Soft Science Yields Hard Resultsstring(32) "Soft Science Yields Hard Results"


I want to delve into a concept that has been central to my philosophy throughout my career: the idea that “caring is a soft science that yields hard results.” In the world of business, networking, and personal development, the term “soft science” often refers to fields such as psychology, emotional intelligence, or communications. While these fields may not involve mathematical equations or lab experiments, they play a vital role in understanding human behavior and interactions. When it comes to achieving lasting success in any area of life, including business, caring, and cultivating genuine relationships are essential elements that often produce tangible, “hard” results.

The Power of Relationships

Relationships are the foundation of success in both personal and professional life. As someone who has spent decades researching, teaching, and practicing effective networking, I’ve witnessed firsthand the transformational power of meaningful connections. Building strong relationships is not about superficial interactions or transactional exchanges but about genuinely caring for others and seeking mutual benefit. This approach represents the soft science of human connection, and it undoubtedly yields hard results in terms of professional achievements, personal fulfillment, and overall well-being.

Networking: A Soft Skill with Hard Outcomes

Networking is often perceived as a soft skill; a domain where personal qualities and interpersonal dynamics outweigh technical expertise. However, the tangible outcomes of effective networking are undeniable. When individuals take the time to build authentic relationships, they tap into a vast reservoir of opportunities, referrals, and resources. These connections can lead to concrete results such as increased sales, job opportunities, and business growth.

Consider a scenario where two entrepreneurs, Alice and Bob, start their respective businesses in the same industry simultaneously. Alice prioritizes building a strong network and invests in nurturing relationships with mentors, peers, and potential clients. Bob, on the other hand, focuses solely on perfecting his product engaging in transactional activities and ignores the soft science of networking and relationship building. Over time, Alice’s network begins to refer clients and collaborators, while Bob struggles to gain traction. The tangible, hard results of Alice’s caring and relationship-building efforts become evident as her business flourishes, while Bob faces frustration and roadblocks.

Trust: The Currency of Success

Trust is a cornerstone of any successful relationship, whether in business or personal life. Trust is the ultimate “soft” concept, rooted in emotions, perceptions, and intangible factors. Yet, it leads to concrete, “hard” results. When people trust you, they are more likely to do business with you, refer others to you, and collaborate on projects. Trust accelerates decision-making processes, reduces transaction costs, and fosters loyalty.

Think about a renowned brand like Apple. Their commitment to quality, customer satisfaction, and innovation has cultivated an immense level of trust among consumers. While trust itself cannot be measured on a balance sheet, Apple’s hard results, including record-breaking sales and market capitalization, are a testament to the power of this soft science.

Caring as a Competitive Advantage

In today’s hypercompetitive business landscape, differentiating oneself from the competition is crucial. Caring can be the key differentiator that sets individuals and organizations apart. When you genuinely care about your customers, clients, employees, and partners, you create an emotional connection that goes beyond the transactional. This emotional connection fosters customer loyalty, employee retention, and long-lasting partnerships.

Consider the example of Zappos, the online shoe and clothing retailer. Zappos has built its reputation on exceptional customer service, and caring is at the heart of their corporate culture. Employees are encouraged to go above and beyond to delight customers, even if it means spending hours on the phone to ensure a customer finds the perfect pair of shoes. This commitment to caring has translated into hard results for Zappos, including high customer retention rates and word-of-mouth referrals, contributing to their success in the competitive e-commerce industry.

Personal Fulfillment and Well-Being

While much of this discussion has focused on the professional realm, it’s important to acknowledge that caring also has profound effects on personal fulfillment and well-being. The soft science of caring extends to our relationships with friends, family, and community. When we genuinely care about the well-being of others, we experience a sense of purpose, fulfillment, and happiness that enriches our lives.

In a study conducted by Harvard University, researchers found that strong, supportive relationships were the most significant predictor of happiness and life satisfaction. These soft, emotional connections had a direct impact on individuals’ overall well-being, demonstrating the undeniable link between caring and personal fulfillment.

In the world of business, networking, and personal development, caring may be considered a soft science, but its results are anything but soft. The power of relationships, trust, and caring as a competitive advantage are undeniable. When we prioritize building genuine connections and nurturing relationships, we tap into a wellspring of opportunities, referrals, and resources that lead to concrete, “hard” results.

As we navigate our professional journeys and seek to achieve lasting success, let us remember that caring is not a weakness; it is a strength. It is a fundamental element of the soft science of human connection, and it is the catalyst for achieving hard results in business and in life. So, let us embrace the power of caring, cultivate meaningful relationships, and watch as it transforms our personal and professional landscapes, propelling us toward unprecedented success and fulfillment.

Strong Relationships Anchor Networking Groupsstring(45) "Strong Relationships Anchor Networking Groups"

This blog comes from a family vacation several years ago. We took a multi-day tour of the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia on a small ship. The first night we noticed that the anchor being used to secure our small ship in the middle of the vast Coral Sea was quite small compared with the size of the ship itself. The sight of this seemingly inadequate anchor piqued our interest.

