Gain Visibility Through Volunteeringstring(36) "Gain Visibility Through Volunteering"

One of the first steps to take when networking for your business is to become more visible in the community. Remember that people need to know you, like you and trust you in order to refer you. Building connections relies on fostering familiarity, trust, and likability among peers who can potentially refer you to the people they know.

Volunteering can position you to meet key people in your community. It connects you with people who share your passion. It gives you opportunities to demonstrate your talents, skills, and integrity. It can also help you build credibility by showing your ability to follow up and do what you say you are going to do. It instantly expands the depth and breadth of your network.

People who volunteer demonstrate their commitment to a cause without concern for personal gain. Therefore, your volunteering efforts should be with organizations or causes for which you hold genuine interest and concern. If the group’s administrators or other volunteers perceive that you are in it primarily for your own gain, your visibility will work against you and will undermine your own goals.

Choosing the Right Organization

Volunteering is not a recreational activity. It is a serious commitment to help address and fulfill societal needs. Choosing the right organization or cause that aligns with your passions and interests requires a thoughtful and strategic approach.

Ask yourself these nine questions:

  1. What do you enjoy doing for yourself in your leisure time?
  2. What hobbies bring you fulfillment and satisfaction?
  3. Are there any sports or games that you excel in and can teach to others?
  4. What aspects of life bring you joy and satisfaction?
  5. Which social, political, or health issues are you passionate about because it personally relates to you, your family, or your friends?
  6. Based on your answers to the first five questions, what are three organizations that appeal to you and align with your interests? Examples include youth leagues, clubs, libraries, activist groups, homeless shelters, religious groups, food banks. Select the one that resonates with you the most and conduct thorough research online and in the community.
  7. After you have researched this group, does it offer opportunities conducive to your personal or professional objectives? If so, visit the group to “try it on” – gauge the atmosphere and dynamics. You may want to visit a few times.
  8. After you have visited this group, reflect on your experience. Do you still want to commit your time and effort? If so, continue to #9.
  9. Are other group members satisfied with the organization? Identify three people representing different tenures to interview and assess their satisfaction with the group. (Consider choosing a new member, a two- to three-year member, and a seasoned five+ years member to interview.)

Once you’ve done the research required to satisfactorily answer these nine questions, join the selected group and begin to volunteer to bolster your visibility. Seek leadership roles that will demonstrate your strengths, talents, and skills. In other words, volunteer and become visible. It’s a great way to build your personal network and solidify your presence within it.

A multifaceted approach is required to expand your visibility and build credibility through volunteering.

Strategic Engagement: Identify opportunities within the organization where you can effectively leverage your skills and expertise.

Consistent Participation: Regular involvement in volunteer activities reinforces your commitment and fosters deeper connections with fellow members.

Effective Communication: Articulate your objectives and aspirations clearly to fellow volunteers and organizational leader to foster mutual understanding and collaboration.

Proactive Leadership: Assume proactive leadership roles to showcase your capabilities and influence positive change within the organization.

Continuous Learning: Embrace opportunities for personal and professional development within the volunteering sphere which will enrich your skill set.

Volunteering serves as an invaluable platform to contribute to the greater good of the community while increasing your network and positioning yourself as a reliable and esteemed figure within your professional sphere.

By embracing the spirit of altruism and active participation, you can expand your network and also leave a lasting impact on the causes that you champion. It’s through these collective efforts that we forge stronger, more vibrant communities that are grounded in the values of empathy, collaboration, and shared purpose.

Are you already an active volunteer?  If so, what organization do you volunteer with and how has it helped you gain visibility within your community?  I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comment section below.  Thank you!

Building Authentic Business Relationship

Networking is About Stamina, Not Speedstring(38) "Networking is About Stamina, Not Speed"

In the world of professional relationships and business growth, networking plays a pivotal role. As the founder of BNI, an organization built on the foundation of referrals and networking, I have witnessed firsthand the transformative power it holds. So, let’s take a look at what this marathon should look like – with a little humor added in.

Building Authentic Relationships:
It’s Not Like Speed Dating!

Networking is about building authentic relationships, not just accumulating contacts. It’s not a speed dating event where you collect as many business cards as possible and hope for the best. Nope, that won’t cut it. It’s essential to invest time and effort in getting to know others on a deeper level. Remember, it’s not about exchanging pleasantries and pretending to be interested while secretly plotting to make a sale. Building rapport, trust, and a genuine connection requires a commitment to building long-term relationships. Treat it like a slow-cooked meal; let the flavors develop over time!

