Don’t Keep Score

Don’t Keep Scorestring(18) "Don’t Keep Score"

When it comes to business networking and passing along referrals, it’s not about who’s giving what to whom. There is no rule that says, “For every referral you give, you can expect one in return.” Similarly, when you hand out more referrals, it does not mean that other business professionals will automatically do the same. It just doesn’t work that way in referral marketing.

If you hear of a business opportunity that would be well suited for a referral partner – not a competitor – think of it as “excess business.” When you pass this kind of excess business to others in the form of a referral, you’ll wind up attracting more prospects who want to work with you.

There are plenty of fish in the water. Most fishermen don’t see themselves in competition with the other person whose fishing boat is a hundred yards away. They know there is a plentitude of fish, enough for everyone. In fact, if they pass each other on the way back to the shore, they’ll probably wave to each other and ask if they did well and how many fish they caught.

Do Good Things for Others

The principle of “sowing and reaping” states that when you do good things for other people, those good things have a way of coming back to you – often from a different person or group of people. Even if it seems that you’re not directly benefiting from the referrals you are giving to others, take note of all the other business that “just happens” to come your way:

  •         The person who checks out your website because a friend shared your blog post on social media and gives you a call.
  •         The old prospect you haven’t heard from in months who suddenly wants to get together for lunch.
  •         The inactive client who contacts you to say they want to renew their contract with you.

Even though it seems like happenstance, some or all of that is likely to be new business you attracted by giving away other business, in the form of referrals, to people you know. You can attract new business through the relationship-building process you commit to and can strive to become a networking catalyst to ensure that these things happen on a regular basis.

I recommend that you don’t keep score. Instead, think of giving referrals in the context of the “abundance mind-set,” which is the awareness that there’s more than enough business to go around.

What is your experience with receiving more after giving more?

Telling Your Company’s Storystring(30) "Telling Your Company’s Story"

If you want to get referrals from your networking efforts, people must know about your business. There are two kinds of audiences that need to know your company’s story. One is the people you interact with directly while networking. These could be people you meet and exchange pleasantries with at a chamber of commerce event, or people in a dedicated referral networking group such as BNI®. These are the people you want to build relationships with so that they may become reliable sources of referrals for you.

The other audience is people you don’t meet, at least not right away, but who are told about you by your networking partner or referral source. They are your prospective clients or customers that your networking partners are connected to.

Your Unique Selling Proposition

Many businesspeople think that word-of-mouth marketing is about telling everyone they meet everything they do, and that getting more referrals is simply a matter of talking to more people. Quite the opposite. In fact, it is often boring to people and overwhelming with much more information than they can remember.
In getting your message across, less is more.

You want to come up with a succinct, memorable unique selling proposition (USP) that you can use at all your business networking events.

Your USP is a brief description of the purpose of your business, stated in the most concise and compelling way possible, in order to help others understand the unique value of what you do.

A good USP simply tells people what you do in a manner that gets them to ask how you do it. Think of it as your answer to the inevitable question about work: “What do you do?” 

THREE STEPS TO CREATE YOUR UNIQUE SELLING PROPOSITION

  1. Focus on two or three target markets for your business – groups of people for whom your product or services are best suited. 
  2. Identify some challenges facing your target market that you and your business can help solve. 
  3. Create a one- or two-sentence USP using this formula: “I help ____ [target market] ____ [solve this problem].”

USP Examples

Your unique selling proposition tells people the type of client you work with and the benefits you provide to them.

“I work with bright, successful, family-oriented business owners who are so busy on the immediate that they lose sight of the fundamentals that can affect their family’s financial well-being.”
– a financial advisor

“I help nonprofit organizations connect with their community through the game of golf.”
– a golf fundraising specialist

“I work with municipalities on capital improvement projects in the areas of water, wastewater, and drainage.”
– a project engineer

An effective USP is short and straight to the point. When you share it with someone who fits your target market, or who knows someone in your target market, it should elicit the question, “How do you do that?”, which leads to further conversation about your business.

This is a great way of telling your company’s story while highlighting how you can help others. It is important to have a good USP because it describes your business in terms of the needs it can fill and allows people to decide whether they want to learn more.

