Building Up Your Power Teamstring(27) "Building Up Your Power Team"

ID-100223937How do you increase the number of referrals your networking contacts are helping pass to you? One way, of course, is to educate your contacts on how to best get referrals for you. Another easy way to increase your number of referrals is to create relationships with people who, based on their professions, are most likely to pass quality referrals to you. These ideal referral partners are broken up into two groups: Contact Spheres and Power Teams.

The difference between the two is minor, yet impactful. Your Contact Sphere is all the possible professions you can team up with, while your Power Team is the group that you have actually teamed up with. Often times, these groups will be made up of professions that work together symbiotically, and are naturally inclined to refer business to one another. Think somewhat related, but non-competing, businesses.

To build your Power Team, you’ll want to take some time and map out your ideal Contact Sphere. What professions could you work well with, if only you knew someone who worked in that field?

Once you’ve built your Power Team, your work isn’t done. You must always be looking for ways to pass a referral to your Power Team. Over time, you’ll develop trust and your Power Team partners will pass significantly more referrals to you.

Additionally, one thing that I have seen work well for Power Teams is a weekly meeting, or at a minimum every other week. These meetings should be outside of your regular networking events, and should be smaller, more intimate gatherings with your Power Team. To keep your meetings running smoothly, have a chairperson to lead discussion. Each member of the Power Team should discuss their ideal referral, and perhaps dedicate some time to brainstorming places to find these referrals. As a group, you may also discuss potential other professions who would fit well in your Power Team.

Common mistakes I’ve seen with Power Teams include:

  • Confusing them for Contact Spheres. Contact Spheres are a broad list of professions that could work well with you, while your Power Team is only those that you are actively working with.
  • Not dedicating time to them. Just forming a Power Team will not build up referrals for you. Like with any other relationship, you need to build up trust, learn the wants and needs of the other members of the team, and establish best ways to help everyone in the group meet their business goals.
  • Not building the right team. If you have someone in your Power Team who isn’t passing referrals to you, whether that be because they are having your services done in house or any other reason, they shouldn’t be in your Power Team. While you may not be able to avoid having them in your networking group, you are able to partner with someone outside of your group. There is nothing wrong with having multiple networks.

So You Want to Network Up?string(26) "So You Want to Network Up?"

Earlier this week, I appeared on Copy Chief with Kevin Rogers as a special guest to talk all about referral marketing. If you missed it, you can check out the whole podcast here, but today I would like to specifically elaborate on one segment from the podcast.

tam-48-ivan-misner-copy-chief

Around the 20-minute mark, I tell a story about a man named Mark who invested a lot of time and energy to develop our relationship. By the time he turned around and asked me for a favor, a least a year after we had met and begun our relationship, I was so appreciative of everything he had done for me that I was willing to do whatever favor he asked for.

You need to be interested, not interesting. People don’t want you to sell to them, they want you to be interested in investing in them. If you’re networking up, or trying to network with someone very successful, you need to find a way to stand out. You need to make that powerful person want to help you, by expecting nothing in return.

So how do you do that? It isn’t one of those things that you can just do overnight, or wake up one day and decide you’re going to develop a relationship with someone.

First and foremost, you have to have an idea. A great idea. An idea that you can implement and it will positively impact the person you hope to build a relationship with. Something helpful, something that that person cannot do themselves. This idea should set you apart, and should be unique to both you, and to your future contact.

Once you have developed your idea – and I mean fully developed; you can’t go to someone with a half-baked plan in your head – you need to reach out to the person that your idea benefits. Handwritten notes can make you stand apart. Emails and social media messages can work, but often will not help you stand apart, and depending on the person they may not be managing their own accounts. A well thought out handwritten note may be your best bet.

From there, your strategy relies strongly on your idea and the person you are working to help. To hear me discuss some other related topics, check out the podcast with Kevin Rogers on Copy Chief here.

Are You Prepared to Enhance Your Credibility?string(45) "Are You Prepared to Enhance Your Credibility?"

