Monday, December 31, 2012

Form Versus Substance

Is it better to look good or to be good? Sometimes reviewing the extreme ends of alternatives is the easiest way to answer questions of this nature. If you could only have one of these two qualities, would you be without form or without substance? My guess is that you will ultimately choose having substance over form.

A life of substance is not only critical for us as networkers, but also as human beings. Building relationships of substance, doing work of substance, creating results of substance, and leaving a legacy of substance makes wanting to look good pale in comparison.

Form is superficial and often masks the true person. Overtime and as if by magnetic attraction, people and opportunity gravitate to individuals of substance. When you have integrity, depth, and build value you are trusted not just by those who you know directly, but through the people who you know to the broader community.

Form is not useless; indeed those with good form are more readily interesting. Poorly wrapped presents aren’t the first opened. The danger, however, is that without a foundation of substance, no amount of form will help.

As we turn the page to 2013, we have an opportunity to evolve into the person we intend to be. Let’s focus on what we control and make 2013 the year of substance. The rest will take care of itself!

Best wishes to you for a healthy and prosperous 2013!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Follow the Joy - Take Trust to a New Level

You don’t have to look any further than our current political landscape to see how much professionals are challenged to build trust. Similarly many networkers focus on proving their value by what they say not what they do. The most aggressive networkers will often dominate conversations by sharing everything they can about themselves. They’ll tell you every detail about their product and service and why they think that they are so good.

In the famous words of John Maxwell, “people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.” We begin to build long-term trust when we help people get what they want. A friend of mine calls it, “helping people find their joy.” Is some cases an individuals joy is business related, but more often it is personal and their business endeavors are more of a means to an end.

Joy is uniquely defined by each individual. The specifics of learning how each of your key contacts defines their joy are situational. Most often the best way is to learn about their goals and interests over time. The more thoughtful and curious you are the more each individual will give you clues about their joy. Examples of how an individual might describe their joy could include: retiring at 50, spending more time with their family, sailing around the world, or seeing their kid’s graduate college.

Simply being aware of your contacts interests will make you more sensitive to recognizing valuable knowledge and relationships that would benefit them. Connecting people to what they need, when they need it is the essence of networking. When we are aware of how someone defines their joy and we can help them realize their dream, we build trust.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

3-Steps to an Online Business Networking Plan

2013 is only two weeks away and it time to get our online business networking plan together. Last week we tackled building an in-person business networking plan. If you have big goals then you need a plan to assure that you’ll do the most meaningful activities to create your intended result. Hope is not a plan...

Having success at both in-person and online networking gives us both depth and distance. In-person we can develop a high degree of intimacy and trust, while online we can extend our anywhere and everywhere in the world.

Three Step Online Networking Plan

  1. TIME AVAILABLE - On average, how much time each week can you allocate to online networking? We recommend that online networking is a weekly (if not daily) activity.
  2. TIME AVAILABLE FOR INITIATING CONTACT - Multiply your weekly available hours by .4 or 40% to get your time available for initiating contact. We suggest allocating your available time as follows 40% initiating contact, 40% one-on-one exchange, and 20% follow up and staying connected.
  3. CHOOSE YOUR PLATFORM(S) - Often scarcity helps us make better choices. When you limit the time available to go to use social media you will get more out of those tools. Based on whom you want to meet and your available time, decide which social media you should commit to.

Example Plan
This example plan is based on having 5 hours available to network each week. Your availability will likely be different.

  • Weekly online networking schedule - 2 hours
    • List the appropriate social media platforms
    • Prioritize by most to least valuable for you
  • Weekly one-on-one exchange availability - 2 hours - if you’re going to go over budget on anything this is where to do it. Meeting with and building relationships with the right people IS NETWORKING.
  • Monthly follow up and management availability - 1 hour
    • Reconnect with people
    • Pass valuable information
    • Make introductions and referrals
    • Continue to invest in relationships
    • Manage your database

The most important elements of online networking are your ability to search for key contacts and that there is no geographic limitation. You may target meeting local people who you can get together with face-to-face. On the other hand you can focus on connections in other geographies, in which case your meetings will be virtual using tools like Skype and Hangout. Combine this online business networking plan with your in-person plan and you will develop an exceptionally broad and deep bullpen. Assure great business networking results in 2013 by creating your plan today!