What is YOUR one-or-two sentence unique selling proposition? I invite you to share it in the comments.

Networking Is All About Referralsstring(33) "Networking Is All About Referrals"

Yes, it is true that networking IS all about referrals. However, it may not be all business referrals. Even business networking may not be all about business referrals. It can be about sharing ideas, resources, contacts, and information that will help others be successful in their business. Networking is more than just passing referrals for business. Networking can also be about helping others improve their personal, social, and spiritual lives.

Mindset and Skill Set

Networking takes both a mindset and a skill set.
A mindset is a mental attitude or inclination. A skill set is a collection of skills and abilities that can be applied to a professional or creative endeavor.

The mindset for successful networking is helping people – the concept of Givers Gain®
and the law of reciprocity. The skill set is knowing the appropriate techniques and applying them in the right situations. Having the right attitude is half of what is needed. However, if you don’t apply the skill set, it doesn’t matter how good the mindset is.

Conversely, many people acquire a good skill set but fail to develop the right mindset. That is the transactional versus relational approach to networking.

Transactional vs. Relational

If you are focused on the transaction – simply making a sale, you are never going to create the relationship and trust needed to generate the business referrals you seek. I’ve seen so many people say, “Hello, it’s nice to meet you,” and then jump right into business without getting to know the other person at all.

A survey I did for my book, Business Networking and Sex (not what you think), showed that people who focused first on building relationships and then on business, scored higher in success. They said that they were much more successful at networking than people who focused first on business and then relationships.

Remember, it’s great to have a large network, but if your network is a mile wide with lots of people and very few deep relationships, it will never be powerful. A deep network contains the contacts that you know well and who know you very well, too. Those are the contacts who develop referral opportunities for their networking partners.

Yes, networking is all about referrals. And those referrals become possible when you change your plan from focusing on business transactions to focusing on building business relationships. When you invest time in business networking and really get to know your fellow networkers, amazing things can happen.

What networking success have you had by building strong business relationships? I’d like to hear your story in the comment section.

How to Leverage International Connectionsstring(41) "How to Leverage International Connections"

In 2018, I wrote an article for Entrepreneur.com about the future of face-to-face being online. I felt it was inevitable that business networking would go online because of technology, such as mixed reality and holographic imaging, becoming more and more prevalent in the next decade.

Thankfully the technology was available to help us transition with the global challenges of 2020 and now we are doing much of our work, and our networking, online. With our adaptability and willingness to change as solutions and options become available, we are able to network with businesspeople all around the world. Those options bring new opportunities for all of us to develop and leverage international connections for our business.

Identify Who You Want to Meet

If you want to expand and scale your business internationally, you need to identify the types of international businesses that you want to work with.

What country or continent are they located in?
What specific industry are they in?
What products or services do they specialize in?
Do you want to work with suppliers or buyers?
Who is the person from that company that you want to meet?

With that information, you are then able to find the types of organizations and events that can give you the kinds of contacts you’re looking for. Remember, networking is a contact sport; you must go out, make the effort, and get involved; become engaged in the organizations where you invest in membership. You also have to diversify the kinds of networks that you belong to. A local Chamber of Commerce and Industry is a fantastic network in your local community.

If you’re looking for international business, you want be part of a global organization that does international business. Attend events like the annual BNI® Global Convention, where thousands of professionals from dozens of countries are looking to meet and build relationships with other businesspeople. Trade groups, business councils, and professional peer organizations are all excellent places to create mutually beneficial connections.

 

Know the Type of Referrals You Want to Receive

Your company may be in a position to open new international revenue streams by finding opportunities to sell your products or services in a new country. Developing connections and relationships with the people you previously identified can lead to the referrals for those opportunities.

Other companies, particularly those that provide local services, may just want to get additional business through international referrals. I have seen dentists, and even a landscape architect, get new clients from international connections that led to referrals. Again, it is important to be specific with what you want and then identify those potential connections to help you reach your goals.

Our current technology provides many networking options, making it easier than ever before for everyone to participate, engage, and network on a global level. I’d love to know how you have leveraged international connections to grow your business. Share in the comments below.

