Networking Basics: Simple Steps to Insure Your Success

Over the next few weeks I will be discussing networking basics to insure your success!  Some of these may seem very simple or obvious and that is because they are!  It’s funny but I find the simple and obvious things, the steps we know we should do, are the very things we neglect to do!

Why is this?  Are we just looking for ways to sabotage our success?  Do we do this consciously or unconsciously?  What is it that prevents us from doing the things and steps we know will insure our possibly guarantee our success?

Recently a friend asked me, “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?”.  Thinking about this question brings another question to my mind…  How many, projects, careers, or dreams are you playing in right now?  In your career are you playing at 10%, do you have a dream you are working towards, yet only putting a 20% effort into it?  What would happen if you played at 100%?  What would happen if you knew you could not fail?  Would you play at 100%?  Would you take the small steps everyday to guarantee your success?

For some reason I am reminded about a post on Seth Godin’s blog, How to be Remarkable.  It’s a top 10 list on how to be remarkable to your clients and a must read.  You will find being remarkable is just like having success!  It’s not hard, there is no magic to it, it’s just a few simple steps done repeatedly over time!

Keep a look out this week for the Networking Basics!  Each time you read one think about how you are playing in networking, think about how you might improve or add one of these basic steps to have the success you are looking for!  If one of these basic steps comes to mind now, take a moment and leave a comment so I can add it as one of the steps for everyone!

Successful Networking: Mastering YOUR 60 Second Commercial

Yesterday I visited a Business Networking International (BNI) group in Del Mar. BNI is a group of business professionals who meet weekly to exchange business referrals. I was asked to come and fill in for one of their members Rick Itzkowich owner of Productive Learning and Leisure and writer for the Xtraordinary Living Blog. BNI requests members to have a substitute when they are not able to attend the meeting.

It was a lively group at 6:45 a.m. and they were very welcoming. As the meeting progressed we arrived to the presentation portion. BNI typically has a few members speak more in depth about their business and the type of referrals they are looking for. At this meeting Riley Cardwell, a business coach and BNI Director for San Diego was attending so the leadership skipped the member presentations. Riley did however do an amazing presentation on creating your successful Sales Manager Minute (SMM), or what to say when you are at a networking event in 30 to 60 seconds. Here is what Riley discussed:

 

Part 1

Your Name

Your Company Name

What you do

 

Part 2

Briefly describe ONE of the products/services you offer

BNI calls this your LCD or Lowest Common Denominator. What you want to do is break down your service or product into its most basic from (LCD).

A plumber might talk about replacing old piping in the house, a financial planner could discus the value of an IRA, Real Estate Agents may talk about how they work with first time home buyers.

 

Part 3

What will your product or service do for the referral you’re looking for? Why do they buy this from you?

What you really want to describe here is the benefit of your product or service. Telling a brief story is often very helpful. Riley asked a few of the BNI members what their benefits were.

  • Suzanne Rhodes with Proforma Pepper Promotions offered employee retention as a benefit.
  • Bob Johnson with Coronado Catering talked about the joy of experiencing your party by allowing Coronado Catering to handle all the work.

 

Part 4

Do the Ask!: “The referral/introduction I’m looking for today is…” What to look for (WTLF); be extra-specific.

Tell your sales force what action to take for you. Give them a “conversation starter” What to say for you (WTS).

The idea here is to ask for the contact at a specific company you are trying to meet or when someone is at a party with friends you want them to know what to listen for which may lead to the referral.

  • Cal Campbell owner of Cal’s Plumbing, Inc. said to listen for people complaining about lack of hot water.
  • Gretchen Seitz, L.Ac. owner of Seitz Acupuncture told the group to listen for people who are suffering from migraines.
  • Dr. Rhonda Lilien a Chiropractor with La Jolla Integrative Health asked the group to look for people who had difficulty turning their head.
  • John Naviaux, Registered Investment Advisor Representative with Western Financial Advisors offered the group a (WTS), “I know a financial advisor that has access to a lot of investment options”.

 

Part 5

Your Name

Your Company Name

“And Remember… (memory hook)

A memory hook is something you say at the end of your SMM that helps people remember who you are. Most times these are catchy phrases that relate to what you do. Here are some examples:

  • Promotional Products: If you want them to remember you, then remember me!
  • Plumber: If your pipes don’t flow you know where to go
  • Caterer: Little or small we cater them all
  • Chiropractor: When your spine s in line, you will feel fine!
  • Financial Planner: Doctors save lives, I save lifestyles

Why not take a moment and review your 60 second commercial to insure you are covering all these parts. A successful Sales Manager Minute or 60 second commercial can easily double your referrals in your networking group. This process will increase the number of referrals you are receiving as well as make your networking group far more dynamic.

Why are you collecting business cards on your desk?

Today I was sitting at my desk scouring the internet looking for the allusive driver for my laptop which I had just wiped and reloaded with Windows XP.  Between what seemed to be hundreds of downloads trying one driver after another I was frightened by a small stack of business cards which seemed to be accumulating on my desk.

