Networking Story of the Week: “Gifts of Gratitude”

September 6, 2009

by Lee Abraham

Jenifer Anseth – M.R. Designs & Gifts: Commercial Furniture and a Grand Opening Two-fer

“I have a Power Team partner who is in Commercial Furniture Sales and after he finishes furnishing an office he likes to send one of our Gift Baskets for the office’s Grand Opening. From my standpoint, he not only does something to promote his company, but he creates an in for me with the new company.

He also promotes me to the other sales people who he works with for their Grand Openings and a different way to show client appreciation. I can’t begin to tell you how many great referrals he has given me!”

AZ Gift Baskets

AZ Gift Baskets

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Sudden Impact – Beyond Hot Referrals

April 10, 2009

by Lee Abraham

money-in-the-bank2jpgEveryone loves a hot referral. On the receiving end it’s called money in the bank… Ca-CHING! For the giver, it’s more of a feeling. A warm and fuzzy tingle you get every time your networking efforts help build the business of someone you like and trust. Not to mention, a networking partner who is helping build your business in return.  

Two words: “Givers Gain®!

Coined by Dr. Ivan Misner, founder of BNI (Business Network Int’l), the world’s largest business network, Givers Gain® is BNI’s philosophy of helping others first and then benefiting in return.

That said, hot referrals are great for both the giver and receiver. And yeah, as a result, everybody around the networking table walks away viewing you with a little more Credibility. But if you really want to rock the house and lift the energy of every single person in the room, bring a Visitor to the meeting!

Inviting Visitors 101 – Invite Visitors to VISIT, not join your group

Obviously, the primary reason you invite visitors to your networking meeting is to grow the group. Even a group that is productive at its current size needs to have a steady flow of Visitors simply to cover the natural attrition of losing people due to relocation, downsizing, changing careers or not renewing membership for some other reason.

Plus, even Visitors who do not submit an application to join your network are likely to do business with someone in the group. Studies show each Visitor does an average of $2,500 with one or more people in the group whether they join or not. 

Most important: A Visitor brings fresh energy and even if the other members aren’t consciously aware of it, everyone becomes a bit more animated. visitor1During Open Networking at the start of the meeting, every Visitor is a potential customer for each member of the group. The sense of new opportunity impacts everyone in attendance. And as the person who invited the Visitor, your VCP skyrockets! 

In short, Visitors are the lifeblood of a weekly networking meeting. Your ability to attract Visitors to the meeting plays a major role in your VCP with the other members, and in turn, the benefit you get out of the group. 

What to Say

Good news! Everyone can be successful at bringing Visitors to the meeting. Keep it simple and you’ll do fine. Here are a few basic tips to increase your results: 

1) Avoid creating obstacles that get in the way of someone who might otherwise visit your meeting. Top of the list: suggesting they consider joining. It’s counterproductive.  All the suggestion does is trigger questions of “How much does it cost to join” and “What’s the commitment?” Not good for your Visitor to Invitation ratio!

Let me repeat: Invite Visitors to Visit, not Join your group.

Why? Less pressure and greater probability of success. Trust me, run a good meeting and it will sell itself. Your job is to get the Visitor to the meeting. If joining is a good idea, singerVisitors will see it on their own. 

2) When Inviting, sing the group’s praises, tell the potential Visitor about how great the networking group is for your business and that you would love for them to see how it works. 

3) Tell the prospect about other business categories and people in the group who would likely be a good connection based on Contact Spheres and Power Teams.

For example, if the prospect is a Home Inspector, they would be interested to meet the Realtor, Mortgage and Insurance person in the group. A Photographer would love to be introduced to your Florist, Caterer and Event Planner. Capiche? Click here for a post on Contact Spheres and Power Teams.

4) Ask the Visitor to bring a stack of business cards and be ready to connect with a room full of your networking partners, people who might become a source of referrals for them. 

5) When inviting let the prospect know that there is no cost or obligation to visit, other than maybe a room or meal charge if you have one. Most structured networking groups allow Visitors to sit in on two meetings and then ask the newbie to either submit an application for membership or quit freeloading. 

More Than What You Say, It’s How You Say It

Best practice: be excited, show enthusiasm and speak from first hand experience. What do you enjoy most about the meeting? Talk about how your networking group has benefited you and your business. What business categories might be natural networking partners for the Visitor?

If you genuinely feel great about your group, the person you are talking with will feel it too. bull-by-the-hornsAnd like it or not, we make decisions based on emotion. Be smart. Tap into your positive feelings. Use your emotional energy to direct that quirky thing called “human nature” to your advantage.