Establishing Credibility and Trust:
Actions Speak Louder Than Words, and Bad Puns

A successful networker understands the significance of establishing credibility and trust within the business community. And what better way to establish credibility than through consistent effort and delivering on your promises? Show up, be reliable, and provide value to others. But wait, there’s more! How about sprinkling in some humor to lighten the mood? Just make sure your networking humor doesn’t fall flat like a pancake. Remember, a good joke can break the ice, but a bad joke might just make people feel as cold as an iceberg!

Imagine that you’re at a networking event, and you strike up a conversation with a potential client. You are both discussing your businesses when you drop a perfectly timed pun. They chuckle, and suddenly the tension eases. You’ve established a connection beyond the ordinary small talk. So go ahead, let your sense of humor shine through. Just be careful not to overdo it.

The Power of Referrals:
Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Referrals are the lifeblood of successful networking. However, they’re not something that magically appears with the snap of your fingers. Oh no, referrals are more like that delicious meal you wait hours for at a fantastic restaurant. They take time to cook. As connections grow stronger and trust deepens, individuals become more willing to recommend your services or products. So, don’t rush it. Patience is key, just like waiting for that dessert you’ve been eyeing on the menu. Trust me, the referral soufflé will rise beautifully when the time is right!

Now, let’s imagine a scenario. You meet someone at a networking event who expresses interest in your business. Instead of bombarding them with sales pitches, take a different approach. Build a genuine connection, show interest in their business, and find ways to support them. Remember, networking is a two-way street. If you provide value and support to others, they’ll be more inclined to refer you to potential clients or partners. And when those referrals come flowing in, it’ll feel like winning a delicious food-eating competition—except without the stomach ache and gained weight!

The Depth of Connection:
Skip the Small Talk and Embrace the Quirkiness

While a sprint may be a quick burst of energy, networking thrives on the depth of connections you develop. It’s not about how many people you can engage within a short period, but rather the quality and depth of those relationships. So, minimize the small talk and embrace the quirkiness! Find common interests, share your passions, and let your authentic self shine when you network with people. After all, it’s the quirks and unique qualities that make us memorable. Just be careful not to overshare; we’re aiming for memorable, not creepy!

Imagine attending a networking event where everyone is wearing the same professional mask. The conversations revolve around the weather, the latest industry trends, and the most boring aspects of business. Sounds dreadful, right? Break free from the mundane! Instead of blending in, embrace your quirkiness. Talk about your love for comic books, your passion for knitting tiny hats for your pet turtle, or your secret talent for juggling oranges (for me, it’s catching and releasing venomous snakes back into the wild – that’s always a conversation starter). Be memorable, be authentic, and watch as those connections deepen like a well-developed plotline in a gripping novel.

Patience and Long-Term Vision:
Marathon Training with Snacks and Dance Breaks

Networking is a journey that requires patience and a long-term vision. It’s like training for a marathon, but with more snacks and dance breaks. Sure, there will be times when progress seems slow, and the finish line feels distant. That’s when you break out the snacks and groove to your favorite tunes. Keep that networking stamina high! Embrace the ups and downs, celebrate the small victories, and keep your eye on the prize. Remember, it’s not just about reaching the finish line; it’s about enjoying the process and the connections you make along the way.

Let’s envision a networking event as a vibrant dance floor. You’re wearing your networking shoes, grooving to the beat, and mingling with other professionals. You may stumble a few times, but you pick yourself up and keep going. As you dance, you share stories, exchange ideas, and forge connections. And when the DJ plays your favorite song, you let loose and celebrate the joy of networking. So, don’t forget to pack your favorite snacks, keep those dance moves handy, and embrace the marathon with a smile on your face.

Networking truly is a marathon, not a sprint. It involves building authentic relationships, establishing credibility and trust, earning referrals, fostering deep connections, and embracing a long-term vision. By understanding and embracing the principles of networking, individuals can unlock its true power in creating opportunities, fostering collaborations, and achieving professional success.

So, lace up those networking shoes, grab a handful of networking-themed snacks, and let’s embark on this marathon together. Embrace the journey, cultivate authentic relationships with a sprinkle of humor, and forge lasting connections that will propel us forward on our path to success. And don’t forget to laugh along the way because, let’s face it, networking can be serious business, but a little humor makes the journey all the more enjoyable!

