Are Networking Referrals a Coincidence

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When it comes to business networking, “luck” is where persistence meets opportunity. There is no coincidence about repeat referrals. Those referrals come about because of the everyday activities that successful networkers consistently do to build strong referral relationships. Although it can’t be measured as easily as tracking cold-call ratios – the results are dramatic and almost never coincidental.

A misconception occurs when someone focuses on the referral rather than on the relationship that produced the referral. This leads people to the wrong conclusion that the result was coincidental. Networking is not about luck. It is about relationships.


It is unlikely that one single person is going to turn a business around or have a dramatic impact on a company’s success. However, by building relationships with a diverse group of professionals, over time those combined relationships can make a significant difference in one’s business success.

In this video, I share the story of a networker, Chris, who regarded the referrals he received from his fellow members as “chance occurrences” and failed to understand that they were the result of his relationships within the networking group.

Focus on the Relationships

As you heard in the video, Chris’s challenge was two things: repeatability and understanding. His training told him that the way to get more business was to target a certain kind of customer by calling a demographics-based list. If he didn’t have enough business, he needed to make more calls. How many more? He could figure that out, too, because the amount of business he got was directly proportional to the number of people he talked to. It was a repeatable process that he fully understood.

On the other hand, clients he got from referrals always had a story line that he couldn’t see being repeated. Sally knew Jim, who ran into Sue, who happened to be in his group and referred Chris the business. This led him to conclude that the results were coincidental and couldn’t possibly be repeated.

The reason that he focused on the referral and not the relationship is because he didn’t understand the process of building effective and profitable relationships. This led to his conclusion that all the referrals from his networking group, and the subsequent new clients he gained from them, were simply a coincidence.

His reasoning wasn’t entirely off track, as far as it went. If you focus on the specific people who gave you the referral, rather than the process and relationships that allowed it to happen, then you couldn’t consistently get more business from networking. Or to put it another way: Sally knowing Jim, who runs into Sue and ultimately gives Chris a referral is probably never going to happen again in exactly that way. Yet, if you step back and ask, “Is it possible that somebody will know someone else who’s looking for my services and will then give me that referral?” It’s a whole other story—especially if you focus on building relationships so that there is always a “somebody” in your network who knows you and what you do.


Networking with a Net

Referral networking is a lot like catching fish by casting a net. Each fish comes to the net by a different path; each has a “story” that is not repeated. You don’t focus on a particular fish and then try to get it to come to the net. Instead, you focus on the action of setting the net. You know that consistently setting a net will provide fish, regardless of what path they take to get there.

The same is true for getting referrals. The process of meeting people, staying in touch, and then asking for business is something you can do time after time. You don’t have to worry about how a specific referral got to you, because you understand the process of setting your net.

Here’s the best part: Just as with fishing, your net – your network can be working for you all the time. You don’t have to be there whenever somebody you know runs into someone else who could use your product—which means you can be “fishing” in many different ponds simultaneously and reaping the rewards of new business referrals on an on-going basis.

Remember, the fisherman concentrates on the action of casting the net, not the individual path of one fish that swims into it. If they based their success on that one random fish, they could conclude that it was a coincidence.

There is no coincidence about the referrals gained through successful business networking. Your networking results are the inevitable cumulative result of the day-to-day activities related to relationship building and an indication that the system is working. Consistent referrals happen because you’ve laid the groundwork through mutually beneficial, professional relationships.

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When it comes to successful business networking, it is important to recognize the difference between a transactional approach and a relational approach.

My book, “Business Networking and Sex (not what you think),” is based on a survey of 12,000 people from which we found that women and men DO network differently. I share more about it in this short video.

This video is part of my Master Class from the BNI®  2021 Global Convention.

Which is Better?

As your heard in the video, the survey of 12,000 people found that men tend to focus more on transactions than relationships, and women tend to be more relational in the way they approach business networking.

However, it also showed that all people who focused first on building relationships and then on business scored higher in success. When you are focused only on making a sale and completing the transaction, you are never going to create the trust and build the relationship that is needed to generate the business referrals you seek. 

My Experience

My personal tendency is to just go for the facts, and that is not an effective networking practice. It has taken many years for me to learn how to ask questions to find out more about the other person and to be more relational in the conversation.

