A Positive Approach to Problem-Solving: Ask “Why So High?”string(62) "A Positive Approach to Problem-Solving: Ask “Why So High?”"

Years ago, I began using a technique in my business that I learned from my friend Dr. Mark McKergow, co-author of The Solutions Focus. It was a game-changer in dealing with the negative attitudes that tend to arise when a company is trying to problem-solve.

It is human nature to focus on the problems and not the solutions. In fact, many times people seem to fixate on the problems over and over and over again. They focus on them to the point that they become experts – on the problem. I’ve discovered that it is critical that we facilitate a “mindset – reset” with people like this in an organization to get them to focus on the solutions instead of the problems.

For example, when talking to a group of franchisees, employees, or even members of my organization, BNI®, I learned to ask a series of questions about the anxiety they had on any particular issue. For instance, I might ask a group, “What are some of the things that are a problem for you?” Sometimes, they might say something like, “Referrals. We’re not getting enough quality referrals.” Once I knew the problem, I was able to apply the process.

Know the Scale of the Problem

First, I would start by telling them that I think I can help them with the solution to this problem. I would then ask the person who posed the problem the following question: “On a scale from 1 – 10 with 1 meaning that you are getting no quality referrals at all and 10 meaning that you are getting more quality referrals than you ever imagined, what score would you give to the problem?”

Ironically, people to whom I’ve asked this type of question almost always say something close to a 4. So, in this example, let’s say the person says to me that the score they give the problem is a 4. My response to that statement is always… “Why so high?” When I say that, the person almost always looks totally perplexed and says something along the lines of, “no, I said a 4 – that’s low right?” I’ll respond by saying, “yes, I understand – you said a 4 out of 10. But my question is – why did you rank it a 4 instead of a 3 or a 2? Name just one thing that made you give it a score of a 4 instead of something lower.” They then offer one positive reason why they ranked the problem a 4 instead of a lower number.

Pinpoint What Is Working

Now, and this is important, I go to someone else – I don’t let the person with the complaint control the dialogue. I go to the rest of the room and say, “Someone else, give me just one factor for you, just one, that is working for you on this issue.” Then someone else inevitably gives me another. I repeat the procedure over and over again with different people. Each time I write down the answer (preferably on a flip chart where everyone can see the comments). Ironically, I almost always have someone who says something like this, “Actually, I wouldn’t give it a 4, I think it’s higher, I’d give it a 7 or an 8. Again, I say “great, why so high?” They then add their thought to the list which I write down on the flip chart.

Review Solution Options

Once I have a fair number of ideas (somewhere between eight and twelve), I slowly review the entire list with everyone stopping on the items that I think are particularly effective and explaining why I believe they are important. At this point I say something that surprises almost everyone. I say, “Actually, I don’t think you need my help. You already know what it takes to solve this problem. You have done a fantastic job of outlining almost everything that it takes to overcome your challenge and be successful with this list. If you do most of the things on this list that you gave me, you are going to create one of the most successful groups we have in the organization.” Then, I promise to meet with their leadership team after the meeting and help them triage the list to prioritize the topics in order of importance for the group.

All too often, when people are facing a problem, they tend to focus on the negatives. They continue to put their attention on what is not working instead of looking at what is working. The truth is, if we focus on the problems, we just find more problems. However, if we focus on the solutions, we find more solutions. Solutions are what the world needs. We have enough problems.

In Business Networking, Desperation is Not Referablestring(53) "In Business Networking, Desperation is Not Referable"

People want to do business with people that they know, like, and trust. Business networking is all about relationships, and successful networkers know that they need to get to know potential referral partners by investing time with them.

However, there are some people who are desperate to make a sale and think that networking is an easy way to get new customers. When people demonstrate certain behaviors as part of their networking efforts, it is a tell-tale sign of desperation.

I have identified four behavior types exhibited by desperate networkers.

The Card Dealer

This is the most common form of desperation that I’ve seen over the years. The Card Dealer is a person that darts around the networking event handing out their business cards like they are the dealer at a poker table. They don’t spend time really getting to know anyone unless they think they can get something from them. To the Card Dealer, networking is mostly a numbers game. The more people they can pass their cards to, the better they’re doing (or so they think). Card Dealers tend to have a personal network that is a mile wide but an inch deep because they don’t spend time building relationships. It never works in the long-run and they just look inexperienced, frazzled, and yes – desperate.

