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GAINing a Trusted Relationship

I’ve been thinking about the concept of trust lately. Given all that’s happening around the world, with the constant influx of distressing news, it’s hard to know what information to trust, or who to trust, or even where to place our trust.

In networking, trust is a major factoring in giving and receiving referrals– remember, it’s not what you know or who you know, but how well you know each other that counts. In this fast-paced, digital, 140-character age we live in, having an actual conversation with an actual person can feel daunting (and sometimes, we notice that we’ve forgotten how to do it.)

On that note, I wanted to take a moment a reflect on a fundamental of networking, and a fantastic way to start to earn trust–the GAINS exchange. When you have a 1-2-1 with someone you’ve networked with, it’s important to begin to build the foundation of the relationship in an effective, time efficient way. GAINS is the perfect way to do that.

The ice breaker goes as follows: Goals, Achievements, Interests, Networks and Skills. Whether these are professional or personal answers (or possibly both) it’ll help the conversation flow easily and begin to build that foundation of trust.

The first time you introduce the ice breaker, it can feel a little awkward; but the more you do it, the more comfortable you’ll be with it. Begin practicing the exchange with someone you’re comfortable with–you might be surprised at their answers!

Take some time to write down your answers, and really reflect on it. You might even learn something new about yourself.

 

Do You Have Networking Fatigue?

I’m here to let you in on a secret that may sound totally counterintuitive: you can actually network TOO much.

What??? The founder of the world’s largest networking group says you can network TOO MUCH?

Yep. That’s right.

Case in point: I was traveling through the Mid West a few years ago when I heard whisperings of a woman who was referred to as the Queen of Networking. Those who had seen or of heard of her, said she was at every single event and managed to talk to every person in the room.

It happened that she and I ended up at the same event one night (surprise, surprise) and she pulled me aside to talk. She seemed anxious and upset, and I wondered what could have the Queen so distraught.

“Ivan,” she said, “I know everyone keeps calling me the Queen of Networking, but I’m not seeing any increase in business whatsoever!”

Shocked, I asked her just how many events she attending each week. She replied, “Between eight and ten a week.”

Then I was really shocked! That was her problem–she was spreading herself too thin. Remember the VCP process-Visibility leads to Credibility leads to Profitability? She was focused so heavily on visibility, that she lost sight of the credibility. I told her to scale back her efforts and work on deepening a few crucial relationships at a time, to establish her credibility in the community.

“If your network is a mile long but only an inch deep, you’ll never have a powerful network,” I told her. “Do more 1-2-1’s and focus on the GAINS exchange, and you’ll begin to see some improvement.”

The moral of the story? Don’t try and be the Queen (or King!) of networking; instead, work on being the Ruler of Relationships. You’ll see not only an improvement in referrals, but you’ll also establish deeper credibility within your network.

State Side Once Again

Passion. Energy. Gratitude.

Those tokens are what I remember from those who attended the BNI Conferences of Italy and England.

For those of you who don’t know, my wife Beth and I were in Europe the past three weeks traveling to Italy and England for their BNI National Conferences. This was our first trip to Italy, and  I hadn’t visited England in several years, so this was a big deal for all those involved.

One of the reasons I enjoy traveling to the international conferences, is because I love meeting the people who drive BNI: our Members. Business owners who are working hard to make it in the world, who are dedicated to our core values, who are passionate about learning ways to make their business better. Seeing their energy and their commitment is what drives me to keep producing content and find new ways to give real people real advice on networking and small business performance.

In Italy, what impressed me the most was the hospitality of the people. The warmth and kindness was palpable and I had no problem opening up–even with the language barrier. Like I always say, networking is the same in any language, and culture can’t stop people from interacting from one another. (In fact, I challenge you to network with someone who practices a different culture than you do– you might be surprised at just how similar you are.) Everyone wants to succeed, everyone wants to use the tools given to them in the right way–which is something I felt deeply from Italian Members. At every turn there was someone shaking my hand, thanking me for helping them push through some of the hardest times of their professional lives–for that, I am grateful.

