Quantity Is Fine, But Quality Is Kingstring(37) "Quantity Is Fine, But Quality Is King"

Photo Courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo Courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One of the biggest misconceptions I’m aware of in regard to networking is the notion that it’s an “all you can eat” affair.  In other words, people go to an event, work the room in an effort to meet everyone there, and then judge their success by the number of cards they accumulate.  Although I see a certain superficial logic in that, there’s only one fatal flaw with this kind of thinking:  it assumes that the more people you meet at an event, the more successful your networking efforts are–and that’s simply not the case.  Instead, the quality of the connections you form is much more significant than the quantity of connections you make.

Businesspeople unfamiliar with referral networking sometimes lose track of the fact that networking is the means–not the end–of their business-building activities.  They attend three, four, even five events in a week in a desperate grasp for new business.  The predictable result is that they stay so busy meeting new people that they never have time to follow up and cultivate those relationships–and how can they expect to get that new business from someone they’ve only just met?  As one of these unfortunates remarked to me, “I feel like I’m always doing business but rarely getting anything done.”

I certainly agree that meeting new people is an integral part of networking, but it’s important to remember why we’re doing it in the first place: to develop a professional rapport with individuals that will deepen over time into a trusting relationship that will eventually lead to a mutually beneficial and continuous exchange of referrals.

When meeting someone for the first time, focus on the potential relationship you might form.  As hard as it may be to suppress your business reflexes, at this stage you cannot make it your goal to sell your services or promote your company.  You’re there to get to know a new person.  A friend of mine told me something his dad always said: “You don’t have to sell to friends.”  That’s especially good advice when interacting with new contacts.

This certainly doesn’t mean you’ll never get to sell anything to people you meet while networking; it does, however, mean that you’ll need to employ a different approach.  Networking isn’t about closing business or meeting hordes of new people; it’s about developing relationships in which future business can be closed.  Once you understand that, you’ll stand out from the crowd with everyone you meet.

When you’re networking like a pro and treating new contacts as future referral partners, you’ll absolutely blow away any competitors who still feel compelled to meet as many people as they possibly can.  Why?  Because when you call your contacts back, they’ll actually remember who you are and be willing to meet with you again.

Keith Ferrazzi: Build Trust by Breaking Breadstring(45) "Keith Ferrazzi: Build Trust by Breaking Bread"

As most of you who read this blog are avid networkers, it’s highly likely you are already familiar with Keith Ferrazzi.  If you aren’t, however, I can tell you that if the dictionary had a photo to accompany the definition of “master networker,” the photo would be of Keith.  He is absolutely the epitome of a master networker, and he has the most diverse group of contacts of anyone I’ve ever known.

Keith’s first book, Never Eat Alone, is a bestseller and the entire premise of the book is that networking over a meal is an absolutely amazing way to build rapport and trusted relationships with people.  After I read it, I found myself constantly referring to it in conversation and recommending it to people because it really is true–something magical and companionable happens when people break bread together.

I wanted to share this video with you today because, in it, Keith talks about his own key strategies for hosting networking dinner parties, and I think the “dinner party tactic” is one that not a lot of networkers have dabbled with.  I would love to see networkers around the world, both novice and seasoned, experience the amazing, relationship-building power that hosting a purposeful dinner party can have.

Keith believes that the strongest links have been forged at the table.  Because of this, he has mastered the art of throwing a networking dinner party and, in his networking content, he consistently emphasizes the power that throwing a dinner party can have in creating memories and strengthening relationships.  He is quick to mention, however, that if we continue to have dinner parties with the same people, our circle will never grow.  His solution is to identify and invite “anchor tenants” to your party.  These are people who are related to your core group but who know different people, have experienced different things, and thus have much to share.  They tend to be the people who have had a positive influence on your friends’ lives.  It’s akin to inviting the CEO to the manager’s table, as Ferrazzi says.  Soon other executives will want to be there too.

I had the opportunity to experience one of Keith’s networking parties firsthand and the anchor guest that night was the legendary author Gore Vidal.  Providing the entertainment was America’s oldest collegiate a capella group, the Whiffenpoofs of Yale.  Clearly, not all of us will be able to get Gore Vidal and the Whiffenpoofs at our networking party, but I’m guessing that Keith didn’t have them at his first party either.  However, the strategy is sound and I encourage you to try out the concept as a way of building your visibility in the community.  Keith has paid close attention to how a meal can most appropriately be leveraged for a business networking opportunity; the primary focus should always be on developing the relationship–learning about each other, helping one another with problems, and giving ourselves.