Successful business networking takes both a mindset – a mental attitude, AND a skillset – a collection of abilities. When you network in a relational way by building connections with other people, you are going to generate more business. Remember, if your network is a mile wide but only an inch deep, it will never be a powerful network. It needs to be both WIDE and, in some places, very DEEP.

What is your experience? Have you found success through the business relationships you’ve built?

 

 

 

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Networking Is All About Referrals

Yes, it is true that networking IS all about referrals…

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Networking Is Simple, But Not Easy

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Business networking is simple; it’s just not easy. If it were easy, everyone would do it and do it well… and people don’t! This is not a step-by-step process that you need to employ to network effectively. This is meant to get you to stop and think about all the articles, blogs, books, podcasts, and videos that you have read or seen in the past and are not yet following through in regard to what you learned. This blog is aimed at helping you to discover what you should be doing rather than focusing only on what you know.

I’ve done presentations around the world talking about how to apply networking to your everyday life. Occasionally someone comes up to me and says, “I’ve heard people talk about some of those things before.”  Hearing it for a year versus doing it for a year are completely different things. Success is about the “doing,” not just the “knowing.” 

I believe that ignorance on fire is better than knowledge on ice! The only thing more powerful is knowledge on fire.

It Looks Simple

There are so many things in life that look simple but are, in fact, not easy. For me, one of those is cooking. It always looks so simple. Some people can go into the kitchen and put a gourmet meal together in 30 to 40 minutes. Me? I get in the kitchen and burn water.

Small repairs around the house are another one of those things that look simple. Then I pick up a hammer and, well… it’s just not pretty. That’s when I’m reminded that I’m missing the “handyman gene.” It skipped a generation in my family. My dad could fix anything; he was incredibly capable with a toolbox. I am not. When I was 17 years old, he took me into the garage and solemnly said to me, “Son, you’d better go to college, because you’re never going to make a living with your hands!” That was good advice –  thanks, Dad.

Another one is the game of golf. Looks simple, right? I’m not talking about professional competition; I mean just going out and smacking the ball around some grass. It sure looks simple. I’ve learned however, that it is not easy.

There are so many things in our lives that look simple but are not easy. Business Networking is one of them. It’s a skill. It is a skill that takes commitment and effort to learn and apply consistently.

A Challenge for You

So, I have a challenge for you. Your assignment after reading this blog is to think of one idea in a book, article, video, podcast–anything that you’ve read or heard over the past year that you wanted to apply to your life but never quite got around to doing. 

I encourage you to find that article, locate that “something” you wanted to do and DO IT within the next seven days. If it’s something you do on an ongoing basis, then find a way to incorporate it into your life and/or your business.

All excuses are equal – so just do it.  Feel free to share the knowledge source (e.g., the video, book, article, etc.) you chose to focus on in the comments below.  The only thing better than applying knowledge is sharing it.

Success is the uncommon application of common knowledge.
You already have the knowledge. Now apply it with uncommon commitment.
It won’t be easy. But I assure you – it’s simple.

Walking into a Networking Event – Where Do You Start?

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Many people walk into a business networking event, look at all the people standing around, and wonder, “Where do I start?” I think a lot of people feel that way. Sometimes I feel that way, too, when I walk into a room. I’ve learned some tips to help networkers get more comfortable meeting new people at these events.
This video is part of my Master Class from the BNI®  2021 Global Convention.

Look for Open Groups of People

When you walk into any networking event, you want to look for the open twos and open threes. You want to see people who are standing slightly askew, so that you can just walk on up and introduce yourself without feeling like you interrupted a private or closed conversation. This is a subtle and significant technique to determine where to go to begin networking  when you go to an event or mixer. 

It is also an effective practice for networking groups, such as BNI chapters. The leadership team can remind members to always stand in open stances because it’s very inclusive. It makes people feel welcome when they can easily step in and have a conversation with the members.

A Suggestion for Introverts

For those of you who are introverts, consider this. It is actually easier to join a larger open group of people at a networking event. I know it seems counterintuitive, however it’s true. If you can find an open four or open five or six, it’s easy to slip in unnoticed and then just slide into the conversation after a while. This is often easier than joining an open two or an open three.

I hope you find these suggestions helpful for your next business networking event or chapter meeting. I’d love to hear about your experience with finding and joining open groups of people at events.

Give Valuable Information to Get More Business

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We all want to do business with people we know and trust. So, how do you build rapport and create trust with new contacts at business networking events? One way is to offer value-added advice – solid, helpful information provided out of a genuine concern for another person.