Business Networking is a Marathon, Not a Sprintstring(47) "Business Networking is a Marathon, Not a Sprint"

In the world of professional relationships and business growth, networking plays a pivotal role. As the founder of BNI®, an organization built on the foundation of networking, I have witnessed firsthand the transformative power it holds. Networking is not merely a sprint to collect business cards and make quick connections; rather, it is a marathon that requires patience, perseverance, and the cultivation of genuine relationships. Today, we will explore why networking is more of a marathon than a sprint, embodying the principles and philosophy I have advocated throughout my career.

Building Authentic Relationships

Networking is about building authentic relationships, not just accumulating contacts. It is essential to invest time and effort in getting to know others on a deeper level. Building rapport, trust, and a genuine connection requires a commitment to long-term relationship building. Like a marathon runner training to endure the miles, networking calls for consistent engagement and follow-up with others, nurturing connections that go beyond the surface level.

Establishing Credibility and Trust

A successful networker understands the significance of establishing credibility and trust within their professional community. This is not something that can be achieved overnight; it requires consistent effort and demonstrating reliability over time. By consistently showing up, delivering on promises, and providing value to others, one can establish themselves as a trusted resource and expert in their field. This reputation cannot be built hastily; it is cultivated over the course of a marathon networking journey.

The Power of Referrals

Referrals are the lifeblood of successful business networking. However, they are not instant gratification. Similar to the stamina required to complete a marathon, it takes time and a solid network foundation to earn referrals. As connections grow stronger and trust deepens, individuals become more willing to recommend your services or products to people they know. Referrals flow naturally when relationships have been nurtured and when others are confident in your abilities. This process cannot be rushed; it evolves steadily as your network expands and your reputation spreads.

The Depth of Connection

While a sprint may be a quick burst of energy, networking thrives on the depth of connection. It is not about the number of connections one can acquire in a short period; it is about the quality and depth of those relationships. By taking the time to truly understand others, their needs, and aspirations, one can offer genuine support and be a valuable resource to them. This depth of connection allows for collaboration, partnerships, and long-term business opportunities that are often missed in a sprint.

Patience and Long-Term Vision

Networking is a journey that requires patience and a long-term vision. It takes time to develop a network of trusted individuals who believe in your mission and are willing to support you. Like a marathon runner, there will be times when progress seems slow, and the finish line feels distant. However, by staying committed, consistent, and focused, networking will yield invaluable rewards that a sprint can never provide.

 

Business networking is undeniably more of a marathon than a sprint. It necessitates dedication, perseverance, and the cultivation of authentic relationships built on trust and credibility. By understanding that networking is a long-term endeavor, we can appreciate the true power it holds in creating opportunities, fostering collaborations, and ultimately achieving professional success. So, let us lace up our networking shoes, embrace the marathon, and forge lasting connections that will propel us forward on our journey to success.

 

 

 

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Networking at Non-Networking Eventsstring(35) "Networking at Non-Networking Events"

Do you know that you can network anywhere? Networking at non-traditional networking settings can be very beneficial. One reason is because not very many people think of it. You typically have the field to yourself, with many opportunities to develop strong and lasting relationships with potential referral partners.

Start with Person-to-Person

One type of a non-traditional networking setting is a party. Everyone goes to different types of parties throughout the year; holiday parties and other social mixers bring ample opportunities to network.

Some people consider this a strange idea as they think of a boorish person selling time-shares to their aunt and uncle at their grandparent’s 50th wedding anniversary or someone trying to drum up business at a funeral. But networking is not just trying to sell something, nor is it only about passing business referrals.

It is about building meaningful relationships and social capital. Master networkers understand this, which is why they are always networking.

It’s All About Relationships

Think about it – you’re already in a relationship with everybody you know. The question is: how far along has that relationship developed? Looking at it within the VCP Process® we can ask ourselves these questions.

Is it a relationship of visibility, in which you know each other but haven’t had any  business dealings?

Is it in the credibility stage, in which you’ve interacted with each other enough that a degree of mutual trust has been established?

Or has it deepened over time to the point of profitability, where both parties receive mutual benefits as a result of assistance, business referrals, or other interactions?

