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!”

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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!


Sub Sandwich – More Bread, Any Way You Slice It

April 8, 2009

 

by Lee Abraham

 

Last time out we looked at the importance of making a commitment to attend your networking group’s weekly meeting. sandwichNot just to blindly follow rules, but to build strong, meaningful relationships with your networking partners that lead to giving and receiving an ongoing stream of money making referrals.

 

So what happens when you really can’t make the meeting? Glad you asked!

 

Basic Etiquette 106 – Have a substitute represent you at networking meetings you can’t attend.

 

The first benefit of having a “Sub” is obvious: it demonstrates your commitment to the group. In networking terms, having someone represent your business keeps your Visibility intact and moves you toward Credibility, showing your networking partners some of the people from your world.

 

So far, so good. But there’s more to having a productive Sub than just lining up a warm body sit in your chair. For starters, you want to have a Sub who makes you look good.

 

Remember when we focused on how everything you do or say factors into your Personal Brand with other people, including your networking partners? Understand that substitutes are an extension of you. What they do and say will contribute to where your networking partners place you in the VCP Process®.

So let’s put the pieces of the Sub puzzle together with a few important key points:.substitutes-2

1) Who should sub? Someone from your company is a great place to start. A co-worker, boss, employee or anyone else affiliated in some way with your business is an obvious choice. Other prime candidates include anyone who can speak from first hand experience about what a great person you are. 

2) Sub’s Goal: to help the other members of the group like and trust you by sharing the story of a compelling, first hand experience with you

Although counter intuitive, specific and detailed knowledge of your products and services is NOT necessary for an effective Sub. Sure, the ability to speak intelligently about your business is a good thing, but only a bonus. 

The most elusive and valuable element of the VCP Process® is the underlying emotion your networking partners bring to the table as your “Bragging Buddy” when talking to prospects on your behalf and creating referrals for you. Having a Sub who can speak first hand about what makes YOU special is the best type of Sub you can find!

3) No Compete: Be sure your Sub does not promote anything that competes with a current member of your group.

4) Prep Work: Make sure your Sub is well prepared by explaining the two parts of the meeting when they will need to speak: strategy-1Giving your Sales Force Update to the group and Passing Referrals to other members.

Be specific in prepping your Sub. Outline how to tell the group about the type of referral you are looking for this week and encourage the Sub to share their own, warm and fuzzy first hand experience with you.

As for referrals, give your Sub any Referral Slips you have for the week to pass to your networking partners in your absence. This is much more powerful than the Sub simply showing up and saying they don’t know if you had any referrals this week or not.

Bonus Points: A Super Sub passes a money making referral of their own, either as a customer, or for someone they know who can do business with one of your networking partners.

5) Plan Ahead: Arrange for a Substitute BEFORE YOU NEED IT! Don’t wait until the last minute to line up a Sub, particularly when you know in advance that you will not be able to make a meeting. There are very few good excuses to not have a Sub. Yes, emergencies pop up at the last minute and sometimes it is truly impossible to make the meeting or find a Sub on short notice. No worries. It happens. 

But as the old cliché says, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” music-gearAnd perhaps more than any other way to go beyond simply planning, is to create your own success by showing commitment to your networking group and having a great Sub represent at you at a meeting you can’t attend. 

Want to jump start your VCP? Join us next time when we step onstage and under the bright lights as a referral rock star, successfully inviting Visitors and cranking up the volume at your networking meeting, when our adventure in networking continues… Follow me on Twitter!


Weekly Meeting: Networking or Not Working?

April 6, 2009

 

ryan-seacrestby Lee Abraham

 

I’ll admit it. It took me a while to figure out this networking thing. Especially the value of meeting with other people face to face. Here’s the story. Way back in the mid ‘90s I was invited to join BNI (Business Network Int’l), a structured networking group to help grow my business. I was intrigued. And then I was told the group got together once a week to pass referrals.

 

At the time, I owned a Real Estate Appraisal company in Las Vegas and was busier than Ryan Seacrest on American Idol’s “Elimination Night.” Let’s just say I had my hands full with a few difficult and colorful authority figures (Loan Officers instead of judges) and other peoples’ desperate situations (Borrowers rather than contestants).