Our Members in England were unique in their energy, to be sure. The excitement and enthusiasm was something I wish I could bottle and take whenever I need a boost! Once I took the stage on Friday at their conference’s Members Day, the Tweets began multiplying like fireworks–hundreds within a mere few hours. It wasn’t ignorance on fire, but passion, which is even better. They took every word of my speech to heart, hung on every word, which made me feel completely humbled and appreciative. I look over those tweets and think, “Wow! They liked me–they really liked me!”

Take a look through this photo album and see if you can feel what I felt during that time. It was truly something I will never forget.

 

 

IMG_3005Iavn20

 

Ivan on fire

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ivan17ivan15ivan14ivan13ivan11ivan10Ivan8.2ivan12

 

 

 

 

 

flame

Are you Flame or Wax Happy?

This is the second video in the “Ivanism” Garage to Global series, hosted by Entrepreneur.com. I expand on common phrases I’ve used over the years and explain how they can apply to your business and referral networking style. Today I discuss the Ivanism, “Working in Your Flame vs Your Wax

Are you flame or wax happy?

That sounds like a bizarre question–but it’s not.

When you’re working in your wax and when you’re working in your flame are two very different things, and can affect you in different ways. If you’re flame happy, you’re excited, motivated and ready to pursue your ambitions. But what happens when are wax happy, and simply complacent with working on things that you aren’t passionate about?

The video below talks about this idea and ways you can make sure you’re always flame happy.

 

 

 

Ignorance Fire

Is Ignorance on Fire Ever a Good Thing?

Ignorance on fire

The following video is part of my new “Ivanism” Garage to Global series, hosted by Entrepreneur.com, where I expand on catch phrases I have used frequently over the years.

 

I know, it’s a strange concept: “Ignorance on fire is better than knowledge on ice.”

Most people read that statement and think, someone who’s excited but ignorant can do more harm than good.

I’m here to tell you that the opposite of your intuition is true. That’s right–and you’ll see why below.

 

You are not entitled to referrals

That’s right-you read correctly.

Referrals come from cultivating real relationships. They come from putting the work into your networking by giving others referrals before expecting them in return. They don’t come from sitting idly in a meeting, watching others getting referrals and wondering where yours are.

Are you wondering just how to get that referral pipe flowing?

1. Become a farmer. Except you’re not cultivating seeds, but relationships. You’re not harvesting produce, but referrals. Networking is about farming for new contacts (and referrals,) not hunting them. Have One-to-Ones with your chapter members. Get to know them and their business well so you can begin to pass referrals to them. This is how you cultivate a relationship-show genuine interest and make an honest attempt at helping them succeed. You’ll build trust with one another, which makes the next step much easier.  referral

2. Find a referral partner. As I write in my book, Truth or Delusion, “There is a way to the flow of referrals predicable and adjustable.” After you’ve gotten to know your fellow chapter members, choose one to partner up with to pass referrals back and forth to one another. Pick someone who needs referrals you can provide (for example, if you have a toy shop owner in your Chapter but you have no kids and rarely interact with them, they might not be the best partner for you.) Determine what types of referrals you need and ask your partner to do the same; then, exchange specific referrals based on your own networks. Begin to set up meetings with your referrals and if it’s appropriate, bring your partner with you. Afterward, analyze the meetings with your partner and use as much detail as possible.

3. Get your PH.D. in Networking. Ok, not literally. But you can become a gatekeeper of networks as you begin to connect your network with another person’s, and then another person’s, and then continue to build upon it. Become the go-to person in your business community-the person others come to if they needed a referral for anything. “Know a trustworthy plumber? Yeah, ask Susan-she knows everybody!” But instead of becoming the human phone book, you are connecting people in your community with good, honest businesses. This will not only help you build your network referrals, but it will also force you to continue to build and deepen your relationships and provide you with an excellent reputation.

What process has worked for you when referral gathering?

 

educating

Are You Educating or Selling to Your Network?

When entrepreneurs try to develop a qualified, consistent, and dynamic circle of networking partners who are going to provide them with referrals for new business, I’ve noticed that their tendency is to “sell” those individuals on their product. When business people join a networking group that’s focus is on providing referrals for its members, it is as if by convincing them to try their product, showing them all the finer points of what is available and closing the sale with their networking partners, they will somehow realize an influx of referrals for more of the same from those individuals.