For instance, a real estate agent may be talking with someone at a networking event who is not ready to buy a home today, however they are considering it soon. The agent could say something like this:
“Well, I know you’re not interested in buying a home right now. When you’re ready to start looking, I highly recommend checking out the north part of town. Many of my clients have seen their homes appreciate in the 10 to 20 percent range, and from what I understand, the city is thinking about building another high school in that area.”

This example shows that it is possible to offer relevant information that has something of value without being too salesy. A statement like this acknowledges that the person is not currently in the market, and yet it still demonstrates the real estate agent’s expertise, making them memorable when it’s time for the new contact to begin house hunting.

This model can be effective for consultants, accountants, financial planners, coaches, and for most professionals in a service-based industry in which knowledge is the main product. 

Give a Little Test Drive

Some people are concerned about giving away their intellectual capital for free. I say look at it this way: very few people are going choose to work with you if they’re not sure you can do the job and provide what they need.

If your business does not have a tangible product, you only have your technical expertise to demonstrate your capability to help them solve their problem. Think about it – when you’re ready to buy an automobile, it doesn’t matter how much research you’ve done on a particular model, you’re probably not going to sign on the dotted line until you’ve taken the car for a test drive.

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

This way of offering advice lead to a positive conversation with new contacts while you’re networking, and it also increases the likelihood of them contacting you when they have a future need for your type of service.  

Prospective Referral Sources

Remember that your networking group members are also your prospective referral sources. Consider the ways that you can give them valuable advice related to your specialty or profession. Perhaps you can tell them about an upcoming change in procedures that will affect them, give tips on how to initiate the changes they will need to make, or provide other pertinent information that can help your chapter members achieve success.

One of the goals of a master connector is to help your networking partners feel that you are a link to privileged and helpful information. The advice you give may lead prospective referral sources to seek you out for answers to their own questions, which is a great way to remind them of what you can do for others.  

Here are some tips to help you decide what to share with your network and how to share it with them:

  • Make a list of the topics that you feel comfortable and confident giving advice on.
  • Decide whether you will share information formally, such as in a newsletter or a presentation at your networking group, or informally, such as a personal note.
  • Determine how frequently you will provide updates on the topics.
  • Ask your sources to think of others who might benefit from your advice.
  • Periodically ask your network members if they find your information useful. You can ask them if they have other questions or topics that you can share, too.
  • Be sure that your network members know that they can tell you if they no longer wish to receive your updates.

Offering valuable information to your network will not only help them, it will also keep you on their minds and encourage them to refer you and speak highly of your professional knowledge to people they know.

A Giving Approach

I learned about the power of giving when I was in my first management position working for private industry. I went to each member of my team and asked, “How can I help you?” By offering to help people with this simple question, I built strong relationships with them and learned what it was that they needed most from me.

I later discovered that this approach worked very well in promoting my consulting services in my own business. I would find ways to help people – even if it meant not selling them my services. The attitude of helping with a ‘giving’ approach was a way to build my credibility and it brought people back to me later when they had a need.

When it comes to building rapport and creating trust, offering value-added advice is one of the best ways to do so. Everyone can benefit when you give valuable information to your business networking group and networking partners.

Have you found it beneficial to share some of your expertise with potential customers? I’d like to read about your experience in the Comment section.

Be a Motivational Speaker for Your Business

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When you watch or listen to a motivational speaker such as Jack Canfield, Brian Tracy or John Maxwell, can you feel the passion flowing through their words and actions? Think back to a speaker’s presentation at a convention or seminar you attended. Was there an energetic buzz in the room afterward? Were the other attendees excited about what they heard?  Usually the answer is YES. However, do you know why?

The hidden element behind a motivational speaker is passion. They have an uncanny ability to share passion through their words, which helps listeners remember their message.

When it comes to business networking success, our personal challenge is to have an extraordinary message that captures the essence of our business and highlights our unique selling proposition (USP). Our USP sets us apart from the competition and helps us get more referrals from our networking groups.

Tapping Into Your Business Passion

Are your referral partners excited about your business? If you’re not sure, ask yourself: Are YOU excited about what you do? Are you passionate about what you do? Hopefully, your answer is yes – you are excited and passionate about your business. You need to convey that feeling to your potential customers and clients, and to your networking partners.