You know that stack of business cards that seems to grow and grow by your stapler, next to your pen cup, at the corner of your desk, or possibly a neatly 3 inch stack under your monitor…  Depending on your networking and social activities you can easily add another inch to your stack every month!  If you are anything like I used to be, this stack moves into some type of container or drawer.  Eventually all these business cards will end up in a box to be saved forever or at least until you find the box and realize you have business cards from people you met one time at a networking event three years ago whom you have never contacted.   Unless of course you have some strange desire to sell them on ebay 20 years from now there is no point in this.

Don’t worry you can save yourself from this tragedy!  How do you do it?  First look at the cards on your desk.  Is there 25, 50, or 250 business cards?  Using 50 for an example quickly look at each one and decide if this is someone you would like to connect with to explore a more meaningful relationship.  Once this is completed pick up the phone and explain to the contact your new found mission!  At this point you might be thinking to yourself mission, what mission?  The mission is to not collect business cards, keep them on your desk for months, and then finally years later throw them away.  Why not call them and say something like “Hi Alan, we met last month and a networking event and I have decided to take a new approach on the business cards I collect.  What I would like to know is how I might help you in your business?”  Or you can say something like I discussed in my previous post “I have to talk to the person again?”.

Imagine what you can create by simply engaging the people whom you have collected all these cards!  Jordan Adler, a networking master and expert in collecting business cards talks about the value of one business card in his recent book Beach Money.  Jordan Adler discusses how he turns one little square piece of paper into thousands of dollars.  How much business could you expect from one lifetime customer?  The answer will depend on your type of business.  In the book he asked a group this same question and the answers ranged from $2,000 to $300,000.  Jordan believes when he collects 100 business cards it is his job is to turn some of them into lifelong customers.  Each time he takes action the chances of one or more of those business card contacts turning into lifelong a customer increases.  Examples of actions to take are making a quick phone call, sending a greeting card, buying each person lunch, sending a gift, sending the contact business, staying in touch, and with some contacts doing all of these things.  So what is the lifetime value of YOUR customer?  Jordan does not look at a business card as just a card.  He looks at them like $100 and $1,000 bills.  Would you ignore $100 bills stacked up 3 inches high on your desk? 

Simply commit to call 3 or 4 of these cards each day until the stack is gone.  Once you have made this connection add these people into some kind of database.  You can use Outlook, ACT!, GoldMine, salesforce.com, or even index cards.  The database you choose is not important.  What is important is that you take notes on what you talked about and add them to your database for future reference, referrals, or business opportunities.  Once these cards are in your database THROW THEM AWAY or GIVE THEM AWAY!  Just don’t leave them sitting on your desk.

Please… Stop Going to Networking Events!

Last week I spent a day making my fourth contact with people I met at a networking event the previous month. It was a great event filled with what seemed to be highly motivated professionals who truly wanted to grow their business and referrals. The strange thing is 90% of the people have yet to make a single contact with me. Should I take this personally? Maybe I present myself in a bad way or don’t say the right things. Could it be that most people simply don’t followup after a networking event? The question that comes to mind is why would you go to a networking event, meet 20 new contacts, and not followup? What is the point of that?

It reminds me of a conversation I had recently with Bob Civello owner of Smarter Small Business. I met Bob at the same networking event I was following up on from last month. He made an off handed remark at a later meeting about the lack of any followup after networking events. Bob estimated in the last two years he has attended over 50 business expos, tradeshows, and networking events. Bob has shook hands with over 2,000 people at these events. With that many people I would think at least half of them did some kind of followup. I mean how hard is it to followup with an email or a phone call?  I outlined my followup process in my post 7 Steps to Follow Up Success.

Sadly the rest of the story is only 14 people did any kind of followup. 14 out of 2,000! If you are one of the 1,986 people my hope is you are reading this! The part to really think about here is at this point Robert has so much value on followup that he is very open to meeting with anyone who engages him after the event. He knows if a new contact actually follows up they are well worth adding to his network. Imagine how easy it would be to stand out to Robert… Simply picking up the phone or sending an email would give you the opportunity to connect, make a true new contact, and create a new referral source.

I think most businesses and sales professionals want to stand out from their competition. It seems with Roberts experience it could be as simple as just picking up the phone and reconnecting.

Networking: New Clients, Prospects, Referrals, and Lifelong Friends

Friday night I spent some time at a good friend’s house. My friend is turning 50 today and I have been tasked with keeping him out of the house while his wife gets things ready for a small gathering of friends. Still not sure what I am going to do for three hours but I am confident we can figure out something!

This morning I was thinking about where this friendship started. We first met through a networking group called LeTip. Each week we saw each other for a few hours and then would go on to the rest of our day. Early on we chatted and he let me know someone he knew represented my company and if he decided to use my service he would use them. I mention this because I really had written this person off in regards to networking. I was still nice, talked to him, and looked for ways to refer him, but I had zero expectations of ever receiving referrals or business from him.