I don’t disagree that in order for the members of your networking group to refer you effectively, they must be familiar with what you have to offer; however, when you are in front of them, it’s important to resist the urge to sell to the members! What do I mean by that?

Educating your networking group’s members about the type of referrals you want, specifically, where applicable, even the names of the individuals with whom you want to meet and develop relationships, is much more important to the success of your networking in a closed contact network than selling to the members. This demands a shift in how you see your networking partners. They are not the clients! They are, in effect, your sales force! In order for any sales force to get out there and sell you effectively, they have to know who to sell you to and how to sell you.

Below are four tips for incorporating this style of networking—educating vs. selling—into your networking meetings:

1. Teach your network members what your “dream referral” looks like. If you could come to your next networking meeting with a walking, talking dream referral in tow, what would he/she be like? Be very descriptive of this person as you talk to your networking partners, so descriptive that it’s like that person is in the room with you. The more details you provide, the greater the chance that your partners will recognize that person when they come across him/her outside of the meeting!

2. Share customer profiles and case studies of current customers. This is a highly effective way to educate your networking partners about what it is that you are looking for as a new customer/client. By sharing the qualities and aspects of your current clientele, you are illuminating the canvas for the rest of the group so they can see the picture you are portraying for them. When appropriate, consider bringing in a customer or client to talk about how you have helped him/her. These kinds of interactions go a long way toward educating the group as to the type of person you wish to have referred to you.

3. Break your business down into its Lowest Common Denominators. It is very tempting to start out your personal introduction with a statement like: “we are a full-service XYZ…” Resist this urge! When you have 52 opportunities over the course of a year to introduce a new element of what it is that you are selling or providing to the members, don’t waste the opportunity to highlight one aspect of your business by painting with the full-service brush. Get detailed! Educate your networking partners week by week with specific things that you provide. Bring support material to provide a visual. Do demonstrations, when possible.

4. Ask specifically for the referral you want. I often hear members of networking groups say things like “anyone who needs…” or “everyone who is looking for…” Usually, when I hear anyone or everyone, I tune out, because I know so many anyones and everyones, that I end up referring no one! This is an interesting dynamic, but I think it has a lot to do with information overload. When you are asking for a specific type of business referral, your request from your networking partners should be specific! Using a catch phrase that is so broad and generic will limit the effectiveness of the results you will get.

By keeping your focus on educating your networking partners about what type of referrals you wish to receive from them, you will find that the referrals you begin to see come in will be of a higher caliber and have more chances of becoming closed sales than if you try to sell the members on what you are offering. You should be trying to “educate a sales force” instead of trying to “close a sale.” Shift your intention in the group and you will find that the quality of referrals will shift for the better, as well. Keep in mind that when you join a closed contact network, you are partnering with a group of people who will become your sales force and educate, educate, educate. Your time to close the sale will come when you are with the referrals that you will receive.

What go to phrases do you use to educate your network on the products and services you offer? What tactics have you tried that simply don’t work? Let me know in the comments below!

The VCP Process®: V + C Does Not = P

Lately I have seen a lot of people who have been using the VCP Process® (Visibility, Credibility, Profitability) like it’s a formula: Visibility + Credibility = Profitability.

The fact remains, however, that VCP is a referral process, not a sales process. If the majority of your clients aren’t giving you referrals, then you are only at Credibility with your clients, not at Profitability. It’s possible that you can have a lot of Visibility and a lot of Credibility, but NOT have Profitability. Rather than a formula, VCP is a continuum.

Once you achieve Credibility (and not before), you then need to start asking for referrals in order to achieve Profitability. Profitability does not result automatically from Visibility and Profitability.

If you were previously unfamiliar with the VCP Process and have questions about it, please ask them in the comment forum below.  I believe that VCP is the single most important concept in networking and I’m more than happy to answer your questions.  Also, if you’re familiar with VCP and you’ve been using the process for a while, please share some of your experiences–I’d love to hear them.