Increasing the excitement about your business can be easy. You can capitalize on your passion and spotlight your uniqueness by answering these questions from your heart rather than your head.

  1. WHY are you excited about your business?
  2. As a professional, what do you do that makes you look forward to going to work each day?
  3. How does your work fulfill you?
  4. What element of your work do you enjoy the most ? Why?
  5. What can you say about yourself or your business that your competition cannot say?

Your answers will help you tap into your passion and incorporate it into your daily message about your work. I believe that successful people have passion about what they do, and it shows in how they describe their business. They are working in their flame and not in their wax.

Public Speaking Tips

After you identify your passion about what you do and develop your USP, it’s time to put them together for an effective business presentation. Whether it is a one-minute presentation, ten minutes, or more, these tips can help make it more comfortable and less stressful when speaking in public.

  1. Be prepared. Have reference notes about what you plan to say and review them ahead of time. Avoid reading them word-for-word.
  2. Be specific. Focus on just one or two parts of your business each time you speak on it. By being specific, you can talk about something you know well and will feel more at ease.
  3. Use visual aids. PowerPoint slides can help you stay on track. In-person handouts assure that your audience takes home important information.
  4. Remember that you are the expert. Nobody knows your business as well as you do. Speak confidently about your experience and your expertise.
  5. Be creative. If talking to a large group makes you uncomfortable, try starting with a Q&A session and share your information in response to the questions.
  6. Tell stories about your business. Make sure to relive the story, don’t just retell it. Relive the story as though you were experiencing it again; this will give you the same kind of excitement you had when it happened and will draw the audience in to the experience with you.

There is no right or wrong way to present to an audience. I recommend that you do what works best for you and for your business in a way that is comfortable for you.

Sharing Your Passion

Many business professionals offer to speak free of charge to service clubs or business organizations as a way of sharing their expertise while getting exposure for themselves and their business. If your product or service is conducive to this approach, tell the members of your personal network that you offer this service, and accept referrals for speaking engagements. Ask your referral partners to share your information with the program chairs of organizations to which they belong, such as chambers of commerce, Rotary, Kiwanis, or the local group of their industry professionals.

REMEMBER: These speaking engagements are NOT a sales pitch. You are there to provide expert information and education to the group and its members.

If you prepare well, incorporate the public speaking tips, and do a good job at these presentations by sharing your passion for your work, you may get many more speaking offers and a lot of new business. I know of a BNI member who took this advice and built her speaking resume by sharing information at chambers of commerce, professional organizations, civic and community groups, high schools, and with active-duty military personnel. Those connections led to being featured on local television, radio, and teaching a class at a community college, all of which helped her business grow.

Remember, nothing great in life has ever been accomplished without passion. When you are passionate about the solutions you provide for your customers and clients, and you share that excitement with your network and your referral partners, they become motivated to help you. When you become a motivational speaker for your business, great things can happen.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. How do you share your passion for what you do?

Related Blog Posts:
https://ivanmisner.com/support-material-techniques-for-increasing-referrals/
https://ivanmisner.com/conquer-your-fear-of-public-speaking/
https://ivanmisner.com/be-passionate-not-pushy/

3 Ways to Attract the Customers You Deserve

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Businesspeople know that they need to get more customers to grow their business and reach their company goals. One of the best ways to gain new clients is through referrals from the people in your networks. I have found that an effective way to receive referrals is to be the go-to problem-solver for your desired target market.

I’m going to share a mini course on how to attract your ideal customer from the book, The Connector Effect, which I co-authored with Graham Weihmiller and Robert Skrob.

Let’s get started. There are three parts to this exercise and all three need to be completed for best results. Within two minutes or less, write a response to each of these questions or requests. Don’t overthink your answers and know that the more you treat this as a lightning-round type of exercise, the more you’ll get out of it.

  1. Describe Your Ideal Customer

Many would-be marketers fail because they never define a target client. Instead, they use words like “everybody” or “anybody.” Defining a target market gives your referral partners a mental picture of the best customer to refer to you.

Answer the following if your clients are consumers:

  1. Think of a person who is already a great customer for you: what area do they live in?
  2. What is their family status and profession?
  3. How does their household income compare with the average?
  4. What are they planning, bragging or complaining about?

If your clients are other businesses, answer these questions:

  1. Think of a company that is already a great customer for you: What line of business is that customer in?
  2. What’s the approximate size?
  3. Who makes the buying decisions for your product or service?
  4. What’s the problem they are trying to solve when buying your product?

