The End is Near!string(16) "The End is Near!"

No, not the end of the world, silly . . . I’m talking about the end of the recession. Recently, I wrote about “Business Looking up in 2011” which was based on a survey of over 5,000 businesspeople and entrepreneurs at www.BNIBusinessIndex.com.  The survey was a global survey that was taken by people from every populated continent in the world.

The survey found that almost 68% of the respondents say that business is growing or growing dramatically compared to this time a year ago.  What the survey doesn’t explain is why those businesses are growing.

I have a few thoughts, based on my observations recently, which may shed some light on this and also provide insight into how you can grow your business:

  • Innovation in adversity is a key factor. I know a commercial real estate broker in Southern California who said that he had his best year ever in 2010 (and he’s been in business for 26 years).  He cited the fact that he did dozens and dozens of one-to-ones during the year to find ways to work together with other businesses.  His opening approach was to help them.  However, at the same time, it built his business in the process.  This is counter-intuitive to most commercial real estate people he told me.
  • It all starts with attitude.  A product sales company in the UK was about to do layoffs to meet payroll.  One of the sales reps wrote on the whiteboard – “we refuse to participate in the recession.”   Everyone in the office signed it.  They ended up with their best month all year and no one was laid off!
  • Look for new or emerging opportunities.  I met a residential Real Estate agent on the East Coast of the U.S. who told me he had his best year ever last year.  He said he went to investors he’s worked with in the past and told them that “real estate is on sale!”  He said to them, “don’t be one of those people who come to me in a few years and say… “I was crazy not to look at these opportunities.  I should have bought back in 2010!”  He told me this strategy has helped him sell more than any year in recent memory.
  • Be creative with your offers.  I recently met a business coach in the mid-west of the U.S. who created a guarantee for his coaching.  He said, if you follow my weekly coaching program and you don’t raise your income to at least six figures, I’ll continue to coach you for free until you do.  He said it has dramatically increased his sales and has not had to provide any clients with free coaching yet.

If you have any insights / observations about the current upward slope of business or outside-the-box tips on how to boost business despite a challenging economy, please leave a comment and share your thoughts.

"New Year’s Resolutions and Networking"string(55) ""New Year’s Resolutions and Networking""

A friend of mine, TR Garland (pictured with me in the photo at right), just wrote a great blog entry which contains some very timely information for many people across the globe and I’d like to take the opportunity to share it with you today as a guest blog.  Enjoy . . .

“New Year’s Resolutions and Networking” by TR Garland

In about 30 days, the majority of people around the world are going to be faced with the same thing we’re all faced with once at a certain point every single year.

No, I’m not talking about keeping a smile on your face while spending the holidays with your in-laws (wink-wink).  I’m talking about setting New Year’s Resolutions.

Every year, one of the top resolutions is to “get in shape.”  The truth of the matter is that most of us already know how to get in shape:

1.  Design a nutritional plan and stick to it

2.  Design a workout schedule and stick to it

3.  Track your actions and results daily and recalibrate if needed

The problem is, a large percentage of people don’t reach their goals because:

1.  They don’t write out a formal nutrition plan or workout schedule

2.  They don’t hold themselves accountable

In other words, life gets in their way.

So what can be done about this?  Well, there’s something about human psychology that pushes us to not let someone else down. Because of this, people who invest in a personal trainer to help keep them accountable tend to achieve desired results much more consistently than they ever would by attempting to get in shape on their own.

It’s important to note that this same concept holds true for business networking and referral marketing.

Many people are spending a lot of time networking by just chatting away with others and maybe grabbing others’ business cards.  By doing this, they then expect results; they expect that the people whom they’ve met and exchanged business cards with will eventually pass a referral to them.  This mindset is called being reactive ( . . . and hoping for the best!).  Being reactive is an employee  mindset or mentality that, in my opinion, gets placed into the same category as punch cards, guaranteed smoke breaks, assembly lines, benefits entitlement, and cubicles.  In other words, this mindset is something that isn’t really that viable anymore in today’s economic environment.

If you don’t believe me, look around and note which businesses are thriving and hiring.  I’m confident you’ll discover that the businesses which are doing well are those that do not have a reactive mindset and, instead, maintain an entrepreneurial mindset.

