business networking Archives - Dr. Ivan Misner®
Encourage Employees to Network

Five Ways to Encourage Employees to Network

Too many entrepreneurs focus on bringing in new business themselves or in tandem with the sales force but overlook their support staff as a source of referrals. Building word-of-mouth for your business is not just the responsibility of your marketing or sales department. As you might imagine, it’s far better to engage your entire staff in your word-of-mouth marketing campaign-not only at startup, but also throughout the life of your business. Here are five tips on ways to encourage employees to network:

1. Include networking in the job description for each and every employee

Often, if a new hire knows upfront that he’s expected to incorporate networking into his job, it will happen.

2. Have clear and reasonable expectations.

If your company manufactures a very obscure product, your staff might have a hard time bringing in tons of referrals. However, keep in mind that people are more important in the networking process than the type of product being sold. When you have the right person, he or she will be able to build a network around any kind of product or service.

3. Teach your staff about how to network effectively for the company.

Hold focus groups where you role-play ways to ask for referrals from other customers, friends, and family. Bring in local networking experts for in-house training. If you belong to a weekly networking group, bring your staff to those meetings one at a time so each member can see firsthand what networking can produce. This also helps your networking partners feel that they know your business better since they’ve been able to meet the people in your company.  Until you teach someone how to do something effectively, expecting them to do it well or even at all is unrealistic.

4. Motivate your staff to bring referrals to the company.

My wife once worked for a business owner who incorporated monetary bonuses into her word-of-mouth marketing expectations. For every new customer, she was given a bonus. It was a win-win arrangement for the company, as each new customer brought in revenue well above the bonus amount, and my wife felt rewarded each time one of her referrals came through the door.

Having a bonus system in place made it obvious that she would be attending chamber meetings with the boss and developing other connections in the community while passing out business cards and flyers for the company. To properly execute this idea, check with your CPA or tax preparer.

You might even establish a “networker of the month” status for the staff, using a reserved parking spot or an overnight hotel stay somewhere fun as a reward. Make the motivation something that’s relevant to your industry and, most of all, exciting to your staff.

5. Be sure your staff sees you practicing your networking skills.

Often, we as entrepreneurs don’t share with our staff the amount of time and energy we put into building and maintaining our businesses utilizing word-of-mouth marketing. I have always felt very strongly about this point. If I am going to expect my staff to do something, motivate and reward them for doing it, I better let them see me doing it as well. All too often, networking is something done behind the scenes and not necessarily in front of the staff.

One way to change this is to track how much business you brought in, as well as the staff’s numbers. Imagine the pride one competitive staff member will have when he or she breaks your number. Imagine the profits your company will realize when everyone in the company focuses on growing the business.

Networking is a group activity. Make sure to encourage employees to network and get your whole team on board with the process.

Three R's of Networking

The Three R’s of Networking

Do you know the Three R’s of Networking? Remember, networking is not selling. Therefore, these three are slightly different from the Three R’s’ of Selling.  Networking, however, can help you develop a successful word-of-mouth-based business. The Three R’s of Networking are Relationships, Reliability, and Referrals.

Relationships

Word-of-mouth is about “relationship marketing.” If you approach the first year of your involvement in a networking group with the sole motivation of 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; rather, it’s how well you know them that really counts! People do business with people they know and trust.

In order for word-of-mouth marketing to work for you, you first have to build a strong foundation with the people you hope will refer you to others. That takes time, and the amount of time it takes varies from profession to profession. Obviously, some professions are much more sensitive than others to the development of referrals. So find reasons to meet with each person outside the networking meeting. Get to them, and work on having them get to know you better. Make it clear that you value your relationship with each one of them.

Reliability

For the first year or so in a networking group, you are putting in your time. Your referral partners are testing you, checking you out and making sure that you deserve to have their valuable clients and contacts turned over to you. Therefore, you must be credible to the other professionals with whom you hope to network. Bear in mind that you should feel the same way, too. Before you risk your reputation with your clients by referring them to someone who takes less care of them than you would want to be taken, you must be very sure that the person to whom you refer them is reliable! How else are you going to know that unless you use them personally over a period of time?

Referrals

After cultivating relationships and proving yourself to be reliable, you get referrals as the end result. In order for someone to receive, someone else has to give. This holds so true with referrals. I would suggest you perform a reality check to see just how effectively you are referring to the people in your networking group. You might be surprised to find how little you actually refer others, or that you consistently refer the same two or three people.