Nowadays, it’s easy to lose that personal touch when so much of our communication is done electronically through email and text. Yet the fact is most relationships develop through one-to-one interactions, and they get stronger every time we meet face to face. Parties and other non-networking events are when we are more likely to see people in a social setting, and these settings certainly lend them self to building relationships.

However, there are important things to remember when you’re networking at any event.

Ask Others, “How Can I Help?”

Having a Givers Gain® attitude is the number one rule to remember. We should always be thinking: How can I help this person?  Many of us know this and attempt to apply it to our relationships, yet we are more inclined to do it instinctively with those people with whom we are in the profitability category. How can we apply it to the relationships that are in the visibility and credibility categories?

At a social event, we usually ask somebody, “How’s it going?” What is their typical reply? Something like, “Great, things couldn’t be better.” That’s an automatic response that people give because they want to be polite and because they think that nobody really wants to hear their troubles. But that standard answer they give is not usually the whole truth.

Things can always be better. There are surely ways you can help—however, most people are not inclined to go into detail or let others know what’s going on, especially at a social event. The best way to find out is to avoid generalities like “How are things?” and ask more specific questions.

One time when I was having a conversation with someone, I asked them how things were going and got the standard answer that things were great, the company was expanding, and business was better than expected. My next question was “Are you hitting all of your goals?” Their answer: Yes, the business was exceeding all its goals by a large margin.

Sounds like this person didn’t need any help, right? On the contrary: to me it sounded like a big opportunity. Think about it, here was a company that was expanding faster than the owner projected. What kind of help might it need?

Many consider networking just another way to get clients, but when you think in terms of building relationships, a chance to help is a BIG opportunity. That help can be provided in many different forms, each as valuable as the next.

In this case I was able to make some introductions that the individual was very grateful for. But it was only after getting past the generalities that I was able to figure out their specific needs.

Be Sincere

When you are networking successfully at a non-networking event, people won’t even know it. That’s because you are genuinely looking for ways that you can help others, and your concern for the person you’re talking with is apparent. People who are networking exclusively for their own personal gain come across as shallow and insincere.

A good networker doesn’t have to attempt sincerity. They really care about making connections for others, not just for themselves. Some people are so accomplished and successful at networking that they are able to network virtually anywhere. They find that people are receptive to them using an opportunity to share information that will benefit others, even when that exchange takes the form of a business card at a cultural celebration.

Honor the Event

This one should really be a no-brainer, and yet we all know some overzealous business people who trawl the room at a party in pursuit of a sale, any sale. They may do the same, although less blatantly, at family gatherings and other social events. This is the exact opposite of what business networking is all about. Remember, relationships are the name of the game. Social events are a great place to get visibility and credibility, so focus on building those aspects of relationships.

Your networking must be different in a chamber of commerce meeting compared to a social event. In both cases you want to be making contacts, connecting people with each other, helping others, and building relationships. You should NOT be actively promoting your business at a non-business event. Honor the event and tailor your networking strategies so that you fit in without being tuned out.

Networking is a Lifestyle

Networking is a lifestyle that can be incorporated into everything that you do. Since one should always be working on building meaningful relationships with other people, they should always be networking. However, that doesn’t mean one should always be trying to “sell” something to somebody, because that rarely facilitates the development of meaningful relationships.

 

Remember, business networking means developing relationships, and ALL events, including social gatherings, family get-togethers, and holiday parties are filled with opportunities to help others. And helping others provides the opportunity to build and strengthen relationships.

Do you have a success story about networking at a non-networking event?
I’d like to hear about it in the comments section.

Work Your Network With the 4Cs – Credibilitystring(46) "Work Your Network With the 4Cs – Credibility"

In the book I co-authored with Dr. Oudi Abouchacra, “Work Your Network With the 4Cs,” we share that The Four Cs are the foundation for all relationships.
Competence
Credibility
Clarity
Connectivity

For successful business networking, I believe it is critical to understand each of them. As I shared in BNI Podcast episode 772, the first “C” – Competence, is the primary driver of referrals in a business practice. However, competence alone will not unlock referrals.

The Second “C” is Credibility

People do not refer business to another person unless they feel confident that they are trustworthy. The importance of trustworthiness is closely aligned with our second “C” – Credibility. It is the quality of being believable or worthy of trust. Trust and credibility are so closely related that some people use them synonymously.