I see the look of determination on your face. You are ready to take the bull by the horns and start inviting like never before. The problem? You aren’t sure who to talk to. Got it! Join us next time when we look into who you should invite to your networking meeting and why, when our adventure in networking continues… Follow me on Twitter!


Show Up, Look Good and Be Sharp – 3 Keys to Success at Networking Meetings (part 2)

April 3, 2009

 

diversity-1by Lee Abraham

 

Diversity is good. Particularly in networking. The wider variety of business categories, as well as age, ethnicity and just about any other demographic variable, including a balance of both men and women, the stronger the network and further its reach.

 

Other factors, including dress and appearance, require a delicate balance between diversity and minimum standards. And therein lies the rub. Why? Opinions on dress and appearance, particularly our own, can be very subjective.

 

Basic Etiquette 103 – Dress to Meet or Exceed Expectations For Your Occupation.

 

The operative phrase is “expectations for your occupation.”

 

Someone representing a Carpet Cleaning business is perfectly professional in a nice pair of shorts and short sleeve, company logo shirt. On the other hand, an Attorney or CPA is expected to look like a “business” professional, decked out in a suit or some other, equally natty attire.

 

Should be simple, right? Listen. Anyone who has been involved in structured networking for any length of time can tell you a story about the slob who used to be in their group, and how that person never ceased to amaze with a sloppy appearance and counterproductive self image.

 

Do yourself and the rest of the group a favor: do not be that person. decisionLet’s face it, you only have one chance to make a good first impression and you never know who you will meet at a networking meeting!

Rationalizing a too causal look with “Well, everybody there already knows me,” or “I don’t have any other appointments after the meeting, so why bother?” is the teetering point of good and bad decision making. Unlike too many things in life and business, you have control over what you wear and how you look. Take advantage of the opportunity. Don’t be lazy, be sharp!

Basic Etiquette 104 – Be Prepared to Train Your Sales Force

Getting the most out of a networking meeting is in a large part due to preparation. Some of the essentials are your business cards and any promotional material you’d like to use. 

Most importantly though, be prepared to clearly train the rest of the group, your “Sales Force,” to recognize your Target Market for this week and what to tell the prospect on your behalf. 

Waiting for the last minute to figure out your weekly Target Market and how to quickly train the group to find it for you, begs repeating of an old cliché: “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” ‘Nuff said!

next-time-6Sure, there are many other details you can prepare each week to maximize your results from structured networking. We are going to look at two of the most important, regular attendance, as well as finding, training and rewarding a substitute “Bragging Buddy” to fill in at meetings you can’t attend, next time, when our adventure in networking continues… Follow Me on Twitter!


Show Up, Look Good and Be Sharp – 3 Keys to Success at Networking Meetings (part 1)

March 31, 2009

 

guitar-player-2by Lee Abraham

 

Structured networking meetings are like a music concert. From advance promotion and venue prep, to sound, lighting and onstage performance, lots of variables make or break the show. Want to be the rock star of your own referral marketing tour? It’s simple: show up, look good and be sharp!

 

Basic Etiquette 102: Arrive Early – Stay Late.

 

Open networking before and after the meeting is the most valuable portion of a structured networking meeting.

 

Let’s say your group meets once a week for 90 minutes. More than likely, the meeting starts at 7am with 15 minutes to mingle and everybody sits down at 7:15 to start the agenda.

 

Tip: Be a Power Team networker and get there early, say 6:45 and help set up. Your extra participation will quickly strengthen your relationships with the group’s Leadership Team, as well as other members who also show up early. Plus, you will be one of the first people to meet any new Visitors, jump starting your productivity at the meeting.

 

Get Up – Stand Up

 

During the meeting several things happen. Early in the meeting, people stand up one at a time and tell the group about the type of referrals and business prospects they are looking for this week.

 

Later in the meeting the group goes around the room again, this time passing referrals, written slips of paper with contact information and notes on prospects they’ve found for each other over the past week. spaghettiClearly, the priority is to make business for each other.

 

And as important as these agenda items are, it’s Open Networking, the time before and after the meeting that’ll put the meat in your spaghetti sauce. Why? Open networking is your opportunity to connect, share ideas and most importantly, exchange energy with the other people at the meeting.

 

Fact: people who like you, care about you and are emotionally invested in your success are the ones who will pass you the most referrals. And nothing strengthens the bond between people faster than face to face interaction.