 

And although I had more work than I knew what to do with, I was changing my Target Market from the oppressive management style (“hit” the value or we stop sending you work) of the Banks and Mortgages Companies to the more intellectually rewarding practice of appraising for Lawyers and serving as an Expert Witness on a variety of Real Estate related lawsuits.

 

Bottom line: I needed help reaching out to the legal community to expand my client base. And the person who invited me to join BNI was one of the top Real Estate Attorneys in town. Can you say: mixed emotions? Yes, I liked the idea of networking, and I really wanted to build a relationship with this Attorney, but it was the once a week meeting that rubbed me the wrong way.

 

Admission of guilt: I didn’t see the point of getting together so often. After all, if I had something to say to someone in the group I could just call ‘em up and take care of business… right? Wrong! Motivated but under duress, I went through the motions. Guess what? The emotions followed. And so did the referrals!

 

Basic Etiquette 105 – Attendance at weekly networking meetings are critical to benefiting from a structured networking group.

 

Let’s face it, a lot of people expect to join a networking group, show up, tell the members about their business and then sit back and watch the referrals fly in. biz-meeting-5Sorry to burst your bubble, but success in networking requires time and energy. Why? Networking is all about relationships. Plain and simple. And nothing builds a relationship better than face to face interaction.

 

VCP Process®

 

Your first goal in a structured networking group is to achieve Visibility: people know who you are and what you do. From Visibility you reach for Credibility: people know you are good at what you do. And finally, the ultimate goal is Profitability: people send you business because they like you, trust you, and know you will make them look good in the eyes of the person they referred to you.

 

Coined by Dr. Ivan Misner, founder of BNI, these three stages of relationships among networking partners is known as the VCP Process®.

 

Trust me, you will not achieve VCP with your networking partners by sitting in your office on the phone and internet all day. If you are serious about building a referral network to grow your business, you need to invest time and develop relationships getting to know, like and trust your networking partners. Oh yeah, they need to get to know, like and trust you as well!

 

Don’t have the time? Let me ask you this. If your very best client asked to meet with you once a week as a prerequisite to sending you an ongoing stream of business would you find time? I’m betting you would. Write this down: Treat your networking group as your best client and it will be!

 

Build a Bridge, Get Over It

 

OK fine, I hear you. You just can’t make every single meeting.bridge From vacations and business trips to your child’s first Piano Recital and medical emergencies, life happens. Hey, get over it! Everybody’s got life happening, not just you. Like a wise man once said, “It’s not what happens in life that makes you successful, it’s how you respond.”

 

Let’s cut to the chase. We are talking about priorities and levels of commitment. Nobody expects you to be at every single meeting. That would be unrealistic. The answer? Find out next time with our discussion of having a substitute represent you at meetings you can’t attend, 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!


Twitter Success Formula: RT x @ (Twitter) = VCP (BNI)?

March 18, 2009

 

power-team2by Lee Abraham

Last time out, we looked into the three stages of a networking relationship: Visibility, Credibility and Profitability. Coined by Dr. Ivan Misner, founder of BNI (Business Network Int’l) and world’s leading networking guru, the VCP Process® wraps the multi faceted and time consuming evolution of relationships from unknown stranger to trusted networking partner into a simple, easy to use formula.

Visibility – People know who you are and what you do

Credibility – People know you are reliable and good at what you do

Profitability – People send you business because they like you, trust you and know you will make them look good in eyes of people they refer to you.

VCP Online?

Old school networkers are sometimes labeled “hunters,” notching their well worn money belt for each business card collected and cold call made. And in many cases, the stereotype is warranted. Truth is, a lot of well intended and hard working entrepreneurs view business simply as a big numbers game: the more people they pitch, the more chances of hitting a home run. 

And that’s why the internet is so attractive. Networking online has huge upside for massive, international exposure at little or no cost. Blend in the potential for “Viral Growth” of your message, people telling other people, and you’ve got Word-of-mouth networking on steroids. At least on the surface.

From You Tube and Facebook, to Linkedin and Twitter, the internet has leveled the marketing playing field. Visibility to a huge audience is more possible than ever before. But here’s the rub, while the internet is very effective for Visibility, online-13how the heck can you reach Credibility, and ultimately Profitability, with people you’ve never met, and in some cases, have never even spoken to? 