I invite you to visit KeithFerrazzi.com to learn more about Keith, and I highly encourage you to check out his content on networking–it’s absolutely fantastic!

If You’re Only Talking Shop, You’re Selling Yourself Shortstring(70) "If You’re Only Talking Shop, You’re Selling Yourself Short"

Photo courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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!

Meeting for the First Time?–10 Questions to Askstring(53) "Meeting for the First Time?–10 Questions to Ask"

When meeting someone for the first time, do you ever find yourself getting tongue-tied or feeling lost when it comes to knowing what questions you should ask to get a conversation going? Help is here! . . .

In this video, I list 10 questions that I personally use when I’m meeting someone for the first time.  Most of the questions shouldn’t be too surprising to you because what you’re trying to glean from an initial conversation with someone is usually pretty standard.  However there are two questions that I really, really love.  One of them will allow you to get an idea of what someone is truly passionate about when it comes to their business.  The other will create a powerful opportunity for you to make a real connection and begin building a lasting, mutually beneficial relationship.

As you’re watching the video, think about what questions you ask people during an intial introduction.  Do you have any different or unusual questions which you’ve found to be particularly helpful in your conversations?  I’ve told you what questions I use and I’m very curious to hear what questions you’ve had success with, so please take a moment to share in the comment forum below.  I read every single comment left on my blog site and I’m really looking forward to hearing from you–thanks so much!

Who’s the Best Networker You Know?string(40) "Who’s the Best Networker You Know?"

 Today, I’d like to ask you a very straightforward question: “Who’s the best networker you know, and why?”

In this video, I talk about the best networker I personally know and, interestingly enough, she comes from the world of academia–not the world of business. She is the president of an esteemed university and she is, without a doubt, an incredible networker!  So, what makes her the most standout networker I know?  I’m glad you asked . . . 😉

There are some very specific qualities she possesses which set her networking capabilities and effectiveness far above most people:

  • She knows how to establish common ground with absolutely anyone
  • Once she establishes common ground, she asks authentic, relevant questions
  • She’s extremely focused and always gives her undivided attention to individuals with whom she’s conversing
  • She genuinely cares about and listens to the information others offer and the answers they provide
  • She makes a point to remember what people say and to bring up things they said the next time she sees them

After watching the video, think about who you consider to be the best networker you personally know. Once you decide who that person is, please share with us in the comment forum below what it is about them that makes them such a great networker. I’m really looking forward to hearing your thoughts, so thanks in advance for participating!

Unexpected Referral Sourcesstring(27) "Unexpected Referral Sources"

Sometimes good referrals come from sources that you least expect.  Many business people I meet want to network exclusively with CEOs and corporate presidents.  They tell me they don’t want to join most business groups, because top executives aren’t members.  If you’re waiting to find a group exclusively for CEOs and top managers, don’t hold your breath.

Even when you find such a group, it probably won’t help.  You see, they don’t want you!  They’re hiding from you.  Top business executives insulate themselves from those they think might try to sell them products or services.  However, if you develop a word-of-mouth-based business, there’s no problem.  Through word of mouth you can increase your volume of business because you know a hundred people, who know a hundred people, who in turn know a hundred people, and so on.  You are potentially linked to a vast network beyond your own, and you never know who may be in this extended network.

The owner of a drapery business told me about one referral he received in this way.  A friend referred an elderly woman to him because the friend thought that he could help her.  The woman, who was in her late seventies, had sought the help of many drapery companies to no avail.  She wanted to install a pull blind on a small window in the back door of her home; she feared that people going by could look in.  The woman explained that normally her son would take care of this but that he was on an extended business trip.  No area drapery company would help her because it would be expensive to come out and install a small blind like that.  The businessman agreed to help her because she was referred to him by a mutual friend and because she was obviously worried about the situation.

About a month later, the businessman was working in his drapery warehouse/showroom when he noticed an expensive stretch limo pull up in front of his commercial building. Curious, he watched as the chauffeur got out and opened the door for a man dressed in an expensive suit.

