Networking for the ‘Difficult to Refer’ Businessstring(60) "Networking for the ‘Difficult to Refer’ Business"

After a recent speaking engagement I did, a woman appoached me and asked my advice on the dilemma of getting qualified referrals for a “difficult to refer” business. She was passing as many referrals as she could to others, but because her business seemed to revolve around such a niche market, the business referrals she was receiving were slim to none, and she was starting to get discouraged.

I referred her to an article I wrote a few years back that addresses this exact predicament; and since I’m sure some of my blog readers are in businesses that are more difficult to refer than others, I thought I’d shed some light on the subject here. For networkers in businesses that don’t easily generate word of mouth, there is hope for your company because there are still ways you can successfully network and build your company’s reputation.

Years ago, I learned that speaking engagements are a great short-term approach to getting new business while you’re working on the long-term process of word of mouth. You see, when you schedule an appointment with someone you think might be interested in what you’re selling, that time you spend with them–usually an hour–is very important. Well, imagine having that same one-hour appointment with 20 to 50 businesspeople in your community, all at the same time! In effect, that’s what you’re doing when you’re asked to make a presentation at various clubs and organizations.

So, how do you go about getting on the calendars of these business and service groups? It isn’t as hard as you might think. With a little creativity, you can put together a presentation that will be informational, educational and even entertaining. Most important, you can get referrals from people to help you get in front of them. Usually program chairs are scrambling to find someone different, engaging and interesting to come in and present to the group. Your job is to help them find you!

To see a sample of the letter I used to send to program chairs when I owned a consulting firm, click here to go to the article. Getting speaking engagements can make your company easy for anyone to refer and it can also get you a lot of clients while you’re busy building your business.

If you have any comments or thoughts on other techniques that are useful for businesses that are “difficult to refer,” I’d love to hear your feedback.

‘Million Dollar Challenge’ for Entrepreneursstring(56) "‘Million Dollar Challenge’ for Entrepreneurs"

If you have a great business or a great idea that you want to take to the next level, you don’t want to miss the opportunity to apply for yourBusinessChannel’s Million Dollar Challenge contest. The contest is the result of yourBusinessChannel’s upcoming, online TV series “The Million Dollar Team,” which features entrepreneurial advice and instruction from a team of business experts–which would cost more than a million dollars if they were hired in the real world.

Ahead of the show’s launch, its producers are calling for businesses to fill 25 “hot seats” to get direct input into their businesses from the Million Dollar Team.

I’ve been asked to sit on the team of experts alongside experienced and talented businesspeople such as Kevin Roberts (global CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi), Penny Power (Founder of Ecademy.com), Tom Smith (acclaimed social media expert from Universal McCann), David Meerman Scott (viral marketing guru whose online campaigns have sold more than $1 billion in products and services worldwide) and many others. These people are world-class experts in their field and, between all of us, we have helped thousands of businesses to prosper.

The Million Dollar Challenge is open to businesses of any size and stage, anywhere in the world. The key requirement is that they be businesses with real substance or promise that need an injection of leading-edge advice to grow to the next level, fast. I think this is a chance-of-a-lifetime opportunity. If you have a business with real potential, applying to receive free, extra-close attention from a “million dollar” team of world-class experts is a no-brainer.

Take a look here to find out more about the contest and to apply.

I have found yourBusinessChannel to be a tremendous resource for entrepreneurs and businesspeople everywhere. You can keep your eye out for more of the site’s great shows by clicking here.

Why Do You Network?string(19) "Why Do You Network?"

I have a series of surveys on networking up at my company website. One of them asks, “What is your primary objective for networking?” I have to admit I’m a little surprised that 75 percent of the responses were for “new business” (see below). I would have guessed that would be the largest percentage, but I didn’t expect it to be that high.

I understand that most entrepreneurs and salespeople network to some extent for all three reasons (new business, education, career advancement), but I didn’t realize that most networked primarily for new business.

What are your thoughts about networking for new business, education or career advancement?

Should You Network on the Net?string(30) "Should You Network on the Net?"

Over the past few months, I’ve been doing quite a bit of research about online networking. And the more I read (and work on the net), the more I realize that if you’re in business today, you definitely need to be on the net (in addition to good, old-fashioned, face-to-face networking)! The problem is, an entire technology, vocabulary, culture and marketplace have been born in only a few short years. This has left many business owners at a loss about what to do and how to do it when it relates to the internet and their business.