The VCP Process is the foundation of building a referral-based business.    While this general business-building philosophy isn’t going to automatically increase your business, there are plenty of benefits to increasing your visibility and your credibility.

credibilityVisibility is usually pretty easy for businesspeople to get on board with. You attend extra networking events, look into other forms of marketing, reach out to new client bases. Credibility is where, time and again, we see more people struggling to build up that quality reputation of being credible.

There are a few simple items other than business cards that you should try to have at your disposal to help you develop that word-of-mouth campaign and show off your credibility to potential new clients or business networks. Try to always have access to at least one example of the following simple items:

  • Photos of yourself and your office facilities, equipment, and products;
  • Your letterhead and stationary;
  • Your annual report and capability statement;
  • Advertisements you’ve run;
  • A list of your memberships and affiliations;
  • Articles on trends affecting your target market.

Most business professionals will have these few simple items at their disposal at any given point, and many won’t realize what a vital tool to building credibility these can be! You can really up your game by having a couple less common items at your disposal as well:

  • Articles in which you or your business are mentioned;
  • Product catalogs you use;
  • Client or customer proposals and bid sheets;
  • Marketing letters you wrote to clients;
  • Posters, banners, and display materials used at trade shows;
  • Photos of awards and certificates you and your staff have earned.

Got all that? Great! You can never have too many credibility-building items at your disposal, so the following are great additions, as well. Just make sure not to throw all of your items at potential contacts at the same time. You don’t want to overwhelm anyone, though it would be incredibly easy to do so. Look to have these on-hand in case someone requests them:

  • Testimonial letters from satisfied clients;
  • Photos of key customers;
  • Unpublished articles;
  • Any of your new-product announcements or press releases;
  • Question-and-answer sheets;
  • A one-page, faxable flyer.

With a little foresight, it can be incredibly easy to get all of the basic supplies you’ll need to prove your credibility and increase your word-of-mouth marketing campaign.

What items do you use on a regular basis to show your potential clients and business networks that you are a credible candidate to help them with their needs? Let me know in the comments below!

Networking is a Contact Sportstring(29) "Networking is a Contact Sport"

Networking is a Contact SportMany entrepreneurs belong to networking organizations, but they simply don’t know how to effectively get a return on that investment of time.  Thoughtful engagement is the answer.  Engagement is an absolutely critical step in the networking process.  It involves a promise and an action.  In order to achieve success with your networking partners, you must promise to support one another, and then you must take the action necessary to fulfill that promise.  The only way to do that effectively is to connect on a deeper level than you do with most of your business contacts.

There are several ways that you can become more engaged with your networking partners:

  1. Have you taken the time to regularly meet with the people in your network on a one-to-one basis?  This means setting up times outside the context of any normal meetings and getting to know them on a deeper, professional level.
  2. Have you taken the time to educate them regularly on the key elements of your business, so that your products or services will be top of mind in the event they meet someone with a need for what you do?
  3. Have you taken the time to become educated on the key elements of your networking partners’ businesses, so that you can do the same for them?
  4. Have you visited their offices to get first-hand understanding of their services?
  5. If possible, have you used their products or services to get first-hand knowledge of the quality their products or the services they provide?

Networking truly is a “contact sport.”  It involves full engagement in order to get solid results. In fact, research has shown that reciprocal engagement in a business relationship results in higher productivity.  According to Psychology Today, people who are “actively engaged” in a business environment are “43% more productive” than those who are not.  Furthermore, they say that engagement includes “regular dialogue, quality of working relationships, perceptions of ethos and values… and recognition.”   Effective networking is all about building meaningful relationships that include most, if not all of these characteristics.

Every time I hear someone talk about how networking didn’t work for them – I discover it’s because they have never done a deep-dive on the relationship building process relating to their networking.  Most of their networking activities were very superficial.  Or worse yet – it mostly involved an attempt at direct selling.  Networking is not a face-to-face, cold-calling opportunity!  When it’s done right, it’s about building long-term meaningful relationships.  In fact, networking is more about “farming” than it is about “hunting.”  It’s about the slow process of cultivating long-term, professional relationships.  Over time, this long-term process gives you the opportunity harvest a substantial amount of business, but it only happens with full engagement in the relationship process.