 

Write this down: Your primary goal inside and outside the meeting is to evolve networking relationships from Visibility to Credibility, and finally, Profitability. Call it the “VCP Process®.”

 

Questions are Your Answers

 

OK, let’s get down to details.

 

Prior to the meeting, if there are no visitors, talk to the other networking group members. Start with the people you know the least. Get to know them a little better and the type of referrals they are looking for.

 

If there are Visitors, talk to them first! Learn about the Visitor with the “9 Key Questions.” Go for it – chat ‘em up! Use the “2 Big Trigger Questions” to uncover referral opportunities.  Take enough time to focus, make a connection and then shift networking gears from data collection to referral creation.

 

Once you identify the Visitor’s business category, and if they are in one of the “Six Target Markets,” you will know if the Visitor is a Golden Goose referral source or Consumer Prospect for someone else in the group.

 

Be a good Bragging Buddy! helping-someone-2Introduce the Visitor to the networking partner in your group who will benefit most from the connection. Help the Visitor like and trust your networking partner with a powerful, heart felt testimonial. Nothing will build VCP with your networking partners faster!

 

Here’s the money shot. Now that you know  a few things about the Visitor, use your opportunity during the meeting of telling the group about the type of referral you are looking for this week, to tailor your message to the Visitor. In other words, if you see the Visitor as a prospect for you, now is the time to describe that type of prospect as well as the benefit and value you bring to that Target Market, when it is your turn to ask for referrals.

 

Realtor Example

 

Let’s say you are a Realtor. The Visitor is a Personal Injury Lawyer. Using the “Two Big Trigger Questions,” you uncovered the Visitor’s biggest challenge at the moment is finding good Health & Wellness professionals to refer his clients to. The attorney also mentioned he is looking for the right investment vehicle to put profits into from his rapidly growing Law Practice. Now you’ve got the information you need. The target in your sights!

 

Prior to the meeting you introduced the Visitor to the Chiropractor, Physical Therapist, Personal Trainer and Massage Therapist in your group. Why? As a Personal Injury Lawyer, the Visitor can become an ongoing, Golden Goose source of business for all of these business categories. Good work! Your Visibility has just taken a giant leap toward Credibility with your Health & Wellness networking partners!

 

Later, when you have the floor and opportunity to tell the group about what you are looking for this week,target-3 you ask for referrals to “Successful business people and Investors, people with cash who want to make money by building Real Estate equity with Income Properties, taking advantage of incredibly low prices and historically low interest rates, as well several Real Estate Tax Shelters for high income earners.” Ca-CHING! Do you think you’ve got the Attorney’s attention?

 

All Good Things in All Good Time

 

By using questions to uncover opportunity, being a good Bragging Buddy first with effective introductions and testimonials before the meeting, and then connecting your product or service to the needs of the Visitor, you achieve a measure of Credibility before asking for business. Taking your time, being strategic, giving first and then asking for business later is much more effective than talking about the benefits of your product or services to the Visitor before the meeting.

 

Last point: Never show up after the actual meeting agenda starts! Racing in at the last minute always works against you. Not only have you missed the valuable opportunities of open networking, you’ve created a distraction. Bottom line: a pattern of late arrivals slides you down from Credibility to the wrong kind of Visibility. Not good.mirror-32

 

Savor the Afterglow

 

The meeting is now over. People pop up from their chairs and conversation buzzes around the room. Energy crackles. A few people scramble, packing up their briefcases in a rush and bolting for the door. These folks will get no further benefit from the meeting. Many will wonder why that “networking thing” just doesn’t work for them. Oh well. See ya!

 

Everyone else clusters in small groups or twosomes, talking. A fun house mirror image of Open Networking before the meeting, the after meeting mingle has many more angles. For starters, no deadline. Lots of time to make things happen.

 

Right after the meeting is the time for your first follow up with Visitors. Keep the focus on ways to build the Visitor’s business, even if they are a prospect for you. You will talk about your products and services later. Realize your goal right now is building the Visibility you’ve already achieved with the Visitor into Credibility. Do not try to skip over Credibility in an overzealous grab for Profitability! Trust me, the grasp of the VCP Process® is inescapable.

 

Also, scheduling Face to Face meetings with other members of your networking group is very effective time management for after the meeting.

 

money-rain1Next time out we put our best foot forward and spiff up the blog a bit with ideas on how to look good, be sharp and make money at a networking meeting, when our adventure in networking continues… Follow Me on Twitter!