If you’re finding it hard to grasp ways to utilize the net to network your business, spend some time checking out social networking sites (particularly business-related ones such as Ecademy.com and LinkedIn), along with various bulletin board and chat room communities. These sites and communities allow people to connect on a regular basis, exchange information and ideas, and get to know one another a little better. By browsing through some of these sites, you’ll get an idea of how others are using the net to build social capital and promote their businesses, and you’ll no doubt come up with some ideas of how to do the same for yourself.

The internet flattens the communication hierarchy while broadening people’s access to ideas, information, products and services. Understanding how to network on the net is quickly becoming a must. I’d recommend starting out by Googling “social networking sites”–and then start clicking!

Simple Rules for Successful Networkingstring(38) "Simple Rules for Successful Networking"

While reading an older edition of an online newsletter affiliated with my networking organization, I ran across an article that stood out to me because it creatively compares networking to swimming and gives some useful advice on how to network successfully at events. Michael Goldberg, the author of the article, is a speaker and writer who founded his own consulting business. I’ve paraphrased his 12 very simple rules for successful networking (You may also CLICK HERE to read the full article).

1. Dress appropriately.
2. Always equip yourself with business cards and a pen.
3. Network only–no selling allowed.
4. Be prepared to ask questions–about them.
5. Greet and introduce others with passion.
6. If there is a connection, ask for his or her business card.
7. Hand out your business card (when asked).
8. Have a buddy system, and help others.
9. Know your purpose, and only share it when asked.
10. Spend more time listening, and less time talking
11. Know when the conversation is over, and mingle with others.
12. Make a friend (or two), and have fun.

To learn more about Michael, visit www.MichaelGoldbergspeaks.com.

10 Traits of a Master Networkerstring(31) "10 Traits of a Master Networker"

The number one thing entrepreneurs need to remember relating to networking is that people who take the time to build their social capital are the ones who will have new business referred to them over and over again. Based on a survey of more than 2,000 business profesionals (published in Masters of Networking), master networkers possess the traits listed below (ranked in order of descending importance). If you follow their example, you will master the art of networking, as well.

  1. Follows up on referrals
  2. Has a positive attitude
  3. Is enthusiastic/motivated
  4. Is trustworthy
  5. Has good listening skills
  6. Networks always
  7. Thanks people
  8. Enjoys helping others
  9. Is sincere
  10. Works his or her network

See a trend with these 10 points? They all tie in to long-term relationship building, not to stalking prey for the big kill. The key is to build mutually beneficial business relationships. Only then will you succeed as a master networker.

Networking Group Basicsstring(23) "Networking Group Basics"

I’m aware that it’s not just the networking die-hards who may be reading my blog, and I wanted to post something that I think is very important for networking newbies. (Don’t worry, it’s a good refresher for you die-hards as well.) When you’re just starting out in the networking world, finding a networking group can sometimes be intimidating and confusing, but it really doesn’t have to be. For those of you looking to join a networking group, here are some networking group basics.

There are at least seven types of business networking organizations to consider joining to develop your business through networking. Depending on your time constraints, you should select at least two or three groups to participate in. There are:

  • Casual contact networks. These allow many people from overlapping professions and meet monthly.
  • Strong contact networks. Their primary purpose is exchanging referrals. They meet weekly.
  • Community service clubs. They provide an opportunity to give back to the community you do business in while making contacts and getting PR.
  • Professional associations. They tend to focus on one specific industry. The primary purpose is to exchange information and ideas)
  • Social/business organizations. They combine social activities with business or networking.
  • Online networks. Includes groups such as Ecademy, LinkedIn and Ryze, which are social networks for businesses.
  • Women’s business organizations. They are non-threatening groups for women to increase business. Many also allow men.

Don’t let chance decide where you’re going to spend your time and effort. Diversify your activities and consciously select a well-rounded mix of organizations. If you have associates, partners or employees, consider their participation when deciding which groups each of you will target.

NetworkingNow.comstring(17) "NetworkingNow.com"

I’ve been working with a group of authors since January of this year, and quite a few of them have been contributing some great networking articles to a subscription website I’m affiliated with called NetworkingNow.com. I was actually referencing that website when I named this blog and it occurred to me recently that many of my blog readers might not even know about the site, so I thought I’d let everyone know what it’s all about.