Networking Takes Time and Money

Networking Takes Time and Moneystring(31) "Networking Takes Time and Money"

A BNI® Executive Director told me that before becoming a BNI Member in 2014, they had a home security business for 16 years. For five of those years, they spent $5,000 USD a month to advertise in the Yellow Pages part of their local phonebook. They spent $300,000 USD in five years to get some leads! They only got leads – people who were calling around to two or three companies listed in the phone book. As the leads dwindled, they invested in a membership in BNI, a global networking organization, and within two years the amount of business they received was at the highest level of what was achieved from all the Yellow Pages advertising. Their monetary investment in their membership was substantially less than $5,000.

Business networking takes time AND money. To be effective, you must invest in both.
By investing the time to build relationships with fellow members of the group, this person received real referrals – a warm introduction to customers who were looking for their services.

Oftentimes people get so caught up in the money part of networking, that they neglect the building relationships part and the time that is necessary for successful results. Paying more money does not always mean that you get more results.     

Track Your Results

How do you know if your networking efforts are paying off for you? You can do some simple tracking.
How many business organizations do you belong to?
How much time do you spend in networking efforts with people in that organization?
How much money does it cost to belong to the group? This includes travel to meetings, meals, and other expenses in addition to the membership fee.
How much money have you made from business generated in each of the organizations?
Which people in your groups are the ones giving you referrals that result in closed business?
Are you consistently thanking those people, and are you looking for ways to also give referrals to them

If you are paying for group memberships and are simply “busy” with networking activities without creating deep business relationships, it is hard to reach the goals that you want to achieve. By measuring the time and money you give to your networking efforts, you will be able to adjust your networking strategies to make them more effective in getting the results you want.

Thank You for Closed Business

In BNI, the members use a mechanism called Thank You for Closed Business (TYFCB) to track the amount of business generated between, and for, each other. Reporting the TYFCB provides a way to recognize the people who pass quality referrals to other members. It also allows each BNI Chapter to see the combined results of their networking efforts in tangible numbers. Many of the 10,400+ global BNI chapters regularly generate $1+ million USD each month for their members.

In fact, in the rolling last 12 months, BNI Members generated $18 Billion USD in Thank You for Closed Business! That’s an enormous figure. Because it can be hard to imagine a billion of anything, we’ll explore that figure in another way.  

Let’s look at time – time measured in seconds. If you measured $1 Million in seconds, it would be 1.65 weeks. If you measured $1 Billion in seconds, it would be 31.7 years! And $18 Billion would be more than 570 years!! That is a LOT of business resulting from referrals between networking members!

Beyond the Dollar Figures

Yes, tracking our networking activities can show us the dollar figures that result from those efforts. However, there is more beyond those figures that may be harder to see. There is also the community impact. We all live in the smaller economies of our cities, towns, and neighborhoods. Those networking dollars help to stimulate local economies and contribute to the huge economic engine that is moving all over the globe.

It takes time to build a business – you have to spend time cold calling; you spend time talking to your existing clients to get referrals; you’re going to do advertising which costs money. Oh, and how do you make the money? You make the money by spending a lot of time doing direct selling. To me, networking is so much easier than direct selling. And it’s a great use of your time because it truly is about farming not hunting

You may be in business alone, but you do not have to BE alone in business when you are part of a powerful network. Successful business networking takes time AND money. Investing your time with like-minded, positive people, and building strong business relationships will help you reach your goals.

If you were paying $5,000 a year for your network – how would you treat it differently than you are now?  Try treating it like that type of investment and see what results you get.

The Longer You Hold Something, the Heavier It Becomes

The Longer You Hold Something, the Heavier It Becomesstring(53) "The Longer You Hold Something, the Heavier It Becomes"

A psychologist once walked around a room while teaching a stress management course and she raised a glass of water. Everyone expected her to ask the “Is the glass half empty or half full?” question. Instead, she asked, “How heavy is this glass of water?” The audience called out answers that ranged from eight ounces to 20 ounces.