If you aren’t tracking your referrals (both given and received), it’s time to start tracking them. Look for patterns. I would anticipate that in the months following a month you were particularly active in referring others, you will find that you are receiving more referrals! I have seen the “what goes around, comes around” principle illustrated over and over in BNI, the networking organization I founded years ago.

This is a natural progression and one that can’t really be rushed. I know it can seem frustrating at times when you are anxious to see your bottom line increase quickly from all the referrals you are anticipating receiving, but believe me, if you are patient and apply these techniques, you will see word-of-mouth marketing work for you in a big way.

Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Making Word-of-Mouth Marketing Work for You

Word-of-mouth marketing is often considered one of the oldest and most powerful forms of advertising. In fact, most business people understand that it works–they just don’t know how it works.

If you want to be successful at developing word-of-mouth for your business, you should be as organized and thoughtful about it as you are about other types of advertising and marketing. In fact, if you take this approach, eventually, you can get most of your business exclusively through word-of-mouth! The key to creating a successful word-of-mouth program lies in developing a formal plan for systematically meeting people and cultivating relationships with them. Here are ten ways for you to get your own word-of-mouth marketing program off the ground.

Avoid being a cave dweller.

Get out and meet people. Start by setting a goal for the number of appointments you’ll establish with people you wish to develop networking relationships with every week. Social capital works for everybody, not just people who set out purposefully to become networkers.

Ask for the referral.

There are specific techniques you can learn and develop that will help you hone your ability to ask for the referrals you want. One such technique is to ask “Who do you know who…?” You would then list several types of people you can help, such as someone who is new to the area, someone recently married or someone who has just started a business.

Join three networking groups.

Consciously select at least three different business or networking groups to join in the next three months. These groups might include chambers of commerce, community service groups and trade associations. When joining various organizations, make sure you select a well-rounded mix of business groups in which to participate. Try to avoid being in more than one group per category (i.e., two chambers of commerce), as this will divide your loyalties and put you in a position where you’ll be making promises to too many people.

Create referral incentives.

Develop a creative incentive to encourage people to send referrals your way. A music store owner, for instance, sends music tickets to people who refer business to him. Another example is the chiropractor who posts thank-yous on a bulletin board in his waiting area to all his patients who referred patients to him the previous month.

Learn, learn, learn for lifelong learning.

Spend time developing your networking skills. Read books and articles on networking, listen to tapes, and talk to people who network well. Networking is an acquired skill.

Act like a host.

When attending a business mixer, act like a host, not a guest. You are wasting your time at mixers if you stand around visiting with coworkers or others you already know rather than meeting new contacts and introducing them around. These events offer a great way to increase your visibility! If appropriate, ask to be the ambassador or visitor host in the organizations to which you belong. As such, it will be your official duty to meet people and introduce them to others.

Create an elevator pitch.

Invest time in developing a brief message about your business that explains what you do. What would you say? I want you to keep in mind that this is not a sales pitch; it is a creative and succinct way to generate interest in the listener. When you introduce yourself to others, use your elevator pitch. Chances are, this will help them remember you and what you do. Keeping these seven rules in mind when you create an elevator pitch will set you apart from the crowd.

Take notes and follow up.

When you meet someone and exchange cards, take a few moments to flip the card over and jot down some information about them or their business that will help you remember them and follow up with them later. This is a very simple, yet powerful, way to make a great first impression that can be developed into a mutually beneficial networking partnership. When you follow up, I recommend that you offer opportunities, whether a simple piece of information, a special contact, or a qualified business referral.

Talk less and listen more.

Remember that a good networker has two ears and one mouth and uses them accordingly. Our success in networking depends on how well we can listen and learn. The faster you and your networking partner learn what you need to know about each other, the faster you’ll establish a valuable relationship.

Collaborate and help others.

People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.  Helping people shows that you care. Connect with people outside of business meetings whenever possible. Drop notes, letters and articles that might be of interest to them in the mail. Call to check in with them or invite them to events you may be attending that might be of interest.

You are potentially linked to a vast network beyond your own sphere. By implementing the tactics above, you will receive benefits from that network. Maximize your opportunities to cultivate networking relationships with others, and you will see just how effective word-of-mouth marketing can be!