The second night of our voyage, while we were anchored off Hope Island, some very strong winds began to kick up. In response, our captain decided to start the engines and back the ship up, allowing more of the anchor chain to be let out. We were curious, and admittedly a bit concerned, which led us to ask the captain how it was possible for such a modest anchor to hold the ship in place against the relentless wind gusts.

The captain’s explanation was profound and carried a valuable lesson. “It’s the chain that is holding the ship, not the anchor,” he informed us. Apparently, after the anchor is lowered, the captain receives signals from the first mate, who is stationed at the prow of the ship, indicating the direction in which the chain is positioned on the sea bottom. The captain can then maneuver accordingly and release the appropriate length of chain to maintain stability considering the particular conditions at that time.

That night, with the winds growing stronger, the captain realized that he needed to let out more of the chain to keep us steady, which he did.

The Anchor Represents the Process

The relevance of this maritime analogy to business networking groups became unmistakable. In networking groups, the anchor represents the system or the process through which business is conducted. However, the strength of a networking group is not solely determined by the anchor (the system/process) itself. Instead, it hinges on the quality and depth of relationships formed among its members.

Let’s apply this insight to your networking group. Think of the relationships you have established with other members as the links in the chain. How many “links” do you have in your chain? Do you have strong and solid relationships with all of the other members in the group? Or are you closely linked with solid connections to some members and less connected or detached from others for various reasons?

How do we go about adding more links – building more relationships – so we can let out more chain during times when the economic winds have strengthened against our businesses? We need to be intentional about developing stronger relationships with every member of our networking group, even those who may not seem to have the exact contacts or businesses that align perfectly with ours.

Naturally, we tend to build relationships more easily with businesses closely related to our own. But what about those members whose businesses appear unrelated or disconnected from ours, those who may seem incapable of providing referrals that match our needs?

Add More Links to Your Chain

This is where one-to-one meetings come into play. Scheduling one-to-one meetings with every member of your networking group is a proactive approach to extend and reinforce the chain of relationships. Each member is a link in the chain, and expanding these connections is critical. Investing your time in one-to-one meetings with each and every member of your group helps you develop a longer and stronger chain of relationships. Remember, each person in your networking group is one of the links that lengthens that chain.

The wisdom of extending the chain to enhance the anchor’s ability to hold steady is vital for the success of your networking group. As we embark on this journey, let’s make it our primary objective to cultivate and strengthen our relationship chain within our networking groups. Rest assured, it will serve as the anchor for your business and your group, ensuring longevity and resilience, regardless of economic fluctuations.

We can learn a profound lesson from a small anchor in the Coral Sea – the strength of your networking group lies in the quality and number of relationships you build within it. Just as the chain, not the anchor, secures the ship, your network of relationships is what will anchor your business through both fair winds and storms. So, let’s start strengthening our relationship chains today for future networking success.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this in the comment section below.

Support Materials To Increase Referrals

Using Support Materials to Increase Referralsstring(45) "Using Support Materials to Increase Referrals"

When it comes to business networking, are you receiving as many referrals as you would like to be getting?  If not, I recommend that you look at the support materials and techniques you are currently using and then continue reading for some effective ways to influence people to refer you. Some of these suggestions may not work for everyone, however the idea is to select those that you think you can apply in your own business or profession.

Samples

Whenever you have an opportunity to distribute your materials, do it. Bring products, samples, brochures, or a presentation book. Many networking groups provide a display table where members can place these items. If people can see, touch, hear, or smell samples of the product or service you provide, they are more likely to use and recommend your company. Occasionally, you may want to offer special, members-only prices or services. When the members of your network use your services or products, they are much more likely to refer you.

Presentation Books

Everyone who is active in networking groups can benefit by developing a presentation book. Invest in a high-quality binder that attractively displays samples of your products or services, brochures, photographs, etc. Take this to your meetings, set it on the display table or place it where you are sitting during the meeting.

Free Presentations or Demonstrations 

Many business professionals offer to speak free of charge to service clubs or business organizations as a way of getting exposure and promoting 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 speaking engagements as bona fide referrals. Ask them to mention you to the program chairs of organizations to which they belong.

If you are well prepared and do a good job at these presentations, you may find yourself getting many more speaking offers and a lot of new business. This technique is effective for almost any profession and it’s particularly helpful for consultants, financial planners, therapists, accountants/CPAs, and attorneys.

Door Prizes

Smart business professionals know that people who have tried their products or services will probably use them again. I highly recommend that you offer door prizes regularly at your networking groups at the appropriate opportunity and be sure to attach your business card so the winner knows where to get more and who to get it from.

Keep in Touch Regularly

Meet people outside of your normal networking meetings whenever you can. Write emails, cards or letters, send articles that might be of interest, call to check in, let them know about a local business mixer, have lunch, play racquetball, tennis, or golf.
Reinforce the relationship with a thank-you note. When someone gives you a referral or some important information, send them a thank-you note or gift basket. This reinforcement will strengthen the bond and encourage that person to think of you again.

