to tackle large projects that involve a high risk but can include a big payoff.  He said Branson has been the perfect partner throughout the process, giving him guidance and a substantial amount of freedom.

Entrepreneurship is alive and well in the U.S. and the world! I was impressed by the designers and engineers I met.  The whole experience was concrete evidence that an entrepreneurial spirit can take the groundwork laid down by governments for space exploration and turn it into a viable commercial venture.  Branson said he hopes that by the year 2020, space flight will be affordable to many people around the world.  I, for one, would not bet against him.

I predict that before 2020, Virgin Galactic will have created more astronauts than all countries combined have done to this date.

Networking–It’s More Than Just Talking Businessstring(59) "Networking–It’s More Than Just Talking Business"

People often think that networking is all about talking business and exchanging cards, but that’s a definite misconception.

In a networking group, you should talk about more than just business. A referral relationship is more than just, “I do business, you do business, let’s do business.” A much better approach is to find common ground on a personal level, then relate your business to it.

The longer I’ve been involved in networking, the more I’ve seen the power of personal interests in making connections. Networking is about building personal relationships. If you remove the personal from the equation, you limit the amount of business that can happen.

In one networking group I worked with, I introduced an exercise called the GAINS Exchange, in which people share personal and professional information about themselves. Two of the participants in this group had known each other for more than a year but had never done business. During the exercise, they discovered they both coached their sons’ soccer teams. They quickly became close friends and were soon helping each other conduct soccer practices. After a few months, they began referring business to each other–two guys who had barely spoken to each other the first year because they seemed to have so little in common.

By finding a common interest and starting with that, we can make connections that have a very good chance of turning into business. Try this strategy out for a while and then come back and leave a comment to let me know what your experiences have been–I’d love to hear about them!

Just Ask. Right? . . . Nostring(25) "Just Ask. Right? . . . No"

The following article was written by my friend and partner in the Referral Institute, Mike Macedonio. I wanted to share it with you here because it mentions some very important points regarding asking for referrals. After you read the article, I’d really like to hear what you have to say in response, so please feel free to post a comment.

Just Ask. Right? . . . No.
By Mike Macedonio

I was recently attending a BNI National Conference and there was a lot of effective networking going on. With the culture of “Givers Gain” there were participants offering to help one another and make connections. On several occasions I was also watching some businesspeople walk up to people who barely knew them and ask to be referred to their valued relationships. I felt a sense of awkwardness in the conversation.

I think what I was actually feeling was deja vu. I’ve been on the receiving end of the “referral ambush” before, when someone I may hardly be in the “Visibility” phase with is asking me to expose my reputation by referring them to one of my valued relationships. In some cases, I was even asked to promote them or their company to my entire database.

During the BNI Conference, there was one participant who approached the main speaker and introduced themself. Shortly into the conversation, they let the speaker know that they understood the speaker knew an internationally known personality and that they would like an introduction to that person in order to pitch their business to him. WOW . . . that was a big ask. So why did it feel inappropriate? Part of the reason is the stage of the referral process, or the VCP Process, that the attendee and speaker were engaged in.

VCP is the acronym Ivan Misner uses for Visibility, Credibility, and Profitability. In the Visibility stage, two people simply know of each other. If both people can state the other’s name and business, that would be considered a qualified Visibility relationship. Credibility is when the relationship between two people has developed and both parties hold a mutual trust for one another. Profitability is the ultimate referral relationship goal. In this stage, both parties are reciprocally referring each other business.

In the situation I observed at the national conference where the conference attendee asked for the referral to the internationally known personality, the attendee was merely in the pre-visibility stage with the speaker. It’s true that the attendee might have mistakenly felt that they were in the credibility phase with the speaker, maybe felt that they knew him, since they had been watching him connect with the audience repeatedly over the course of the three-day event. However, it’s important to always remember that credibility is something that is established over a substantial period of time–not just a few hours, days or weeks. It takes months and, in many cases, years to develop real credibility with someone.

In closing, let me clarify that yes, I do believe that in order to get referrals we need to ask. The key, however, is to know how to ask and when it is appropriate to make the request. When is the right time, you ask? The right time to ask for a referral is when BOTH parties are in the Credibility phase of the referral relationship. Networking should not be a system that ends up alienating your friends and family. Be conscious of the deposits you make into your relationships before you start “writing checks” or, in essence, ASKING for referrals from those you have relationships with.

Anchor Your Networking Group with Strong Relationshipsstring(54) "Anchor Your Networking Group with Strong Relationships"

Today’s blog is a unique one because normally you only hear from me; but this entry, which talks about building relationships, was fittingly co-written with my wife Beth, the person in my life with whom I have the strongest relationship.

This summer, our family took a multi-day, small ship tour of the Great Barrier Reef. The first night we noticed that the anchor being used to secure our small ship in the middle of the Coral Sea was quite small compared with the size of the ship.

The second night we were anchored off Hope Island, some very strong winds began to kick up. Our captain started the engines and backed the ship up, letting out more length of chain to the anchor. Curious (and admittedly a bit concerned), we asked him how it was possible for such a small anchor to hold the ship in place with the winds blowing against it so aggressively.

“It’s the chain that’s holding the ship, not the anchor,” he informed us. Apparently, after the anchor is lowered, the captain looks to the first mate, who signals from the prow which direction the chain is lying on the bottom of the sea. The captain can then maneuver into the right position and let out the necessary amount of chain to hold the ship according to the particular conditions at that time.

This particular night, with the winds growing stronger, the captain realized that he needed to let out more chain.

It struck us that this dynamic is relevant to networking groups. You see, a networking group’s anchor is its system, its process of doing business. However, it’s not actually the anchor (the system/process) that dictates the strength of a networking group.

Take a look at your networking group and think about the links, or relationships, you have formed with the individual members. How many “links” does your chain have? Do you have strong relationships with all the other members in the group, or are you closely linked with some but disconnected and detached from others for whatever reason?

So how do we go about adding more links (aka building more relationships) so we can let out more chain during times when the economic winds have strengthened against our businesses? We need to get serious about developing stronger relationships with every member of our networking group, even the ones we might not think have the contacts we want, or perhaps are in a business that isn’t exactly symbiotic with ours.

We naturally form relationships with those businesses that are closely related to ours, but what do we do about those members whose businesses are totally out of sync with ours, our members who seem to be unable to provide qualified referrals to us? Try scheduling one-to-one meetings with those members. Spending the time to have one-to-one meetings with each and every member of your group helps you develop a longer and stronger chain of relationships. Each person in your group is one of the links that lengthens that chain.

The wisdom of laying down a longer chain to strengthen the ability of the anchor to hold strong is critical for the success of your networking group.

So starting this week, try making it your main focus to develop your relationship chain within your networking group. We guarantee it will be what anchors your business and your networking group for longevity, despite economic fluctuations.

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