Business Networking Organizations

The Five Types of Business Networking Organizations

Networking is the perfect way to help take your business to the next level. However, putting your eggs in one basket and depending on one networking group to satisfy all your needs won’t work. So, which business networking organizations should you join?

We all select different people in our lives that satisfy various needs that contribute to our well being; our parents provide comfort and guidance, our close friends provide support and cheer, our business relationships provide trust and honesty. While these satisfactions may overlap from group to group, it’s important to have more than one person you’re leaning on for all your emotional needs.

It’s the same with your networking groups! While you may find cheer and honesty in more than one group, it’s important to spread your interests to gain a varied support system. Business professionals who don’t have a lot of spare time often ask us which networking groups provide the biggest bang for their buck. There are five main types, and what works best depends on the business they’re in and the prospects they want to meet. Therefore, when selecting your business networking organizations, you need to understand which types are available so you can make an informed decision.

Here’s a quick rundown of the most familiar types.

The Five Types of Business Networking Organizations:

1. Casual Contact: A gathering of people from many different professions, usually in a mixer environment

2. Strong Contact: Usually only allows one person per profession, get together very regularly

3. Community Service Clubs: An opportunity to rub elbows with other very successful people

4. Professional Associations: Trade organizations that are very specific in purpose

5. Online: Social Media such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, where networking is constant

To better understand which business networking organizations fits you best, watch the video below.

 

business networking

What is Business Networking?

What is business networking? Let me share the true definition of networking.

“Business Networking is the process of developing and activating your relationships to increase your business, enhance your knowledge and expand your sphere of influence.”

Notice that the key word here is relationships. 

Successful networking of any kind starts with the genuine desire to build relationships for the purpose of giving and receiving business. If you are only networking to gain and not to give, you’ll never be successful.

Building Relationships should become one of the most important components of your business. You should build your business by farming not hunting. If your network is a mile wide and an inch deep, it’s not powerful. Social capital is like financial capital. To amass financial capital, you have to invest and grow your assets. You have to have money in the bank before you can make a withdrawal. Relationships are very much the same – referral relationships in particular. You must support and help others with their business before you can ask for their help.

Remember business networking is more about FARMING than it is about HUNTING.

It’s about cultivating relationships and taking the time and energy to help them grow and flourish. A good farmer knows when to tend to his crop and when to harvest it; if you over pick, you’ll be left with nothing. But if you continue to care for and maintain your crop, it will grow abundantly.

Let’s think of the farmers, the ones who cultivate steady, growing, genuine and authentic relationships with the people they feel are important to include in their network. They have a steady back-and-forth of interactions that benefits not only them. Everyone involved is rewarded. Why? Because the time is taken to really get to know people enough to make a relationship means that when it comes time to make a referral, it’s much easier to call upon them.

Watch this video below to hear more details about the true meaning of business networking.

How do you define “Business Networking”?

This word has become so overused that some business professionals can no longer define networking. Many people think that networking is attending social or business after-hour events, shaking a few hands, collecting a few cards, and, of course, giving away a few cards of their own. Sadly, they actually believe that’s all there is to networking. To be fair, we could say they’re engaging in social networking. That’s never to be confused, however, with business networking.

Businesspeople tend to fall into one of two groups when it comes to their views of networking. For many, the current mindset is that networking is a passive business strategy, not a proactive marketing tool. This attitude results in a scattered, often ineffective networking approach that consequently wastes the business owner’s time and money. Not surprisingly, when people feel they’ve been wasting their time and money on something, they’re understandably not going to continue that activity.

On the other hand, some proprietors do consider networking a proactive marketing tool for their business. How can you tell? They make it a significant part of their marketing and business plans. These business owners have networking goals. They may even have a budget line item for networking. Most importantly, they practice it and live it every day. They are training a sales force. Their networking team is there to keep an eye out for potential clients. If you “target talk”, that is, hone in on exactly what type of client you are looking for, better, more qualified referrals will result.

After watching the video, let us know your thoughts on the definition of business networkingDo you have a different definition or any feedback on what may be missing from the new definition of networking that we’ve provided here?  We’d love to hear from you so please leave your comments in the comments below. Thanks!

The TRUE Definition of Networking

What is the true definition of business networking? I’m going to give it to you straight.