Be Present

A well rounded online presence usually includes at least two, and often several more, of the most popular Social Networking websites. For starters, a profile on Linkedin or Ecademy is the cyber foundation needed to build a business network online. 

Viewed as professionalism and core competence, if you don’t have a profile online, (OK, let’s include the more social and less professional Facebook as well), you are facing a credibility challenge with your online Target Market. Call it the age of “information entitlement.” People expect to see your face, know a little about your background and experience, as well as how to contact you, so they can check you out further if they choose.

Next, a website or blog to showcase you and your work is also a must. Coupled with a Profile, a webpage rounds out the information on your company, products and services, as well as offering a glimpse into your personality and business philosophy.  

Are You Smelling What I’m Stepping In? 

Profile and webpage in place, you are now ready for marketing and promotion. Like a restaurant and customers, your internet presence only serves a purpose if the people in your Target Market visit to sample the goods. And we all know getting people to do anything is a challenge. 

Enter Twitter. A Visibility machine, smell1Twitter is a mass text messaging service where you send updates to ‘Followers” who “Opt In.” Let me reiterate: Followers choose to follow your footsteps, and in the bargain, smell what you step in. At least online. 

And because they’ve chosen to receive your updates, Followers are more receptive to directives, particularly if they are easy and non threatening. Like clicking a link to your latest blog post, for example. 

In other words, Twitter is a broadcasting mechanism for your Personal Brand, enabling you to communicate efficiently and effectively with the network you’ve built. Got something to say? Step up toward Visibility and start Tweeting!

Join the Conversation

Standing on your Twitter soapbox is an easy way to “join the conversation.” To play on the game board. To star in your own movie. Whatever the metaphor, the act of participating, engaging, and ultimately communicating with other people moves you and your Personal Brand from Visibility to Credibility.

Some of the most common types of Tweets include:

What you are doing

What you think

News

Cool links

Don’t take this personally, megaphone21but people only care about what you are doing if they admire you, want something from you, are responsible for you, or love you. Otherwise, you need to be doing something extremely interesting for people to care. 

Advice: save the updates on the bagel and lox you had for breakfast and that funny story of getting grossed out by the dirty nose of a person sitting next to you on a plane, for your memoirs. OK, once in a while go ahead and show a little flair with an American Idol pick or the overtime score of your favorite hoop squad, fine, but generally speaking, keep the personal byplay down to a minimum until you’ve got a ‘Following’ that cares.

What Were You Thinking?

What you think is another story. Please tell us what you think. Of course what you are thinking about, and how well you articulate the vision, will dictate if we care. Generally speaking, if you have a thought you think is interesting, share it. Chances are good some folks will agree that you’ve got something valuable to say.

For the less creative among us, Tweeting links to useful or fun websites, as well as news articles, inspirational quotes, jokes or photos you find interesting, are great ways to provide value to the people following you. 

Even better, be a Twitter Journalist, reporting first hand on events and news you are involved in or find yourself in the middle of. Now that’s interesting! People living vicariously through your experiences which they would otherwise never be exposed to (bagels and boogers NOT included) is the stuff that explodes viral growth of your Personal Brand.

Visibility in Action

Subtle point: everyone Following you sees your @replies. So even if you are replying to someone they’ve never heard of, your peeps see you working, and you gain big “V” in the process!

Interacting on Twitter starts with a reply (@reply) to something someone Tweets. action-2Sharing a similar experience, congratulating an achievement, agreeing or disagreeing on an opinion, or whatever, as long as you are interacting, you are working toward Visibility when you reply to another Tweeter. 

Let’s crank it up a notch. Did you find someone’s Tweet informative or valuable? Share it with your Followers by “Re-Tweeting” (RT) the message.

A good RT has two benefits. Not only will you enjoy increased Visibility with your Followers who appreciate the value you bring to the conversation with an interesting RT, but you jump start Visibility and instantly move toward Credibility with the person whose message you RT. After all, you are helping the original Tweeter leverage their efforts, and as a part of their promotional network you become valuable to them. 

RT x @replies = C

A good sign that you are gaining Visibility on Twitter is other people replying to your updates. Other Tweeters are obviously taking note of what you are saying and have something to add. Nice!