An entrepreneurial mindset is one that takes ownership and focuses on being proactive versus reactive.  Just like the “getting in shape” example above, being proactive and accountable in your business networking and referral marketing efforts is a sure-fire way to get results–plain and simple.

So, especially if you’ll be out attending holiday parties in the coming 30 days with your spouse, significant other, family, or friends, remember to be proactive with your networking efforts.  Go to each event with a purpose (in addition to your goal of having fun).  Don’t simply gather business cards, that’s not what I’m talking about.  Instead, set relevant and realistic networking goals and ask the person you went with to hold you accountable to your goals.

And, of course, there’s a time and a place for everything.  You need to respect the event you’re attending and if the environment doesn’t warrant you achieving certain networking goals . . . grab a celebratory beverage and some festive treats and remember, there’s always next year!

* TR Garland is a Referral Marketing Strategist for the Referral Institute® in Orange County, California where he is a consultant to top performers and entrepreneurs on maximizing their ROI/ROT from business contacts and networking.  Starting in 2011, you can follow TR for his tips, tactics, and techniques on effective networking at his newly launched blog located at www.BeABetterNetworker.com.

 

A Networking Trick for the 21st Centurystring(39) "A Networking Trick for the 21st Century"

Years ago I wrote about a great technique to get people to come to me for their referral needs.  However, I recently saw a modern twist to this great idea that I’d like to share with you today.

Here’s a little background information on the original concept:

Since the late ’80s I’ve been training people to use a little networking trick that will enable them to give referrals to more people (which of course leads to getting more referrals for themselves).  I talk about this trick in one of my early columns for Entrepreneur.com as well as a blog I wrote last year entitled: Use This Networking Trick to Increase Business.

In a nutshell, the technique is to compose a letter that you give to your clients and contacts which states that an important part of your business is to give referrals to people looking for services that you recommend (you can find a more detailed explanation, along with a sample letter, by clicking on the link given above).

Here’s the interesting, modern twist:

Terry Burkot has created a 21st century version of this same networking technique by adding video to the equation.  She still sends a personal message to all the people in her network; however, she doesn’t write a letter, she instead sends a video message which really utilizes the tools we have available to us in this world full of constantly-evolving technology.

Terry used my idea (which was so last century :)) and really improved on it.  Well done, Terry!

I’d love to hear your comments on what you think of this modern twist to networking.

Taking Chargestring(13) "Taking Charge"

The best word-of-mouth programs I’ve seen happen by design, not by accident or wishful thinking. Unfortunately, many businesspeople view word of mouth somewhat like the weather: “Sure it’s important, but what can I do about it?”

Based on more than two decades of research, observation, and practical experience, I’ve found that in addition to focusing on the important issue of customer service, the average businessperson has much to do in order to build a referral business.  Word of mouth can be planned and nurtured.  Anyone, including business owners, entrepreneurs, sales representatives, staff employees, even individuals serving in a volunteer capacity in any field, can accomplish plenty with a well-structured and systematically executed word-of-mouth plan.

All too often I have seen businesspeople waiting for business to walk through the door. They think because they are good at what they do, people should be flocking to them.  I’m afraid the truth is, it doesn’t work that way!  You have to take charge, no matter what business you’re in or how good you are, and bring the business to you.

I once saw a cartoon strip of two large, ravenous-looking vultures perched on a tree limb, overlooking a dry desert plain.  After quite a while, one vulture turns to the other and says, “Wait for something to die?  Heck, let’s kill something!”  So it is with word-of-mouth marketing.  You can’t simply wait for people to come to you.  If you do, one of your competitors who also provides good customer service will most likely find them before they show up at your doorstep.

If you want to succeed, you have to go get your business, or better yet, have someone else get it for you through referrals.

What’s the Payoff for Developing an Effective Word-of-Mouth Strategy?string(75) "What’s the Payoff for Developing an Effective Word-of-Mouth Strategy?"

Developing an effective word-of-mouth strategy that results in a strong referral-based business takes endless time, energy, effort and, above all, commitment. The actions and steps necessary to create a successful referral-networking campaign are simple, yet far from easy; they take tremendous dedication and drive, and results can be a long time in coming.