The man came into the businessman’s showroom and asked for the proprietor.  The businessman introduced himself and asked how he could help the gentleman.  The man asked whether he remembered the elderly woman for whom he had installed the small blind.  The businessman said he remembered her well.  The man said that he was impressed that the businessman did this job, because he knew that there was no money in it.

Photo courtesy of stockimages at freedigitalphotos.net

Photo courtesy of stockimages at freedigitalphotos.net

The woman, he said, was his mother, and she had raved about how nice the businessman was and how he had helped her when no one else would.  She had instructed her son to use the businessman’s service whenever he could.  The son told him that he had a new, 6,000-square-foot home by the ocean.  He asked the businessman to go out and take measurements, because he wanted to install window coverings throughout the entire house.

The businessman told me that it was the most profitable job he had ever received, and it came from a little, old woman who needed a small blind on her back door.  Ironically, the “great referral” you receive is probably not going to come from a CEO, but from someone who knows a CEO.

An architect in Las Vegas told me about a window washer he met in one of his networking groups.  He said he saw the window washer every week for over nine months before the window washer gave him his first referral.  This one referral, however, was worth over $300,000 to the architect!  You never know where a good referral may come from.  It may come from a little, old lady, or a cab driver, or a window washer.  So don’t ignore the possibilities of the contacts that other people have or can make for you.

Do you have or know of a story about a remarkable referral that came from an unexpected source?  Please share it in the comment forum below–I’d love to hear about it! Thanks!

Are You Hearing What Isn’t Being Said?string(44) "Are You Hearing What Isn’t Being Said?"

Peter Drucker once said, “The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.”  This is so true and extremely important because the quality of our relationships depends on the quality of our communications; and when it comes to sales for your business and growing your business through referral marketing, this concept is a cornerstone for success.

Photo Courtesy of Ohmega1982 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo Courtesy of Ohmega1982 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Of course, not all sales transactions require incredible relationships or communication (e.g., online shopping), yet even big box stores like Wal-Mart–not known for warm customer relations–illustrate the value they place on communication and relationships by employing a visitor host to greet customers at the entrance of their stores.

Sara Minnis, a friend of mine, has often dealt with a phobia many sales people face within the sales process by coaching salespeople who are afraid of being rejected by a prospect or customer.  She says, “Sales ‘phobics’ might have an unrealistic fear of being rejected during cold calling, during the closing phase, or on a phone conversation.”  This, she suggests, is because the phobic salesperson tends to focus their communication on the emotional fit between themselves and the customer.  She explains, “The real business of selling can’t begin until the sales phobic feels that the prospect likes him or her.”  To avoid this, she says, “The professional seller directs her communication toward finding a fit between her product and the buyer’s need.  Focusing on being liked only enhances fears of personal rejection, while attending to the customer’s needs drives the transaction toward a closed deal.”

Sellers in strong relationships with their clients have a competitive advantage because the client feels connected or bonded to the seller.  The single most important tool sellers use to establish a connecting bond with another person is communication.  In fact, building a bonded relationship is completely dependent on having quality communications with another individual.

The art and science of communication is more than talking and hearing words.  There are many strategies and techniques aimed at earning the right to have your message heard.  If you can communicate at a level that matches the customer’s style rather than your own, you will be well on your way to masterful sales conversations.

Masters of sales today assume more of a consultative perspective to their selling work.  In fact, many box retail stores use the term “sales consultant” to describe the store clerk of yesterday.  Master sales consultants know that their ability to communicate is critical to selling client solutions, because rapport and trust, the cornerstones of selling, are built or lost based on communication.

So what can you do this week to improve your communication skills in order to speak to be heard and hear to know how to speak (e.g., joining a Toastmasters club, reading books like Dr. Mark Goulston’s Just Listen, etc.)?  I’d love to hear your ideas in the comment forum below.

Where to Start When Starting Your Own Businessstring(46) "Where to Start When Starting Your Own Business"

I recently got asked a really great question: Where do I get connected with people who can help me open a business?IvanOldSchool

Though there is evidence that business is currently on the rise and the economy is moving in a positive direction, the recent downturn in the economy prompted many people who found themselves unemployed to tap into their entrepreneurial spirit and consider starting their own business.

