Top Ways Your Networking Partners Can Promote Youstring(49) "Top Ways Your Networking Partners Can Promote You"

Networking is not just about meeting new people. It is about building strong, mutually beneficial relationships. Whether you’re new to business networking or a seasoned pro, understanding how others can promote you and your business is essential.

Has a fellow member from your networking group ever said to you, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help you with your business.”?
If so, did you respond with, “Thank you. Now that you mention it, there are a few things I need.”?
Or maybe you said something like, “Well, thanks, I appreciate that. I’ll let you know.”

Most of us aren’t prepared to accept help at the time it’s offered, which means the opportunity may pass and we miss out. Before you can do so, you must make the connection between specific items, services, or connections you need and the people who can supply them. Systematic referral marketing helps you do that by determining, as precisely as possible, the types of help you want and need. Some are simple, cheap, and quick; others are complex, costly, and time-consuming.

Here are 15 ways others can promote you to help your business.

Display or Distribute Your Materials

Your networking partners can exhibit your marketing materials and products in their offices or homes. If these items are displayed well, such as on a counter or a bulletin board, visitors will ask questions about them. Promo­tional items can be shared in other places, leading to increased visibility and potential interest. For example, a dry cleaner can attach a neighboring hair salon’s coupon to the bags covering their customers’ clothes.

Make Announcements

When attending meetings or addressing groups, your network can boost your visibility by announc­ing an event or a sale your business is con­ducting. They can set up exhibits of your products or services. They can also invite you to make an announcement yourself, amplifying your reach.

Invite You to Events

Workshops and seminars are oppor­tunities to increase your skills, knowledge, visibility, and contacts. Members of personal or business groups that you don’t belong to can invite you to their events and programs. These opportunities provide a platform to meet prospective sources and cli­ents. Additionally, being invited to speak at such events can establish you as an expert in your field.

Endorse Your Products and Services

When your network sings your praises or endorses your products or services, it can significantly influence others’ decisions. Encourage them to share their positive experiences through informal conversations and with testimonials on social media or other platforms.

Nominate You for Recognition and Awards

Your referrals sources can nominate you for service awards, recognizing your contributions to your profession or your community. This not only enhances your visibility, it also positions you as a dedicated professional in the eyes of your peers and clients.

Make Initial Contact with Prospects and Referral Sources

Instead of merely sharing their contact information, a network member can introduce you to important prospects. This personal touch can build relationships faster and provide the prospect or potential referral source with insight into your business as well as shared interests they may have with you.

Arrange Meetings on Your Behalf

Your network can go a step further by coordinating meetings with key contacts. Ideally, they will set the date, time, and location, and they will attend the meeting with you, offering support and insights.

Publish Information for You

Leverage your network’s connections to have your business featured in publications they influence. For example, a referral source who belongs to an association that publishes a monthly newsletter can help you get an article or story published, boosting your visibility.

Form Strategic Alliances with You

Of all the kinds of support that a source can offer, this one has the greatest potential for long-term gain for both parties. These partnerships involve mutual referrals, creating a symbiotic connection that benefits both of you. Seek out businesses that complement your own and foster lasting gains by agreeing to refer business to each other whenever possible.

Connect with You Through Online Networks

Expand your online presence by connecting with your networking partners on social platforms. This opens the door to event notifications, project updates, and the exchange of business information. Recommendations and testimonials from these connections can further elevate your online profile.

Provide Referrals

Referrals are the lifeblood of business networking. Encourage your sources to refer specific individuals who require your services or products. As the number of referrals you receive increases, so does your potential for increasing the percentage of your business generated through referrals.

Introduce You to Prospects

Personal introductions are powerful. Your network can facilitate introductions with prospective customers, providing key information about you and the prospect, which can expedite the relationship building process.

Follow Up with Referrals

Your sources can follow up with prospects they referred to you to ensure a smooth transition and answer questions or concerns, enhancing trust. They can also give you valuable feedback about yourself and your products or service, which you might not have been able to get on your own.

Serve as a Sponsor

Some of your sources may be willing to fund or sponsor a program or event you are hosting. They may offer resources such as lending you equipment, or they might let you use a meeting room, or provide other support that can elevate your business activities.