Credibility, when combined with Competence, will decrease the time it takes for you to reach the confidence point in the Referral Confidence Curve. The work of social psychologists helps illustrate the interrelated nature of credibility and competence. In studies, they have found that people evaluate each other by asking themselves two questions when they meet someone new, “Can I trust this person?” and “Can I respect this person?” Ideally, you want to be perceived as having both qualities.

For years I’ve said, when you give a referral away, you give away a little bit of your reputation. When you give a good referral, it enhances your reputation. When you give a bad referral, it hurts your reputation. I think trust is incredibly important – you must be able to trust your referral partners and be trusted in return.

Sometimes businesspeople assume they must prove that they’re smart enough to handle new business before potential customers will be willing to part with their hard-earned cash. And while this is true, people are misguided if they don’t also focus on making sure that they demonstrate they are worthy of trust.

In the 4Cs book, we speak about gaining the confidence of members within your network, and we believe that means they trust you as a person and that they know you’re good at your job. The faster you can showcase your competence and establish credibility with a fellow member, the faster they will have confidence in you and the quicker they’ll give you referrals. Building strong business relationships with potential referral partners means that you need to take time to really get to know one another at an individual level.

Confidence Leads to Credibility

Remember that it’s not your confidence that counts. It is their confidence in your ability to provide a quality product or service. When someone has confidence in you, then you become credible. Your credibility is based on their confidence in you. When your networking partners have high confidence in your ability to provide a quality service and products, then you have high credibility with them. Their confidence determines your credibility.

If you feel that you aren’t getting referrals from somebody that you have a really strong relationship with, I suggest that you sit down and talk to them. Find out if they have any concerns about your ability to do a particular job with their clients or patients or customers. If they do have concerns, then you need to work on those items to be able to develop the necessary credibility.

A final thought: When you are networking, speaking from the stage, on a webinar, or during a one-to-one business meeting, make sure that you are showing both your Competence and your Credibility.

 

 

 

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Work Your Network With the 4Cs – Competencestring(45) "Work Your Network With the 4Cs – Competence"

In my book, “Work Your Network With the 4Cs,” my co-author Dr. Oudi Abouchacra and I share The Four Cs, which are the foundation of all relationships. I believe that understanding each of them is critical to generate referrals for your business.
Competence
Credibility
Clarity
Connectivity

The First “C” is Competence

In terms of business and referral marketing, it is important to remember that no one ever refers their friends and family to people who they don’t believe are competent. When it comes to our own business, competence needs to be established first and foremost. The more we demonstrate competence, the more likely our reputation will help us become credible, so that we ultimately earn the trust of others.

Competence relates to how you conduct yourself professionally, how well you do your job, and whether members of your networking group perceive you as competent. They do business with you when there is certainty that you are good at your job. People won’t refer you to others if they feel that you are going to let them down. After all, their reputation is at stake when they give you a referral.

Competence, or your ability to do something well and effectively, is critical to reaching the confidence point on the Referral Confidence Curve.

You also build competence within your networking group by educating your fellow members about the different aspects of your products or services. Make your weekly presentations interesting. Teach them how they can identify potential clients and customers for you. Tell them how your business and your expertise help solve people’s needs and improve their lives. Your knowledge and eloquence while educating your referral partners (NOT selling to them) will inspire confidence so that your name comes to their mind when a referral opportunity arises.

Remember, people do business with people they know, like, and trust. The 4Cs affect the referral quality, and quantity, within your network.
Competence is crucial to secure strong referrals and achieve business success.

Work Your Network With The 4Csstring(30) "Work Your Network With The 4Cs"

I am excited to tell you about my new book, co-authored with Dr. Oudi Abouchacra, called “Work Your Network with the 4Cs.” Our goal with this book is to empower businesspeople, BNI® members, and other professionals with the fundamentals to create a powerful personal network.

In the book, we refer to our four key fundamentals as The 4Cs. They are:
Credibility – trust or trustworthiness
Competence – knowledge and skill
Clarity – understandable communication
Connectivity – quantity and quality of connections

Consciously or subconsciously, we all assess the people we interact with in terms of their credibility, competence, clarity, and connectivity. And they, too, are evaluating us with respect to the 4Cs. In future blogs and podcasts, I’ll dive into the details for each of these four, exploring how they apply to the business world, and how you can build a greater network and work that network effectively. 

Business from Networking and Referrals

For anyone who has been in business, even for a limited time, you recognize that a percentage, and it’s often a large percentage, of business referrals that you receive comes from your professional network. In fact, for small business owners, regardless of the industry or sector, networking referrals are typically a very significant proportion of their business.

