Looking for More Referrals? Remember the GAINS Exchangestring(55) "Looking for More Referrals? Remember the GAINS Exchange"

So often, I see people who are frustrated about not getting more business referred to them. After all, they say, isn’t that what business networking is all about?

What many of these people don’t seem to realize, however, is that they need to actively share information about themselves with the right people before they can expect to have business referred to them by the people in others’ networks.

I discuss this very concept in my latest show on yourBusinessChannel. The fact is, it’s not enough that you’re great at what you do and can offer a lot of value to new clients. To win referrals from networking, you need to ensure that your contacts have all the necessary information about you and your skills so they can go out and persuade third parties to come and purchase your product or service. It’s amazing how many people fail to recognize this.

There are actually five key things that are essential for the members of your network to know about you before you can expect them to refer business your way. Equally, you need to know these same five things about them so you can reciprocate. I call this process of reciprocal sharing of information the GAINS exchange, based on the first letter of each of the five essential informational points: Goals, Accomplishments, Interests, Networks, and Skills (first discussed in my book, Business by Referral).

Goals: What are the objectives that are important to you; what are the problems you want to solve? Not just financial and business goals, but also personal and educational objectives.

Accomplishments: What big projects have you completed in business or as an employee? What are your accomplishments as a student or parent?

Interests: What are the things you really enjoy doing? The music you like to listen to, the hobbies you spend time on, the sports you like to play or watch? People are more willing to spend time with people they share interests with.

Networks: Each of your contacts is a part of many networks. Do you know what these are, how big they are? Each of us has the potential to connect with hundreds or thousands of people if we cultivate these resources.

Skills: What do you do especially well? What are the professional areas in which you excel? Don’t be afraid to share this information with your contacts, and learn about the talents and abilities of the people in your network as well.

These are not mysterious pieces of information. They are facts we are exposed to every day, if we look for them.

By remembering the GAINS exchange, you can make sure you don’t overlook this essential information about your networking contacts.

Ask for Written Testimonialsstring(28) "Ask for Written Testimonials"

Last weekend, my wife Beth and I were on a weekend trip. We wanted to go out for a nice dinner but weren’t quite sure where to go since we weren’t all that familiar with the town we were in. As Beth perused a local magazine for restaurant reviews, I logged onto the internet to search for the top-rated restaurants in the area. We settled on a steakhouse that was a more than a little bit out of the way and not so easy to get to. Why? Because the restaurant had phenomenal reviews both online and in the local magazine. That was enough to convince us we should take our business there because we were likely have a great experience.

So it is in business. Before people come to you for a particular product or service, they often want the comfort of knowing what others have said about you. Testimonials carry a level of credibility because they come from someone who has direct experience with your product or service. Consumers generally place more trust in a testimonial from another consumer than in a business’s own marketing message. They believe the average person is unbiased and has nothing to gain from providing a testimonial. Thie business stands to gain–or lose–everything, so its own words are seen as less trustworthy.

Have you ever asked a satisfied client for a written testimonial? I recommend making this standard practice for your business.

Written testimonials can be used in many ways to enhance your credibility and set you above your competition. Here are some key ways to use testimonials:

1. Place them on your business’s website. Some websites have them strategically sprinkled throughout so there’s at least one testimonial on each page. Others have a dedicated page where a browser can view several testimonials at once.

2. If your business attracts a lot of walk-in clients, it’s helpul to display your written testimonials, each encased in a plastic sheet protector, in a three-ring binder labled “What our customers say about us” or “Client Testimonials.” Keep this binder on a table in your reception area, where your customers can browse through it while waiting for services. It’s a good way to connect with your prospects and enhance your relationship with current clients.

3. Include testimonials with your business proposals. This works best if you have a wide variety to choose from; you can include a section of testimonials that are most relevant to a specific proposal.

If you make it standard practice to ask clients and contacts for testimonials, you’ll build your credibility and your business.

Be sure to check back next week ,when I’ll present the three keys to successfully using written testimonials and explain how to ask for testimonials.

Commit to Lifelong Learningstring(27) "Commit to Lifelong Learning"

Since practically no college curriculum in networking exists (despite its importance in the world of entrepreneurial business), you’re pretty much left to your own devices to find training in the art and science of this set of skills. The fact is, if you want to be a successful networker, you need to commit to lifelong learning on the subject of networking.

