Resist Coin-Operated Networkingstring(31) "Resist Coin-Operated Networking"

When networking, do you only talk to those who can give you the most in return? Do you only give your business card to someone who you will bring you a ton of referrals? Do you only give referrals if you know you’ll get them in return?

If this sounds like you, you are doing it all wrong. Networking is not a vending machine. You don’t put in coins into the machine and get a candy bar every time–sometimes, you have to wait for your candy.

This mentality is called “transactional networking,” which is going to get you nowhere quickly in the world of referral networking. The “I will give you this, now you have to give me that,” point of view is only going to leave you sorely disappointed.

Instead, the proper mindset is, “Let me help you. I’ve got some ideas. I have a referral for you.” Over time, they’ll give it back you when the opportunity arises. This mentality is called “relational.” Keeping score or holding a referral back because you haven’t received one in return won’t always work, but thinking about giving before getting and making it the foundation of your business reputation, will.

Let’s take a closer look. If you’re keeping score and have given two referrals, but only received one in return, you might be a little disappointed. But consider the value of those referrals. You can’t simply go by the numbers. Two referrals to a florist are vastly different than two referrals to a real estate agent. By the same token, we don’t think it’s realistic to expect $1,000 worth of referrals from someone just because you passed them referrals of that amount.

By applying the Givers Gain philosophy, you will make your referral relationships relational rather than transactional and find success in this relationship. Let’s say there’s somebody you don’t know well, but you want to know that person better and build a referral relationship. You think this person may be able to help you and you know you can help them. You don’t start a referral relationship by asking them to sign a contract that for every referral you give him, he has to give you one in return! The way to start the process is to give.

I understand the hesitation to give referrals to someone you don’t know well–but giving doesn’t have to start with a referral. It can start with a conversation. If you’re having a conversation with a possible referral partner and they express a problem they may be having, you might say, “You know, I just read a great article on that. I’ll email it to you.” You hand them your business card with your email address on it, they do the same and –voila! A connection is made through giving.

Remember, networking is more about farming than it is about hunting. It’s about cultivating relationships.

GAINing a Trusted Relationshipstring(30) "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.

 

Which Networking Style Are You?string(31) "Which Networking Style Are You?"

This is the fifth and final video in the “Ivanism” Garage to Global series, hosted by Entrepreneur.com. In this series, I expand on common phrases I’ve used throughout my 31 years of referral-based networking.

When you’re at a networking event, do you eagerly bounce around the room, chatting with various people and passing out business cards? Do you tend to seek deep connections by only talking to a few people for longer periods? Everyone has their own way of making connections and networking, and it helps to understand just where you fall in the lineup.

Knowing your networking behavioral style will help you capitalize on your skills–and maybe even identify some flaws to improve upon. Take a look at the video below to find out YOUR style and maybe the next time you’re at an event, you’ll be able to better position yourself for greater success.

 

State Side Once Againstring(21) "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.

 

 

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Ivan on fire

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ivan17ivan15ivan14ivan13ivan11ivan10Ivan8.2ivan12

 

 

 

 

 

Ignorance Fire

Is Ignorance on Fire Ever a Good Thing?string(39) "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.

 

Red Nose Daystring(12) "Red Nose Day"

What better what to celebrate a normal Thursday, than by putting on a red nose?

Trust me, it’s for a good cause–no–a GREAT cause.

Red Nose Day brings awareness and fundraising efforts to children’s charities across the globe. At the BNI Foundation, we support children in education, so this movement seemed like a great fit for us to support. Nonprofits such as charity: water, National Urban League and Save the Children will benefit from 100% of the proceeds raised through Red Nose Day.

Tonight, NBC will host a special featuring live entertainment from well-known celebrities such as Ellen DeGeneres, Jimmy Fallon and U2, all while fundraising for children living in poverty.

Beth and I hope you tune in and donate to this very worthy cause. And meanwhile, enjoy this clip of us donning our own red noses!

Counting Your Referralsstring(23) "Counting Your Referrals"

Referrals are the backbone of word-of-mouth networking, am I right?

So if you reach out 100 people with a referral and ten reach back, did you give 100 or ten referrals?

Many would immediately assume the higher number, because let’s face it–100 is better than 10. But that isn’t the case!

But WHY is this?

I come to you today with a Vlog (video blog) of this exact question, asked of me during the BNI US Conference in April.

Networking with a Purposestring(25) "Networking with a Purpose"

This is the most incredible VCP story I’ve ever heard!  It shows how relationship networking is changing lives across the globe.

(For those of you who aren’t familiar with the principle, VCP stands for Visibility, Credibility and Profitability; successful networking is achieved by first being visible in your business community, which will lead to credibility, which will lead to profitability.)

I was recently contacted by one of BNI’s Executive Directors, Susan Goodsell, to tell me about her daughter’s remarkable journey to Zanzibar, Africa. Kelsey, who is 23 years old, is there with GIVE (Growth International Volunteer Excursions) which recruits college students to work on sustainable development projects around the world. Kelsey has been volunteering with the organization for three years, and this year she has been assigned as Education Coordinator and will help her team on projects like school construction and tutoring in English.

GIVE Zanzibar schoolTo give you an idea of what Kelsey and her team are up against, here’s a little background on the culture of Zanzibar. The country is extremely poor and education is positioned against its citizens–even though the national language is Swahili, exams required to continue through school are given in English. If a student does not pass the exam, they can’t continue attending school unless they retake the exam, which costs $500–the yearly income of most families.