So why should you put forth the time and effort to develop a word-of-mouth strategy for your business?  Because, if you commit to doing it right and don’t give up, the payoff can be unbelievably high.

In fact, many businesses have become so adept at referral marketing that they get most of their sales through referrals and spend little or no money on advertising — and they never have to place cold calls. Some of these businesses hire most of their employees through referrals, manage complex financing arrangements and even procure necessary products through referral contacts they have cultivated for many years.

But a referral-based business can reward you in ways beyond those measured in dollars. Dealing with people you like and trust is a better way to live and work than sparring with strangers all day long. You may even find the relationships you form with your referral sources more important than the dollars your new customers bring you. Such relationships are central to both the referral-generation process and the satisfaction you derive from your work.

So, the next time you find yourself doubting whether your networking efforts are really worth it, remember: If you don’t give up, and you continually devote yourself to working on making your word-of-mouth strategy better and better, the payoff can be enormous both financially and in terms of happiness in business and life.

Don’t Give Up Five Minutes Before The Payoffstring(46) "Don’t Give Up Five Minutes Before The Payoff"

I received this story from one of my readers. I think it is a GREAT example of how networking is more about farming than it is about hunting. Don’t give up too soon. It  is all about relationship building, and that takes time!

In any endeavor, there is an objective in mind . . . a goal line to cross. When I first joined my networking group, it was to get enough referrals and closed business that I could make more money than the cost of membership. Being an investment advisor, I was made aware that the time horizon for a quality referral was the longest of any profession represented around the tables.

The first time I joined a networking group was in November, 2007, and even though that group eventually dissolved, I was fortunate enough to find a seat in another flourishing group in November of 2009. During the declining period of my first networking group — through its loss of charter, core group restart process and eventual dissolution — I was beginning to despair. I was approaching the two-year mark with no referrals, and my group was washing out from under my feet. My friends and colleagues started asking me, “What are you getting out of it?” Driving to one of the final meetings before my group disbanded, I was contemplating giving it all up. Then I remembered an affirmation from years ago: Don’t give up five minutes before the miracle happens.

Anything one believes must withstand self-scrutiny, so I really took a hard look at why I kept attending. The answer was simple: I believed it would eventually provide the results I expected. Additionally, there are other intangible benefits that are hard to quantify. My networking group provides a business education that is not taught in schools, and the larger bonus . . . it’s also the practice lab. I believe in systems. If you focus on the right systems, the results will follow. You (Ivan Misner) say networking is about “farming,” not “hunting,” which requires the nurturing of relationships in order for them to yield anything fruitful, much the way a farmer must attend his crops or orchards.

So the payoff? After two years and three months, I received my first referral from one of the relationships I built from my first group. The size of the account was four times what I expected, and since I work on a fee-based schedule instead of commissions, the income stream from this exceeds my yearly dues and renewal fees. One referral has and will pay for my membership in perpetuity.

Don’t give up five minutes before the miracle happens!

A Win-Win Way to Reward Referral Sourcesstring(40) "A Win-Win Way to Reward Referral Sources"

If you’re looking for creative ways to give referral incentives, it’s worth considering a technique I like to call “Incentive Triangulation.” This is a powerful way of leveraging other people’s services to benefit your customers, clients or patients and reward those who refer you.

The concept is simple and can be designed to fit the needs or requirements of any business. For example, a retailer might negotiate an arrangement with another local business, such as a florist, printer or appliance store owner, whereby that store will provide its customers with a discount of 10 percent or more on their next purchase. After that, each time someone gives you a referral, reward him with whatever you would normally give as an incentive and also a coupon good for the discount at the prearranged business.

This form of joint venture is beneficial for all three parties, hence the term “Incentive Triangulation.”  You benefit because you are providing another incentive for people to refer you. The other business benefits because you are sending your clients to it, along with a recommendation, of course.

Finally, your clients will benefit because they got recognition for their effort as well as an additional product or service at a reduced rate.

If you have an example of how you’ve successfully used Incentive Triangulation, leave a comment and explain how you’ve used it. Your example could spark great ideas for other blog readers on how they might use the technique for their business.