Spend some time thinking about new ways you can support your networking partners.  This will help you promote engagement with them in the various networking groups to which you belong.  You will find it is time most well spent.

The VCP Process®: V + C Does Not = Pstring(37) "The VCP Process®: V + C Does Not = P"

Lately I have seen a lot of people who have been using the VCP Process® (Visibility, Credibility, Profitability) like it’s a formula: Visibility + Credibility = Profitability.

The fact remains, however, that VCP is a referral process, not a sales process. If the majority of your clients aren’t giving you referrals, then you are only at Credibility with your clients, not at Profitability. It’s possible that you can have a lot of Visibility and a lot of Credibility, but NOT have Profitability. Rather than a formula, VCP is a continuum.

Once you achieve Credibility (and not before), you then need to start asking for referrals in order to achieve Profitability. Profitability does not result automatically from Visibility and Profitability.

If you were previously unfamiliar with the VCP Process and have questions about it, please ask them in the comment forum below.  I believe that VCP is the single most important concept in networking and I’m more than happy to answer your questions.  Also, if you’re familiar with VCP and you’ve been using the process for a while, please share some of your experiences–I’d love to hear them.

The Number One Way to Totally Fail at Networkingstring(48) "The Number One Way to Totally Fail at Networking"

Who spends countless hours networking hoping to fail and see no results from their efforts?  That’s right, no one!  So, it blows my mind that I commonly see people single-handedly sabotaging their success–they guarantee their own failure by failing to follow up with the contacts they make.

Photo courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There’s a story I was once told by one of my employees which perfectly demonstrates this and I’d like to share it with you here . . . (Note: The names in this story have been changed to protect the innocent . . . and the guilty.)

My employee, whom we’ll call Winnifred (since she’d like to remain anonymous and it’s the most unfitting name for her that I can think of . . . well, aside from maybe Gertrude ;-)), was in need of a graphic designer to assist her with the creation of a website for her father’s business. She attended a local networking mixer where she met a graphic designer, “Blake,” who seemed excited about the project and claimed he could accomplish exactly what she needed at a very reasonable price.

They exchanged contact information and connected the next week by phone to discuss the project in further detail. Winnifred was pleased with Blake’s ideas and liked the examples she’d seen of his work. She told him he seemed like the perfect person to help her with the project and that she’d like him to send her a price quote as soon as possible.

A week went by and Winnifred heard nothing from Blake.  When she called him, he said he was working on a quote and gave some lame excuse about being busy. Another week went by and, again, nothing from Blake. Frustrated, but willing to give Blake another chance because she really did like his work, she sent him an e-mail and left him a voicemail saying that she would love to give him her business and was really anxious to hear back from him.

After two weeks went by without hearing back from him, Winnifred found another graphic designer. To this day, Blake has never responded.

Here is what floors me . . . I know for a fact that this guy, “Blake,” is still frequenting local networking mixers (which cost money to attend, by the way) trying to drum up more business. Yet when he had money practically sitting on the table in front of him, he failed to follow through. No matter what his reason was for not getting back to Winnifred–being too busy, too lazy or whatever else–he shouldn’t be out there networking if he can’t follow through on what he claims to be able to deliver. He’s wasting his time (and money) and, more important, he’s wasting other people’s time–which is earning him nothing more than a bad name.

The moral of this story: If you aren’t prepared to follow through, networking is no more than a big waste of time.

If you have a “Blake the Flake” story of your own, I’d love to hear about your experience. Please feel free to share your story in the comments section.

Networking Is a Marathon, Not a Sprintstring(38) "Networking Is a Marathon, Not a Sprint"

The fact is, networking truly is a marathon of an endeavor–it’s most definitely not a sprint.  I have met so many people who practice what I call ‘hyperactive networking’ and they mistakenly approach networking at the speed of an all-out sprint–they want to be absolutely everywhere and meet absolutely everyone and they go, go, go ALL of the time until they soon inevitably burn out, ‘collapse,’ and give up.