The Space Violator

This is the person who thinks that the closer they get when they are talking to you, the more you’ll be interested in what they are saying. Not true. In fact, it has the opposite effect. Which brings the question: what is the right distance to stand from someone without getting into their personal space? The answer varies based on the cultural standards of the country you are in. In North America, it’s common to have conversations at “arm’s length” with people that you meet at a networking event. In my experience, that distance is often less in some countries around the world. 

The Premature Solicitor

This is the person who confuses networking with direct selling. They meet you and immediately go into sales mode. They want you to do business with them without asking any questions about you, your business, your interests, or even your name. To this person, everyone is a target, and every target is a dollar sign. These people are the reason why many individuals don’t like to go to networking events because they feel pursued and uncomfortable by people soliciting them for business. 

The New Best Friend

Following-up with people you meet at a networking event is important. But be a professional – not a stalker. The New Best Friend is the over-eager seller you meet at a networking event  who calls you, emails you, messages you on social media, and tries to become your New Best Friend in the space of a few days. Generally, they’re not really trying to help you – they simply want to sell something to you. Granted, they may want to sell something to you because in their mind – it’s only to “help you,” however, it’s never really about you. It’s about what they want from you. Desperation oozes from every attempted contact they make with you.

 

Remember that networking is more about farming, than it is about hunting.

Keep  these behaviors in mind when you go to networking events and whatever you do – don’t demonstrate these behaviors yourself. Desperation is not referable.

Are Networking Referrals a Coincidence

Are Networking Referrals a Coincidence?string(39) "Are Networking Referrals a Coincidence?"

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.

Eight Categories of Referral Sources for Your Business

Eight Categories of Referral Sources for Your Businessstring(54) "Eight Categories of Referral Sources for Your Business"

Referrals are often the most profitable way to gain new customers. And the only way to get referrals is through other people in your network.
I’ve found that most networkers only focus on existing clients as their main source for business referrals. However, there are seven other referral sources which can also be developed to generate opportunities for new referrals.

  1. Satisfied Clients
    One of your best referral sources is satisfied clients. Having firsthand experience with your products or services, they are true believers and can give convincing testimonials about you. Stay in touch with these customers; they are your top fans, your best promoters, and they can be very effective in helping others decide to do business with you.

  2. People in Your Contact Sphere
    A Contact Sphere is a group of businesses and professions that complement, rather than compete with, your business. Each of them has customers who can benefit from the services of the others. For instance: event planner, caterer, photographer, and florist.

  3. People Whose Business Benefits from Yours
    These are the people who get more business when you get more business: your suppliers and vendors. If you sell workbooks, the printer who prints them for you benefits. It is in these other businesses’ self-interest to give you referrals.

  4. Others with Whom You Do Business
    Think about the people you go to for your personal and professional needs. Your own business may not have anything to do with dentistry or hairstyling or automobiles, but in your everyday life you do business with a dentist, a hairstylist, auto mechanic, and many more. If you’ve been using their services for some time, they probably know what you do and that you’re a reliable, trustworthy person. Sometimes this is all the recommendation a potential client needs.

  5. Staff Members
    Except for customers, no one understands better than staff members how your products or services perform. Every member of your staff from all departments gives your business a boost when they talk with their friends, neighbors, and people they meet in their daily lives. Remember that working for your company will always be a part of your former staff members’ history, too, and is often part of their conversation with prospects as well.

  6. People to Whom You’ve Given Referrals
    You’re more likely to get a referral from someone to whom you’ve given a referral or helped them in some way. The best networkers believe in the “givers gain” philosophy (what goes around comes around). The more you give to others, the more you’ll get in the future.

  7. People Who Have Given You Referrals
    People who give you referrals for business, or direct others to you for advice, are demonstrating that they think highly of you and what you do. If they didn’t, they would refer people elsewhere. Strengthen and nurture these prospective referral sources; don’t take them for granted. Show your appreciation with personal communication and by referring prospects to them.

  8. Other Members of Business Referral Groups
    Referral groups are set up by their members mainly to exchange business referrals. A typical weekly meeting of such a group includes time devoted exclusively to networking and referring business. Get to know your fellow members to build mutually beneficial relationships that help each other’s businesses grow.

Community Service Organizations

As you think about the people you know in the eight different groups of referral sources, you may find that many of them are from community service groups you are involved with. These types of organizations give business professionals an opportunity to give something back to their community and to make valuable contacts.

