Networking Archives - Dr. Ivan Misner®
Encourage Employees to Network

Five Ways to Encourage Employees to Network

Too many entrepreneurs focus on bringing in new business themselves or in tandem with the sales force but overlook their support staff as a source of referrals. Building word-of-mouth for your business is not just the responsibility of your marketing or sales department. As you might imagine, it’s far better to engage your entire staff in your word-of-mouth marketing campaign-not only at startup, but also throughout the life of your business. Here are five tips on ways to encourage employees to network:

1. Include networking in the job description for each and every employee

Often, if a new hire knows upfront that he’s expected to incorporate networking into his job, it will happen.

2. Have clear and reasonable expectations.

If your company manufactures a very obscure product, your staff might have a hard time bringing in tons of referrals. However, keep in mind that people are more important in the networking process than the type of product being sold. When you have the right person, he or she will be able to build a network around any kind of product or service.

3. Teach your staff about how to network effectively for the company.

Hold focus groups where you role-play ways to ask for referrals from other customers, friends, and family. Bring in local networking experts for in-house training. If you belong to a weekly networking group, bring your staff to those meetings one at a time so each member can see firsthand what networking can produce. This also helps your networking partners feel that they know your business better since they’ve been able to meet the people in your company.  Until you teach someone how to do something effectively, expecting them to do it well or even at all is unrealistic.

4. Motivate your staff to bring referrals to the company.

My wife once worked for a business owner who incorporated monetary bonuses into her word-of-mouth marketing expectations. For every new customer, she was given a bonus. It was a win-win arrangement for the company, as each new customer brought in revenue well above the bonus amount, and my wife felt rewarded each time one of her referrals came through the door.

Having a bonus system in place made it obvious that she would be attending chamber meetings with the boss and developing other connections in the community while passing out business cards and flyers for the company. To properly execute this idea, check with your CPA or tax preparer.

You might even establish a “networker of the month” status for the staff, using a reserved parking spot or an overnight hotel stay somewhere fun as a reward. Make the motivation something that’s relevant to your industry and, most of all, exciting to your staff.

5. Be sure your staff sees you practicing your networking skills.

Often, we as entrepreneurs don’t share with our staff the amount of time and energy we put into building and maintaining our businesses utilizing word-of-mouth marketing. I have always felt very strongly about this point. If I am going to expect my staff to do something, motivate and reward them for doing it, I better let them see me doing it as well. All too often, networking is something done behind the scenes and not necessarily in front of the staff.

One way to change this is to track how much business you brought in, as well as the staff’s numbers. Imagine the pride one competitive staff member will have when he or she breaks your number. Imagine the profits your company will realize when everyone in the company focuses on growing the business.

Networking is a group activity. Make sure to encourage employees to network and get your whole team on board with the process.

shape up your business

Shape up Your Business With Networking Aerobics

It’s that time of year again when we make our “New Year Resolutions” and the world seems to be exercising more! I’ve put together a series of exercises you can consider to be networking aerobics. Diligent practice of these exercises will pay off in a healthy networking ability and improved contacts that will lead to contracts. Here are some exercises to help you to shape up your business and maintain networking momentum.

Leg lifts

Rise from your chair and get to a networking event. It might be tempting to indulge in “Cave Man” behaviors and never leave the office. This is not the best way to expand your business, much less develop a healthy word-of-mouth base.

Arm extensions

Extend your right hand from the shoulder to reach for the hand of any new contacts you meet. Shaking hands is an important part of making a new contact. Not extending the hand of friendship can be perceived negatively. It sets you apart as being aloof and cold. Just be courteous and warm, and I’m sure however you shake hands you’ll make a good impression.

Jaw flex 

Immediately after the arm extension, introduce yourself to the person you just met. Let the new contacts know who you are and what you do. Make sure to be specific and provide a benefit statement about your services. Don’t forget that a good networker has two ears and one mouth and should use both of them proportionately-so give the jaw a little break.

The splits

As you see groups of two or three people talking together, go join them and introduce yourself. However, notice if they are “open” twos and threes or “closed” twos and threes. The open twos and threes will have a gap between the individuals, almost inviting another person to join with them. The closed twos and threes will be completely self-absorbed and wouldn’t be the first place to start practicing the splits. Ask the person hosting the event, or perhaps the individual who invited you to attend, to come around with you and introduce you to clusters of people.