This begs the question above–are there efficient ways to get in touch with people who can help you start your own business?

The answer is yes, and here are my three recommendations:

1) Go through your contacts and talk to people you personally know who have started a business. Set an appointment.  Let them know what you are doing and ask if they’d give you an hour of mentoring.  If possible, meet with them in person.  Show up with specific questions written out in advance.  Send them the questions prior to the meeting so they have a good understanding of what kind of information you’re looking for.  When you meet, focus on those questions, write down the answers, and stick to the time frame you promised.  If the conversation goes well, ask if you can meet with them in the future.  Follow this process with two or three people who have opened a business successfully.  I guarantee you will find this to be very valuable.

2) Find a business coach who has experience with start-up businesses. Hire them to coach you through the process.

3) Read, read, read!  There are a lot of books out there on opening a business. I have personally reviewed many of the books published by Entrepreneur Press on starting a business and they are excellent.  Go to EntrepreneurPress.com to see some of them.

I strongly encourage anyone genuinely interested in starting their own business to pursue the endeavor. I have owned my own business for thirty years (that’s a picture of me at top right, when I first started my company, BNI, and was running it from my house and garage with only one other employee in the mid ’80s) and it continues to be an amazing and fulfilling journey. I don’t think I would ever go back to working for someone else.

Who Cares about Your Business?string(30) "Who Cares about Your Business?"

Do you know who really cares about your business and wants to help you?  Realistically, there are only a few basic ways of motivating people to care about and help build your business.  Basically, it comes down to relationships and rewards.  

Photo courtesy of graur codrin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo courtesy of graur codrin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Some folks, usually friends or family, will simply want to help because they like you and want you to do well.  These people will be motivated by the relationship itself.

But in most other cases, the long term motivation to build your business is not based primarily on whether or not the other person likes you.  Business partnerships, including referral relationships, almost always include some form of mutual reward; typically in the form of social or financial gain.  Both you and your networking partner have something to gain, and you are both eager to help each other achieve it.

Some people are motivated by the potential for business referrals you can send, while others are motivated by the prestige and opportunities created by having a relationship with you.  Regardless of the underlying motivation behind them, relationships can take time to prove profitable in a substantial way, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth cultivating.  Ultimately, strong relationships will steer back opportunities because of the nature of networking itself and of the endless variety of products and services to which it can lead.

I firmly believe that most relationships will probably prove rewarding in the long term, even in cases where you don’t receive referrals in return.  There are a few super successful people to whom we send referrals who’ve never reciprocated with a referral back.  We’re motivated to continue helping them in any way we can simply because they will work with people we refer to them.  That makes us look good, because it’s very difficult for the average person to start a working relationship with these very successful, very busy people.

If we refer someone, it opens a door that might never have otherwise opened.  The new person that we are referring to our very busy friends or associates is the one who now goes out of his way to reciprocate.  That’s our motivation; helping our networking partners achieve their goals.  And, of course, in one form or another, it winds up coming back in some way.

What are some experiences you’ve had in which you’ve benefitted in some way or another as a result of truly caring about others’ businesses and helping them to grow and achieve their goals?  I’d love to hear your story/stories so please share your experiences in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

Networking and Friendsstring(22) "Networking and Friends"

One of the strengths of a good networking group is that most of the members become friends.  And ironically, one of the weaknesses is that most of the members become friends.  It’s both a strength and a weakness.  Accountability becomes key in running a good network because friends don’t like to hold friends accountable.  But, people who truly understand networking are not going to have a problem with system and structure.

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It can be dangerously easy for a networking group that meets regularly to become a coffee talk session with little or no networking going on.  That’s exactly what happens when a group loses sight of their purpose, focus, system, and structure–or never has any of those things to begin with.

People begin to make up their own agendas and the networking loses focus.  When you lose focus, the meetings become social.  Networking should be about business.  Of course there has to be a social aspect, but it’s really about business, commitment, and accountability.  People can be like water and tend to take the path of least resistance.  Without the proper framework in which to operate, the agenda becomes the topic of the day and it ends up being whatever the person running the group thinks the meeting should be about.  That sort of inconsistency over time is a problem for a networking group.