When you are specific, you are serving your fellow members in your networking group by giving them a clear idea of your ideal patron. The more detailed you are, the more effective they will be in finding those referrals for you.

  1. What problems are you solving for them?

Too many businesspeople talk about their products and services. This sounds self-serving, however, talking about the problems you solve makes you into a giver who attracts customers.

  1. List at least three problems your good customer has that makes them ideal for your business.
  2. What is the worst thing that could possibly happen to your clients if their problems aren’t solved?
  3. What is the best thing that can happen once their problems are solved?
  4. Do you have success stories to illustrate how you help your customers? (Client testimonials are a great way to give your network a clearer idea of what exactly you deliver, and they demonstrate that your group members can trust you to deliver what you promise.)

  1. Perfect Your Presentation

Now that you’ve identified examples of your experience as a problem-solver, let’s pull the above information into a brief presentation that you can share during business networking meetings, industry events, and business mixers.

Here are the three elements of the perfect business introduction:

  1. State your professional classification.
  2. Tell a brief story about a problem you solved for a customer.
  3. Request a referral – “who do you know who is [insert target customer] who suffers [from the issue you corrected in the brief story].” Be specific!

It’s important to remember that each presentation is only about ONE particular problem that you solved for your client. Avoid the laundry list – if you overshare by telling everything you do, it will dilute the effectiveness of your presentation, resulting in few, if any, referral opportunities.

These three steps will help you develop presentations that attract the customers you want from your referral partners.
Once you learn how to create these presentations for your business, you can also use this skill for any club, charity, or campaign that you lead to develop an easy and memorable way to talk about those activities, too.  

I’d like to hear your feedback and results from doing this exercise. Share your story in the comments section.

Successful Business Networking: Do You Need to Know How to “Sell?”

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The answer is YES. Master networkers know that sales skills are absolutely required for successful referral marketing. Those skills are needed in every part of the process – not just in closing the sale with the prospect.

There have been numerous businesspeople I’ve met over the years who are fantastic networkers and they think that just because they know how to network, they don’t need to know how to sell. They assume that people will like them and then, because they like them, their products or services will sell themselves. This kind of mentality is unfortunate because people who think this way often leave business on the table.

There are three steps in the referral marketing sales process where selling skills are essential.

To Get the Referral

From the very beginning, you must sell yourself to your potential referral source.
Remember, a referral is not a guaranteed sale. A referral is an opportunity to talk with, and possibly do business with, someone to whom you’ve been recommended. You still have to close the deal. You have to make it clear that you know how to sell, and that you can and will provide the products or services that you are expected to provide. And that the customer will be happy with both the process and the result – which will reflect favorably on the person that provided the referral.

If you are unable to make that first “sale,” your potential referral source won’t become a referral partner. They won’t be inclined to risk their reputation and relationship with the prospect and won’t do their part to sell the referral.

To Get the Appointment

Beyond selling yourself to the referral source, you have to sell yourself to the prospect to get that first appointment. Yes, the referral helps a great deal, but you still have to convince the potential buyer that the appointment is worth their time and is likely to result in a favorable outcome for them.

I strongly recommend that networkers avoid being aggressive, indecisive, or evasive at this point. The prospect has been in contact with your referral provider and is expecting a high level of professionalism and respect from you in your approach. Be confident that a mutually beneficial deal is in the works and communicate this to the potential client with your attitude and actions. Strive not to embarrass your referral partner that connected you with this person.

To Get the Sale

Once you have made the appointment, you have to persuade the potential customer to buy your product or service. This is the part that usually comes to mind when you hear the word “sell.” Your integrity is paramount at this stage. They should know exactly what to expect from you – no hidden charges, no unexpected exceptions, and no bait-and-switch.

The number one thing to remember is to make your referral provider look good when you are talking with the person they referred to you. You need to demonstrate that you know how to sell to the prospect in a way that doesn’t reflect poorly back on them. They want to be confident that you will consult with the potential customer, discover their needs, offer solutions based on those needs, give them some options, and you won’t force a sale if you know you are unable to provide a good solution.

Note that in referral marketing, closing the deal with your prospect is neither the beginning nor the end of the selling process. To get to this point, you will have made at least two other sales, as noted above. To build and maintain the long-term relationships that characterize successful referral marketing, you have to follow up with both your new client and with your referral partner as part of the total sales process.