Drop and carry

Ask for your new contacts’ business cards. Drop them into your left pocket and carry them back to your office. I usually carry my own business cards in my right pocket and use the left pocket to carry the new contacts’ cards. This habit can spare you the embarrassment of reaching into your pocket for your card and coming up with someone else’s card. Prior to dropping the contacts’ cards in your pockets, write a note on the back of their cards that will help jog your memory about them.

Arm curls

After your networking event, follow up with a phone call to the people you met. You might wish to follow up via e-mail or by sending note cards-just do something to put you back in the new contacts’ minds.

Cool-down

After attending a networking event, you need to do a cool-down exercise as well. We recommend recording the event’s contacts in a journal. There are also computer programs which will allow you to record the results of the networking event. Referring back to the documentation from the exercises you did at the event will help you cultivate the contacts into a bumper crop of referral business.

As you attend various networking events to promote your businesses, keep these exercises in mind and remember: no pain, no gain! You’ve got to put yourself out there in order to develop a word-of-mouth-based business.

2020 International Networking Week

2020 International Networking Week ®

The 2020 International Networking Week ® is an initiative of BNI®. It is an opportunity for business owners to show appreciation for their valued customers and contacts from networking.

This will be a week of global recognition and gratitude from February 2 through 8, 2020 to thank those business owners who have helped you to grow your business while networking. Furthermore, this year’s action item is to recognize and thank those people in your BNI chapter, chamber of commerce,  and other networking organizations. Take a moment to say, “Thank You” in person, in your meeting, and on various social media platforms.
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The focus of International Networking Week is to bring together representatives of government, businesses and community leaders from around the world to network and to recognize the power of networking. Speakers will offer advice and information on how businesses can grow and succeed through good networking practices.
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The 13th Annual 2020 International Networking Week is just around the corner. Therefore, it’s time to build your powerful personal network now. Invite various business owners who have helped you to grow your business to your BNI chapter or to your networking mixer. Invite them to network and to recognize the power of networking from February 2 through 8, 2020. Check out the promo video for the 13th Annual 2020 International Networking Week. Please use the hashtag with your photos and posts: #INW2020

 

The 2020 International Networking Week theme is “One Million Thank Yous”

Expressing gratitude completes the feeling of connection. Many people in your life have helped you in one way or another. Therefore, have you thanked them? Consider sending a letter to someone telling them what their actions meant to you, even if—especially if—it happened long ago.   It costs little or nothing. Furthermore, it almost always follows suit that they will demonstrate their gratitude for what you do.

When you show an interest in others by noticing the good things they’ve done; they will be drawn to you like a magnet.  Therefore, it will accelerate the relationship-building process and enhance their overall impression of you.”

In conclusion, the goal of International Networking Week is to celebrate the key role that networking plays in the development and success of businesses across the world. Networking events are being held globally to celebrate International Networking Week. For more information about these international events during the first week of February or to promote your local networking event on our 2020 International Networking Week website please see: internationalnetworkingweek.com

Three R's of Networking

The Three R’s of Networking

Do you know the Three R’s of Networking? Remember, networking is not selling. Therefore, these three are slightly different from the Three R’s’ of Selling.  Networking, however, can help you develop a successful word-of-mouth-based business. The Three R’s of Networking are Relationships, Reliability, and Referrals.

Relationships

Word-of-mouth is about “relationship marketing.” If you approach the first year of your involvement in a networking group with the sole motivation of getting to know the other members well, you will be far ahead of the game. One of the most important things I’ve learned over the years is that it is not really what you know or who you know; rather, it’s how well you know them that really counts! People do business with people they know and trust.

In order for word-of-mouth marketing to work for you, you first have to build a strong foundation with the people you hope will refer you to others. That takes time, and the amount of time it takes varies from profession to profession. Obviously, some professions are much more sensitive than others to the development of referrals. So find reasons to meet with each person outside the networking meeting. Get to them, and work on having them get to know you better. Make it clear that you value your relationship with each one of them.