Follow-Up

Knowing how to get referrals is really a matter of knowing how to be helpful to the people you associate with and how to ask for help in return. A successful referral marketing program involves creating an effective support system for yourself that is mutually beneficial and works to the advantage of others.

However, all the networking in the world serves no purpose if you don’t follow up effectively with the people you meet or who are referred to you. I’ve seen people who work hard at making contacts, but their follow-up was so bad that the contacts were lost. It is as if they networked halfway and then completely lost sight of the potential to generate business by referral. Follow-up letters, messages, and phone calls set the stage for further contact. All things being equal, the more you’re in contact with others, the more business you will generate. Today, more than ever, there is no excuse for not following up. Why? Because we all have many modes of communication and there are many companies that produce numerous follow-up cards, thank-you cards, and contact methods especially designed for networking.

Schedule “reconnection calls” regularly. These calls enable you to remind the new contacts who you are, where you met them, and what you do, as well as help you stay in touch with your long-term contacts. If you don’t follow up with a phone call or letter, you will surely lose many business opportunities.

Which of these support materials and techniques have you successfully used for your business? I’d like to hear about it in the comments section.

Networking Is About More Than Just Talking Businessstring(51) "Networking Is About More Than Just Talking Business"

Many people think that networking consists only of talking about business and exchanging cards. That is a misconception, which is definitely part of it. However, it is not all of it.

In a networking group, you want to talk about more than just business with your fellow members. A referral relationship is more than, “I do business, you do business, let’s do business.” A much better approach is to find common ground on a personal level, make connections with other people, then talk about each other’s businesses.

The longer I’ve been involved in networking, the more I’ve seen the power of personal interests in making connections with potential referral partners. Successful networking is about building personal relationships. If you remove the personal part from the equation, you limit the amount of business that can happen.

The GAINS Exchange

Years ago, I developed the GAINS Exchange for BNI® members. The acronym stands for Goals, Accomplishments, Interests, Networks, and Skills. The idea is to have people share personal and professional information about themselves in those five areas to find overlapping interests or activities. For instance, if you and I have a common goal of completing a marathon, that gives us something more to talk about. We share both a goal and an interest, which opens the door to an engaging conversation and strengthens our connection.

In one BNI chapter I worked with when I was testing this out, there were two participants who had known each other for more than a year but had never done business with each other and really hadn’t made any connection at all. It wasn’t that they didn’t like each other; their businesses were very different, and they didn’t seem to have anything in common. They did not want to do the GAINS Exchange together. However, once they did, they found that they were both coaches for their sons’ soccer/football teams. They quickly became close friends and started helping each other conduct certain aspects of the soccer practices and shared coaching techniques.

Guess what? Within a few months after they started interacting on a personal level, they started passing business to each other. That’s right – they began referring business to each other. Two guys who had barely spoken to each other for a year because they had so little in common, ended up doing business with each other because they built a relationship over soccer, over football. Who would have thought that? I certainly didn’t, and yet when I saw the results, I knew that this was an essential business technique for people to build their business by referral.

Using GAINS Effectively

I recommend that BNI members use the GAINS Exchange every time they have a One-to-One meeting with fellow members. It is most effective to take turns – I talk about my Interests, both personal and professional, and then YOU talk about your Interests. Then I talk about my Accomplishments, and you tell me about yours, and so on. By doing it back and forth, you each have the opportunity to ask questions that allow you to discover your common interests. This is the foundation for a successful, mutually beneficial business relationship.


During your first One-to-One with another member, you may want to start with Interests first, which are often the beginnings of a relationship.

It’s okay to go out of order, as long as you each get to talk about all five of the GAINS topics.

 

 

Keep in mind that your GAINS Exchange information will need to be updated a few times each year. When one of your Goals becomes an Accomplishment, it needs to be noted. If you learn to speak Spanish, add it to your Skills section. Joining a Rotary Club is another Network on your GAINS profile. The most successful networkers meet with their fellow chapter members more than once, allowing them to find out what’s new.

  • Goals are how we help one another. It’s much easier to give referrals to someone when you know what they are trying to achieve
  • Knowing someone else’s Accomplishments lets you build their credibility.
  • Interests help us find common ground and build rapport.
  • Discovering each other’s different Networks lets us connect one another to diverse professionals.
  • Skills provide more credibility and open doors to doing business.

Business networking really is much more than simply telling someone what you do for work. It’s all about referrals. The goal is to build relationships with people that you know and trust. When you know and trust them, you are going to have the comfort to refer them to others and they will do the same for you.


By talking about more than just business with our potential referral partners, we find common, non-business interests that endear us to the other person. We move beyond salesperson and become a friend.

I’d like to hear from you. How has talking about more than just business helped you build your professional relationships?

 

 

 

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