One of Kelsey’s primary jobs is to establish trust with the locals in order to encourage them to use GIVE’s tutoring program (this is Kelsey on the right teaching a class). She was asked to integrate with the women in the village, but she found it very challenging as their cultures are so different.

I think the next part of the story would be best told by Susan herself.

“Kelsey was hugely uncomfortable–to the point where she was messaging me on WhatsApp. “They’re older than I am. They only speak Swahili.” (She speaks very basic Swahili.) “And they don’t want anything to do with me.”

I have often said the skills in BNI are not just business skills, but life skills. I went into part Mom mode, part BNI mode.

“VCP,” I told her. “You have no credibility. You need to start with visibility. Tomorrow, simply walk through the village, smile and say “Jambo” to six women. If they have a baby or a child, smile and wave at the child. That’s it. Six women. Then consider you’ve met your goal.”

Day 1, I received a text message. “Mom, no one smiled. Not one person responded to me. And all I got were death ray stares.”

“Okay Kelsey, I get it. That must’ve been awkward. Now do it again tomorrow.”

On the third day, she messaged to say that two women smiled at her. The day after that, two women said hello back. A couple days later, she said, “Mom! SIX women smiled and talked to me first! I didn’t even do anything!”

It only took about a week.

I know VCP is actually a referral process, but it sure did come in handy when my only baby was 10,000 miles away and thinking she was in way over her head and couldn’t so anything to affect change. This is another example of how BNI success stories aren’t always about a business, or even a BNI, success. We bring our members life skills.”

Isn’t that amazing?

I’ve asked Susan to keep us updated as Kelsey continues to work in Africa and use the skills she and her mother have learned through BNI. Make sure to check back in for the future instalments of her incredible journey.

You are not entitled to referralsstring(33) "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?

 

Networking Is a Marathon, Not a Sprintstring(38) "Networking Is a Marathon, Not a Sprint"

The fact is, networking truly is a marathon of an endeavor–it’s most definitely not a sprint.  I have met so many people who practice what I call ‘hyperactive networking’ and they mistakenly approach networking at the speed of an all-out sprint–they want to be absolutely everywhere and meet absolutely everyone and they go, go, go ALL of the time until they soon inevitably burn out, ‘collapse,’ and give up.

It’s a real shame because if these people would, from the beginning, just slow down and take the time to develop a networking strategy and understand that networking takes time, patience, hard work, dedication, commitment, and endurance, they would be reaping great rewards from their networking efforts instead of exhausting themselves with nothing to show for it in the end.

Networking at its core is about taking the time to build genuine, trusted relationships.  Sure, visibility is important, but without building trust right along with it, visibility won’t get you very far in the long run.  You can run around all day long going to networking events and shaking people’s hands, but if you’re not spending time following up and developing trust with the people you meet, then you haven’t really achieved much of anything that will actually give you results from your networking efforts–do not confuse activity with accomplishment. 

So, what are your tactics for pacing yourself in the marathon of networking?  What actions do you take to strategically build relationships?  I’d love to hear from you so please share your thoughts and ideas in the comment forum below–thanks!

Quantity Is Fine, But Quality Is Kingstring(37) "Quantity Is Fine, But Quality Is King"

Photo Courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo Courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One of the biggest misconceptions I’m aware of in regard to networking is the notion that it’s an “all you can eat” affair.  In other words, people go to an event, work the room in an effort to meet everyone there, and then judge their success by the number of cards they accumulate.  Although I see a certain superficial logic in that, there’s only one fatal flaw with this kind of thinking:  it assumes that the more people you meet at an event, the more successful your networking efforts are–and that’s simply not the case.  Instead, the quality of the connections you form is much more significant than the quantity of connections you make.

Businesspeople unfamiliar with referral networking sometimes lose track of the fact that networking is the means–not the end–of their business-building activities.  They attend three, four, even five events in a week in a desperate grasp for new business.  The predictable result is that they stay so busy meeting new people that they never have time to follow up and cultivate those relationships–and how can they expect to get that new business from someone they’ve only just met?  As one of these unfortunates remarked to me, “I feel like I’m always doing business but rarely getting anything done.”

I certainly agree that meeting new people is an integral part of networking, but it’s important to remember why we’re doing it in the first place: to develop a professional rapport with individuals that will deepen over time into a trusting relationship that will eventually lead to a mutually beneficial and continuous exchange of referrals.

When meeting someone for the first time, focus on the potential relationship you might form.  As hard as it may be to suppress your business reflexes, at this stage you cannot make it your goal to sell your services or promote your company.  You’re there to get to know a new person.  A friend of mine told me something his dad always said: “You don’t have to sell to friends.”  That’s especially good advice when interacting with new contacts.

This certainly doesn’t mean you’ll never get to sell anything to people you meet while networking; it does, however, mean that you’ll need to employ a different approach.  Networking isn’t about closing business or meeting hordes of new people; it’s about developing relationships in which future business can be closed.  Once you understand that, you’ll stand out from the crowd with everyone you meet.

When you’re networking like a pro and treating new contacts as future referral partners, you’ll absolutely blow away any competitors who still feel compelled to meet as many people as they possibly can.  Why?  Because when you call your contacts back, they’ll actually remember who you are and be willing to meet with you again.

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