Reliability

For the first year or so in a networking group, you are putting in your time. Your referral partners are testing you, checking you out and making sure that you deserve to have their valuable clients and contacts turned over to you. Therefore, you must be credible to the other professionals with whom you hope to network. Bear in mind that you should feel the same way, too. Before you risk your reputation with your clients by referring them to someone who takes less care of them than you would want to be taken, you must be very sure that the person to whom you refer them is reliable! How else are you going to know that unless you use them personally over a period of time?

Referrals

After cultivating relationships and proving yourself to be reliable, you get referrals as the end result. In order for someone to receive, someone else has to give. This holds so true with referrals. I would suggest you perform a reality check to see just how effectively you are referring to the people in your networking group. You might be surprised to find how little you actually refer others, or that you consistently refer the same two or three people.

If you aren’t tracking your referrals (both given and received), it’s time to start tracking them. Look for patterns. I would anticipate that in the months following a month you were particularly active in referring others, you will find that you are receiving more referrals! I have seen the “what goes around, comes around” principle illustrated over and over in BNI, the networking organization I founded years ago.

This is a natural progression and one that can’t really be rushed. I know it can seem frustrating at times when you are anxious to see your bottom line increase quickly from all the referrals you are anticipating receiving, but believe me, if you are patient and apply these techniques, you will see word-of-mouth marketing work for you in a big way.

Three Big Lies

Three Big Lies About Networking

Misconceptions about networking are widespread, even among business professionals. Before you can commit yourself to the task of building a healthy network, you probably need to overcome at least one of these three big lies about networking.

I can’t network if I’m not an outgoing person.

There are many techniques that can make the process a whole lot easier. For example, volunteering to be an ambassador or visitor host for a local business networking event can be a great way to get involved without feeling out of place.

When you have guests at your house or office, what do you do? You engage them; make them feel comfortable; you offer them something to drink. What you don’t do is stand by yourself sulking about how you hate meeting new people. By serving as a visitor host at your local chamber event, you effectively become the host of the party. Try it, you’ll find it much easier to meet and talk to new people.

The person-to-person referral business is old-fashioned.

Today, most people do business on a larger scale, over a broader customer base and geographic area. The personal connections of the old-style community and the trust that went with them is mostly gone. That’s why a system for generating referrals among a group of professionals who trust one another is so important, and it’s why referral networking is not only the way of the past but the wave of the future. It’s a cost-effective strategy with a long-term payoff. It’s where business marketing is going, and it’s where you need to go if you’re going to stay in the game.

Networking is not hard science. Its return on investment can’t be measured.

I once suggested to the dean of a large university that the business curriculum should include courses in networking. His response, “My professors would never teach that material here. It’s all soft science.”

Why don’t business schools teach this subject? I think it’s because most are made up of professors who’ve never owned a business. Almost everything they know about running a business they learned from books and consulting.

Business schools around the world need to wake up and start teaching this curriculum. Schools with vision, foresight, and the ability to act swiftly (the way business professors say businesses should act) will be positioning themselves as leaders in education by truly understanding and responding to the needs of today’s businesses.

Successful entrepreneurs understand the importance of a strong network and are willing to put in the time it takes to develop fruitful connections. If any of these three big lies are holding you back, it’s time to correct it with the tips provided and watch your business grow.

networking

So why go to a networking meeting?

You go because networking is more about farming than it is about hunting. Sometimes you go to increase your visibility and to connect with people you have never met. Sometimes you go to establish further credibility with people you know. And sometimes you may go to meet a long-time referral partner and do some business. In any case, the true master networkers know that networking events are about moving through the relationship process and not just about closing deals. Visibility leads to credibility which, with time and effort, leads to profitability.

Your goal at a networking event is to make yourself memorable without talking about yourself. It sounds paradoxical, doesn’t it? But, if you know how to do it, you will stand out in people’s minds when they look back on the event. The secret is simply to ask people about themselves and their businesses. In order to make your networking efforts work, you need to embrace a “relationship networking” mentality.

Remember these ten networking tips to make yourself stand out when attending networking events:

  1. Don’t go there to sell, go there to connect.
  2. Have meaningful conversations with the people you meet.
  3. Make yourself memorable.
  4. Talk less and listen more.
  5. Follow up with people you found interesting or who you can help in some way.
  6. Don’t follow up to sell them something.
  7. Don’t show off, show interest.
  8. Meet these people in a one-to-one setting and learn more about them
  9. Ask them: “how can I help you?”
  10. Go for the long-term relationship, not the short sale.