Networking for me is not about what I can get from someone, it is about what I can give. Each time you give someone a referral, help someone through a business challenge, or connect two contacts together without expecting anything in return you are giving. Ivan Misner the founder of BNI often talks about this with his givers gain philosophy. The theory here is if you are always looking for ways to support your network then in turn your network will support you with business, contacts, and referrals. Ivan also talks about this in his new book The 29% Solution, 52 Weekly Networking Success Strategies in week 5 and has a recent article about the book on his Networking Now blog on entrepreneur.com.

I really live this givers gain philosophy in all areas of my life. So many examples of wonderful things coming to me when I have least expected it. One of them is the lifelong friend who I have the pleasure in celebrating his life and birthday today.

Making Life SWEETER than you Ever Imagined

So did you meet someone new over the long weekend? Striking up a conversation with someone you have never met or reconnecting with someone you have met previously is pretty simple right? Now what? What do I do with this new contact or new person I connected with? Many times I have met a new person or made a new contact at a social event and felt pretty good about the connection. Many times I have thought to myself “wow, that person is really great and I would love to meet with that person again!” More often than I care to admit the relationship has ended just as fast as it has started.

It does not have to be that way! You can change this so easily! Simply call the person and let them know you enjoyed talking to them and would like to take them to lunch or coffee. You can also email new contacts or mail them a nice to meet you greeting card. Do which ever feels right but make sure you take some action to keep the relationship going! If you did not get the persons contact information it’s ok! Just call the host and let them know you really connected with someone at the party and would like to get their information. Remember you have NOTHING to lose by taking this action! NOTHING!!

Over the weekend I received a great QuoteAction that reminded me of this process and why I tend to shy away from this action. Here is the quote:

“I will guarantee you that the day you step outside your comfort zone by making success your goal is the day you discover that adversity, risk, and daring will make life sweeter then you ever imagined.”

-Mark Burnett, Founder of the Eco Challenge

Your action for today is to do something that is outside of your comfort zone.

So what do you think? Is it worth stepping out of your comfort zone to add a new relationship that might just propel your business or network to a new level?

Labor Day: Family, Friends, Food, Networking?

At some point today most people in the United States will be hosting or heading off to some type of social event for the holiday. It’s a great opportunity to see family, friends, and meet potential new customers. Don’t get me wrong I am not suggesting you should consider your friends party as a business networking event however I am recommending that you meet someone new if possible. Go ahead and strike up a conversation with the person you have never met or reconnect with someone you met previously. You just never know where those relationships will go.

If you are the host for today’s party think about picking up the phone and inviting a few of your best customers or vendors. (It may be too late for today depending on your relationship, but you never know) Inviting customers and vendors to a relaxing party with your family and friends is a great opportunity to improve on your relationship.

It’s not just about Labor Day! Think about this for all parties and events you may attend in the coming months. Each day we have many chances to meet and connect with new people. We just need to be open to explore the opportunities that are placed in front of us. Enjoy your day!

I have to talk to the person again!

I know some of you are thinking to yourself “I already met the person at the networking event, followed up with an email, and sent a greeting card!” So why should I meet with the person again? I will admit, I have had some success meeting someone at a networking event and then actually doing business with them shortly after without this step.

It seems to me professionals attending a networking event are mostly looking to meet new contacts. The hope is this new contact will either give them or lead them to new business. Is it really reasonable to think you will gain new business or a new contact that will lead you to your next big customer from a casual five minute conversation? I look at this first interaction as the first stepping stone on the path of the business relationship. The next stone on the path is meeting again in person or on the phone.

So how do you get the second meeting? Simply call your new contact and let them know you want to add them to your referral network. Learning more about their business and talking to them more about your business will lead you both to referrals. Let the new contact know the goal of this meeting is to add them to your network and in order to do that you want to know more about them.

From this meeting you will find out more about their business, who their ideal client is, their existing referral partners, and most importantly how you can refer them.

7 Steps to Follow Up Success

I do more networking than the average business or professional. I typically attend three or more different networking events every week. I meet all types of business professionals, owners, and sales people. And guess what makes me stand out from all the other people networking… I follow up with every single person. Here is my follow up process:

1) When you get back to your office, or within 24 hours send an email to each person you met. Keep it simple and not a sales pitch.

2) Mail each person a “nice to meet you” greeting card within 24 hours.

3) Within one week call each new contact to set up a meeting to learn more about their business and how you might help each other.

(The meeting can be in person or on the phone. The idea is for each of you to learn more about each other. 15 to 30 minutes for each person to talk is more than enough time.  Make sure to add this contact into your social media platforms you use like LinkedIn or Facebook )

4) On the second week, contact the person again with a call and email if you have still not connected.

5) Mail a thank you card after the meeting within 24 hours.

6) I make it a point, after meeting with a new contact, to give them a referral within 30 days. Ideally this happens but not always.

7) Make contact again 30 days after your meeting. Remember you are building a relationship with this person that can last for years.

The key is to have a set follow up system in place for each networking event prepared in advance. In the near future I will be discussing these steps in more detail. Keep in mind whether you attend one networking event a day, or one every two months, follow these simple steps and your networking results will improve dramatically. A great place to learn more about all of the different types of networking is the National Networker blog. You will find a never ending amount of resources and information.