NetworkingNow.com is a site where you can gain instant access to dynamic networking information via the web and learn the most successful strategies to build your business through networking. The site offers dozens of downloadable PDF articles, MP3 audio files and digital books as part of its downloadable library. Subscribers receive full access to the wealth of online and downloadable content, which is refreshed monthly.

Check out the site and, if you think you might be interested in joining the NetworkingNow.com community of networking expertise, try it out for free for 30 days. I love hearing feedback from my blog readers, and I would really like to hear your feedback on NetworkingNow.com. That’s why I’m inviting all of you to experience this free trial subscription to NetworkingNow.com.

To take advantage of the offer, go to NetworkingNow.com, click “subscribe now,” select the 30-day subscription, and enter “free30days” in the coupon field. Your first 30 days will be free, but if you want to continue after that you’ll be billed at the monthly subscription rate.

So check it out and let me know what you think!

How To Work A Roomstring(18) "How To Work A Room"

As I sat on a plane bound for Orlando, Florida, this week, I began sorting through a stack of books that various authors have sent me as gifts, and I came upon the updated version of Susan RoAne’s How to Work a Room. I immediately had to smile because Susan has been a friend of mine for quite some time.  Anybody who knows her can tell you that she not only knows how to work a room, but she knows how to do it with what she calls “charm and chutzpah”–in other words, she is one funny lady!

I looked around at the other passengers surrounding me on the plane, some with their nose buried in a book or a magazine, others closing themselves off to any kind of communication by leaning back with their eyes closed and cranking up their iPod; and I thought, Susan could walk right up to any of these people and have them laughing and talking in a matter of minutes.

Some people, like Susan, are born networkers; but for most people networking is a skill that has to be learned. I would encourage anyone who isn’t necessarily known for having undeniable charm or chutzpah–but who often walks into events, meetings, conferences, or parties wanting to ease into meeting the people he or she doesn’t know–to pick up a copy of How to Work a Room. The recently updated version offers practical strategies for mingling, interacting, schmoozing and building common bonds. It includes chapters on roadblocks and remedies, preparation, small talk, specifc events–and how not to work a room.

The basic social and business dilemmas are the same as when the book was first published, but (judging from the countless iPods, Bluetooth devices, laptops and other technological gadgets that I observed people devoting every shred of their attention to in the airport and on the plane) it’s easy to see that technology has changed, giving us more opportunities to be rude. Susan addresses how those breaches could impact our careers, businesses and reputations, and offers some great suggestions on how to avoid and overcome them.

To learn more about Susan and How to Work a Room, please visit: http://www.SusanRoane.com

Build Cooperation or Expect Resistancestring(38) "Build Cooperation or Expect Resistance"

I read a book awhile back called Solutions Focus by Mark MerKergow and Paul Z Jackson, and it really struck a chord with me.I ran across some of my notes from the book yesterday as I was organizing my desk (no small task, I might add), and I think that networking groups everywhere–and businesspeople in general–can greatly benefit and gain a higher level of success from learning to maintain and exhibit a solutions-focused attitude.As MerKergow and Jackson say, it’s the most effective way to naturally promote and build cooperation.

However, it’s amazing how many people have a problems-focused attitude instead. They assume that in order to achieve greatness, they first must pinpoint everything that’s wrong and lacking in the situation and channel all of their energy into fixing it completely.

By maintaining a problems focus, we get stuck dwelling on:
• What’s wrong
• What needs fixing
• Blame
• Control
• The past
• Deficits and weaknesses
• Complications
• Definitions

Think about how you would react if you were having an issue with someone and he or she was focusing on the negative. It’s easy to see how, in any situation (family, employment, entrepreneurial, networking group, etc.), this attitude almost invites resistance and stunts progression of a positive solution.With a solutions focus, however, you’re already thinking in terms of how you will move forward. Your focus is on:
• What’s wanted
• What’s working
• Progress
• Influence
• Collaboration
• Resources and strengths
• Simplicity
• Actions

Focusing on solutions helps create resonance. You’re focused on what works rather than what doesn’t. With this approach, it is important to remember that sometimes the art of creating resonance is knowing what to overlook. If you try so hard to achieve excellence that you attempt to immediately work through every little problem that comes up, you’ll become frustrated and overwhelmed. Instead, focus on two or three things at a time–pick the things that need the most urgent improvement. Inevitably, those things will positively impact the next 10 problems you have.