Sales skills are important in business networking. Some people are better at closing sales than others. Having the knowledge and skill to generate the referral, then having the knowledge and skill to close the sale, gives the businessperson a significant advantage.

The sales process is all about keeping an ongoing relationship with the client or customer, AND with your referral partner. This is something that the best referral marketers know and understand. “Sell” is a word that should be in every networker’s vocabulary.

How do you sharpen your sales skills and/or keep an ongoing relationship with your clients/customers?

Getting Comfortable With “NO”string(33) "Getting Comfortable With “NO”"

For business networking success, you need to build deep relationships; learn how to help people; and support your professional connections in some way. However sometimes, just sometimes, you need to say “no” to requests that are made of you.

It’s important to recognize when someone’s opportunity is your distraction. That begins by knowing your own personal or professional mission. Typically, these are situations where their project is not on mission for, nor compatible with, your business or your life. In these situations, you need to learn how to say no. Remember, the word “no” can be a one-word sentence. It’s just not a sentence that I like to use very often; and I think there are a fair number of people that feel the same way.

Don’t get me wrong, I am totally good with saying “no” to people when it is necessary. The secret is how to get comfortable saying “no” and doing it without sounding like you don’t care.

Six Ways to Say “No”

I personally have found that these suggestions are very effective when they are used with respect and sincerity.

I don’t do that.
Sometimes the request and the response I give are very simple.  For example, when someone tries to get me to have a piece of cake or pie – I simply say “thanks, but I don’t eat processed sugar.” When they say something like, “oh, just a bite,” I am comfortable telling them they should feel free to have my bite because I don’t eat sugar.

If I said yes, I’d let you down.
An effective way to tell someone “no” is to tell them that you believe you would let them down if you did what they are asking. It might be because you don’t have the bandwidth, the knowledge, or the expertise to do fulfill their request. In any case, you’re not the person to help make this idea a success and you don’t want to disappoint them.

Refer them to someone more qualified.
When I say “no” to someone, I usually try to refer them to someone else who is more suited or qualified to help them. I like to refer them to someone whose mission is more aligned with the project they want help with.

Propose something else.
When you are unable to do something that you’re being asked to do, offer something else instead. For example, I’m often asked to send some type of communication to my entire mailing list. My answer is always “no.” However, with people I know and trust, I propose something else to maintain the relationship. I offer to post it on my social media instead and that generally works just as well. 

Don’t Seinfeld it.
In the old TV series, Seinfeld, the characters often came up with some crazy, complicated excuse or subterfuge that ended up getting them in more trouble than if they were candid from the start. Always be polite while being honest and direct.

When you say it, mean it.
Be a broken record; be firm. Sometimes, people simply don’t want to take “no” for an answer. I try to be polite, smile, and continue to repeat what I said before.

Saying “No” Due to Someone’s Poor Planning

I once had someone send me a document that they needed to have completed IMMEDIATELY for an important deadline. Mind you, they could have sent the document to me several months earlier. Due to their poor planning, they waited until the last minute to send it to me. At the time, I was out of the country on business with back-to-back trips scheduled over the next few weeks and they were aware that I was in the midst of my travels.

Regardless, they emailed me, my assistant, and my wife THREE times in two days! In between my meetings, I sent them a message and said, “I’m sorry you have a problem, but your project is not my priority due to your poor planning. You had months to send this to me and you sent it at the last moment (when I’m swamped) and you want it right now. NO. I am not able to do it right now.”

I had to be firm with my reply declining their request. I also put the responsibility back in their court, making it very clear why I said NO. Their poor planning did not need to become my priority.

One important reminder: don’t become addicted to “no.” I look for opportunities to help people and to say yes. It’s only when I truly cannot help or when I know I am not a good fit for their request that I say “no” to people.

You have to be clear in your mind whether something is actually an opportunity or a distraction. And then get comfortable saying “no” when it is the best answer for you.

What to Do If You Get a Bad Referral

What to Do If You Get a Bad Referralstring(36) "What to Do If You Get a Bad Referral"

Today’s professionals know that building a network of strong relationships is important to receive good referrals for their business. However, sometimes we receive a referral that is just not that good. It may be that the referral needed something outside our scope of services or products. Sometimes they don’t need anything at all, or they weren’t expecting your call and don’t want to talk with you.

