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.

Networking at Non-Networking Eventsstring(35) "Networking at Non-Networking Events"

Do you know that you can network anywhere? Networking at non-traditional networking settings can be very beneficial. One reason is because not very many people think of it. You typically have the field to yourself, with many opportunities to develop strong and lasting relationships with potential referral partners.

Start with Person-to-Person

One type of a non-traditional networking setting is a party. Everyone goes to different types of parties throughout the year; holiday parties and other social mixers bring ample opportunities to network.

Some people consider this a strange idea as they think of a boorish person selling time-shares to their aunt and uncle at their grandparent’s 50th wedding anniversary or someone trying to drum up business at a funeral. But networking is not just trying to sell something, nor is it only about passing business referrals.

It is about building meaningful relationships and social capital. Master networkers understand this, which is why they are always networking.

It’s All About Relationships

Think about it – you’re already in a relationship with everybody you know. The question is: how far along has that relationship developed? Looking at it within the VCP Process® we can ask ourselves these questions.

Is it a relationship of visibility, in which you know each other but haven’t had any  business dealings?

Is it in the credibility stage, in which you’ve interacted with each other enough that a degree of mutual trust has been established?

Or has it deepened over time to the point of profitability, where both parties receive mutual benefits as a result of assistance, business referrals, or other interactions?

Nowadays, it’s easy to lose that personal touch when so much of our communication is done electronically through email and text. Yet the fact is most relationships develop through one-to-one interactions, and they get stronger every time we meet face to face. Parties and other non-networking events are when we are more likely to see people in a social setting, and these settings certainly lend them self to building relationships.

However, there are important things to remember when you’re networking at any event.

Ask Others, “How Can I Help?”

Having a Givers Gain® attitude is the number one rule to remember. We should always be thinking: How can I help this person?  Many of us know this and attempt to apply it to our relationships, yet we are more inclined to do it instinctively with those people with whom we are in the profitability category. How can we apply it to the relationships that are in the visibility and credibility categories?

At a social event, we usually ask somebody, “How’s it going?” What is their typical reply? Something like, “Great, things couldn’t be better.” That’s an automatic response that people give because they want to be polite and because they think that nobody really wants to hear their troubles. But that standard answer they give is not usually the whole truth.

Things can always be better. There are surely ways you can help—however, most people are not inclined to go into detail or let others know what’s going on, especially at a social event. The best way to find out is to avoid generalities like “How are things?” and ask more specific questions.

One time when I was having a conversation with someone, I asked them how things were going and got the standard answer that things were great, the company was expanding, and business was better than expected. My next question was “Are you hitting all of your goals?” Their answer: Yes, the business was exceeding all its goals by a large margin.

Sounds like this person didn’t need any help, right? On the contrary: to me it sounded like a big opportunity. Think about it, here was a company that was expanding faster than the owner projected. What kind of help might it need?

Many consider networking just another way to get clients, but when you think in terms of building relationships, a chance to help is a BIG opportunity. That help can be provided in many different forms, each as valuable as the next.

In this case I was able to make some introductions that the individual was very grateful for. But it was only after getting past the generalities that I was able to figure out their specific needs.

Be Sincere

When you are networking successfully at a non-networking event, people won’t even know it. That’s because you are genuinely looking for ways that you can help others, and your concern for the person you’re talking with is apparent. People who are networking exclusively for their own personal gain come across as shallow and insincere.

A good networker doesn’t have to attempt sincerity. They really care about making connections for others, not just for themselves. Some people are so accomplished and successful at networking that they are able to network virtually anywhere. They find that people are receptive to them using an opportunity to share information that will benefit others, even when that exchange takes the form of a business card at a cultural celebration.

Honor the Event

This one should really be a no-brainer, and yet we all know some overzealous business people who trawl the room at a party in pursuit of a sale, any sale. They may do the same, although less blatantly, at family gatherings and other social events. This is the exact opposite of what business networking is all about. Remember, relationships are the name of the game. Social events are a great place to get visibility and credibility, so focus on building those aspects of relationships.

Your networking must be different in a chamber of commerce meeting compared to a social event. In both cases you want to be making contacts, connecting people with each other, helping others, and building relationships. You should NOT be actively promoting your business at a non-business event. Honor the event and tailor your networking strategies so that you fit in without being tuned out.

Networking is a Lifestyle

Networking is a lifestyle that can be incorporated into everything that you do. Since one should always be working on building meaningful relationships with other people, they should always be networking. However, that doesn’t mean one should always be trying to “sell” something to somebody, because that rarely facilitates the development of meaningful relationships.