Sell Your Products and Services

The most immediate way your network can positively impact your bottom line is by selling your products or services. A well-connected source can persuade a prospect to make a purchase, then have you deliver the product to your new client. If you do so swiftly and cordially, you may gain a lifelong customer.

Networking is a dynamic and multifaceted endeavor. Put your networking circle to work for you with these strategies to harness the power of your network and promote your business effectively. When others offer their support in promoting your business, seize the opportunity and deploy these strategies for success. By cultivating these mutually beneficial relationships, you can supercharge your business’s growth and impact.

Create an Identity for Your Businessstring(36) "Create an Identity for Your Business"


Creating a strong and distinct identity for your business is of paramount importance in today’s competitive landscape.
Your business identity goes beyond your logo and brand colors; it’s about the image you project, how you position yourself, and the lasting impression you leave on your target audience. Jeff Davidson, the author of “Marketing on a Shoestring,” aptly notes that we are living in the age of the image, and the impact of your business’s image is undeniable. Your success, regardless of the size of your business, heavily depends on how you position yourself and what you project.

The concept of positioning was popularized in the early 1980s by Al Ries and Jack Trout. They astutely pointed out that in today’s over-communicated society, very little communication actually takes place. To break through the noise and create a lasting impression, a company must create a unique position in the minds of their target audience, recognizing that the most effective communication occurs when optimally placed and timed.

Being the “first” is one of the most effective ways to establish a position in someone’s mind. Think about Neil Armstrong – he was the first person to walk on the moon, a fact that is universally recognized. However, try naming any of the astronauts who walked on the moon during subsequent NASA missions, and you’ll likely draw a blank. This demonstrates the power of being the first – it’s memorable and enduring.

When you effectively position your business, you save time and resources because your message is clear and others quickly understand what your company represents and offers. Every networking encounter, advertisement, message, employee, and every square inch of your office space should contribute to delivering a consistent and memorable theme to your target market.

The identity you develop for your business should be unique and tailored to your specific goals and values. You might aim to become a leader in a burgeoning industry or a compelling alternative to the established giants. Your business might be known for being open 24/7, or it could be an exclusive, by-appointment-only establishment. In today’s fast-paced, swiftly changing, and highly competitive environment, creating a distinctive identity isn’t just a choice; it is a necessity for survival and growth.
Positioning can help you create an identity and maintain a secure spot in the minds of those you wish to serve.

Start by Answering Three Fundamental Questions

  1. What You’re Going to Be
    Define your core purpose and values. What is your business all about? What do you stand for, and what are your long-term goals?
  2. What You’re Going to Offer
    Be clear about the products or services you provide. What makes them unique or better than the competition? What problems do they solve for your customers?
  3. To Whom You’re Going to Offer It
    Identify your target audience. Who are the people or organizations that will benefit the most from what you offer? What are their needs, preferences, and pain points?

Once you have a clear vision of these aspects, you can begin crafting your business’s identity. This identity should permeate every facet of your business, from your marketing materials and website to your interactions with customers and employees. Consistency is key.

Immerse yourself in learning about creating a business identity, brand, and image. Carve out time each day to explore this topic further. There is a wealth of valuable information available online – articles and blog posts, books and courses. The more you educate yourself on the subject, the more equipped you’ll be to define and communicate your business’s identity effectively.

Creating a strong and memorable identity for your business is a crucial element in your journey to success. Your identity sets you apart, communicates your value, and leaves a lasting impression. Take the challenge to delve into the process of identity creation for your business. Start by answering the three foundational questions and dedicating time to research and learning. Within a week, you’ll likely find yourself equipped with a clear answer about your business’s identity that you can confidently share with others.

Networking Groups: Who Is Responsible?string(38) "Networking Groups: Who Is Responsible?"

I would like to share a story with you.

Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody

 This is a little story about four people named
Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.

There was an important job to be done and
Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.

Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.

Somebody got angry about that because it was
Everybody’s job.

Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but
Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it.

It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when
Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

So the question is: When it comes to networking groups, who is responsible?

Who is responsible for growth of the group, the level of professionalism, for making the meetings positive and fun? Who is responsible for bringing visitors, creating a welcoming atmosphere, and for mentoring new members?