While these groups exist primarily for community service, they also provide an excellent opportunity for businesspeople to meet regularly and develop relationships.
Local service organizations are usually populated with the movers and shakers of the community. Those who are long-term, active, and contributing members of such groups usually end up befriending people who can open doors and present little-known opportunities for them.

With any business organization, particularly service clubs, it is very important to remember that making effective contacts and building deep business relationships is a journey, not a destination.

Savvy professionals who know and cultivate their most likely referral sources get the largest number of high-quality referrals, and the more referrals they get, the more revenue they generate in the long run.

I urge you to make a commitment to reach out and connect with at least one person from two or three of these eight commonly untapped referral sources to start developing and strengthening your business relationship with your potential referral partner.

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

Successful Business Networking: Do You Need to Know How to “Sell”?string(70) "Successful Business Networking: Do You Need to Know How to “Sell”?"

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?

The Power of One Conversation

The Power of One Conversationstring(29) "The Power of One Conversation"

Sometimes one conversation can create the pebble-in-the-pond dynamic that changes people’s lives. It may be a kind word to someone you know who is feeling overwhelmed or despondent. It may be a helpful gesture to someone you don’t know who needed to feel noticed that day. It can even be an invitation to a business networking event. This is the story of one such invitation.

The Power of One Invitation

A realtor in the U.S. was attending a local Chamber of Commerce mixer where a woman introduced herself and they began talking. At the end of the conversation she said, “I am part of a business networking group and we have breakfast every Wednesday morning. I’d love to invite you to breakfast, would you like to come?” He replied, “Absolutely.” On the following Wednesday he attended the meeting and was very impressed. He felt welcomed when he arrived and was pleasantly surprised with the structured way the meeting was run and with the business referrals that were being passed between the members. After the meeting, he chatted with some of them, and they invited him back for a second visit the following week.

The next week when he returned to the networking group, he found out that there could only be ONE residential realtor in that chapter. The member who was the realtor happened to be someone he knew, and she said to him, “You ought to think about starting your own chapter.” She then gave him the name and contact information of the person who could answer any questions if he wanted to find out more about it.

He called that day and after an hour-long conversation they decided to start a new BNI® chapter. That chapter grew into a group of businesspeople who built deep professional relationships with each other. Along with passing referrals that turn into revenue for each other’s companies, they care about and support each other.

A Culture of Caring

When devastating wildfires went through their community, 900 houses were lost. Several of the chapter members and their families were among those evacuated from their homes. Their fellow BNI members welcomed them into their homes, giving them a place to stay during those fires.

Yes, that one conversation between two attendees of a networking event was very powerful. It brought together dozens of people who created a group with a culture of caring and of welcoming visitors. They’ve passed referrals that have generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in closed business for the members of the group. That one conversation grew into a caring community that goes beyond a weekly chapter meeting. It brought together people who support each other with a Givers Gain® attitude and a genuine desire to help each other succeed.   

Do you have a networking story about one conversation?  I invite you to share it here.

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.

Are-Referrals-Always-Reciprocal

Are Referrals Always Reciprocal?string(32) "Are Referrals Always Reciprocal?"

Some people think about business networking as a game of Who is giving what to whom, always wondering how they can score more.  I caution those people that there is no rule that says, “For every referral you give, you can expect one in return.” Similarly, when you hand out more referrals, it does not mean that other business professionals will automatically do the same. It just doesn’t work that way in referral marketing. A referral is not always reciprocal.

Effective business networking is about building deep relationships with referral partners. Entrepreneurs who focus on giving first and asking “What can I do to help you?” instead of “What’s in it for me?” are usually more successful in their networking efforts.

Talk to Them

If you find that you are giving someone a lot of referrals and you are not getting anything in return, the first thing to do is to sit down with them. Be tactful and respectful. Rather than saying, “I have given you all of these referrals. How come you have not given any to me?” you can instead sit down with them and review all the business referrals you have given them in a way that shows you care about their success. Remember, it is not an interrogation: “Hey, I have given you this. I have given you that.” It is a conversation.

A good way to start the conversation is like this. “I think I have given you three referrals this year. I want to talk about how they worked out for you. I gave you this one to the ABC Company. How was that referral? Oh, that turned into business for you? What did you think of working with that person?”

Ask them how each and every referral you’ve given worked out for them. Discuss one at a time and thoroughly review that referral; ask questions about what transpired after you gave it to them. This is important. Make sure that the referrals you gave were as good as you think they were. Don’t make assumptions about them. You may have thought it was platinum and it turned out to be dirt.