A few years ago, we did an online BNI survey, open to the public, that had almost 4000 participants worldwide. We found that 73% of businesses reported getting most of their business from networking and referrals. That is a compelling statistic!
The other ways they got business were advertising – about 12%; P.R. was less than 5%; cold calling was less than 10%. And 73% was from networking and referrals!

The irony in that statistic is that more than 87% of the people in the same survey said they had never taken a college course that covered networking or word-of-mouth marketing. Forget about an actual class on networking; we’re talking about a course that just even discussed the topic of networking. It’s ironic that most people get their business from networking, and most people have never been taught how to network.

This is disturbing on many levels. Business students are almost completely unaware of how crucial networking will be to their future success. Business professionals are not investing in a source of income – networking and referrals – that is potentially responsible for nearly three-quarters of their livelihood. Additionally, they are not investing the necessary time in growing their network. 

Many businesses are leaving opportunities on the table and those opportunities could be the ticket to taking their business to the next level. Dr. Oudi and I want this book to do what colleges and universities have failed at doing.

The 4Cs are designed to help you gain more referrals with every handshake and with everyone you meet. Each of our Cs – Competence, Credibility, Clarity, and Connectivity, has the potential to affect the referral quality, quantity, significance, and consistency within your personal network.


Special Offer

Right now, the Kindle version of “Work Your Network with the 4Cs” is on sale for only 99¢ USD. You can download your digital copy at amazon.com (you don’t need a Kindle device; you can get the free Kindle app).
This offer is at amazon.com only and may not be available in all areas.

This special offer ends on Sunday, August 21st, 2022, at 3:00 am EDT USA.

The “What’s In It For Me?” Attitudestring(45) "The “What’s In It For Me?” Attitude"

A few years back, I received an email from someone who read an article I wrote about collaboration and working together. They said, “The type of networking you talk about describes the way things should work, but in the real world most people seem to have an attitude of what’s in it for me.” Then they asked, “How can I prevent wasting my time and efforts on people, only to find that they have this kind of attitude?” 

I thought it was a great question and I gave a short answer – stop hanging out with the wrong kind of people and start actively seeking out the right kind of people. Trust me, I’ve been there and done that when it comes to getting stuck with the wrong people.

To move beyond that and build a network that wants to help YOU (knowing that you also want to help them) you have to recognize that it is a journey, not a destination. Building a strong network for business success is more like a marathon than a sprint. It takes an investment of time to find and get to know those professionals with a Givers Gain® attitude with whom you can build long-term referral relationships.

How to Find Networking Partners

It starts with finding people who have a giving attitude. These are some of the traits of good networking partners:

  • People who sincerely ask how they can help you or what they can offer you before they ask anything from you.
  • Individuals who show that they are willing to create a professional relationship over a period of time, because they understand that they must develop credibility with you before asking for your business or your referrals.
  • People who make the time to go beyond normal business interactions with those whom they want to be able to ask for support in the future.
  • Professionals who understand that networking is more about farming than hunting and show it in their actions. They make the effort to get to know you outside of the business environment whenever possible, knowing that the more of a friendship there is between you, the more expectations you can both have from each other’s networking efforts.
  • People who do what they can to bring business and contacts to you and to their other networking partners. They share pertinent, helpful information with you, and invite you to business meetings that will favorably position you with others you want to meet.
  •  Individuals who give of their time and knowledge to help their referral sources succeed. They gladly celebrate the successes of their networking partners and tell others about them.

You want to find people who understand that it takes time and who are willing to GIVE business in order to get business.

Building Relationships

At its core, business networking is about taking the time to build genuine, trusted relationships. Simply meeting someone and being visible is not enough. Having visibility without building trust won’t get you very far in the long run.

Remember, a network that is a mile wide and an inch deep is not a strong network. You want to create a personal network that is both wide and deep. Building meaningful relationships is the key to making it happen. Meet with people regularly and participate in networking groups where you see the same quality of professionals on a consistent basis. This will help you develop mutually beneficial relationships and screen out the “what’s in it for me?” types.

I think it is also important to have an abundance mind-set in business networking and referral marketing. This happens with an awareness that there is more than enough business to go around. People can sense desperation, and it is NOT referable. Successful networkers choose an abundance mind-set over a scarcity mentality.