Think You Don’t Need a Network?–Think Again . . .string(61) "Think You Don’t Need a Network?–Think Again . . ."

As a small-business professional or entrepreneur, how do you:

  • Get advice and help when problems arise
  • Gather the information you need for making important business decisions
  • Identify your markets and locate potential clients?

Unfortunately, most people get help in times of need from individuals or businesses they don’t know well. Instead of anticipating and planning for needs and emergencies, they are forced to react to every situation. They search the internet or ask friends and associates to help solve problems or recommend solutions, even though these people may not have the necessary expertise, and the sources they recommend may have little relevance to or experience with the business operation that is in need.

As a small-business owner, you don’t have the built-in resources to employ a management team to plan ahead, proactively problem solve, obtain and maintain ready access to vital resources–information, personnel, funding–and make informed decisions quickly in an emergency.  What you need is the functional equivalent of a management team and that is exactly what a network is for!

Your network is a systematically and strategically selected group of people on whom you can call as the need arises. It is a diverse, balanced and powerful system of sources–people from all facets of the business world–that will provide referrals, information and support in key areas of your business or profession, over both the short and the long term.

So, if you know someone who doesn’t want to put in the time and effort to establish a network because he thinks his business is just fine without one, do him a huge favor and explain why he needs to think again.

‘Mastering the World of Selling’string(44) "‘Mastering the World of Selling’"

When one of your business relationships passes you a referral, don’t assume that the prospect is ready to hear a presentation on your product or service. When an associate passes you a referral, say thanks . . . then start digging for more information.

You will want to determine whether what you offer is a fit for what the prospect needs.  Taking the time to do this upfront saves a lot of time and energy–for both you and the prospect. Exactly what does the prospect do? What products or services does he want from you? Will your offerings truly fulfill his needs? What is his behavioral style? What are his business goals? How large is his company?

Even with the referral in hand, don’t skip steps in your sales process. Before you approach the prospect, decide on a strategy based on whatever you can find out about him–the same as you would when preparing for any sale. Although the prospect was referred to you, all you’ve really received is an opportunity to approach the prospect with a favorable introduction. (This is not a bad thing–a single referral can open the door to a prospect it may have taken weeks, months or even years to connect with–if you even could at all.)  But whether the prospect becomes a client or not depends on how well you convince him that what you offer, at the price and under the conditions you offer it, will fulfill his needs.

It’s always a good idea to consistently hone your sales skills and strategies. If you need a good sales resource, look no further than Mastering the World of Selling.  It’s a brand-new book by Eric Taylor and David Riklan, and it contains one of the greatest collections of sales training wisdom for the 21st century that I’ve ever come across. It features sales strategies and advice from 89 of the world’s top experts including Brian Tracy, Zig Ziglar, Tom Hopkins, Jeffrey Gitomer, yours truly and more. 🙂  To find out more about Mastering the world of Selling, click here.

Do you have any dynamite sales wisdom that you’ve picked up over the years?  If so, I invite you to share it here by leaving a comment–there’s no such thing as too much useful information.  Thanks!

How Soon Should You Expect Profitability from a Relationship?string(61) "How Soon Should You Expect Profitability from a Relationship?"

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve written a few blogs on the VCP Process® of networking and, since I’ve already covered visibility and credibility in detail, today I’m going to tell you what you need to know about profitability, the third and final phase of the VCP Process.

The mature relationship, whether business or personal, can be defined in terms of its profitability. Is it mutually rewarding? Do both partners gain satisfaction from it? Does it maintain itself by providing benefits to both? If it doesn’t profit both partners to keep it going, it probably will not endure.

The best piece of advice I can give you in regard to when to expect to get to profitability is to be patient. The time it takes to pass through the phases of a developing relationship is highly variable.  It’s not always easy to determine when profitability has been achieved: A week? A month? A year? In a time of urgent need, you and a client may proceed from visibility to credibility overnight. The same is true of profitability; it may happen quickly or it may take years, but most likely it will be somewhere in between. It will depend on the frequency and quality of the contacts and especially on the desire of both parties to move the relationship forward.