Sometimes we find out that none of the referrals worked out. They may not have worked out because they were not quite as good as you thought. If they didn’t turn out as well as you thought that they would, talk about it. Ask them how you could improve in giving them quality referrals. And then listen to what they say!

By the way, that is a good question to ask even if the referrals did work out. “I am really glad that the referrals worked out. How could I improve in giving you additional quality referrals?” This is all part of building and strengthening the relationship.

How to Talk About You

After you have invested the time to talk about each referral you’ve given AND you find that all the referrals you gave to your networking partner were good and beneficial for them, you can tell them how glad you are that you were able to help them.
Then and ONLY then, do you say this:
“I am pleased that the referrals worked out for you; that is what our networking group is all about- supporting one another and giving each other referrals.” Then you can say that sending business referrals your way would be helpful to you, too. Ask if they have a few minutes now to talk about how they could find good referrals to give to you.

This is a genuine, caring, and calm conversation that comes from the intention of helping someone else. It is not based on assumptions or filled with accusations that may put someone on the defensive.

If you discover those referrals you gave didn’t work out, then I wouldn’t even go down the road of asking for reciprocal referrals. I would ask, if those didn’t work out, how can I do a better job for you? If you are doing business with someone who truly believes in Givers Gain®, they are going to ask the same of you.

Be Realistic

I am a realist. If there is someone in your business networking group that refuses to give you referrals, I can understand why you might not want to continue to refer them. However, that is rarely the case.

Remember – effective networking is about being relational, not transactional. What goes around comes around. And – it might not even come around from where you sent it. Sometimes you give a referral one place and receive a referral from someplace else. You might be getting referrals from people who you have never given a referral to.

We also want to be mindful of the value of the referrals. If we are talking about a florist and a real estate agent, the real estate agent is probably going to give the florist a whole lot more referrals than the florist is going to give to them. Although one good referral to the agent could be worth a lot of flowers for the florist. Keep in mind that it is not just the quantity, it is the quality, and the value of the referrals. All of these things have to go into the consideration.

As professionals, we must have these conversations with our networking partners. Only when you do, and find out that the referrals have, in fact, been good, can you then say, “I would love for you to be able to reciprocate if possible. Do you have time to talk about how you might be able to give referrals to me?”

The Power of the VCP Process®string(30) "The Power of the VCP Process®"

The VCP Process is the foundation of everything I teach about business networking.
It is why we go to networking events. We don’t go to networking events to “sell,” we go to those events to work our way through the VCP Process.

What is VCP?

The key concept in referral marketing is relationships – mutually beneficial relationships.
However, these relationships don’t just spring up full grown; they must be cultivated and nurtured. As they grow and develop, they evolve through three phases: Visibility, Credibility, and Profitability. The VCP Process describes the creation, growth, and strengthening of all relationships. It is useful for assessing the status of a business relationship to determine where that relationship is in the process of getting referrals. 

VISIBILITY
Visibility is the phase where people know who you are and what you do.

This happens when two professionals become aware of each other and their respective businesses. It could be because of advertising efforts, or through a civic or business association, or through someone you both know. You may become personally acquainted and work on a first-name basis, however, you know very little about each other. 

The visibility phase is important because it creates recognition and awareness.  The greater your visibility, the more widely known you will be, the more opportunities you will be exposed to, and the greater your chances of being accepted by other individuals or groups as someone to whom they can refer business. 

Visibility must be actively developed and maintained. Without it, you cannot move on to the next phase.

CREDIBILITY
Credibility is the phase where people know who you are, what you do, AND they know you’re good at it.

It is the quality of being reliable and worthy of confidence – appointments are kept, promises are acted upon, services are rendered. When you and your new acquaintance begin to form expectations of each other, and those expectations are fulfilled, the relationship enters the credibility phase of the process.

The old saying that “results speak louder than words” is true and very important for building your credibility in the business relationships you are developing within your networks. You cannot buy credibility, you can only EARN it. Therefore, getting to credibility takes time. When you get to credibility, then you can get to the next phase.

PROFITABILITY
Profitability is the phase where people know who you are and what you do. They know you’re good at it, AND they are willing to refer business to you on an ongoing, reciprocal basis.