As you read these suggestions and look for good networking partners, look at yourself. Do YOU have these traits? Are YOU willing to help others get more business before seeking business for yourself?
Instead of asking, “What’s in it for me?” ask others what you can do for them.

What are your thoughts? I’d like to hear them in the comment section.

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.

resist networking

Why People Resist Networkingstring(28) "Why People Resist Networking"

Every year, people continue to resist networking even though successful people have used networking to grow their businesses. Networking provides a great return for a much smaller monetary investment as compared to the cost of traditional advertising. Why are so many business owners still not networking as a way to grow their business?

The four reasons why people resist networking

  • They are frozen by their fear

Having a fear of rejection keeps people from networking. The fear of interacting with strangers is paralyzing. Having low self-confidence, shyness, or an under-estimation of what they can contribute are reasons why they resist networking. Giving in to these fears is just plain bad for business.

  • They are too busy

Not having time to network is another excuse many people use as to why they are not networking. People believe that they are too busy already. They think that it is not worth the time or stress it takes to network. They resist networking because they believe that their current time obligations are more important. Being “too busy” is an excuse when people are not clear on their networking goals.

  • They are “hunting”

People resist networking because they expect immediate results. They are impatient and don’t understand the value of taking the time to build strong relationships first. “Hunters” want a quick sale as opposed to following up and establishing credibility over time with others. They do not follow up with the people they connect with and get no results.

  • They are talking more

People often resist networking because they pitch their sale in a room full of competition. I was at a big networking event with more than 500 people in the UK one year, and the person who spoke before me asked the audience: “How many of you came here hoping to do some business–maybe make a sale?”  More than half the people in the audience raised their hands. He then asked, “How many of you are here hoping to buy something?” No one raised a hand–not one single person! This is the networking disconnect and they are not listening.

The four reasons why successful people network

  • They are focused by their fear

Successful people are not blocked by fear. They are focused on meeting others when networking. Not only are they building their business visibility, but successful networkers also have a good time building new relationships with others.

  • They value their networking time

Successful people have clear networking goals. They know what they want to gain with their networking time. Successful networkers have learned that breaking out of their routine is an enriching experience. They have found ways to incorporate networking into their schedule.

  • They are “farming”

Networking is not a “get-rich-quick” scheme. Successful networking is more about farming than it is about hunting. We have to cultivate good relationships that pay us back over the long term, year after year. Networking works by building credibility with strong relationships.

  • They are listening more

Networking is not like “cold-calling.” It is not something you do to someone. It is something you do with them. Networking is a conversation. It involves more listening. Don’t forget that a good networker has two ears and one mouth and should use both of them proportionately.

Networking involves building a strong relationship. The first of the three phases of networking is visibility. You and other individuals become aware of each other. When networking, you become genuinely interested in the other person as you get to know each other. This interest in each other leads to credibility with each other. This credibility will build and will create opportunities over time to provide referrals. Those referrals will ultimately lead to profitability resulting from your networking efforts.

converting prospects into customers

Converting Prospects Into Customersstring(35) "Converting Prospects Into Customers"

Your referral source has done her job and emailed you a referral. If she is a BNI member, she passed you the referral via BNI Connect. Now it’s time to contact the prospect. But be careful: The purpose of your first contact call is not to make a sale or even ask the prospect if he has questions about your business. If, and only if, the prospect asks, should you present your products or services during this first contact call. Remember, when converting prospects into customers, you must first build a relationship. It may take a while, but if you follow these recommendations, you’ll speed up the process of closing the deal.

Do your homework.

First, contact the referral source who passed you the referral. Ask the referral source for any relevant information. As we are currently practicing physical distancing globally and working from home, the first contact meeting cannot be a face-to-face meeting at this time. Instead, the preferred format for this first meeting is to do a video conference call. However, ask the referral source to contact the prospect on your behalf to determine if the prospect wants to be contacted by you via telephone or video conference call for the first call.

If the prospect prefers this first contact call to be a telephone call, do not delay. Make your first contact telephone call with the prospect within 72 hours.

If the prospect prefers this first contact call to be an online video conference call, send an email to the prospect requesting possible dates, times, and their preferred video call platform (Facetime, Zoom, MS Teams, Gotowebinar, etc..). Please confirm the time zone if the prospect if not living in your area.