 

This may sound like a huge task at first, but it’s actually not as daunting as it sounds. The truth is, networking is something you can train for on the job–in fact, that’s the best way. By putting it into practice, you not only learn how to apply and fine-tune your approach, but you also build your business at the same time. In many ways, it’s less work and more fun than some of the traditional approaches to building your business.

What’s more, becoming a master networker is a journey, not a destination. You might reach the 29 percent of people who are truly connected by becoming a master networker, but that’s not the end of your efforts because a master networker is one who is constantly improving his or her skills and learning new ones. Now the challenge is to stay in the 29 percent and learn to secure your footing.

So in your never-ending journey toward peak networking performance, I recommend you do three things:

1. Keep reading.

There are hundreds of articles and dozens of books out there on networking, word-of-mouth marketing and referral marketing. I strongly recommend reading Bob Burg’s Endless Referrals, Susan RoAne’s How to Work a Room and The Secrets of Savvy Networking, Robyn Henderson’s Networking for $uccess, Bill Cates’ Unlimited Referrals, and Jan Vermeiren’s Let’s Connect. Some of my own books that will help you develop your networking skills are Truth or Delusion, The World’s Best Known Marketing Secret, Masters of Networking and Business by Referral.

2. Practice! Practice! Practice!

Find networking groups that believe in education as part of their regular meetings. If they help by guiding you, you can practice the networking ideas you are continuing to learn as you participate.

3. Seek out reputable training programs on networking.

I highly recommend the networking content on iLearningGlobal.tv, Brian Buffini’s referral training for the real estate industry, and the Referral Institute. Look also to your local business development and entrepreneur centers for workshops, experiential learning and in-depth training in networking and word-of-mouth marketing.

Lifelong learning continually sharpens and hones your skills. Would you trust the growth of your enterprise to someone who’s not skilled in one of the most effective ways to grow your business? Probably not. So take the initiative to continue your learning on the subject of networking by enrolling in a course, attending a workshop or reading the next book. Think about how the knowledge and skills you derive from these resources can continue to build and enhance your business by effective networking.

If you have a favorite educational resource on networking, please share it by leaving a comment.

Networking Lessons From Naturestring(30) "Networking Lessons From Nature"

Recently, when visiting our favorite Napa Valley winery, Chateau Montelena, my wife and I decided to take a tour of the agricultural side of the operation.  The vintner shared with us the technique the winery uses to ensure the quality of the juice from the grapes year after year after year regardless of the climate–a technique known as “dry farming.”

As he explained the benefits of dry farming, I began to see a business metaphor emerging for how referral marketing works for those businesses that understand doing business by referral.

When vineyards are dry farmed, they are not irrigated, dry season or rainy.  As a result, the roots of the vines must grow deep to get to the year-round underground supply of water, no matter the climate.  This reminds me of how we teach business owners to develop deep-water relationships between themselves so that they can support growth no matter the climate–the economic climate.

Doing business by referral truly is not about getting rich quick.  We want to be able to produce a bumper crop of referrals year after year after year regardless of the climate.

That is the gift of dry farming:  the stability of the juice’s quality.  Just like the dependability of Chateau Montelena’s wine, we feel that deep-water relationships ensure a dependability in our own business stability unavailable to the average business owner.

There is another metaphor from nature that helps to illustrate the strength of doing business by referral–that is the story of the giant redwood trees in Northern California.

The giant redwoods average a height of 85 meters or 250 feet!  You’d think that with such an amazing height they would also have a deep, deep root system.  But they don’t.  They actually have a fairly shallow root system, much like our California eucalyptus trees.  The California eucalyptus trees tend to blow over easily in heavy winds, but not the giant redwoods.

You see, the giant redwoods also use an amazing technique to remain upright when those around them fall.  They intertwine  their roots with the roots of their neighbor, thereby supporting one another when the winds come.  When one is under the direct pressure of the wind, the others help to hold it in place, not allowing it to succumb to the destructive forces of that wind.

Relationship marketing puts you in a similar position as those giant redwoods.  When you learn the intricacies of doing business by referral, you begin to metaphorically intertwine your roots with the roots of those with whom you are networking.  When the economy pressures one member, the others help hold him in place!