Equal Responsibility

When we are part of a group or a team, we all share equal responsibility for the success of that group. This is true in our household, our workplace, our recreational teams, our charitable organizations, and our business networking groups.

The privilege of membership includes the responsibility of participation. Successful networking groups thrive because each member contributes to the overall success, enabling them to reap a part of the rewards.

The responsibility of participation includes:

– Attending all the meetings, arriving on time, and staying until the end.

– Consistently inviting and bringing visitors and potential members.

– Getting to know fellow members and building mutually beneficial business relationships.

– Actively seeking referrals to business opportunities for fellow members.

– Following the established guidelines and processes for the networking group.

– Serving in leadership, mentorship, and support roles for the benefit of the group.

– Sharing a positive attitude with a focus on solutions rather than problems.

When each person in a networking group accepts the responsibility of their membership and contributes with an attitude of Givers Gain®, they ALL share the rewards.

There will always be challenging times – in life and in business. Our network can help us navigate those challenges with support and friendship.

Remember, EVERYBODY is responsible for their networking group’s success.

How I Learned About the Power of Testimonials

How I Learned About the Power of Testimonialsstring(45) "How I Learned About the Power of Testimonials"

I learned about the power of testimonials in 1985 shortly after I started BNI®, the networking group I founded to get referrals for my consulting business.
At that time, there was only one chapter. During our weekly meetings, we followed an agenda similar to the one that over 10,400 BNI chapters use today. During the meeting, each member gave a weekly presentation about their business. Then we introduced our visitors, followed by our featured speaker’s presentation. After that, we passed referrals.

During this last part, if you had a referral to give to fellow members, you stood up when your turn came and said, “I have two referrals for Joe and one for Angela, and here’s what they are.” If you didn’t have any referrals, you simply said, “Pass,” and the next person would take their turn.

We’d been meeting for about two months, and at the end of one meeting the chiropractor in our group came to me and said, “Ivan, I haven’t gotten a single referral yet. I know it takes time, but here’s what concerns me: Nobody has even come up to talk to me or asked a question about chiropractic care. How can they refer me?”

I said, “You’re right. You’ve got to get them to use you so they can refer you. Why don’t you offer a free initial consultation to get them to come in and see what you do and how it works? Then they’ll be able to refer you. Here’s an idea. At next week’s meeting, just stand up and offer everyone a free first visit—even throw in an X-ray and do an adjustment—so they can see what chiropractic care is really all about.”

The next week when he did that, only one person out of the entire group said they would take him up on his offer. The chiropractor came up to me at the end of the meeting and said, “Brilliant idea, Ivan. They didn’t exactly flock to me.”

The Power of First-Hand Experience    

The following week, the meeting was moving along nicely, we were passing referrals, and it came around to this guy who had visited the chiropractor. He stood up, hesitated, looked at me, and said, “Ivan, I don’t have a referral today, but I don’t want to pass.”

As President of the chapter, I was running the meeting agenda, so I asked him, “Okay, then, uh . . . what do you want to do?” He said, “Well, I’d like to say a few words.” I said, “O-o-o-kay, well, uh, what do you want to say?”

He said, “Well, I just want to talk about Dr. Rubin. I had an X-ray done. He showed me all around his facility, explained all the things that he did, and then he did an adjustment.” He continued, “I’ve had lower back pain for about seven years. Nothing incapacitating, just a nagging ache that bothers me when I stand too long. For the first time in seven years, my back doesn’t hurt! You all are crazy if you don’t take him up on this offer! I just wanted to say that,” then he sat down.

I looked around the room and saw people picking up pens and filling out referral slips for the chiropractor. I thought, Wow! My agenda doesn’t work! You can’t just tell people to pass; you have to give them a chance to talk about the business they’ve done with other people! It’s critical!

That’s when we started the BNI Testimonial. From that point on, if you didn’t have a referral to give, you didn’t just pass. Instead, you gave a brief testimonial about the business you had done with another member of the group. That way, your experiences would become my experiences, and I could refer the member to somebody else.

My lesson about the power of good testimonials has helped BNI chapters around the world and can be beneficial to all networking groups. Without testimonials, networking groups are missing a great opportunity to generate more referrals for their members.