It’s a real shame because if these people would, from the beginning, just slow down and take the time to develop a networking strategy and understand that networking takes time, patience, hard work, dedication, commitment, and endurance, they would be reaping great rewards from their networking efforts instead of exhausting themselves with nothing to show for it in the end.

Networking at its core is about taking the time to build genuine, trusted relationships.  Sure, visibility is important, but without building trust right along with it, visibility won’t get you very far in the long run.  You can run around all day long going to networking events and shaking people’s hands, but if you’re not spending time following up and developing trust with the people you meet, then you haven’t really achieved much of anything that will actually give you results from your networking efforts–do not confuse activity with accomplishment. 

So, what are your tactics for pacing yourself in the marathon of networking?  What actions do you take to strategically build relationships?  I’d love to hear from you so please share your thoughts and ideas in the comment forum below–thanks!

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!

A Little Good Advice Can Go a Long Waystring(38) "A Little Good Advice Can Go a Long Way"

AdviceHorn

Photo Courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s no secret that we all want to do business with people whom we know and trust.  So, how do you build rapport and create trust with new contacts at networking events?  By offering value-added advice–solid, helpful information provided out of a genuine concern for another person.

Let’s say you’re a real estate agent talking with someone at a networking event who, although not ready to buy a home today, is heading in that direction.  You could say something like this:

Well, I know you’re not interested in buying a home right now.  But, when you’re ready to start looking, I highly recommend checking out the north part of town.  A lot of my clients are seeing their homes appreciate in the 10 to 20 percent range, and from what I understand, the city is thinking about building another middle school in that area.

See how it’s possible to offer some value-added advice without being too salesy?  A statement like this acknowledges that your prospect is not currently in the market (first sentence) but still demonstrates your expertise, so he will remember you when he’s ready to move.

This model works for consultants, CPAs, accountants, financial planners, coaches–just about anyone in a service-based industry in which knowledge is the main product. If you’re concerned about giving away your intellectual capital for free, look at it this way: few people are going to sign up to do business with you if they’re not sure you can do the job.  In the absence of a tangible product, you have nothing but your technical expertise to demonstrate that you have the goods.  And when you think about it, that makes sense.  Whenever you’re ready to buy an automobile, it doesn’t matter how much research you’ve done on a particular model, you’re probably not going to write your check until you’ve taken the car for a test drive.

The same is true for your prospects.  Give them a little test drive to show how it would feel to do business with you. If you’re a marketing consultant, give them a couple of ideas on how they can increase the exposure of their business.  Don’t go overboard; maybe offer a technique you read in a magazine or tried with one of your clients.  Just give them something they can try on to see if it works.

Not only will this open up a good conversation with new contacts while you’re out networking, if you play your cards right, whom do you think they’ll go to when they’re in need of your kind of service?  When it comes to building rapport and creating trust, nothing does it better than offering value-added advice.

Are You Walking the Talk in Your Business?string(42) "Are You Walking the Talk in Your Business?"

I recently saw someone’s Twitter update telling me all about how his vitamin line will not only make me skinny and healthy, but will also make me wealthy. While there is nothing objectionable about any of these outcomes, the jarring reality is that the man promoting this wonderful opportunity is neither skinny, nor healthy, and he had just been posting updates about how he was desperately trying to dig himself out of debt!

Do you see the disconnect here? I’m sure you have seen people at networking meetings and events who will stand, introduce themselves, and deliver a promise-filled monologue about how their product or service will bring you all kinds of things which they themselves obviously do not have the benefit of enjoying.

Photo courtesy of marin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo courtesy of marin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What’s missing is congruency. When your professional message is not congruent with your personal situation, your networking efforts will not be effective. If you are promoting yourself as a wellness coach, and yet you are often sick and carrying 20 extra pounds, there is a jarring incongruence for which it will be hard for you to compensate. When I want to refer my colleagues to a wellness coach, I will refer one who is healthy, fit and obviously achieving the results she promises I will receive from participating in her program.