What is the goal of your networking? If it is to build your business, then it’s all about building a relationship with people. Keep your eye on the ball. Don’t try to dazzle them with your brilliance. You can do that later.

Stand out from the crowd and impress them with your genuine interest in them, not your interest in selling to them.

Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Making Word-of-Mouth Marketing Work for You

Word-of-mouth marketing is often considered one of the oldest and most powerful forms of advertising. In fact, most business people understand that it works–they just don’t know how it works.

If you want to be successful at developing word-of-mouth for your business, you should be as organized and thoughtful about it as you are about other types of advertising and marketing. In fact, if you take this approach, eventually, you can get most of your business exclusively through word-of-mouth! The key to creating a successful word-of-mouth program lies in developing a formal plan for systematically meeting people and cultivating relationships with them. Here are ten ways for you to get your own word-of-mouth marketing program off the ground.

Avoid being a cave dweller.

Get out and meet people. Start by setting a goal for the number of appointments you’ll establish with people you wish to develop networking relationships with every week. Social capital works for everybody, not just people who set out purposefully to become networkers.

Ask for the referral.

There are specific techniques you can learn and develop that will help you hone your ability to ask for the referrals you want. One such technique is to ask “Who do you know who…?” You would then list several types of people you can help, such as someone who is new to the area, someone recently married or someone who has just started a business.

Join three networking groups.

Consciously select at least three different business or networking groups to join in the next three months. These groups might include chambers of commerce, community service groups and trade associations. When joining various organizations, make sure you select a well-rounded mix of business groups in which to participate. Try to avoid being in more than one group per category (i.e., two chambers of commerce), as this will divide your loyalties and put you in a position where you’ll be making promises to too many people.

Create referral incentives.

Develop a creative incentive to encourage people to send referrals your way. A music store owner, for instance, sends music tickets to people who refer business to him. Another example is the chiropractor who posts thank-yous on a bulletin board in his waiting area to all his patients who referred patients to him the previous month.

Learn, learn, learn for lifelong learning.

Spend time developing your networking skills. Read books and articles on networking, listen to tapes, and talk to people who network well. Networking is an acquired skill.

Act like a host.

When attending a business mixer, act like a host, not a guest. You are wasting your time at mixers if you stand around visiting with coworkers or others you already know rather than meeting new contacts and introducing them around. These events offer a great way to increase your visibility! If appropriate, ask to be the ambassador or visitor host in the organizations to which you belong. As such, it will be your official duty to meet people and introduce them to others.

Create an elevator pitch.

Invest time in developing a brief message about your business that explains what you do. What would you say? I want you to keep in mind that this is not a sales pitch; it is a creative and succinct way to generate interest in the listener. When you introduce yourself to others, use your elevator pitch. Chances are, this will help them remember you and what you do. Keeping these seven rules in mind when you create an elevator pitch will set you apart from the crowd.

Take notes and follow up.

When you meet someone and exchange cards, take a few moments to flip the card over and jot down some information about them or their business that will help you remember them and follow up with them later. This is a very simple, yet powerful, way to make a great first impression that can be developed into a mutually beneficial networking partnership. When you follow up, I recommend that you offer opportunities, whether a simple piece of information, a special contact, or a qualified business referral.

Talk less and listen more.

Remember that a good networker has two ears and one mouth and uses them accordingly. Our success in networking depends on how well we can listen and learn. The faster you and your networking partner learn what you need to know about each other, the faster you’ll establish a valuable relationship.

Collaborate and help others.

People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.  Helping people shows that you care. Connect with people outside of business meetings whenever possible. Drop notes, letters and articles that might be of interest to them in the mail. Call to check in with them or invite them to events you may be attending that might be of interest.

You are potentially linked to a vast network beyond your own sphere. By implementing the tactics above, you will receive benefits from that network. Maximize your opportunities to cultivate networking relationships with others, and you will see just how effective word-of-mouth marketing can be!

Make a Plan

Make a Networking Strategy Plan

A dream without a plan is just a fantasy. It is your thoughts about believing in your dream which will lead to achieving your dreams. However, first, you would need to develop a networking strategy.  Make a plan that will work for you based upon these three essential questions:

Who Are My Best Prospects?