I invite you to share your experience about a good testimonial.

All Networking Groups Go Through Cyclesstring(39) "All Networking Groups Go Through Cycles"

All networking groups go through cycles over the years of their existence. There are Up cycles and there are Down cycles. Some of the best groups in the world have struggled. And a group that is on top of the world right now may not be on top a year from now. The key is to know the different phases and recognize when the group is going through a down cycle.

I have identified four phases that I have seen with BNI® chapters over the past 36 years. These phases can apply to ALL networking groups. These phases are not necessarily chronological, and they can last for different amounts of time, depending on the group and its members’ response to the critical points in the cycles.

The Supercharged Phase

The first phase is what I call the supercharged phase; these groups are at the top of the cycle. They are the biggest. They are the best, and the most productive. Their leadership teams are committed to implementing and following the established systems and processes for success.

The members in these chapters are fully engaged, investing their time to build relationships that can lead to extremely lucrative connections and referrals. The excitement level in these groups is simply electric. They are not willing to settle for mediocrity when excellence is an option.

The Engaged Phase

The second phase is called the engaged phase. Groups in this part of the cycle exude high energy and a positive attitude. They operate in a friendly environment with a great culture of support. They have more members than average and enforce accountability in the group.

They also do more business than the average chapter because they stay within the structure and systems while developing close business relationships and having fun. This is a very effective and productive phase.

The Status Quo Phase

Groups in this part of the cycle have become somewhat complacent. They might have been in the Engaged phase and lost some of the spark that made them successful. Or they may be a smaller chapter that has begun to give up on growth and has accepted mediocrity. They think things are okay as they are, and they feel like the amount of business they are getting is alright.

They are not motivated to make improvements or to develop the quality or quantity of their members. They may or may not follow the established systems and processes for their organization. The members have lost their enthusiasm. The Status Quo networking groups are the poster children for accepting mediocrity when excellence is an option.

The Stagnant Phase

In this phase of the cycle, networking groups have numerous problems: attitude problems, referral problems, poor attendance. Most of the members in these groups seem to focus on problems rather than on positive solutions.

These chapters follow the path of least resistance and think it is too much work to engage in the process required for growth. They do not follow their organization’s established agenda, system, or policies. They resist coaching or assistance from the resources available to them. Some members lose interest and feel like it is not working for them, so they leave the group. Which can be okay.

I call this Addition by Subtraction. Sometimes you have to actually reduce the size of a chapter in order for it to grow. It is like rosebushes. You have to cut them back in order for the rosebush to grow and bloom. If a chapter loses some members, particularly negative, problem-focused members, it can be an opportunity to grow and thrive.

Almost all networking groups go through these Up and Down cycles. Successful groups spend more time in the Supercharged and Engaged phases because they have gotten very good at recognizing when they are near a down cycle and quickly start to make positive changes.

Groups in the Status Quo and Stagnant phases can benefit from identifying where they currently are in the cycle so they can work on solutions to their problems and get back to basics. They don’t need to reinvent the wheel; simply follow the proven system established for their organization.

Making People Feel Welcomestring(26) "Making People Feel Welcome"

It is important that people feel welcome when they visit a networking group.
Why?
They have made a commitment and invested the time to be there.
They may become a new customer for people in the group.
They may know people who are potential clients for members of the group.
They will tell other professionals they know about their experience at the meeting.
They may be the connection to the BIGGEST referral you ever get.
They may be a future new member of the group.
AND – remember that you once visited the group for the first time, and someone welcomed you!

My First Visits to Networking Groups

In 1984 I was going around to a lot of different networking groups. I was a member of different types of networking organizations. Some of them were really mercenary. It was very transactional, all about the business. They were very direct, very sales-oriented, very promotional and there was no relationship.

Then I went to other groups that were so totally social. There was no business being done, lots of talking and socializing. It was basically just a coffee klatch.

Neither of these felt very welcoming and they were not what I was looking for in a networking organization. I felt there had to be something in between, something that was relational but also had procedures and rules – a system. That is how BNI® came to be. I believe it is important to have both the systems and the people-oriented approach to networking.