She replied that the absolute weight doesn’t really matter. “What matters is how long I hold it,” she said, “If I hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change. But the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.”

She continued to say that the stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Deal with them for a little while and nothing happens. Deal with them a little bit longer, and they begin to hurt. And if you deal with them all day long, day in and day out over time, you’ll feel paralyzed, incapable of doing anything, because of the weight of the worries.

The Way We View the World

We live in an age of sweeping conflict, widespread skepticism, and intense anxiety. Contention feels pervasive and balanced discourse is a thing of the past. Pundits regularly tell us what’s wrong with society. People complain like it’s an Olympic event. (I’ve checked – it is not.)

Gurus in the marketplace obsess over the massive problems they see in the world, and negativity seems to be part of the new normal. The last couple of years have been hard. It’s been a very stressful time for almost everyone. We all feel it.

I love astronomy and I’ve learned that by choosing different lenses or filters for my telescope, I can literally observe different things in the night sky. By changing the lens, the things I view can appear or disappear before my very eyes. Objects can be overwhelmingly bright and painful to view, or they can be a beautiful sight to behold.

I believe that our lives are similar. The lens you choose to view the world through influences your life in ways that will determine your future.

You Are Not Alone

Today, more than ever, your network can help you. When you are part of a caring and effective network, you are not alone. Your network can help you take some of the weight of your business, and your life, out of your arms and give you relief when there doesn’t seem to be any around you. With the support of our network, we’re getting through these challenging times because we have each other to help us believe and achieve.

Throughout my lifetime I’ve seen ordinary people do extraordinary things. I believe anyone can do extraordinary things with the right mindset, plan, and effort. I believe that our vision controls our perception, and our perception becomes our reality.

Set a vision that makes a difference to the people around you – then hold the vision, NOT the obstacles. This is the thing that is so difficult for people; they continuously focus on the obstacles. The truth is if you want to be successful, hold the vision, not the obstacles. Forget about the noise and distractions all around you. There have always been distractions; there will always be distractions. Focus on your vision.

Today is the Tomorrow you were so worried about Yesterday. Maybe it’s time to set the worries aside and put the vision in front. Let your network help you. You are not alone.

It’s important to recognize that we all have challenging times, all of us, myself included. The secret to getting through them is the lens that we look at life through, and the ability to focus on the VISION and not the obstacles. The more we all can do that, the more successful we’ll be in our professional life and in our personal life, as well.

I would love to hear how your network has helped you.

How You Stand Changes Who You Meetstring(34) "How You Stand Changes Who You Meet"

When you are talking to other people at an in-person networking event, how you stand changes who you meet. This is a technique that I have talked about for many years and is a key element of my presentations. It can help with your business networking success.

Sometimes when you walk into a room full of people, you look around and have no idea where to start. You may think, “Who do I walk up to? Who do I talk to?” Some people may even think, “Who do I know? And why did I even come here?”

Open Twos and Open Threes

I wrote about the concepts of Open Twos and Open Threes in my book, Networking Like a Pro, Second Edition. The images shown above are from that book.

The first image is ‘Where do I start?’ It is a view that is looking down at one small corner of the room at a business networking event. There are different groups of people talking to each other, mixing and mingling.

The second image is ‘Closed Twos – Closed Threes’. It represents a view from a balcony, looking down into the room of networkers. A Closed Two is two people facing each other and standing perpendicular while having a conversation. A Closed Three is three people, all facing the center of a triangle shape.

It is difficult to walk up and break into closed conversations, especially if you don’t know any of the people in them.

The third image is ‘Open Twos – Open Threes’. An Open Two looks like the letter “V” with the two people standing askew more than directly facing each other. An Open Three looks more like the letter “U” with an open slot for someone to join in.

Look for the Open Groups

I recommend that when you go to networking meetings where you don’t know a lot of people, look for the Open Twos and Open Threes. There will probably be Open Fours and Open Fives, too. It is easy to walk up and introduce yourself to people who are standing in open positions. This is a subtle and effective way to enhance your networking efforts.

If you are a member of a business networking group, encourage your fellow members to stand in Open Twos and Open Threes to make people feel welcome. And then be friendly and inclusive when someone steps into your open group.