What does one do after receiving a bad referral? My experience is that clear, open, honest, and direct communication that is professional and polite is the only way to solve the problem. It is impossible to get to the heart of the situation without a conversation.

Three Tips for Dealing with a Bad Referral

  1.   Always speak up when you get a bad referral and talk to the person who gave it to you. Tell them tactfully, but tell them! I’ve talked to many people who say, “Oh, I can’t tell someone that the referral they gave me was no good.”

    My reply is, “You can’t afford not to tell them.” Be direct without apologies. Simply say, “This is what happened. I wanted to come to you before I just assumed it was a bad referral,” and then listen to what they have to say. You can listen to an example here.
  2.   Be positive and make sure they know it was the referral they gave that was bad, and not their effort. Let them know that you appreciate them thinking of you and your business. The best way to ensure that you don’t get bad referrals is to teach people what you consider to be a good referral. This is different for each person and varies widely among professions. You cannot assume that everyone in your networking group knows what kind of referral you are seeking. You need to be specific and clear about what constitutes a good referral for you and educate your referral partners.
  3.   If that doesn’t work, go to your networking group’s membership committee. Don’t talk to other people in the group. It is extremely unhelpful when people talk about each other and not to each other first. Share your concerns with the membership committee. They may have received other complaints about that member giving bad referrals. A good membership committee of a chapter will have a conversation with them and take appropriate action as needed.

Bonus Tip: Track Your Referrals

An effective way to make sure you get good referrals is to monitor the referrals you receive. This can be helpful in several ways. It shows you how often you get referrals, who your referral sources are, the quality of the referral, the status of it, and how much money successfully closed referrals bring to your business. If you don’t know this information today, you may want to consider implementing a tracking system for monitoring your future networking efforts. Over the years, I have observed that people who use systems generate more business.

Referrals and Reputations

When you give a business referral, you give a little bit of your reputation away. So when you are giving referrals, make sure to give good ones. Talk to the potential customer about your networking partner and how they can possibly help them. Ask permission to have your friend call them before you share their phone number. If you give someone a bad referral it can seriously hurt your reputation in your networking group and in the business community. Of course, when you give a good referral, it helps your reputation.

For years I have said that one of the strengths of a BNI® networking group is that most of the members are friends. One of the potential weaknesses of a BNI group is that most of the members are friends. Accountability is key.

If you find yourself in a situation of getting a bad referral, follow the first tip above and talk to the member who gave that referral. You never know what might come out of that conversation.

Four Ways to Grow Your Businessstring(31) "Four Ways to Grow Your Business"

We all want sustainable growth in our business. The question is: where to begin? Success expert and author Brian Tracy said, “When all you have is a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail.”

We can do more than walk around with a hammer. I think we can be more strategic by identifying four ways to grow your business and examining the pros and cons of each.

  1. Advertising

This is often the first place businesses go to drive growth, especially if they don’t know where else to start. There are numerous advertising options available including online, television, radio, print, newsletters, billboards, coupons and other promotions, bus benches, and even posting a business card on the local community bulletin board.

The Pros of Advertising

  • The potential to reach masses of people in a short time frame.
  • Very little work or effort because an expert is hired to do it.
  • It can generate a large volume of leads.
  • It can be targeted to specific demographics and to different geographic areas.

The Cons of Advertising

  • Potentially the most expensive way to grow a business.
  • If an advertising campaign is not strategically executed, it could have zero results.
  • Some statistics show that 80% of sales come after at least five impressions or contacts with potential customers. There needs to be a commitment to a long-term strategy with advertising campaigns.
  • Consumers are bombarded with ads, and it can be difficult to break through the clutter and capture their attention.

  1. Public Relations

Public relations (PR) manages the message between a company or individual and the public. Good PR helps build visibility, boost credibility, and enhance the reputation of a brand or company through storytelling, and by promoting a company’s products and services. This is usually accomplished through press releases, feature stories on television news broadcasts, and/or articles in newspapers, magazines, or websites.

The Pros of PR

  • It is a cost-effective approach to building positive awareness about a brand.
  • PR is an efficient tool for building credibility, especially through media relations.
  • The third-party endorsement and support of a quality journalist who covers a story about your company can be invaluable.
  • Good PR can enhance and amplify other marketing efforts.