Why People May Not Feel Welcome

When a guest visits a networking meeting for the first time, they don’t know where to start. It is a new environment for them, and they may be unsure about what to do and who to talk to.

Perhaps they feel ignored. That may be because the members of a networking group or BNI chapter have such strong business relationships that they can appear to be clique-ish, even though they may not be. Rather than clique-ish, it is usually that the members have become friends and look forward to seeing each other each week at the meeting.

Make It a Good Experience

Visiting a networking event is more than simply going to a meeting. It is an experience. When visitors attend a meeting, they are either going to have a good experience or a bad experience. Small things can make a difference in a visitor’s perception of the networking organization.

It is the responsibility of every member of the group to welcome guests. New members  and seasoned members – take it upon yourself to make visitors feel welcome when they are at your meeting.

Start with a friendly greeting and a smile.
Ask about them and their business or company.
Introduce them to other members of the chapter.
Always keep the conversation positive, even if you are having a challenging week.
Provide some information about the meeting agenda so they know what to expect.
Offer to answer any questions they have about the meeting and the group.

These simple, little things are a BIG part of making the visitor experience a welcoming and positive one. If they don’t feel welcome, they don’t want to come back.
Just remember this: you have to make people feel welcome so that they have a great experience when they visit your group.

Business Growth During Economic Challengesstring(42) "Business Growth During Economic Challenges"

When the economy is slow, new business is harder to get. What can I do to build my business in a challenging economy?

I’ve heard this question many times over the years. The fact is that every economy goes through cycles, and business slows down for some people. My recommendation is – don’t join the ranks of miserable complainers. Use the time to improve your networking skills.

If you want to do well and have business growth during economic challenges, understand that is does absolutely no good to complain to people about how tough things are. When you complain about how bad business is, half the people that you tell don’t care, and the other half are glad you are worse off than they are.

Six Ways to Improve Networking Skills

  1.   Diversify your business network. If your network is a mile wide but only an inch deep, it is too shallow. You need to have networks that are broad and deep. Business networking groups such as BNI® are the deep part of that; they are where you build strong, mutually beneficial business relationships. You also want to participate in your local Chamber of Commerce & Industry, as well as in other professional organizations.
  2.   Refuse to be a cave-dweller. Get out there and meet people at business events, especially during a slow economy. Go to networking events with a positive attitude and decide that you refuse to participate in a recession or in any negativity. Learn how to work the network meetings that you attend and put forth the effort to do so. It is not called net-sit or net-eat. It is called network.
  3.   Learn networking systems and techniques that apply to the different organizations to which you belong. Focus your efforts on educating others about our business rather than trying to make a sale. Have a Givers Gain® attitude by asking how you can help others before asking them for referrals.  
  4.   Be prepared. Before a meeting, prepare effective introductions and presentations to share with your fellow members. Find ways to use whatever is going on in the economy as a way of marketing. Make it positive for your business, not negative.
  5.   Develop your contact spheres. A group of business professionals who have a symbiotic, noncompetitive business relationship with you are more important than ever. A referral to one person in the group is often a referral to many because each member of the contact sphere has products or services that the client can benefit from.
  6.   Establish a goal and reverse-engineer it. Know what you want to accomplish and share your goal with your networking group. Do the G.A.I.N.S. exchange with your referral partners. G.A.I.N.S. is from my book Business by Referral; it stands for Goals, Accomplishments, Interests, Networks and Skills.  

Your Network is Your Advantage

When you are part of a trusted network that you have established over time, and consistently participate in a positive way, you develop a huge advantage over the competition. You are building your business through networking, through referrals, through word-of-mouth. Your competition is just going to have to rely on increased advertising, while you have a powerful network to draw upon. If the times are tough around you, look for opportunities to market and use your network as the vehicle to do that. Be creative about working with your business network.

I have seen thousands of businesspeople grow and prosper during economic challenges because they developed their networking skills and learned to build their business through word-of-mouth marketing.

Don’t let a slow economy be your excuse for failure. Instead, make it an opportunity to succeed. It is not what you know or who you know. It’s how well you know them that really counts. In a tough economy, it is your social capital that has value. Make good use of it. While others may struggle, you can thrive.

You can’t control the economy. You can’t control the competition. You CAN control your response to any situation. Referrals can keep your business alive and strong, even during economic challenges.