This is why networking and relationship marketing are so important–especially in a tough economy.

Ask Ivan Misnerstring(15) "Ask Ivan Misner"

I’ve spoken to tens of thousands of people and written many books and articles on networking, referral marketing, sales, business and success.

I’ve had many questions on these topics over the years and I have recently decided to compile the best questions and my answers to them as part of a project that I am doing with my good friend Alex Mandossian.

If you could ask me just one question about networking, referral marketing, business or success, what would your most important question be?

Post it here on this blog.  I’ll be answering your questions as part of my project with Alex as well as here on this blog site.

OK, what are you waiting for?  Post that question while it’s fresh in your mind.

Thanks!

Networking Downloadablesstring(24) "Networking Downloadables"

networkingnow_microbanner3.gifSome months back, I posted a blog entry telling people about a website I’m affiliated with called NetworkingNow.com.  In that blog post, I encouraged people to check out the site and try out the service for free for 30 days.  Quite a few people took me up on the free offer, and I got a lot of great feedback from people saying they planned to continue using NetworkingNow.com after the trial period.  Because of that, I have decided to extend the offer again.

NetworkingNow.com is a site where you can gain instant access to dynamic networking information via the web and learn the most successful strategies to build your business through networking.  The site offers dozens of downloadable PDF articles, MP3 audio files and digital books as part of its downloadable library.  It has also recently added video content.  Subscribers receive full access to the wealth of online and downloadable content, which is refreshed monthly.

So feel free to visit the site. And if you think you might be interested in joining the NetworkingNow.com community of networking expertise, try it out for free for 30 days.  To take advantage of this offer, go to NetworkingNow.com, click “subscribe now,” select the 30-day subscription, and enter: free30days in the coupon field.  Your first 30 days will be free, but if you want to continue after that you’ll be billed at the monthly subscription rate.

Check it out and let me know what you think.

Use This Networking Trick to Increase Businessstring(46) "Use This Networking Trick to Increase Business"

One of the most common networking questions I get asked is, “How do I generate referrals for other people?”  Well, this same question is exactly what I was asking myself in the early ’80s when I was just starting my consulting business. I came up with a technique that had a huge impact on my ability to provide quality referrals to others–which, of course, led to me getting referrals.

I realized that I needed to be the person whom people came to if they needed a referral for anything–the “gatekeeper” of referrals . . .  the “go-to guy.”  So I composed a letter that I sent out to my client list several times a year.  Today you could send out a quick e-mail to your database, but you should send it at least once a year as hard copy just to stand out from everybody else who’s e-mailing your clients.  Here’s a sample letter:

Dear________:

I really believe in the process of referrals, so part of the service I provide is to be sure to refer my clients and associates to other qualified businesspeople in the community.

Attached is a list of areas in which I know very credible, ethical and outstanding professionals.  If you’re looking for a professional in a specific area I’ve listed, please feel free to contact me.  I will be glad to put you in touch with the people I know who provide these services.

Sincerely,

Dr. Ivan Misner

Notice when you read this letter that I just listed professions; I didn’t list names and phone numbers.  I wanted my clients to contact me so I could put the referral and the contact together–so I could build business relationships through being the go-to guy.  What began to happen was that others would ask someone on my client list, “Whom do you know who does XYZ?”  If they didn’t know anyone, then they would send that person to me.

The importance of becoming a gatekeeper is huge for anyone seeking to grow a business with word-of-mouth marketing.  It’s a strategy that gets people not only to contact you for a referral, but also to open up a dialogue with people about what your business is all about and how you can help them.  This, in turn, leads to more business with existing clients and new business with prospects.

Allow this to open the door for reciprocal sharing and giving.  You’ll be amazed at how much more business you’ll find you’re able to do as a result.

Penny Wise and Time Foolishstring(27) "Penny Wise and Time Foolish"

mikemacedonio_77.jpgMy  good friend and partner in the Referral Institute, Mike Macedonio (pictured here), is my guest blogger today.  He recently wrote a great article about referrals that takes an interesting look at the two investments involved in referral marketing–time and money.  If you want to learn how to avoid falling into the trap of being penny wise and time foolish, I recommend that you read this material–it’s great content.