Networking is the process of developing and activating your relationships to increase your business, enhance your knowledge and expand your sphere of influence. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

Notice that the key word here is relationships. Successful networking of any kind starts with the genuine desire to build relationships for the purpose of giving and receiving business. If you are only networking to gain and not to give, you’ll never be successful.

Remember-networking is more about FARMING than it is about HUNTING. It’s about cultivating relationships and taking the time and energy to help them grow and flourish. A good farmer knows when to tend to his crop and when to harvest it; if you over pick, you’ll be left with nothing. But if you continue to care for and maintain your crop, it’ll grown abundantly.

Watch the video below to hear more details about the true meaning of business networking.

This video is hosted by the Entrepreneur.com YouTube Channel, Networking for Success.

 

It’s actually NOT about who you know

When it comes to networking, the old adage goes, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” We’ve all heard it and we’ve probably all said it.

But I’m here to tell you it’s NOT about who or what you know, but about how well you know each other!

Networking can become a shallow game if you treat relationships like chess pieces, using them for you own best advantage. Instead, if you approach networking from a personal angle with a genuine desire to get to know others, you’ll have far greater success. But how can you deepen your existing relationships with people to get to the point where they’d be willing to help or refer you in the future?

1. Give them a personal call. I know, I know–calling someone on the phone is so dated. But hear me out. Sending an email or a text message won’t get you the same results as actually making the effort to pick up the phone and call someone. Set up a 1-2-1 meeting and DO NOT try to sell them. Set up this meeting to deepen the connection and start to build a professional relationship.  ID-100209414

2. Make personal calls to all the people who have helped or referred you business to you in the past. Ask them how things are going. Try and learn more about their current activities so you can help in some way.

3. Put together a “touch-point list” of fifty people you’d like to stay in touch with this year. Include anyone who has sent business your way in the past twelve months as well as any other prospects you’ve connected with recently. Send them cards on the next holiday, connect with them on social media, and stay connected in any other way you believe they are most interested in.

4. Two weeks after you’ve connected with them (from step 4) call them and see what’s going on. if they’re past clients or people you’ve talked to before, now is the perfect time to ask for a referral. If they’re prospects, perhaps you can set up an appointment to have coffee and find out if their plans might include using your services.

Thanks, But I Don’t Need Your Card

This video is hosted on the Networking for Success YouTube Channel, hosted by Entrepreneur.com.

Imagine you’re at a networking event.

I know, it’s a stretch. But work with me here.

So you’re mixing and mingling and start passing out your business cards like candy. Suddenly, someone hands it back you and says, “No, thanks.” This actually happened to a BNI Member. He wrote to me, astonished, and asked what I would do in his situation. Well, here’s my answer.

 

 

 

Premature Solicitor

Why Successful Networking is All About You…Kind Of

This is the first in a two part series.

Do you find yourself a networking event, standing alone awkwardly and wondering why you can’t hold a conversation? Do you wonder why others don’t seem interested in talking to you, while those around you are conversing easily and often? You wore the right thing, you have a drink in your hand and clearly you have no one to talk to–so why aren’t people lined around the corner to speak to you?

I hate to be the one to say it, but it has to be said–it might be you. Not the inherent you, not your personality or your reputation; but your body language and behavior can turn a stranger into a referral partner or into just another body in the room. If you want to make this networking thing happen, you have to know–

Are you approachable or alienating?

Here’s how to know if you are APPROACHABLE:

1. Positive Attitude: You smile, laugh and look like you are a pleasant person to talk to. Although this seems ridiculously simple, you’d be surprised how many people don’t realize their frowning or looking bored in conversation. Go look in the mirror and watch how your face changes when you frown and when you smile–you’ll see what a difference it makes!

2. Open Body Language: In the book Networking Like a Pro, I talk about positioning when a person is conversing with others. Instead of talking to someone in a one-on-one conversation, standing closely together with your shoulders facing squarely at one another, make sure your stance allows the room for someone else to approach and join in.

3.Congruence: Conduct yourself as if every person you meet is the host of the event, going above and beyond to make them feel good. Don’t over compliment or lay on the schmooze, but do make a point to encourage others in conversation and seem genuinely interested in them and their business.

 

Next week: Are you alienating?

 

 

 

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 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?

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.

 

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