What is the best way to connect with your network

What is the best way to connect with your network?string(50) "What is the best way to connect with your network?"

Their way. To build a powerful professional network it is important to connect and engage with them via the communication platforms that they use. This is particularly important if you need to develop a relationship with someone and want to get to know them professionally.

You have to go where they are, not where you are.

I learned that lesson after my children moved out on their own. My eldest would not respond to emails; she would not even answer the phone when I called her. I discovered, however, that when I texted her, she responded immediately. Rather than try to get her to move over to my preferred platform – email, I realized I could keep a good line of communication open with her by text.

My second daughter wouldn’t use email and didn’t use the phone to talk or text. She communicated by What’s App, which I had never heard of. However, I got the app and found a great way to communicate with her, usually with an immediate reply.

My son didn’t use email, or the phone for talk, text, or What’s App. How was I going to connect with him? I realized that he was a big online gamer on the platform called Steam, which had an instant messaging feature. I downloaded Steam and purchased a game so that I could instant message my son. It worked! If I saw him online and messaged him, I would get an instantaneous response.

I realized if I wanted to communicate with my children, I needed to use their preferred platforms, not mine.

A Lesson in Networking

This has taught me a lesson in networking. To stay connected to the people I meet, I need to go where they are, not stay where I am. That’s another lesson in networking: it’s not about me. It is about them. This applies to face-to-face networking as well as online opportunities. If building a powerful network is important to you, you have to go where your connections are. Don’t expect them to always come to you.

When we are growing our business and trying to increase our sales, we want to build relationships. As I have always said, networking is more about farming than hunting. We need to be in their territory, not our territory; we have to go where they are. That is where we will have the opportunity to do business.

How to find THEIR way

When you meet someone and plan to contact them again, ask them, “What is the best way to reach you?” or, “How would you like me to send that information to you?” Their answer will tell you their preference for future communications.

I recommend that you put their response into their contact information. Something as simple as “Prefers email” or “Prefers to be called” will help you to connect with them in their preferred way.

Staying connected to your network is important to grow business relationships. My children taught me that connecting with people in the way that THEY like to communicate is the best way to strengthen those relationships.

Laser-Sharp Networking

Laser-Sharp Networkingstring(22) "Laser-Sharp Networking"

Did you know that the energy put out by a normal light bulb is equal to the energy put out by a laser beam? A laser has a very tight beam and is very strong and concentrated. A light bulb, on the other hand, releases light in many directions, so the light is comparably weak and diffuse. The difference between the two allows the laser, with focused energy, to have the power to do very fine and delicate surgery, artistic etching, and play the broad, full sounds of an orchestral overture. Is that the kind of precision you want from your networking activities?

3 Ways to Achieve Laser-Sharp Focus

Here are three ways to bring your networking efforts into laser-sharp focus to make it an even more powerful way to build your business.

Focus on one aspect of your business each time you speak at a networking meeting.

Remember, your goal in the networking process should be to train a sales force, not close a sale. Therefore, each time you have an opportunity, focus on a specific product or service you offer, then educate people how to refer you in this area.

We often try to cover everything we do in one introduction. When you have the chance to be in front of the same group regularly, avoid the mistake most people make by painting with too broad a brush. Laser-sharp networking calls for you to be very specific and detailed about one thing at a time.

Sometimes businesspeople say they have a “full service” business. I think saying this alone is a mistake–full service doesn’t really mean anything to people who don’t understand the details of all the services you offer. Instead, talk about what you specialize in or what you are best known for. There is something that sets you apart from the competition–let others know about that aspect of your business.

When asking for referrals from your networking partners, be very specific about what you want.

Identify specific people to whom you wish to be introduced. Personal introductions can open doors for you that would have otherwise remained closed. If you don’t know the name of the manager of a particular business you wish to meet, find out–then ask specifically for a referral to that person.

Give vivid examples of the type of referral you wish to receive. I recommend reviewing a case study from a current client or past successful referral with your networking partners. Define what the needs were of that prospect and how your business met those needs. Be as detailed as you can be so your networking partners can really visualize the experience. They will have a clear picture of how you were able to meet this person’s needs. This will give them clarity and focus when they’re away from you and they meet another person with the same needs.