If the referral source can be present, invite the referral source to attend this video conference call with you and the prospect. This way, the referral source can introduce you in person to the prospect at the start of the video call with a more thorough briefing about you, your business and your products or services.

First Contact Telephone Call / Online Video Conference Call

Before the first contact call, look up the website and the various social media pages for the prospect’s business for additional information. Review their website to understand their business better. Use these sources of information to get to know the prospect better and to prepare questions to ask about them on the first contact call.

Reminder: The purpose of your first contact call is not to make a sale or even ask the prospect if he has questions about your business. If, and only if, the prospect asks, should you present your products or services during this first contact call.

The purpose of the first contact call is to:

  • Begin to build the relationship;
  • Get to know the prospect better;
  • Help the prospect get to know you better;
  • Find out how you can help them;
  • Position yourself to make your next contact; and
  • Judge if the prospect fits your source’s description of her.

You’ve Got Mail

Within 24 hours after the first contact call, it is recommended to email the prospect with a summary of the call, fun facts about the prospect, any information requested by the prospect, a brief note of gratitude, the next steps, and your contact information.

When you start composing your email, start by naming your referral source–a name the prospect will recognize.

Writing this email gives you a better, more controlled opportunity to convey what you’ve learned about the prospect. It helps develop your relationship to let your prospect know you find him interesting enough to have taken the time to learn a few facts about him. Express an interest in meeting him again, and advise him you’ll be calling to schedule a mutually convenient appointment for the next online video conference call.

Do not attach and send your business literature with this email unless requested by the prospect. This will avoid giving the impression that you’re interested in him primarily as a prospective customer.

Make the Call

Give the prospect a week to process this email before you follow up with a telephone call. When you telephone the prospect, ask if he has any questions from the first contact call. Plus, offer to send more information via postal mail. If the prospect indicates that he would want this, send it right away. Finally, schedule a second video conference call while on this telephone call. Hopefully soon, we will once again be able to meet people face-to-face again.

Following Up When Converting Prospects Into Customers

When building relationships, it’s always important not to let much time lapse without following up on the first contact. Within two to three days of the follow-up telephone call, you should send your prospect a note via postal mail expressing your pleasure in communicating with him. It’s still too early, though, to automatically send business literature unless requested above or to make any move toward sales promotion.

So follow up early, but don’t push beyond the prospect’s comfort level. Once the prospect has expressed an interest in your products or services, you can provide information about them, but don’t force it on him. Continue presenting your products or services, but avoid the hard sell. Focus on fulfilling his needs and interests. Your goal should be to keep your prospect aware of your business without annoying him.

If you have prepared your referral sources well, your efforts may pay off on your very first call. Most often, the prospect from a referral will need more time. Many people were financially affected by the changes from the viral outbreak. Therefore, this may not be the ideal time for them to hire you for your services. They may express an interest in talking later about your products or services and hiring you when the situation improves. Be patient when converting prospects into customers.

invest time

Invest Time to Learn About Othersstring(33) "Invest Time to Learn About Others"

If you want someone to learn about the value of your products or services, you have to spend time learning about the value of theirs. The best way to do this is a personal meeting. Master networkers meet regularly and invest time to raise each other’s understanding of their businesses.

“John, I’d like to be able to refer more business to you, but I need a deeper understanding of what your company does and how you operate. Could we get together next week to discuss this?”

Although you don’t say so, John understands that he’ll learn something more about your business at the same time. It’s not always easy to know how confident your contacts are in referring you. By having a personal meeting, you show interest in helping them to grow their business. Therefore, they will also be interested in helping to grow your business.

Ask yourself if you invest time to learn about others

  • Am I being realistic about the time it will take, in my profes­sion, to gain the critical level of confidence?
  • Am I regularly making stimulating, educational presentations to my fellow networkers about the value I provide to my clients?
  • Am I doing business with others in my BNI chapter so I can give them dynamic testimonials and steer business to them in hopes they’ll return the favor?
  • Am I meeting regularly with my networking colleagues to learn about their businesses so I can confidently refer my contacts to them?

If you can endorse the quality of products or services offered by a networking partner — that is, increase others’ confidence in them — your partner will be disposed to return the favor. Testimonials from one or two of your partners may, in turn, trigger a much larger and more valuable referral from another partner who was waiting for more evidence before taking a risk on you.

If you’re following these simple tactics, then you are well along the road to getting all the referrals from others’ networks that you deserve when you invest time to learn about others.

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