In conclusion, here are some supplemental points to focus on when building cooperation and working toward solutions:
• Think of actions as starting something rather than stopping something.
• Concentrate on small actions that can be taken now.
• Focus your energy on what’s working.
• Come up with specific and clearly defined steps that build on successes, not failures.
• Focus on solutions, not problems!
• Take incremental steps to build toward the solution.
• Don’t fix what isn’t broken.
• Find what works and do more of it!
• Spot useful qualities and resources in action.
• Be selective about solutions.

The way to build cooperation is to focus on a positive-solutions focus to problems. When that doesn’t happen, you can almost always expect resistance.

Networking Faux Passtring(19) "Networking Faux Pas"

Most people I meet while networking think they’re great networkers, but a lot of them are still making some of the biggest networking no-nos in the book.

I went to a local networking event this week and saw one guy blatantly trying to gather as many business cards as he could, never spending more than a minute with any one person. This type of behavior indicates that he only had one goal–to acquire a nice, big stack of business cards to add to his cold-calling stockpile. Confusing networking with direct selling, as this guy was obviously doing, is one of the biggest mistakes a networker can make! Here’s my list of the three biggest networking faux pas that no networker should ever commit.

Faux pas number one: Not responding quickly to referral partners
This one really troubles me. I can’t imagine getting a call from a networking partner and not responding immediately. Unfortunately, it happens with regularity.

Faux pas number two: Confusing networking with direct selling
Networking is not simply about gathering contact information and following up on it later. That’s nothing more than glorified cold calling. It gives me the chills. I used to teach cold-calling techniques to businesspeople. And I did it enough to know that I didn’t ever want to do it again. Since then, I’ve devoted my professional life to teaching the business community that there’s a better way to build long-term business.

Faux pas number 3: Abusing the relationship
I’ve seen people abuse relationships with their networking partners by misleading them and doing such things as inviting people to a “birthday party” that turns out to be a business opportunity pitch. Never mislead your networking partners in any way; for that matter, never mislead anyone. Trust is everything when you’re talking about relationship networking. You need to be honest with those whom you want to build a trusting relationship with.

All three of these faux pas directly relate to good people skills. The prevailing theme is to treat your referral partners and potential referral partners with professionalism and care.

Use networking opportunities to meet people and begin the process of developing genuine relationships. As you do this, treat your referral partner the way you would a top client. Finally, always network in a way that builds credibility and trust–be candid in telling your referral partners what you need and what you’re asking of them. Do these things and you’ll avoid some serious mistakes in relationship networking.

Achieving Excellence in a Networking Groupstring(42) "Achieving Excellence in a Networking Group"

During a recent interview, I was asked what my thoughts are on why my networking organization, BNI, has become so successful. Well, I’ll be the first to admit that success didn’t happen overnight. It took me 23 years, and a lot of bumps along the way, to learn what it takes to operate a successful networking group anywhere in the world. But as I told the interviewer, I attribute BNI’s success to some key steps that are sure to move any networking group toward achieving excellence. I’d like to share some of them with you here:

1. Education, education, education. Take advantage of the staggering amount of resources on networking that are available. Some examples are:
SuccessNet archives, networking articles at Entrepreneur.com, networking books, Audio CDs, etc., etc.

2. Choose quality business professionals to join your networking group. Don’t take the first person with a pulse and a check.

3. Follow the system! When a system is proved to be successful, there is a reason it works. Don’t reinvent the wheel.

4. Pass quality referrals. The only thing more important than passing a lot of referrals is passing quality referrals. Both are important, but quality must lead the way.

5. Attendance is key to a group’s success. Networking groups that have poor attendance always end up having problems down the road. Have you ever gotten a haircut over the phone? Of course not. We’ve learned that you cannot get or give referrals if you don’t show up.

6. Pick great leaders! Don’t settle for who’s willing, but select who’s best! Leaders can make or break a group. It happens all the time.

7. Keep positive people with a solutions-focused attitude in your group. OK, here’s another way to say it–move out the constant whiners! Some people complain as though there were an award for it. Replace them. Find people who focus on building something great rather than complaining as though it were an Olympic event. Seriously, why accept mediocrity when excellence is an option? People, just like water, tend to seek the path of least resistance. The problem is that the path of least resistance may not be the best path. If you expect the best from your fellow networking group members, you will get it. If you expect less than the best from your members . . . you will get it. Expect the best. You’ll get better results, really.

After all, if following these steps could build BNI into an organization with more than 5,000 thriving chapters in more than 36 countries, then I’d say it’s worth giving them a try!!

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