Penny Wise and Time Foolish
By Mike Macedonio

Is it just me or is anyone else shaking their head at the assertion that “word-of-mouth marketing and referral marketing are FREE advertising.” Clearly, referral marketing (done properly) is a cost-effective way to get businness, but the only way I can possibly see making it FREE is to do nothing at all.

So what is the investment for referral marketing? There are two investments with building your business by referral: time and money. I’m surprised when I ask business owners how much they are investing in referral marketing and they don’t have any idea. Is it because it is so cost-effective that they don’t think it is worth budgeting or tracking? Maybe. However, I also see businesspeople turn down opportunities to get involved in networking organizations, acquire training, attend conferences or sponsor strategic alliance events for financial reasons.

What about the hidden cost? How much time are you spending networking and meeting with referral sources?  What is your time worth? Often when I ask that question, I get the billable rate.  Here is the simple formula I use. How much you earn, divided by how much you work. For example, if you’re making $120,000 a year working 40 hours per week, 50 weeks a year, your time is worth $60 per hour. You may be billing $150 per hour; however, after you factor in everything else you are doing, this is what your time is returning to you.

When you consider that the serious active networker will spend eight hours a week attending networking events, networking online, meeting with referral sources and giving time to activities with his network, that works out to 400 hours per year or $24,000 of time invested a year. Hmmm, that doesn’t sound like FREE to me.

Referral marketing is the most cost-effective way to grow your business. Getting the best return on your time and money requires a clear referral marketing plan. Will you be spending your time doing the right things, with the right people, in the right organizations? Investing in referral marketing knowledge will help you get the best return for your time investment.  Be careful not to fall into the common trap of being penny wise and time foolish with your referral marketing.  Create a budget and invest appropriately in your referral marketing.

I’d love to pass your feedback about this article along to Mike, so feel free to leave any comments below.

Make a Referral Week (March 9-13, 2009)string(39) "Make a Referral Week (March 9-13, 2009)"

johnjantschlogo.gifAs I’ve said time and time again, I firmly believe that the way to survive and thrive in an economic downturn is to ignore the doom-and-gloom headlines and focus instead on what you can do to grow your business despite fluctuations in the economy.

That’s why I’m hoping all of you will join me in participating in Make a Referral Week, which is a campaign inviting everyone around the globe to make 1,000 referrals during the week of March 9-13.  It’s an entrepreneurial approach to stimulating the small-business economy–one referred business at a time.

The goal of generating 1,000 referrals to 1,000 deserving small businesses highlights the idea that by taking one simple action and generating one referral to a small business, you really can make a difference and help jumpstart the economy.  Small business is the lifeblood and job-creating engine of the economy, and if we all pledge to make one referral, we could possibly generate millions of dollars in new business.

The weeklong, virtual event also features daily education programs focused on teaching small-business owners and other marketers how to tap the power of referral marketing. I’ll be featured, along with my friends Bob Burg and Bill Cates, on Tuesday, March 10.

Click here to learn more and join the campaign.

If you do join me in participating next week, I’d love to hear back from you about the referral(s) you generated.

The 10 Commandments of Business Networkingstring(42) "The 10 Commandments of Business Networking"

A friend of mine, Melinda Potcher, adapted some of my material and created the 10 Commandments of Business Networking.

She did a great job, and I thought I’d share it with everyone here on my blog.

 

1. Thou Shalt Not Sell To Me. If we’re trying to help one another get more business, you tell me your target market, I tell you my target market and when we are out in the world, we speak well of one another and refer one another. Do not try to sell me–I’m your referral resource. If I need your product or service, know that I will call you.  Use our relationship to sell through me, to get to those 250-plus people I know.

2. Thou Shalt Understand The Law of Reciprocity. If I’m sending you business, please keep me top of mind. Giving me a new client is the best thank you I can receive, and I will continue working to find you referrals if I know you appreciate me.

3. Thou Shalt Not Abuse Our Relationship. Sending me a bogus referral just to use me, my expertise or my resources for free without asking permission first is the fastest way to lose my respect.

4. Thou Shalt Not Be Late . If we have a meeting set to get to know one another and strategize how we can refer each other business, do not reschedule our appointment more than twice. I blocked a chunk of time in my schedule FOR YOU, and I respect you enough to be on time.