 

Remember, business networking means developing relationships, and ALL events, including social gatherings, family get-togethers, and holiday parties are filled with opportunities to help others. And helping others provides the opportunity to build and strengthen relationships.

Do you have a success story about networking at a non-networking event?
I’d like to hear about it in the comments section.

Build Your Credibility by Invitingstring(34) "Build Your Credibility by Inviting"

Here is an idea to enhance your contact with prospective referral sources and build your credibility with them:
Invite those potential referral partners to an event that you are attending, hosting or participating in, either as a featured guest, a panel speaker, award recipient, or as an exhibitor.

I think you are missing out on a great opportunity to keep prospective referral sources informed of the activities you’re involved in if you’re not inviting them to the events. Especially if it is an event where you will be sharing your expertise or where you are being recognized for an achievement, this strategy contributes to building your credibility and your image as a successful and knowledgeable professional. This is also a great way to connect possible referral partners with other people in your network, helping to transform strictly business relationships into friendships.

Why Credibility is Important

A key concept in referral marketing is mutually beneficial relationships, and those types of relationships don’t just happen overnight. They must be cultivated and nurtured. As they grow and develop, all relationships evolve through three phases: Visibility, Credibility, and Profitability. This is the VCP Process®. It is a useful tool to assess the status of a business relationship and determine where that relationship is in the process of getting referrals. 

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

As you can see, credibility is needed to be able to reach profitability in your business relationships.

Tips to Help You Get Started

If you want to begin inviting prospective referral sources to events and you’re unsure whom to invite or how to invite them, here are some tips to get started:

  • Make a list of the events you’ll be attending in the next two months.
  • Make a list of people you may want to invite to each of those events.
  • Consider what benefits your prospective guests will receive from attending – perhaps an opportunity to meet someone they admire, to be entertained, or to be recognized.
  • Call or write to each person with an invitation to the event.
      > Explain the reason for the invitation (you’re speaking or receiving an award).
      > Send the invitation with plenty of lead time, at least ten days before the date.
  • Follow up with a call a few days before the event to confirm if they are attending.
  • Pay your guest’s admission fee for the event if there is one.
  • When the event allows, encourage your guests to invite guests of their own.
  • It is okay to invite some people whom you do not expect to attend. Remember, this is a way to keep your referral sources informed of what you are doing.

Make it your goal to invite someone to each event that you plan to attend. It is a good way to strengthen relationships and build your credibility. You may even find that you enjoy the event more by having a guest there with you.

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

Making Quality Wine

Several years ago, on a visit to one of my favorite Napa Valley wineries, Chateau Montelena, I toured the agricultural side of the operation. The vintner shared the technique the winery uses to ensure the quality of the juice from the grapes year after year after year, regardless of the climate. This technique is known as “dry farming.”

As he explained the benefits of dry farming, I realized there was a business metaphor about how referral marketing works for businesses that understand and implement doing business by referral.

When vineyards are dry farmed, they are not irrigated during the dry season or rainy season. 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 reminded me of how we teach businesspeople to develop deep-water relationships with their referral partners so that they can support growth no matter the climate–the economic climate.

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

The stability of the juice’s quality is the gift of dry farming. Just like the dependability of Chateau Montelena’s wine, deep relationships ensure a dependability in our own business stability that is unavailable to the average businessperson.

Giant Redwood Trees

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

The giant redwoods average a height of 85 meters or 250 feet. It seems that with such an incredible height they would also have a very deep root system. However, they do not. They actually have a fairly shallow root system, much like California eucalyptus trees, which tend to blow over easily in heavy winds. And yet, the giant redwoods do not blow over easily – they stand tall.

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 tree is under the direct pressure of the wind, the others help to hold it in place, not allowing it to succumb to the wind’s destructive forces.

Business networking and relationship marketing put 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 economic climate pressures one member, the others offer support to help hold them in place!

That’s why networking and relationship marketing are so important, especially during economic challenges. If your network is a mile wide and an inch deep, it’s not powerful. I think these two metaphors really show how you can have your roots go deep and strong through the dry farming concept, and at the same time be interconnected with other businesspeople like the redwoods, both of which provide stability and support while helping one another. These networking lessons from nature show us that building deep relationships is one of the most important components for business success.

 

 

 

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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?

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.

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.