Shortsightedness can impede the full development of the relationship. Perhaps you’re a customer who has done business with a certain vendor off and on for several months, but to save pennies you keep hunting around for the lowest price, ignoring the value this vendor provides in terms of service, hours, goodwill and reliability. Are you really profiting from the relationship, or are you stunting its growth?  Perhaps if you gave this vendor all your business, you could work out terms that would benefit both of you.  Profitability is not found by bargain hunting. It must be cultivated. And, like farming, it takes patience.

Visibility and credibility are important in the relationship-building stages of the referral-marketing process.  But when you have established an effective referral generation system, you will have entered the profitability stage of your relationships with many people–the people who send you referrals and the customers you recruit as a result. It’s an essential part of successful relationship marketing and networking.

Moving from Visibility to Credibilitystring(37) "Moving from Visibility to Credibility"

In last Thursday’s blog, I explained that visibility, the first phase of the VCP Process®, brings the opportunity to build credibility and that credibility is what will ultimately get you to profitability, where you’ll actually benefit from your networking and relationship building efforts.

So how do you move from visibility to credibility?  Well, once you and another individual achieve visibility with each other, meaning you’re aware of each other and the nature of each other’s business, you begin to form expectations of one another; once those expectations are fulfilled, your relationship can enter the credibility stage.  If each person is confident of gaining satisfaction from the relationship, then it will continue to strengthen.

Credibility is the quality of being reliable, worthy of confidence.  Credibility grows when appointments are kept, promises are acted upon, facts are verified, and services are rendered.  The old saying that results speak louder than words is true.  Failure to live up to expectations–to keep both explicit and implicit promises–can kill a budding relationship before it breaks the surface of the ground and can create visibility of a kind you don’t want.

To determine how credible you are, people often turn to third parties.  They ask someone they know who has known you longer or perhaps has done business with you.  So, how credible are you?  Would the people in your network vouch for you by saying that you are reliable and honest, your products and services are effective, you keep your appointments, act on your promises, deliver results as expected, and can be counted on in a crunch?  If you’re not sure, now is the time to make a strategic effort to build your credibility; without credibility, you can forget about achieving profitability.

If you’re interested in learning more about profitability (If you’re in business, it’s safe to assume you’re very interested. ;-)), the third phase of the VCP Process®, and when you should expect to achieve it with your contacts, be sure to come back and read this Thursday’s blog.

The First Phase of the VCP Process–Visibilitystring(51) "The First Phase of the VCP Process–Visibility"

Last week I wrote a blog explaining the VCP Process, which is a huge part of the foundation of networking. Because this process is so crucial to effective networking, I promised to write a blog entry for each of the three phases (visibility, credibility and profitability), and today I’m going to talk about why it all starts with visibility.

The first phase of growing a relationship is visibility: You and another individual become aware of each other.  In business terms, a potential source of referrals or a potential customer becomes aware of the nature of your business–perhaps because of your public relations and advertising efforts, because of your social media presence or perhaps through someone you both know. This person may observe you in the act of conducting business or relating with the people around you. The two of you begin to communicate and establish links–perhaps a question or two over the phone or via e-mail messages about product availability. You may become personally acquainted and work on a first-name basis, but you know little about each other. A combination of many such relationships forms a casual-contact network, a sort of de facto association based on one or more shared interests.

The visibility phase is important because it creates recognition and awareness.  The greater your visibility, the more widely known you will be, the more information you will obtain about others, the more opportunities you will be exposed to, and the greater will be your chances of being accepted by other individuals or groups as someone to whom they can or should refer business.  Visibility must be actively maintained and developed; without it, you cannot move on to the next level, credibility.

I’ll talk more about credibility next week, but it’s important to understand that visibility brings the opportunity to build credibility, and credibility is what will get you to profitability, where you’ll actually benefit from your efforts. So many times people try to jump straight from visibility to profitability, and that’s not real networking; it’s just an obvious ploy to get something from your new contacts. That’s nothing more than a bad attempt at direct selling and a big waste of time.

So, how do you go about creating more visibility for your business? What are some strategies that have really worked out well for you?  I’d love to hear your comments.

1 7 8 9 10