This may seem logical, but I often see people all over the world with incongruent messages. Ask yourself how congruent your message is.  If you’re a professional organizer, is your briefcase a disaster? If you’re a car detailer, how does your own vehicle look? If you have never done so, take stock today of your message. Evaluate what you’re saying the benefits of your products or services are compared to what you are showing people they are.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “What you do thunders above your head so loudly, I cannot hear the words you speak.” In his book Inside the Magic Kingdom, Tom Connellan calls this “walking the talk.” How are you doing when it comes towalking the talk in your business? It will have a definite effect on the success of your networking efforts.

Share a story with me about someone (don’t name names!) whose message was not congruent with their actions.  I’d love to hear other stories.

Referral Marketing Is Risky–It’s Also Rewardingstring(59) "Referral Marketing Is Risky–It’s Also Rewarding"

In a radio interview I once did, the host of the program asked me whether I consider referral marketing the safest form of advertising. Without the slightest hesitation, I confidently answered, “By all means, no.” Based on his response, I’m sure he was shocked by that answer.

Photo courtesy of Zuzzuillo at FreeDigtalPhotos.net

Photo courtesy of Zuzzuillo at FreeDigtalPhotos.net

I went on to explain that I believe very strongly in the tremendous benefits that word-of –mouth marketing can bring. However, there are unique risks associated with referral advertising that are not an issue in commercial or other forms of advertising.

When you give a referral, you give a little of your reputation away. If the business you’ve referred someone to does a good job, it helps your reputation. But if it does a poor job, your reputation may be hurt.

As I said, the payoffs of referral marketing are immense—when it’s done correctly.

But referral marketing involves a really big risk: giving away a piece of your reputation every time you give a referral to someone. When you tell a valued customer that a friend of yours is going to take good care of them, you must have confidence in that friend.

But what happens if your friend lets your customer down? It comes back to haunt you. Your customer begins to lose faith in you and, because of that loss of faith, you just might lose that customer down the road. This is why it’s so important to develop strong relationships with those to whom you’re referring business and vice versa. Once those strong connections are forged you can rest easy, knowing when you tell someone a business associate or a networking partner is going to take good care of him or her, that’s what will happen.

Do you have a story others might learn from about a time when referral marketing really paid off for you, or a story about how you experienced the unique risks associated with referral marketing firsthand?  Please share your experiences in the comment forum below.  I’d love to hear from you–thanks!

 

Classic Video Feature–Networking Faux Pas: Not Following Upstring(65) "Classic Video Feature–Networking Faux Pas: Not Following Up"

I have been doing video blogs for quite a few years now and a while back it occurred to me that some of the videos I’ve previously posted focus on timeless topics that deserve to be revisited and not buried way back in the video blog archive.  For this reason, I decided to occasionally feature a “classic” video blog from my blog archive and today I am sharing the fourth one–”Networking Faux Pas: Not Following Up”

In this video, I talk about the faux pas which I see happen most out of all the faux pas which can possibly occur in the world of networking.  It also happens to be the faux pas which frustrates me the most (Seriously–it drives me crazy!)–it’s when you give a networking partner a referral and they drop the ball and don’t follow up on it.

Remember, if you aren’t following up when your referral partners call you and/or aren’t following up on the referrals you’re given, you’re not just losing business . . . you’re also losing your credibility and that’s something which is extremely difficult to earn back.  So, for those of us in parts of the world who are currently starting a brand new year, why not make a vow right now to make following up our number one networking priority this year?  I guarantee it will pay off in big ways. 

Have you had an experience where you gave a referral to someone and they didn’t follow up on it?  If so, will you continue to give that person referrals?  Or, have you dropped the ball on following up on a referral before?  If the answer is yes, did you learn a lesson from it?  Please share your experiences in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

1 2 3 4 8