Meet with each person in your networking circle.

Take the time to have a one-to-one meeting with each person in your networking group, away from the general networking session. This will help to deepen the relationship and dial up the focus of your networking efforts.

I can’t stress enough the importance of deepening the relationships with your networking partners. To really maximize the energy of the partnership you are forging with your referral sources, it is critical to spend time with them. Just going to a social function or sitting side by side at a conference or networking event isn’t enough. You have to be face to face, talking and exploring commonalities and complimentary aspects of each of your businesses, to be as powerful a referral source for each other as you can be.

It’s important to take your time to get to know your referral sources and cultivate long-lasting and mutually profitable relationships. It’s true that “time is money,” however it is essential to invest your time in one-to-one relationships to develop the strong and deeply focused referral sources you need to grow your business. By focusing your efforts like a laser beam, you can fine-tune your networking message and increase your results.

Ice Breaker

Small Talk: The Mighty Ice Breakerstring(34) "Small Talk: The Mighty Ice Breaker"

One of the most important aspects of networking is the small talk that occurs at networking functions. The small talk acts as an ice breaker to open up the initial conversation between strangers. This initial conversation is important. It is the first opportunity to grow a mutual connection that may lead to future referrals.

Locubrevisphobia

This big word is the fear of making small talk, often resulting in the sufferer avoiding social and networking events. Many people simply dread the thought of having to carry on conversations with people they do not know. It is easy to label these people as shy. However, only a small minority of people are too shy to enjoy talking with others. Most people are not afraid to talk; they are just intimidated by the task of finding something to talk about.

For this reason, business owners need to stay on top of pop culture and current events. The latest issues and stories in the news are great ways to break the ice and help you find common ground with a person you may never have met before and with whom you may not have much in common. But with the media explosion, it’s increasingly difficult to have a firm grasp on water-cooler talk, particularly when it comes to conversations with people in different age brackets. So, how do you start — and maintain — a conversation at a networking or other event with someone you don’t know at all?

Just ask questions as an ice breaker

This sounds simple because it is. A great way to get people to talk is to ask a few “feeder” questions that will help you learn what the other person is interested in. Simply hone in on that subject. You don’t have to know anything about the topic to converse about the topic. You just have to know enough to ask the questions.

It’s easier you think. Online news sites have set up their pages with easy-to-read convenient categories, such as Top News, Sports, Entertainment, and Tech. Either at night or first thing in the morning, just take a few minutes to read the headlines, and maybe the first one to two sentences. You’d be surprised how much you can learn about “what’s hot” from just a cursory glance. You have enough information to start asking questions and conversing with someone new.

Make the other person feel like an expert

I still remember when I realized the value of asking questions and letting someone answer them. I was flying for business, and just before taking off, I struck up a conversation with the person seated next to me. I’m not sure what started the conversation, but I wasn’t familiar with the business he was in, and I asked a question. That question led to another, then another until the end of that two-hour flight. I realized that he had “small talked” during the entire flight. We made a good connection, I had learned something new, and, as we were gathering our belongings, he complimented me for being a good conversationalist.

A savvy networker, Susan RoAne, reads the sports section in her newspaper from cover to cover every single day, even though she has zero interest in sports. “Why on earth would you subject yourself to this?” I asked her, as I am admittedly not a sports fan, either. She replied, “My networking functions are primarily attended by men. I don’t want to stay on the sidelines while important conversations are going on, conversations that invariably start with a discussion about last night’s game.”

Take a few minutes each day to browse enough headlines to arm you with enough knowledge of current events, pop culture — and yes, even sports. Use this knowledge as an ice breaker to ask questions and get conversations flowing. Using small talk is simply a good networking strategy. As a bonus, you’ll learn a lot from these conversations you might never have learned otherwise.

networking benefits

The Networking Benefitsstring(23) "The Networking Benefits"

Networking benefits outweigh the perceived obstacles. These obstacles include the time away from the office to the cost to join the networking group. However, the networking benefits far exceed these concerns. The biggest benefit of networking is building strong relationships with others. The more solid relationships you build, the more credible you become. The more your credibility grows, the more people will hire and recommend you. Therefore, there are networking benefits that affect your finances, customer spending, and the impression of the quality of your business.