The Cons of PR

  • PR is generally about brand building. It is not about immediate sales.
  • It takes time to build relationships with both journalists and with the public. Public relations results are not instantaneous.
  • Measuring the results of any marketing initiative is critical. However, it is often difficult to evaluate the success of a PR campaign because it is not traditional marketing.

  1. Cold Calling

About ninety-seven percent of salespeople don’t like to make cold calls. That means the remaining three percent who claim to like cold calling are either lying or are gluttons for punishment. If so many salespeople dislike cold calling, why do they continue to do it? Perhaps it is that cold calling may seem to be the most direct route to conceivable new business.

The Pros of Cold Calling

  • It allows someone to hone their skill of leaving the prefect voicemail message which will never be returned by most of the prospects being called.
  • Cold calling builds character, which is supposedly good for you.
  • If you make enough cold calls, someone will eventually take pity on you and just maybe buy something.

The Cons of Cold Calling

  • It’s a cold call.
  • It can take hundreds of cold calls before there are any signs of potential success.
  • There are hundreds of calls to follow up with.
  • Cold call recipients often reject the caller or just hang up on them.

  1. Networking and Referrals

One of the best opportunities for new business comes in the form of a referral. A referral is the most qualified form of new opportunities and is also a compliment to you and your business. Think about it: there is often nothing to gain on the part of the person giving the referral except their desire to recognize how great you are by allowing you to take care of their family, friends, and business associates.

The Pros of Networking and Referrals

  • The closing ratio for referred clients is 300 – 700 percent higher than for cold call leads.
  • Referred customers stay four times longer than non-referred customers.
  • Clients from referrals buy 3-4 times more in the first year than those from other sources.
  • Referred customers are more likely to refer you to their family, friends, and co-workers in the future.

The Cons of Networking and Referrals

  • Quality referrals cannot be purchased. They must be earned with the investment of time and energy needed to develop deep business relationships.
  • Without a referral marketing system or strategy, referrals can be infrequent and random.
  • Profitable referral relationships take longer to develop because they are based on trust.

  • Now that you are familiar with the four ways to grow your business and understand the pros and cons for each, you can make an educated decision about what will work best for your business. It is likely that you will use (or already have used) a unique blend of all four of them. As a businessperson, I have used all of them at some point in my career.

My experience from more than three decades of growing and running a business is that referrals are the least costly form of business growth, and they typically produce better long-term results.

I invite you to share your experience and thoughts in the comment section.

They’ll Interview Anyone With a Bookstring(38) "They’ll Interview Anyone With a Book"

My assistant recently asked me about something I said during a presentation. She thought it seemed to contradict what I have previously shared about self-talk and the power of our words.

In that presentation I was talking about the early days of BNI®, the international networking organization I founded, and how I tried to get some publicity by contacting the local media. They asked what I was promoting and when I said, “My company,” they suggested that I take out an advertisement.

I continued telling the story by saying, “However, I discovered that the media would interview any idiot with a book, and I have 26.”

My assistant questioned the word ‘idiot’ because it seemed incongruent with my typical positive words. I realized that I hadn’t shared the context behind that line. So now I am going to share the rest of the story.

Going back to those early days of wanting publicity for my business…

Yes, the media LOVES to interview people who have written a book. And as a new author, I sure was excited when I was invited to be on a television morning show to talk about my book!

It was an early interview and I arrived on time that morning. They took me to the guest waiting room until it was my turn to join the hosts on the set. At this point, I’m feeling great; I’m feeling really good about myself and my accomplishments thus far. I am anticipating the increased interest in my organization that would result from the publicity boost of being on TV.

And then a man walked into the room. He was completely dressed as a vampire, a full-on, unmistakable vampire with the black cape, the dark eyes, and the vampire teeth. Keep in mind, that this was not October, and it was not the season for Halloween costumes.

Well, I just had to ask. I asked him what he was doing dressed like that. He reached into his cape, took out a book, and proudly said, “I wrote a book on vampirism!”

To which I thought to myself, “They’ll interview anyone with a book.”

That is the reason I said what I said in my presentation. Every time I tell the story about getting publicity for my company through interviews about my books, I always visualize that guy. Those words that I thought back then in that waiting room are fresh in my mind and I share them when I’m telling the story.

We laughed as I told my assistant all of this and she said, “Oh, I get it now. I love it!”

It’s all about the context. Sometimes you have to share a bit more information for people to fully understand your message. 

What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear them.

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