It’s important to know that each target market will have a strategy that requires you to network in different places. If you’re not sure who your target market is, look at your list of past clients. What industries were they in? How long had they been in business? Were your clients even businesses to begin with, or have you worked mostly with consumers?

Once you’ve put together a profile of your past clients, ask people close to you for patterns you may have overlooked and get their input on who might be a good fit for your business.

Where Can I Meet My Best Prospects?

As you begin targeting specific niche markets, there are other venues and opportunities that fall outside the typical networking event.  Here are some examples of specific target markets and where you should network to find people in these markets:

  • Small-business owners–chamber of commerce, local business association, referral groups, and social media pages,
  • Representatives from big corporations in your area–service clubs, nonprofit groups, and volunteer work
  • Consumers–your kids’ events: Little League, School activities, and so forth

Whom, Exactly, Do I Want To Meet?

Even if you can’t name the people you want to meet, the better you can describe them, the greater the chance you’ll get to meet your ideal contact. Be as specific as possible when asking for contact because it focuses the other person’s attention on details that are more likely to remind him of a specific person rather than if you asked, “Do you know anyone who needs my services?”

Networking works.  It’s just a matter of developing a strategy that puts you in contact with the right people. That’s exactly what the three questions above will help you do. However, you must take action to achieve your goals.

cultural differences

3 Tips About International Cultural Differences

We now live in a fully global society where it is imperative to have an awareness of cultural differences as they relate to networking.  We often notice differences within our own country. However, what about businesses that are networking with businesses in other parts of the world? We should be aware and prepared for some of these particular cultural differences that can affect the way we network with other cultures.  They are sometimes as simple as the way we hand out a business card, to as complex as the study of personal space, and the use of gesters.

Networking in today’s market takes finesse and knowledge of the culture in which you are networking.  Furthermore, if you attending a global convention or event, you will need to know the customs of networking for the various cultures attending, not just those of the host country. Here are three areas where cultural differences mandate a closer look at networking etiquette:

Business Card Etiquette

Exchanging business cards is an essential part of most cultures.  The business card is much more in the Asian culture than it is to us here in America.  It is truly an extension of the individual and is treated with respect.  Things like, tucking it into a pocket after receiving it, writing on it, bending or folding it in any way, or even looking at it again after you have first accepted it and looked at it are not considered polite and can insult your fellow Asian networker.

Consideration of “Personal Space”

When networking, it’s very important to respect the cultural boundaries relating to personal space. Some cultural dynamics are fine with close personal interaction, while others demand a bigger bubble.  This is not a point to underestimate.

In Saudi Arabia, you might find yourself recoiling while your business associate may get the impression that you are stand-offish.  In the Netherlands, this might be reversed due to the fact that their personal space equates to our social space.  Do your homework and be sensitive to cultural differences in this area.

Use of Slang and Gestures

When using slang in a business environment, you might want to keep in mind that what means one thing to us might have no meaning or have a very different meaning in another culture. I recommend that you consult with someone in that country who is familiar with that culture before interacting with the business people.

It was invaluable to me to be able to have my Israeli Director in BNI, Sam Schwartz, coach me regarding the Orthodox Jewish custom of not shaking hands with someone from the opposite gender.

 Networking basics are universal; with some care for taking into account cultural nuances. It is important to find things that bring us together.  Things that are similar for us all.  For example, we all speak the language of referrals and we all want to do business based on trust.  This transcends many cultural differences. 

new entrepreneur

New Entrepreneur Networking Tips

As a new entrepreneur, one of your primary goals is to continue to fill your pipeline with new business. One of the most cost-effective ways to do this is through networking. One of the biggest roadblocks to networking is the fear that being a new entrepreneur impedes any successful attempts at networking.  Here are a few networking tips for a new entrepreneur:

Become the host

Volunteer to be an ambassador or visitor host for a local business networking event. This can be a great way to get involved without leaving your comfort zone. By serving as a visitor host at your local chamber event, you effectively become the host of the party. Try it! You’ll find it much easier to meet and talk to new people.