The Financial Networking Benefits

Before looking at the financial networking benefits there are both soft- and hard-money costs to consider. “Hard money” includes credit cards, cash, checks, and other possessions with monetary value. The term “soft money” is used to assign value to services or the invested time you spend on your business, otherwise known as sweat equity.

The time investment in business networking also builds social capital. Businesses develop and maintain solid, professional relationships through successful networking which create the value behind social contacts. The value of your invested time – “soft money” – is actually greater than the value of your “hard money” spent. Calculate the value of soft-money investments in networking and building relationships. You will be surprised at the financial value you have delivered to your business.

Networking Benefits Include These Positive Wealth Effects

  • Added sales volume
  • Higher average transaction amount per sale
  • Greater closing ratio
  • Referrals tend to be very qualified professionals
  • Higher occurrences of leads and referrals
  • More repeat business
  • Greater positive word-of-mouth marketing benefits
  • More customer loyalty
  • Stronger community recognition
  • Greater perceived value

The Networking Benefits on the Impression of Quality

The impression of the quality of your business is powerful. Consumers are willing to pay more for services and products that they equate to be of higher quality. The impression people have about the quality of your business is enhanced through networking.

Networking allows others to share testimonials about your business and to say good things about you. They help to convey the image of quality for your business. Networking allows others to say things about you that may be considered bragging if you said them. Imagine how powerful it is when your fellow networkers believe in you, they cannot stop talking about you with people they know. Your name is passed along with more and more frequency and confidence.

Your networking efforts are rewarded in many ways. After you have repeatedly established proof of quality, you will be referred to in such a manner that will greatly enhance your customer spending, and positively affect your finances. In conclusion, these networking benefits greatly outweigh the perceived obstacles.

networking system

Use Your Networking System for Better Results in Less Timestring(58) "Use Your Networking System for Better Results in Less Time"

Last week, I held a 3-day live global event to effectively “Restart the World” to help businesses navigate these challenging times. Feedback received from the event attendees said that networking will be a key element by establishing strong relationships with each other. Furthermore, those attendees who credited networking for their previous pre-pandemic success said they maintained a networking system for measuring the monetary value of their networking activity. Therefore, I advise entrepreneurs worldwide to create and use a networking system as businesses return post-pandemic to our “new normal”. I have observed over the years that those that use a networking system achieve better networking results in less time.

People who used systems generated more business. The more systematic you learn to make your networking, the more productive you can be. Building a networking system is key to building a successful business. You will need a networking system for following up, staying in touch, and tracking your networking results. Especially these days as we tend to have less face-to-face in-person networking events and fewer hours to spend with our online networking.  We need to become more efficient and more productive with our networking by using and benefiting from a networking system.

Past research and videos on networking systems

According to my research, people who had a system to track their business were more likely to have felt that networking has played a role in their success. Those who felt that networking did not play a role in their success were twice as likely to not have a system for tracking their business. This is a powerful finding for people who wish to produce a referral-based business.  Those people who do not use systems to track their business felt that they are not successful in their networking.

Furthermore, watch this classic video from 2012 to find out how creating a system for referral marketing generate substantially more business through referrals.

Finally, in another 2012 video, I discuss with my good friend and BNI Executive Director, Mark Carmody, about the more systems you incorporate into your business, the more successful you’re going to be, over time.

Survey data is based on a survey of over 12,000 people from every populated continent in the world.  This survey is the basis of the book – Business Networking and Sex.

What should you track with your networking system?

  • The organizations you belong to and the results you are getting from them.
  • The time you spend networking and working your network.
  • The amount of money you’ve made from networking.
  • The people who are sending you referrals and how much of your income they’re responsible for.

You also need systems for following up with the people you meet. Stay in touch with your network members, reward your referral sources, and help your referral sources in return.

The old saying that we “treasure what we measure” turns out to be highly relevant in networking. Developing and using a good networking system will enable you to get better networking results in much less time. Your networking system will enable you to spend less time finding new clients. Therefore, you will have more time working with your established contacts. By building your network, you can provide yourself with even more referral opportunities.

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