5. Thou Shalt Be Specific . Specific Is Terrific! If you tell me your target market is “anybody” or “everybody,” that means nobody to me. The more specific you are, the easier it will be for me to find you business.

6. Thou Shalt Take Your Business Seriously . As your networking partner, I need to know your intentions.If your company is a hobby business, it will be difficult for me to assist you. If it’s part-time, you are limited in the time you spend working on your business and working to find me referrals. However, if you’re working your business part time with a goal of making it full time, I am there for you, 100 percent.

7. Thou Shalt Follow Up On Referrals. When I send you business, please follow up with that prospect in a timely fashion–say 24 hours. If you’re going out of town or will not be available for some time, a quick e-mail or phone call to the person to let them know when you will be available will preserve your credibility and protect my reputation in recommending you to someone I know and care about.

8. Thou Shalt Communicate. If I do something to upset you, send you a “bad” referral or cause you to have ill feelings toward me, please communicate with me as soon as possible. I may not be aware I have caused a problem for you; if you tell me, I can try to fix it. Referral networking is about relationships! Relationships and referrals are at the heart of my business.

9. Thou Shalt Protect My Reputation. Most people would rather die than risk their reputations. If I receive feedback from a referral I have sent you that is disparaging or derogatory, it is as though you cut me off at the knees. Please do what you say you will do and live up to the ethical standards of your profession.

10. Thou Shalt Prepare For Success. If you really want to grow your business, then prepare to receive it. I will move mountains for my networking partners to ensure they get referrals on a consistent basis. I am a Ninja Networker–you may not always see me working on your behalf.

Thanks to Melinda. You can visit her website at: HomeLoansAlbuquerque.com

What do you think?  Would you add anything to this list (OK, I know you can’t have “11 Commandments,” but play with me here).

Read the Paper, with Referral Intent . . .string(42) "Read the Paper, with Referral Intent . . ."

 

Most people read the newspaper to gain insight into local and world events and news–and that’s all.  I’m suggesting that you try reading the paper a little differently–to look for opportunities for referrals.

Pick up your local newspaper and scan the front page. Turn to the local section, then the business news, and then the lifestyle section. The paper is teeming with opportunities for you to act as a gatekeeper for the people in your network. Every page presents problems or significant issues of one kind or another.

What are people saying? Who is talking about problems or changes in her company or industry?  What is happening that could have a direct impact on you or someone in your network?  Who is in need of the services of someone you know?  Where are there networking opportunities for you and your marketing team?

So why not start out by reading the paper this week with referral intent for two people in your network?  Find each of them an opportunity or a lead that they might capitalize on through their network.  Then find your own business a lead or two on which you can capitalize, and begin to ask your network for help in making the connection for you.

Clearly, these are more “leads” than “referrals.” However, there’s nothing wrong with telling a business associate about the details you just read about relating to a new company moving into town.  It’s good to show your referral partners you are looking out for them and–you never know–it could turn into something good.

Try this strategy out and then come back and leave a comment to let me know how it worked out–I’m very interested to see what happens!

Welcome to International Networking Weekstring(40) "Welcome to International Networking Week"

Welcome to the third annual International Networking Week (Feb 2-6).

Now, more than ever, we need to ignore the doom-and-gloom headlines and focus on what we can do to promote our own business growth.

International Networking Week is about celebrating the key role that networking plays in the development and success of business around the world. It’s about creating an awareness of the process of networking.  Not just any kind of networking, but what I call “relationship networking,” an approach to doing business based on building long-term, successful relationships with people through the networking process.

Last year, International Networking Week was recognized by tens of thousands of people around the world, and it has garnered acknowledgements from several governmental agencies across the globe. It’s expected that the number of people participating in this year’s worldwide celebration of the week, through hundreds of large events and thousands of smaller events, will be double what it was in 2008.

If you belong to any networking groups, be sure to tell them that this is International Networking Week and let them know they can visit InternationalNetworkingWeek.com for more information.  Let’s join together in celebrating the things we can do do promote global prosperity, instead of worrying about the things we can’t control.

Watch this 10-minute video talking about International Networking Week 2009.  Share the video with anybody and everybody, and feel free to show it at your networking meetings during International Networking Week.

So what will you be doing to recognize International Networking Week?  Share it with us here–we’d love to hear about it.

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