Relationships + Referrals = Revenuestring(35) "Relationships + Referrals = Revenue"

Successful business networking is based on developing relationships with the people in our networks. When people get to know, like and trust each other, they are willing to make introductions and referrals to contacts in their other networks. Those referrals can turn into new customers and clients, adding new sales for our business. That is how Relationships + Referrals = Revenue.

Relationships

To create success and harmony in our lives, it is important to build and maintain our  relationships – in our home, in our work, and in our community.

HOME
We get busy with day-to-day life, especially if we are working from home, and sometimes we take our family for granted. Remember to:
      – Be grateful. Tell the people in our homelife how much we appreciate them. Be specific, be sincere, and tell them often.
      – Show gratitude in a way that means something to them. We often treat others the way we like to be treated. Understanding behavior styles and recognizing the preferences of the people in our lives allows us to share our gratitude in a more meaningful way.  

WORK
Whether we are an entrepreneur or an employee, we spend a lot of time at work. We have business relationships with our team and co-workers.
Remember to:
      – Say thank you. YOU know how much you appreciate them, let them hear it.
      – Be helpful – ask, “How can I help you?” to create beneficial teamwork.
      – Avoid the “it’s not my job” attitude. Expect that everyone contributes in whatever way is needed to achieve success for all.

COMMUNITY
We are part of the community that we live in, whether it is small or large. Our community pulls together when times get tough and celebrates together when things go well.
Remember to:
      – Get involved with a service organization or a service project in your community.
      – Commit to regular attendance and participation with the groups you are part of.
      – Contribute your time, treasure, or talent to help others.

Referrals

We know that it takes time for others to have the confidence in us to get referrals from our network. When we have invested the time to establish strong relationships, and have given referrals to our networking partners, we move from visibility to credibility in the VCP Process®.  Remember to:
      – Actively listen and look for potential referrals for members of your network.
      – Follow up with networking partners to learn how the referrals you gave turned out.
      – Thank your referral partners for connecting with and taking care of the people you referred to them.

Revenue

We can only move to the “P” in the VCP Process – Profitability, after we have obtained credibility with our referral partners. This is after we have built strong and deep relationships, asked others how we can help them, and given referrals to them. That is when we begin to receive referrals for our business, and the revenue comes naturally as a result. Those referrals may come directly from people we gave referrals to, however, they often come from other indirect sources. When we give to others, in our home, our work, our community, it comes back to us in a variety of ways.

In BNI, we call this Givers Gain® and it is our principal Core Value. It is based on the age-old concept of what goes around comes around. Our relationships bring us referrals, which lead to revenue. When you help others, and they help you, everyone does better.

Making People Feel Welcomestring(26) "Making People Feel Welcome"

It is important that people feel welcome when they visit a networking group.
Why?
They have made a commitment and invested the time to be there.
They may become a new customer for people in the group.
They may know people who are potential clients for members of the group.
They will tell other professionals they know about their experience at the meeting.
They may be the connection to the BIGGEST referral you ever get.
They may be a future new member of the group.
AND – remember that you once visited the group for the first time, and someone welcomed you!

My First Visits to Networking Groups

In 1984 I was going around to a lot of different networking groups. I was a member of different types of networking organizations. Some of them were really mercenary. It was very transactional, all about the business. They were very direct, very sales-oriented, very promotional and there was no relationship.

Then I went to other groups that were so totally social. There was no business being done, lots of talking and socializing. It was basically just a coffee klatch.

Neither of these felt very welcoming and they were not what I was looking for in a networking organization. I felt there had to be something in between, something that was relational but also had procedures and rules – a system. That is how BNI® came to be. I believe it is important to have both the systems and the people-oriented approach to networking.

Why People May Not Feel Welcome

When a guest visits a networking meeting for the first time, they don’t know where to start. It is a new environment for them, and they may be unsure about what to do and who to talk to.

Perhaps they feel ignored. That may be because the members of a networking group or BNI chapter have such strong business relationships that they can appear to be clique-ish, even though they may not be. Rather than clique-ish, it is usually that the members have become friends and look forward to seeing each other each week at the meeting.

Make It a Good Experience

Visiting a networking event is more than simply going to a meeting. It is an experience. When visitors attend a meeting, they are either going to have a good experience or a bad experience. Small things can make a difference in a visitor’s perception of the networking organization.

It is the responsibility of every member of the group to welcome guests. New members  and seasoned members – take it upon yourself to make visitors feel welcome when they are at your meeting.