What About Introverts?

Introverts often tell me they have a hard time striking up a conversation at networking events. I recommend that introverted people look for larger open groups, such as an Open Four, Five, or even an Open Six. I know this sounds counterintuitive – why would they want to walk into a larger group?

It’s easy to slide into a larger group without interrupting the conversation and without being noticed right away. Eventually, someone will greet you with, “Hi, nice to meet you. What’s your name?” and then you’ll have a chance to introduce yourself.

It’s a counterintuitive concept that works extremely well. Walking into a larger open group is less abrupt than walking into an Open Two where you will have to speak right away because there are only two others in the conversation.


It is important to understand the concepts of Open Twos and Open Threes to become a better networker. When you have an open stance, you are going to meet a lot of people that you may not have had an opportunity to meet in the past. How you stand WILL change who you meet at business events.

The Boomerang Effect

The Boomerang Effectstring(20) "The Boomerang Effect"

The foundation of building a successful word-of-mouth-based business involves giving referrals to others as well as connecting people so that they may increase their business.

If you know how to give good business referrals to others, and consistently make beneficial introductions to connect people to each other, you will enjoy the Boomerang Effect. The Boomerang Effect is having a referral that you gave out to someone else come back to you in the form of new business.

In the early years of BNI®  I received a referral from someone in Los Angeles to whom I had sent business in the past. That referral became my client and they referred three more people from all over the U.S. who did business with me, too. That particular boomerang kept coming back again and again.

Actively Listen for Good Referrals

To consistently give good business referrals to others you must become a good listener. Throughout your day, actively listen for people to express a need that is represented by someone in your personal network of contacts. Remember, a good networker has two ears and one mouth, and uses them proportionately.

Listen to what people have to say, especially when they share their frustration about a problem that needs solved. “My computer is SO slow!” “I need more vehicles for the company fleet.”  “Our office printer just quit working.” “We’re waiting for the insurance company to return my call – from 2 days ago!” Then refer them to a trusted member of your networking group who can provide the solution to their needs.

A Referral Is an Opportunity

Keep in mind that a referral is not a guaranteed sale. When you give a referral to your networking partner, it is an opportunity for them to talk with someone who is in the market to buy or use a particular product or service. You can view referrals as either hot, warm, or tepid.

Hot Referral – this is someone actively looking for a service or product right now who is personally introduced by you to your referral partner. You told the prospect about your business friend, how good they are at what they do, and shared your confidence about their professional ability to help them with their needs. They are ready to set an appointment or have a call as soon as possible.

Warm Referral – this is someone who has been shopping around and is willing to talk with another provider of that product or service. You have taken the time to give them some background information about your referral partner and perhaps told them a testimonial about someone in a similar situation that they previously helped. You offered to make an introduction and asked when they want your business friend to contact them.

Tepid Referral – this is someone who expresses an interest or wants to talk to someone in a certain profession, however they are not in the market to proceed at this moment. You told them you know a professional who will be glad to answer their questions and provide information to help them. You gave them your business contact’s name and phone number and asked if they would like to receive a call from them.

Sometimes a referral that you give to someone else boomerangs as new business for you. It may take days, weeks or even months to return to you, and it may be from someone else rather than coming directly from the person you gave the
original referral to. However, that IS the philosophy of Givers Gain® and it is based on the age-old concept of “what goes around comes around”.

Have you experienced the Boomerang Effect in your business? I invite you to share in the comments below.

Don’t Show Off, Show Intereststring(31) "Don’t Show Off, Show Interest"

Sometimes at networking events, I observe people engaging in what I call “dueling monologues” which are basically prolonged dueling talks by one person at a time.

I don’t think most people are really interested in participating in this type of conversation. The problem is that a lot of people are winging it when it comes to networking, and they often go straight into sales mode. When they do this with someone who is also winging it, it leads to a dueling monologue syndrome. I’ve seen it many times.

So how do we avoid the dueling monologue syndrome?
I believe the answer is don’t show off, show interest.

The Goal of Networking

What is the goal for your networking efforts? If it is to build your business, then it is all about building relationships with people.