Build your social capital at your desk

Online networking is a very effective way to connect with potential clients and referral sources. Social media has made it easier than ever before to connect with large numbers of people. Online networking gives new entrepreneurs a broad reach with low cost and effort. However, what online networking doesn’t do is provide a forum where relationships can deepen. It’s usually better to use social media with people only after you’ve established a relationship with them by traditional means. To develop trust, respect, and true friendship, it’s hard to beat in-person conversation.

Offer advice to break the ice

If you’re not sure how to break the ice, you might want to start by offering some free professional advice. It is possible to offer some value-added advice without coming across too sales-y.  Sharing free advice will demonstrate your expertise as a new entrepreneur. Give your prospects a couple of ideas. Don’t go overboard. When it comes to building rapport and trust, few things do it better than solid, helpful information provided out of a genuine concern for the other person.

Become a trusted source for quality referrals and contacts

Another way a new entrepreneur can ease into networking is to provide a referral or contact. This could be a direct referral (someone you know who’s in the market for another person’s services) or a solid contact (someone who might be helpful down the road).

Most new entrepreneurs, over time, naturally develop a certain level of comfort from dealings with customers, vendors, and others in their day-to-day transactions. So even people who are new to networking can form meaningful relationships and communicate with a little practice.

Bad Networking

Bad Networking Costs More Than $100,000 per Year

Today’s blog comes from a “Home Business Magazine Online” article I was quoted in, Bad Networking Costs More Than $100,000 Per Year. Here’s How to Do It Right by Dustin Siggins.

HOME BUSINESS Magazine ONLINE is loaded with content to help you start-up and succeed in a home-based business. HBM ONLINE is an advanced community for home-based entrepreneurs and business owners; people who work from home; and telecommuters. Therefore, check back often, as the content is loaded daily.

Dustin spoke with several experts about how small business owners can turn networking into company growth.  Furthermore, this article also has advice from Jon Rutenberg, Keith Ferrazzi, Becky Sheetz-Runkle, Todd Rowley, and Chuck Feddersen. I was honored to be included in this article. Below is my segment:

Be Patient

Ivan Misner, Ph.D. founded Business Networking International, which has over 250,000 members worldwide. Misner said that “people tend to use networking as a face-to-face cold-calling opportunity. That does not work. Networking is more about farming than it is about hunting.”

Misner explained that referral and network-based strategies are “about building deep relationships with people who are willing to refer to each other. If your network is a mile wide and an inch deep, you’ll never achieve the success you want. You should find a network that is wide and, in some places, deep.”

What is popular is not always right. For small business owners, networking is very popular, but it is often done wrong. Bad networking costs a minimum of $100,000 annually.

Contact Sphere

Developing a Networking Contact Sphere

A contact sphere is a group of business professionals who have a symbiotic relationship. They are compatible, non-competitive professions. 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. Hence, the power team working that symbiotic relationship created in the contact sphere.

My favorite example of a contact sphere is the caterer, the florist, the photographer, the videographer, hairstylist, makeup artist, and the travel agent. I call this the “wedding mafia”! If one gets a referral to a wedding, then they all get a referral to the wedding. These professions, more than most, have truly learned how to work their contact sphere. A contact sphere can be a steady source of leads. Each has clients who can benefit from the services of the others.  This is why a wedding often turns out to be, on the side, a business networking and referral-gathering activity.

To get the most out of your contact sphere:

  • Identify as many professions as possible that fit within your company’s contact sphere. Take a look at what professions your industry tends to work with to get an idea of repetitive and reciprocal referrals. Create a list of these professions.
  • Identify specific individuals who could fit into your contact sphere. Go to various networking groups and consult your business card file and database.
  • Invite these people to participate in networking groups with you so you can formalize your relationship and have a way to stay in regular contact. Maintaining a relationship is key. A good way to do that is to participate in groups that put you together on a regular basis.
  • Evaluate the professionals in your contact sphere that you are presently referring to. If they are not reciprocating, you may have the wrong profession or the wrong person. Fill the spot with someone who is willing to reciprocate.

Although developing a solid contact sphere will greatly increase your business, you must remember that it alone is not enough. Because contact spheres consist of small groups, you’re not likely to gain exposure to a large number of individuals. Hence, work on developing your overall network of contacts at the same time you are developing your contact sphere. Good luck. Contact spheres are a great way to start building your professional network.

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