Start with a friendly greeting and a smile.
Ask about them and their business or company.
Introduce them to other members of the chapter.
Always keep the conversation positive, even if you are having a challenging week.
Provide some information about the meeting agenda so they know what to expect.
Offer to answer any questions they have about the meeting and the group.

These simple, little things are a BIG part of making the visitor experience a welcoming and positive one. If they don’t feel welcome, they don’t want to come back.
Just remember this: you have to make people feel welcome so that they have a great experience when they visit your group.

Quality Relationships

Building Quality Relationshipsstring(30) "Building Quality Relationships"

Years ago, I learned that there is a correlation between the number of quality relationships and the number of referrals generated in a strong networking group. If you have a networking group of 16 members, that group has 120 relationships among all the members. However, a networking group of 32 members has 496 relationships among the members. Doubling the size of a networking group from 16 to 32 members has over four times the number of relationships. See the above graphic for an example of these relationships as chords of a circle. This video further explains this concept.

The Number of Quality Relationships Generated by the Members of a Strong Network

The number of relationships grows exponentially as the size of the group gets larger.  For example, if your networking group has 50 members, that networking group has 1225 relationships among the members. We have a few BNI chapters with 100 members. Therefore, they have 4950 quality relationships among their members. However, it is not the QUANTITY of members in your networking group that is important. What is important is the QUALITY of the relationships that you have with the members of your strong network. Growing more quality relationships in your networking group will increase the number of referrals generated by your members.

The formula: Number of Relationships = 0.5 x [(Number of members) x (Number of members – 1)] 

Quantity is good, but quality truly is king

The bottom line is that the more connections you have, (based on quality relationships of course), the more referrals you generate.  Grow your business by growing a strong network of quality relationships. For decades, I have seen groups that are twice the size of other groups in an area generate several times more referrals than their smaller counterparts.  The math is pretty significant and consistent. If you know your connections well enough to be able to call and ask for a favor–and get it–that is a powerful network.

Effective networking is about building strong relationships. If you approach the first months or year of your involvement in a networking group with the sole motivation of building relationships first by getting to know the other members well, you will be far ahead of the game. One of the most important things I’ve learned over the years is that it is not really what you know or who you know. It’s how well you know them that really counts. People do business with people they know and trust. The more relationships you build with your members, the more referrals you can give to your members, and the more referrals you will receive from them.

elephant

How to Network with the Elephant in the Roomstring(44) "How to Network with the Elephant in the Room"

Experienced networkers understand that networking is not always a perfect 100% satisfaction guaranteed activity. A member can sometimes have a problem with another person in their networking group. However, instead of talking with this person to resolve the problem, the member avoids this person due to their personal discomfort, and the unresolved problem can grow into a larger situation. Now, the situation has created “the elephant in the room”, which could cause drama within the networking group.

Drama can occur in any group where wide varieties of people and personalities interact. This is also true in business networking groups that meet weekly for in-person or online meetings. If the physical avoidance between these two members is obvious to others at the networking meeting, the negativity from the situation could be felt by others in the group as “the elephant in the room”, potentially causing drama within the group.

What is “the elephant in the room”?

The elephant in the roomis defined as “a metaphorical idiom for an enormous topic or controversial issue that is obvious or that everyone knows about but no one mentions or wants to discuss because it makes at least some of them uncomfortable”. The member, due to discomfort, ignored the initial problem with the other person and avoided them during the group meetings. Therefore, the unresolved problem grew into a larger situation that became very obvious to the other members of the networking group. The initial problem between these two members evolved into “the elephant in the room” for the entire networking group. So, how do you tame and remove the elephant? Here are three of the most common situations why a networking group might have “the elephant in the room” and my suggestions for gracefully taming each of them:

Elephant #1: Poor Referrals

The reason for joining a networking group is to build strong relationships with the members to refer business to one another. Normally, this is a win-win for the member receiving the referral because their business grows with a new client, as well as a win for the member who gave the referral because of Givers Gain®. However, a small percentage of referrals may be poor referrals. They take up time but do not result in closed business. When something goes wrong and a member receives a poor referral, this can create the first elephant.

People who are experiencing a problem with a fellow member tend to talk about the problem to other members instead of talking directly with the fellow member that they are experiencing the problem with. This can actually make the problem worse.

Talk with the member giving you poor referrals.

In most of these situations, nothing was wrong with the actual referral. Usually, the problem was simply caused by miscommunication. Do not perpetuate problems by avoiding open, honest communication with others. Take the time to talk about it in a non-confrontational way. Talking right away will avoid making these awkward situations even worse.

