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!


Money Talks – Learn the Language

February 12, 2009

By Lee Abraham

 

bragging-buddy-53Last time out, we watched our favorite Realtor, Manny Goodbuys, create an ongoing stream of money making referrals for the Chiropractor in his Power Team business network. 

How? By giving an enthusiastic and compelling recommendation to a Personal Injury Lawyer and suggesting the two get together to talk about referring business back and forth.

A little further back in our networking adventures, we observed Dave the Nutrition Guy talking to an expectant mother about Pre-Natal vitamins and then asking a couple of  simple questions that resulted in business for the General Contractor, Attorney and Life Insurance person on his Power Team. 

What Questions?

Dave has been trained to recognize that people expecting a new baby often want to make changes around the house before the baby arrives. In our example, the prospect needed to enclose a covered patio off the master bedroom to serve as a nursery for the new baby.

Further, young parents almost always know question-art2they should protect the growing family with a Will and Life Insurance, but too often don’t take the time to do it. 

After asking a couple of questions and helping the prospect recognize their own need, he gave enthusiastic and compelling recommendations for the General Contractor, Attorney and Life Insurance person. That’s right, Dave the Nutrition Guy created money making referrals for all three!

Side note: Dave’s networking partners are even more motivated now and on the lookout to return the favor and make business for him.

Nuts and Bolts

Are you ready for the big money shot? Yes? OK, great! Write this down: Opportunity is often disguised as work.

As we mentioned, Dave the Nutrition Guy was trained to not only recognize opportunity, but how to seize it and create money making referrals for his Power Team. I would like to show you how to do the same thing. That’s where the work comes in. 

Here’s the process:

target-follow-up21) Identify your Contact Sphere
2) Recognize which of the Six Key Situations are no-brainer referral frenzies for your Contact Sphere
3) Make the connection of which other Contact Spheres also thrive on the Key Situations that work for you
4) Learn the Golden Goose referral sources for each of the Six Key Situations so you can create ongoing streams of referrals for your Power Team 

Your Business is Your Business

Every business can be categorized into one of six Contact Spheres. Sometimes more than one. Let’s save that concept for later. Right now we are going to keep things simple. It is critical to know which Contact Sphere your business belongs to as the first step toward building your Power Team. 

So let’s eat the elephant one bite at a time and start with a review of how to identify your Contact Sphere. Good news? I’ve already done my part… click here to learn what you need to know about Contact Spheres!

Key Match Networking™

Now that you know which Contact Sphere you are in, it’s time to identify which of the Six Key Situations connect with your Contact Sphere to create the most referrals for your business. red-flag-25Not sure what the heck these Six Key Situations are? Click here for a crash course on the Six Key Situations.

Key Match Networking™ uses these Six Key Situations as “red flags” to help you more easily recognize opportunity and generate money making referrals for your Power Team. To keep things simple, here’s a very brief overview of the top one or two best Key Situations for each of the Six Contact Spheres:

Events: Getting Married
Real Estate/Finance: Building/Improving Home and New Business
Wellness: New Baby and Get Healthy
Home Improvement: Building/Improving Home and New Baby
Business Services: Building/Improving Home and New Business 
Personal Services: All Six Key Situations

What’s Next?

Once you have identified the Key Situations that work best for your business, you can then recognize the other Contact Spheres that also thrive next-time-55on the same Key Situations as you. From there, we get into Key Match Networking™ among the Contact Spheres. 

Finally, recognizing the people and businesses that are Golden Goose referral sources for each of the Six Key Situations puts you in position to be a referral Creator for someone on your Power Team everywhere you go. So, what do you say we go there together, next time, when our adventure in networking continues… Follow Me on Twitter!  


Turn Lame Duck Networkers Into Golden Goose Referrals

February 10, 2009

By Lee Abraham

chiropractorDr. Hugh Needatwist is a Chiropractor who built his business with word-of-mouth referrals. Same with Manny Goodbuys, the Realtor in his Power Team business network.

Although the two networkers are from different Contact Spheres (Health & Wellness vs. Real Estate & Finance), there are countless ways the two very different businesses can generate business for each other.

Order Takers

Manny the Realtor is working with a middle aged couple moving into town from another State. Driving around looking at houses, the chit chat flows non stop. One minute it’s all about their kids and pets, the next a rapid fire Q&A on local restaurants.

