Sunday, September 25, 2011

Where Do Your Best Referrals Come From?

Do they come from friends and family, professional contacts, other sales people, current and former customers, online acquaintances, or some other source? I’ve asked thousands of professionals that exact question and at least 95% respond that their best referrals by far come from their current and former customers.
If our best referrals come from our customers, then why do we expect to gain referrals quickly from people that we meet through networking activities? While it can happen, meaningful exchange with new acquaintances is rare. Significant exchange is normally the product of intimacy and trust which needs to be built over time.
Wouldn't it be more productive then to first view networking as a process to better serve our customers, thereby driving more customer advocacy and referral? Imagine being able to connect your most important customers to mission critical knowledge and relationships just when they need it.
Building the value that we can provide to each customer will increase our ability to better serve our customers specific wants and needs. As we become an invaluable resource for our customers their interest in advocating us increases. In fact, done right you won’t even need to ask for referrals, they’ll want to brag about you to their colleagues.
Instead of prospecting at networking events, identify potential resources for your best customers. Get together with these resources at their place of business. Learn about them. See examples of their work. Begin building a bullpen of A+ providers that will be available to you 24/7 to help solve your customers challenges.
The first and most important muscle to exercise in networking is to increase your ability to solve your customer problems. Your interest has to be totally focused on your customers success…not that of helping a resource (friend) of yours get more business. The better you do solve customer problems the more goodwill you will build and the more advocacy you will receive.
Stay week we'll be taking a look at some specific professions that are really good at developing customers referrals and how they do it.

Monday, September 19, 2011

When Do You Call the Fire Department?

Have you ever had to call the fire department? It’s very easy to figure out when to pick the phone. Unless you want to get in trouble, you call the fire department, when and only when you’ve seen a fire.

What happens if you call the fire department and there is no fire? Calling in false alarms causes many problems: it wastes the time and limits the availability of a precious resource, it bothers an important contact with frivolous solicitation, and the person who calls-in the false alarm looses credibility. Call-in enough false alarms and key resources will stop responding.

So, when should we call the fire department? How about when you see a fire? In networking seeing a fire is analogous to not just seeing someone else’s problem, but also having their request for help.

When someone relates a problem that they are having to you, such as; “my payroll company is under performing,” simply ask them “is that something that you're looking for outside help with?” and they will let you know if they need your fire department.

Imagine making connections that solve significant problems and that your key resources really value. Your fire department is a precious resource...activate them wisely.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Make Me a Match

Do you remember the game concentration (some now call it memory)? A deck of 52 playing card are placed face down on a table. You flip over two at a time in an effort to match pairs of like cards. When a match isn’t made the cards go back on the table face down in the same location. When a match is made you add the cards to your pile and accrue points. The game is won by the person who makes the most matches.

What is your knowledge at the beginning of the game? Zero, right? It’s just like entering a room or community of people that you don’t know. You speak with one person and learn a little about them. You speak to the next and then another...before you know it you meet someone with a perspective and background that would help someone you met a little earlier. You introduce the two and voila - you've made a match!

Instead of earning points for matching cards when you make matches in networking you accrue goodwill. Goodwill is the only legal tender in networking. The more meaningful matches that you make the more goodwill you build.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Do You Want to Buy?

You probably don’t go to networking events with intent to buy something. So why do you go with an assumption that someone else has the intention to invest what you’re selling? Besides the obvious buzzkill that you create by asking qualifying questions at a networking event, you leave behind all of the leverage that the person in front of you represents. 

Let’s put it really simple…would you rather ruin a new relationship by assuming someone is a prospect  and potentially get a bad reputation in the room as a “bottom feeder” or would like to establish a lifelong pipeline of opportunity? 

Leveraged networking is not the exchange of dollars; rather it is the exchange of knowledge and relationships. The primary purpose of attending events is to identify who you should meet with one-on-one. Getting to know a little bit about the background and focus of the person across from you will help you determine if a more thorough exchange would make sense. 

When you prospect at a networking event you offend people and turn them into anti-sponsors. The basis of good networking is advocacy. When people say good things about you to others you are able shorten the time it takes to establish trust and intimacy…which of course leads to valuable exchange.