And you know you are navigating the tightrope toward Credibility when other people “Re-Tweet” (RT) your updates. high-wire-actIn other words, they like what you have to say and pass along your message and contact info to all the people following them. And if some of those people do the same, now you’ve got the Viral word-of-mouth campaign that lures millions of business people online every day.

Two words: Give Value. The more “@replies” and RT’s you Tweet, the more people you are interacting with and the greater the chance of those people caring about what you have to say and Re-Tweeting it. And the more RTs you get, the greater your Visibility and Credibility. At least on Twitter. 

Next time, we stretch the VCP limit to reach Profitability online with people you’ve never met, when our adventure in networking continues… Follow me on Twitter!  


There is No “I” in “VCP” – Networking Relationships and the VCP Process®

March 13, 2009

salesmanby Dr. Ivan Misner & Lee Abraham

 

Walk up to a stranger, introduce yourself and dive right into your best sales pitch for the product or service your business provides. Now try to close the deal. That’s right. No time for research or due diligence, just ask for a leap of faith to do business right then and there.

 

I see you shaking your head and frowning. Hey, we both know it’s not going to happen. OK, let me rephrase that. Yes, one in 500 might do business with you, but unless you are selling food to the hungry or trinkets to a tourist, it’s going to take a little time to seal the deal.

 

Generally speaking, people don’t take kindly to a sales pitch from a stranger. Call it “Invisibility.” There are way too many choices for consumers in our wired up world of information to do business with someone we know nothing about.

 

Bottom line: business is all about relationships. The deeper the better. And it doesn’t matter what type of business you are in. Your networks for information, support, and referrals will drive your success, and those networks are based on your relationships with other individuals and businesses. 

 

Money Making Relationships

 

Power Team networking develops deeper and stronger relationships by focusing on a mutual benefit for both parties: making money!

 

And there are many different types of relationships involved. time1Among the most important are those with your Power Team partners or “Bragging Buddies,” as well as with prospects these referral sources bring you, and with customers you recruit from the prospects. 

 

VCP Process®

 

Obviously, relationships don’t just appear from invisibility, they must be nurtured. As they grow, fed by mutual trust and shared benefits, relationships evolve through three phases: visibility, credibility, and profitability.  We call this evolution the VCP Process®.

 

Any successful relationship, whether a personal or a business relationship, is unique to every pair of individuals, and it evolves over time. It starts out tentative, fragile, full of unfulfilled possibilities and expectations. It grows stronger with experience and familiarity.  It matures into trust and commitment. 

 

The VCP Process® describes the process of creation, growth, and strengthening of business, professional, and personal relationships; it is useful for assessing the status of a relationship and where it fits in the process of getting referrals. It can be used to nurture the growth of an effective and rewarding relationship with a prospective friend, client, co-worker, vendor, colleague, or family member. When fully realized, such a relationship is mutually rewarding and thus self-perpetuating.

 

Visibility

 

The first phase of growing a relationship is visibility: you and another individual become aware of each other. mirrorIn 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, 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 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 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.

Credibility

Credibility is the quality of being reliable, worthy of confidence. trust3Once you and your new acquaintance begin to form expectations of each other – and the 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 grows when appointments are kept, promises are acted upon, facts are verified, services are rendered. The old saying that results speak louder than words is true. This is very important.  Failure to live up to expectations – to keep both explicit and implicit promises – can kill a budding relationship before it breaks through 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, perhaps done business with you.  Will she vouch for you?  Are you honest?  Are your products and services effective?  Are you someone who can be counted on in a crunch?

Profitability and Time

Mature relationships, whether business or personal, can be defined in terms of “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 time it takes to pass through the phases of a developing relationship is highly variable. In a time of urgent need, you and a client may proceed from visibility to credibility overnight. It’s not always easy to determine when profitability has been achieved – a week? a month? one year?  

Profitability may happen quickly, or it may take years – most likely, somewhere in between. It depends on the frequency and quality of the contacts, and especially on the desire of both parties to move the relationship forward.

However long it takes, online-23when 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!

Next time out we explore the VCP Process and networking online with Twitter, Linkedin and other social media, when our adventure in networking continues… Follow me on Twitter!