And then the topic turns to local doctors. All of a sudden, the husband blurts out, “I just remembered… do you know a good Chiropractor here in town? My back is killing me. I’m sure gonna miss good old Dr. Popalot back in Toledo!”

Turns out the couple was in a car accident several months ago and have been under regular Chiropractic care for neck injuries. Like most folks, they only want to work with a Chiropractor they can trust. And as is often the case, clients moving into a new town ask their Realtor for recommendations on everything from restaurants and pet sitters to eye doctors and, yes, Chiropractors.

Manny instantly becomes Dr. Needatwist’s “Bragging Buddy” and says, order-taker1“Yes, as a matter of fact, I do. Dr. Hugh Needatwist is great! He’s the only Chiropractor I let work on me on my family. He’s not only a really nice guy, he’s very good at what he does. Here’s Dr. Needatwist’s card. Would you like me to have him give you a call?”

In this scenario, Manny is an “Order Taker.” In other words, someone asked a direct question, “Do you know a good Chiropractor?” All Manny had to do to create a referral for the Chiropractor is respond to the question.

Connectors

The next day, Manny is at the office Sales Meeting. One of the other agents is in obvious discomfort walking with a limp and continually rubbing his neck.

Manny walks up to the other agent and asks “What happened?”

“I was doing some trim paint on the outside of our house yesterday,” the agent says, “I slipped off the ladder, landed on my back and have been in pain ever since!”

“Do you have a good Chiropractor to help you recover?” connectorManny asks. “I’ve seen my Chiropractor, Dr. Hugh Needatwist, help lots of injured people get out of pain. In fact, I see him myself. He’s very gentle and can help you feel better without prescription drugs. Would you like Dr. Needatwist’s card or can I have him call you?”

In this case, Manny is a “Connector.” He saw someone in obvious pain, made the connection that the Chiropractor can help, and took an active role asking the prospect if he would be interested in the Chiropractor’s services.

Creators

Later in the day, Manny is at a Chamber of Commerce mixer. One of Manny’s friends introduces him to a Personal Injury Lawyer.

Manny recalls the Chiropractor on his Power Team is looking for introductions to Personal Injury Lawyers because they are a “Golden Goose” for his Chiropractic business.

In other words, Personal Injury Lawyers frequently recommend Chiropractors (as well as Massage Therapists, Physical Therapists, etc.) to their injured clients.

After a little small talk, Manny transforms into a Bragging Buddy of the highest order, a referral “Creator.”

 shooter“I do a lot of networking with a terrific Chiropractor named Dr. Hugh Needatwist,” Manny says in an enthusiastic tone. “In fact, he’s the only Chiropractor I let work on me and my family. Doc Needatwist is just a really nice guy and he’s very good at what he does.”

Manny is now poised as a referral sharp shooter. Target in sight he carefully takes aim before pulling the Trigger question. “Dr. Needatwist told me he is looking for a Personal Injury Lawyer to refer business back and forth with. Apparently some of his patients ask for Personal Injury Lawyer recommendations, and as I said, he’s great at what he does.

“Would it be OK if I gave Dr. Needatwist your card so you two can discuss referring business back and forth?”

Who Knew?

As a result of meeting regularly to learn about each other’s business, Manny knows the Chiropractor wants to be introduced to Personal Injury Lawyers. The reason is obvious: Lawyers can be an ongoing source of business for a Chiropractor.

Seizing opportunity and singing the Chiropractor’s praises, the Realtor is proactive, asking if it would be OK for the Chiropractor to make contact. 

Three Levels of Referrals

Got your notebook? Let’s nail down three very important terms:

Order Taker: Passive Bragging Buddy reacts to a direct question: “Do you know a good Chiropractor?”

Connector: Active Bragging Buddy recognizes a Visual Target (someone limping, rubbing their neck or in obvious discomfort) or a Target Phrase (“I fell off a ladder,” “Car Accident”) and approaches the prospect as a Bragging Buddy.

golden-goose1Creator: – Proactive Bragging Buddy recognizes and approaches a Golden Goose source of ongoing referrals for the Power Team.

Next time out we light a fire under your Power Team’s “Lame Duck” Order Takers and serve up a silver platter of Golden Goose referrals, when our adventure in networking continues… Follow Me on Twitter!