Elephant #2: Personal Disagreements

Networking would be so much easier if people were not involved. Although networking is all about building relationships with people, personal disagreements are inevitable and problems occur. Avoiding each other due to discomfort and not talking with each other to resolve the disagreement creates the second elephant.

Focus on the solution rather than on the problem.

If you only focus on the problem, you become an expert on the problem. All too often, when facing a problem, the first thing we tend to do is focus on the negative situation. This tends to move us further from finding a way to fix it and that does not help the problem.

You must begin to start focusing on ways to resolve the situation by focusing on solutions. Rather than react, take the time to fully analyze the problem then make a list of possible solutions. When we think of ways to overcome our problems, we are prepared for the next problem down the road. Often, all that is needed is honest and direct communication between the two members to solve the disagreement.

Elephant #3: Breakups Between Members

Networking groups tend to attract like-minded people. Sometimes they bring two of their members together for more than just business. Over the years, I have known many couples that dated, fell in love, got married, and started a family together all because they first met at their networking group. On the other hand, this can quickly create the third elephant if the relationship ends badly and the two members remain in the same group after the messy breakup.

Take the higher ground and continue to network.

Given the value of your network, it is worth working through those feelings if you find yourself in a breakup with another member of your networking group. Do not lose your network of valuable referral sources you have built. The more professional you remain following the breakup, the higher your regard will be by your group. Therefore, remember not to talk badly about the other person or discuss the breakup situation with other members of the group.

Whatever the reason, many people involved in business networking may one day face a situation with “the elephant in the room”. Remember not to focus on growing the problem but on growing your business. Do not burn bridges with people in your group by avoiding them or the uncomfortable situation. Instead, talk to them about your concerns. You never know what the future will bring. You might end up being friends and valued referral partners with the former elephant.

Former Classmates

Reconnect with Your Former Classmatesstring(37) "Reconnect with Your Former Classmates"

During the “back to school” season, I often recall my first day at the University of Southern California. This is where I pursued a doctorate in organizational behavior. One professor spent the first part of the class talking about the “elite network” of peers. We were going to be working alongside these peers and he talked about how we would build lifelong relationships with them. Instead, we spread out to chase our professional goals without any context in which to keep in touch after graduation. I have not networked with any of my former classmates over the years. Therefore, I have not given to or received from any of my former classmates a business referral.

Fortunately, the internet now offers a multitude of options to help you reconnect with old school friends and acquaintances. Here are three steps to convert those past relationships into useful new tools for your business.

to help you reconnect with old school friends and acquaintances. Here are three steps to convert those old relationships into useful new tools for your business.

Contact your school’s alumni services department. 

By being active with your alumni organization, you can share news about your business that may catch the eye of your fellow graduates. You can also research other alumni to find out who you may want to connect with.

Reconnect with your former classmates using social media.

LinkedIn is an online platform that connects the world’s professionals. A complete LinkedIn profile includes your educational background in addition to your professional experiences. You will likely find many of your former classmates there because LinkedIn will display anyone who attended college at the same time as you.

Facebook is a social networking site that makes it easy for you to connect and share with family and friends online. I hear stories all the time about how people have reconnected with classmates and childhood friends they have not seen in years.

Social media is best used as a brand-building tool. However, you can use it to find new sales leads to make a sale and close a deal. Write an occasional post on your pages asking your followers if they know anyone who might be a potential customer for your business. You can also occasionally mention a special deal, or announce a special event.  Encourage your followers to “like” and “share” your posts with the people in their networks.

Gently seek referrals.

Once you have organized your network, the next step is to tactfully tap your social capital. But be careful. Networking is about building stronger relationships, not closing a sale. If you immediately try to sell to an old classmate, they might drop, disconnect, or “un-friend” you. You have not talked to your classmates in years. Therefore, take the time to rebuild a strong relationship first.

I encourage you to connect with one of your former classmates during the coming week by using one of the online networking options. Once you have started reconnecting with old classmates, it’s important to keep track of these valuable contacts by setting up and maintaining a database system to organize your network to be able to follow-up with them regularly.

These tips will help you effectively reconnect with your former classmates so you do not have to sit around waiting for a reunion to give you the opportunity. The main thing is to keep in touch with these potentially wonderful business contacts.  Maintain a powerful personal network by contacting your old classmates (maybe go “old-school” and call them) regularly and adopt these tips now. 

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