The relationship that has developed and matured, whether business or personal, can be defined in terms of its “profitability.” If the relationship is mutually rewarding by providing benefits to each party, and both partners gain satisfaction from it, it will endure. Profitability is not found by bargain hunting or by rushing the relationship. It must be cultivated, and similar to farming, it takes patience.

We can look at every relationship we have and determine where we are in the VCP Process with that person. Remember that everything we do, every action we take, will affect our credibility – either positively or negatively, which affects the time it takes to reach the profitability phase.

Time AND Confidence

Getting to the point of profitability in a business relationship takes both time and confidence. The Time-Confidence Curve shows that whatever type of business you are in, it will take time before people have enough confidence in your ability to provide a quality product or service to know that referring other people to you will not hurt their own reputation.

In the video, you’ll see the Time-Confidence Curve by Profession where I talk about the time difference that it takes from profession to profession to reach the critical confidence level. Some professions may take less time to reach the necessary confidence, for instance – a florist may get referrals quickly. While for other professions, such as a financial planner who invests someone’s retirement money, it will take longer for people to have the required confidence to refer their friends and family to them and their services.

It IS a Process

VCP stands for Visibility, Credibility, Profitability. It is NOT a formula. It is not V + C = P. 
It is a process. You go from visibility to credibility, and from credibility to profitability.

It is important to understand the VCP Process to network effectively. It is a mindset that involves the concept of business networking being more about farming than it is about hunting. It is about developing and growing relationships with like-minded people and knowing where you are in the process, V or C or P, with each of your referral partners.

I invite you to share your thoughts about the VCP Process in the comments section.

Talking About YOUstring(17) "Talking About YOU"

To achieve success in business networking, people need to know what you do and how good you are at doing it. In referral marketing groups, you have opportunities to educate your fellow members about your products and services, as well as the way you interact with potential and existing customers. This is very important to building trusted relationships with the people in your network and for building your credibility enough that they will refer others to you.

Even though most experts discuss networking as though it is easy to talk to strangers, I know that some people find it difficult to talk about themselves. Telling others how good of a businessperson you are just doesn’t come naturally to some of us. However, to get the results you want from your business networking efforts, you must get comfortable talking about YOU.

Getting Comfortable

I recently talked with Charlie Lawson, author of the books, “The Unnatural Networker” and “The Unnatural Promoter.” He says that many professionals are great at what they do. They provide amazing products and top-notch services to their satisfied and devoted clients. And yet, as a businessperson, they may feel uncomfortable with self-promotion and would rather completely avoid talking about themselves.

The best way to get comfortable is to have a group of people around you, people with whom you have good relationships, and who want to help you. When you have established deep, trusted relationships with the members of your networking group, and you’ve educated them about your business capabilities, they will begin talking about you with others. They will go out and promote you for you.

Third-Party Endorsement

The third-party endorsement has always been an effective way to promote yourself.
In my first major book, “The World’s Best Known Marketing Secret,” I discuss the fact that people are more likely to talk about you when they’re upset with you than when they are happy with your services. What you need to do is mobilize those people who are satisfied with your business, and train them to talk about you and how to talk about you effectively. That’s when you get those third-party testimonials that are so powerful.

Referral marketing works when you build strong relationships with your referral partners and are comfortable enough to talk about your business skills and strengths with them. When they are confident in your abilities, they will talk about YOU and refer other people – potential clients, to you.

This works both ways; you need to talk about and find referrals for your referral
partners, too. Remember, the Givers Gain® philosophy is based on the age-old adage of “what goes around comes around,” and giving is just as important as gaining.

I’d like to hear your experience with getting comfortable talking about yourself when networking and invite you to share in the comments.

Predictable Unpredictabilitystring(28) "Predictable Unpredictability"

Many things have changed over the past few years. We now live in a world of Predictable Unpredictability. Whether we like it or not, the future involves change. However, there is one thing that has remained unchanged for the past 30-40 years.
I talk about that, and more, in this video.

Better Together

Today, you need to constantly evaluate your business health within an ever-changing business environment. When you are part of a trusted network you develop a great advantage by building your business through referrals. While your competition relies only on increased advertising to generate growth, you have a powerful network to help you through the unpredictability of today’s world.
Your business network is your business advantage.

Today more than ever you need your network because your network can help you through the most difficult times. Referrals are the engine that drives any business and through consistent business networking, you can harness the power of referrals. Remember, we are all better together.

I invite you to share your thoughts about Predictable Unpredictability.

 

1 2 3 26