Even if you have a good, strong leader, at some point the person’s life will change or maybe he or she will simply get burned out.  The problem starts if there is no one else to teach.  Teaching is a leaky-bucket process.  You start with a whole bucket of information.  When that information is taught to someone else, some of that information leaks out and the people being taught only get that limited version of the information.  In turn, when that person teaches someone else, the material continues to get watered down based on their understanding and ability to articulate the material.

By the time you are in the third or fourth generation of people passing along the information, you only have about half a bucket remaining.  When the bucket of information gets low, people start putting in their own stuff.  Very rarely does the material improve over time with this process.

In short, it is a beautiful thing when people in a networking group become close friends–the key to making sure it doesn’t detract from the goals of building each other’s business through networking, however, is to ensure that no matter what type of networking group you’re in the group has a strong sense of purpose, a solid structure, and that each member is committed to carrying out the systems for networking which are already in place. 

So, how does your networking group maintain its focus and its commitment to its systematic networking practices (e.g., careful selection of leadership, effective training programs, etc.)?  I’d love to hear your thoughts–please share them in the comment forum below.  Thanks so much for your participation!

 

Networking Amidst Cultural Differencesstring(38) "Networking Amidst Cultural Differences"

Photo Courtesy of Potowizard

Photo Courtesy of Potowizard

Understanding cultural differences when doing business around the world is  becoming more important in a global society.  Even within large countries like the United States, there are definitely differences from one region to another.  When you go beyond that and look at one country vs. another, the differences become even more impactful on business.

When we concentrate on similarities with each other in business, the differences aren’t that important.  Problems arise when the differences appear to be all there are.  When entrepreneurs focus on the perceived differences between each other in business, these differences can become stumbling blocks to developing a strong relationship, which is, after all, the ultimate goal of networking.  When you factor in differences in communication and behavioral styles it exacerbates the perceived differences.

Although many networking basics are universal, if you can factor in these and other cultural nuances you will definitely get a leg up when doing business in other countries.  Your networking etiquette will be greatly appreciated as your business increasingly takes you into other countries, especially if you can learn a few words or commonly practiced traditions of that country.  Showing this kind of respect will go a long way in making a smoother connection with the local business people you are trying to work with.

The old saying “When in Rome, do as the Romans” is very appropriate.  However, one thing I’d strongly suggest–don’t just “do as the Romans,” take the time to actually “ask a few Romans.”  I have had amazing suggestions from local business people I knew in other countries who thoroughly prepped me for the cultural differences in networking prior to my arrival in their country.  Their counseling and coaching made a huge difference in my ability to connect in an appropriate way throughout many of the countries I have visited.

If you have any useful tips or bits of advice for successfully networking in a certain country or region of the globe, please–by all means–share this information in the comments section.  You never know who you could be helping!

Staying Focused in a Hyper Worldstring(32) "Staying Focused in a Hyper World"

Some months back, I posted a blog about my good friend John Gray’s most recent book, Staying Focused in a Hyper World.  Today I’d like to share another video with him about the topic because recently I’ve been reminded several times about the increasing importance of finding ways to stay focused amidst the bombardment of technology we’re faced with daily.

Dr. John Gray is not only my good friend, he’s also an extremely well known author–his most well known book being Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus.  At a recent TLC (Transformational Leadership Council) conference, I had the chance to record this video with him where we discuss his latest book and reveal natural solutions for increasing/restoring memory, improving attention span and focus, and overcoming ADHD no matter what cacophony of bustling and distraction is going on around us.

John was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease some years ago and he embarked on a mission to treat it through natural solutions.  During this time, he discovered he had ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)and, quite interestingly, he was able to counteract that through natural means without the use of harmful, side-effect-inducing drugs.

In this day and age, we are so bombarded with technology and distractions that even if we don’t have ADHD, it can often be extremely difficult to stay focused and this can be a great deterrent to our success.  For this reason, I highly recommend John’s new book.  Businesspeople can especially benefit from the advice in this book as they tend to live highly fast-paced lives and they are often simultaneously pulled in several different directions.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about what John has to say in this video (you can leave your comments in the comment forum below) and if you’d like to learn more about Staying Focused in a Hyper World, please click here.  Thanks!

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