Go to networking events with the intention to build a business relationship. Don’t try to dazzle people with your brilliance. You can certainly do that later. Stand out from the crowd and impress them with your genuine interest in them. Not your interest in selling to them but your genuine interest in them as a person.

A good networker is like a good talk show interviewer. A good interviewer asks the guests questions and gives them time to elaborate and respond. I think a good networker is very similar – they ask questions, then listen and let people talk.

Follow the Conversation to Ask More Questions

Follow the thread of the conversation to the point where you can ask more questions. Your questions should be open-ended, probing, and respectful. These are questions that allow the respondent to really open up and discuss what you’ve asked.

Here are some examples of questions to start with. Don’t ask one question after another in rapid succession. Do ask one or two of these questions at the beginning and then follow the thread of the conversation to ask more.  

  • What do you like best about what you do?
        If their answer is short, ask them Why? Or ask for some examples. 
  • How did you get started in your industry?
        You can ask clarification questions as they start talking

  • What is your target market?
        Ask more questions to be clear about who their best customers are.

  • What is an example of a great client for you?
        You want them to be very specific in describing the example.

  • What are some of the challenges you have in your business?
        This can be your opportunity to find a way to help them, without selling to them.

  • Where else do you network? What other groups do you go to?
        Follow up with: What do you like about those groups?
        This is great information to find out where you are likely to see them again.

Listen for the Need

If you hear them describe a problem or a need of any kind, think about someone in your personal network whom you trust that you can refer them to. Nothing expedites a relationship faster than helping someone you’ve met by referring them to another person – or sometimes even a book, website, or article – that can help them with the challenge. It is very powerful when you can refer people to other content that helps them succeed and goes a long way toward building a mutually beneficial business relationship. 

Many people out there think they know how to network but are really just doing face-to-face cold calling. YOU can be different.  A great networker is fully engaged, asking questions, and actively listening. They make it about the other person rather than about themselves. Remember: Don’t show off, show interest. 

Ignoring You is Easystring(20) "Ignoring You is Easy"

We are designed to empathize with and endear those who are in our direct line of sight. We rely on personal interaction as a reminder of the people in our professional networking world. In business we cannot afford to be in the category of “out of sight, out of mind”.

Five Ways to stay visible to your customers, prospects, and referral network

  1. Email – One of the easiest forms of communication can also be the least effective. Emails are quickly dismissed because they take such little effort, and we receive so many of them. Because most of them are solicitations, avoid sending out only “spam”. Be sure that your emails offer value and always make them as personal as possible so you don’t unintentionally irritate your friends and business associates.
  2. Phone – That goes for texting too – make them as personal as possible. Most people can tell if the message is a “group” blast rather than personally tailored to them. Some will take it as a friendly reminder that they wanted to talk to you, however, many will just hit delete when they realize you’re making a generic sales pitch. Remember that your phone also makes calls, and you can actually talk on it. Sometimes a 5-minute call to a client from their business consultant (you) will go far to create loyalty with your company.
  3. Social Media – Whatever your social media preferences are, you’ll want to be active on those platforms with three to five posts each week. Moreover, only one-third of your posts should be focused on business. Why? It is possible to have hundreds of connections without any real friends. They want to know you as a person first, then as someone who has passion, and finally as a businessperson who shares about their profession.
  4. Face-to-Face – As we have more opportunities for in-person interactions, look for occasions to meet with referral partners. Perhaps it is sharing a meal while strategizing how to help each other’s business or stopping by your customer’s shop to say hello while you are in the area.
  5. Thank-you Cards – Ahh, the forgotten art of a handwritten note! Think back to the last letter that you received in the post or mail. How did you feel reading the words that someone took the time to write especially for you? It is easy to do and so appreciated. One suggestion is to keep some blank thank you cards and envelopes with a stamp on them in your briefcase or vehicle. Write the card immediately after the meeting or appointment, then drop it in the nearest mailbox.

Are you easy to ignore? If so, you had better do something about it. Knowing the preferred communication style of your clients and referral network as you implement some of these ideas will help you stay visible and remembered.

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