Classic Video: One Simple Rule for a Winning Approach to Networking

I have been doing video blogs for quite a few years now and a while back it occurred to me that some of the videos I’ve previously posted focus on timeless topics that deserve to be revisited and not buried way back in the video blog archive.  For this reason, I decided to occasionally feature a “classic” video blog from my blog archive and today I am sharing the sixth one–”One Simple Rule to a Winning Approach at Netwoking.” In this video, I talk to UK networking expert Charlie Lawson about the Networking Disconnect which commonly hinders the success of many who attend networking events and mixers.

Charlie explains that the Disconnect can be avoided all together by following one simple rule that will get your networking approach and intent geared in the right direction.  I’ll give you a hint–it involves big fish and coffee. 😉

After watching the video, come back and comment about your experience(s) with the Networking Disconnect (trust me, we’ve all had some experience with it) and what you think about the advice Charlie offers in the video . . . looking forward to hearing from you!

Are You a ‘Cave Dweller’?

The concept of being a cave dweller stems from the idea that we wake up in the morning in a large cave with a big screen TV, we go out to our garage, get into a little cave with four wheels, we drive to our other big cave with computers, stay there all day, get back into the little cave, drive right back to the large cave, and we don’t get out and connect with people.

In this video, filmed at a recent Referral Institute® Conference, my good friend Mike Macedonio explains the ‘Cave Dweller Reality Check Sheet’ which you can use to make an hourly break down of your day in order to determine whether you’re spending too much time cooped up at home or in the office.  Mike recently filled out the sheet and his results gave him the eye-opening realization that even as a referral marketing expert, he was still falling into the trap of being a cave dweller!

So, watch the video, make your own Cave Dweller Reality Check Sheet, and find out whether or not you’re taking enough time out in the world to meet others, make real connections, and make a conscious effort to grow your business.  I’d love to hear your results so please come back and share them in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

In this video,

Where to Start When Starting Your Own Business

I recently got asked a really great question: Where do I get connected with people who can help me open a business?IvanOldSchool

Though there is evidence that business is currently on the rise and the economy is moving in a positive direction, the recent downturn in the economy prompted many people who found themselves unemployed to tap into their entrepreneurial spirit and consider starting their own business.

This begs the question above–are there efficient ways to get in touch with people who can help you start your own business?

The answer is yes, and here are my three recommendations:

1) Go through your contacts and talk to people you personally know who have started a business. Set an appointment.  Let them know what you are doing and ask if they’d give you an hour of mentoring.  If possible, meet with them in person.  Show up with specific questions written out in advance.  Send them the questions prior to the meeting so they have a good understanding of what kind of information you’re looking for.  When you meet, focus on those questions, write down the answers, and stick to the time frame you promised.  If the conversation goes well, ask if you can meet with them in the future.  Follow this process with two or three people who have opened a business successfully.  I guarantee you will find this to be very valuable.

2) Find a business coach who has experience with start-up businesses. Hire them to coach you through the process.

3) Read, read, read!  There are a lot of books out there on opening a business. I have personally reviewed many of the books published by Entrepreneur Press on starting a business and they are excellent.  Go to EntrepreneurPress.com to see some of them.

I strongly encourage anyone genuinely interested in starting their own business to pursue the endeavor. I have owned my own business for thirty years (that’s a picture of me at top right, when I first started my company, BNI, and was running it from my house and garage with only one other employee in the mid ’80s) and it continues to be an amazing and fulfilling journey. I don’t think I would ever go back to working for someone else.

Has Your Business Mission Changed?

In this video, I answer the question of how the mission for my own business, BNI® (the world’s largest business networking organization), has changed over the last thirty years.

In every business, there are some things which remain constant and other things which become transformational.  The one thing which has remained constant in my  own business is the philosophy of the organization, Givers Gain®, which is inculcated into the core of the entire company worldwide.  The organization itself, however, has a transformational nature in that we are Changing the Way the World Does Business®.  This is probably the biggest example of how our mission has changed as we started out as a tiny fledgling organization in Southern California not realizing we would eventually become a huge global company.

After watching the video, I’d love to hear your thoughts as well as your ideas on how the mission in your own business has changed.  Please share your thoughts in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

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