Stay tuned for additional content over the coming weeks about online business networking best practices.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Three Steps to an In-Person Business Networking Plan

With only three weeks until 2013 it is a perfect time to think about what you want to accomplish in your networking next year. This week we’ll work on our 2013 in-person networking plan and next week we’ll construct our online networking plan.

Whether you want to build a deeper bullpen of resources to better serve your clients, create strategic alliances to help expand your business, have introductions to great candidates for your open staff positions, or develop a steady stream of warm referrals to help you achieve your 2013 growth goals having a plan will help you get there.

Three Step Networking Plan

  1. TIME AVAILABLE - On average, how many hours can you allocate to networking each month? We recommend estimating a monthly number as many networking events are monthly.
  2. TIME AVAILABLE FOR EVENTS - Multiply your monthly networking available hours by .4 or 40% to get your time available for events. We suggest allocating your available time as follows 40% event participation, 40% one-on-one meetings, and 20% follow up and staying connected.
  3. CHOOSE YOUR ORGANIZATIONS/EVENTS - Often scarcity helps us make better choices. When you limit the time available to go to events you will choose better events and you will get more out of those events. Based on whom you want to meet and your available time, decide which organizations and events you should commit to.

Example Plan
This example plan is based on having 20 hours available to network each month. Your availability will likely be different.

  • Monthly event schedule - 8 hours
    • List organizations and events
    • prioritize by most to least valuable for you
  • Monthly one-on-one meeting availability - 8 hours. If you’re going to go over budget on anything this is where to do it. Meeting with and building relationships with the right people IS NETWORKING.
  • Monthly follow up and management availability - 4 hours
    • Reconnect with people
    • Pass valuable information
    • Continue to invest in relationships
    • Manage your database

Of course the key to any plan is not just authorship but the implementation. The written plan gives you direction and your actions give you speed and together they yield progress. Assure great business networking results in 2013 by creating your plan today!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Are You Progressive or Static?

Have you ever heard someone give the same introduction week in and week out at your networking group meetings? After hearing their speal a couple of times it is pretty easy to tune them out. Unfortunately, when people learn to tune you out during your introduction it is hard to get them back...

Creating a progressive introduction will not only keep them tuned in, but it will also help you educate your audience. Different than static introductions where the content doesn't change as it is delivered to audiences that you’ll see just once, progressive introductions are built to evolve so that with each delivery the audience learns more about you and your business. While it is wonderful to use your well practiced unique introduction all of the time, switching to the progressive form will also help you tap into your passion.

There are two general options when constructing your progressive introduction. You can either start drafting from scratch or begin with the text from your static introduction. In either regard the idea is to have available a variety of topics that you can rotate in on any given day. Be mindful to use topics that will inform and empower your audience as well as stay within the group’s introduction time limits.

Potential topics include:

  • Recent client success stories
  • Current client resource needs
  • Brief case studies
  • New products or services
  • Seasonal products or services
  • New strategic relationships
  • New business or personal competencies
  • Open positions or vendor needs
  • Ask a question

Overtime progressive introductions help you build a more complete picture of yourself. The key to your success is to stay audience centered. Knowing and engaging each audience through your introduction will initiate valuable opportunities for connection.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

3 Reasons Why New Year’s Resolutions Won’t Work for You

Every year many people nobly plan to make great change in their life. Some want to get in shape, others want to find a more satisfying job, and others want to get out of debt. The goal of each resolution is to make some type of personal improvement that will lead to a better life.

These types of resolutions fail for most individuals for 3 basic reasons:

  • Waiting to change - If it’s a good idea why wait? Imagine knowingly driving your car in the wrong direction. Every minute, every day that you go in the wrong direction will just extend the time that it takes to get to your desired destination.
  • Lack of commitment to and enjoyment of the process - Students with a passion to learn normally get good grades. Wanting the outcome good grades, good health, or financial security is not nearly as important as manifesting the behavior that creates the result. We get what we do.
  • Expecting instantaneous results - When you know you’re on the right road you don’t worry about getting to your intended destination. There are no magic potions, no get rich quick formulas, and it would amaze you how long it takes to be an “overnight success.”

Once you figured out what you want create your plan, embrace the process, and get started. Making 2013 your best year ever starts TODAY!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Is She Expecting Your Call?

Have you ever called a company and received a greeting like that? My response is usually something like, “ should I know?” Does it ever amaze you how poorly some companies treat their customers on the phone? Whether they screen calls, have impossible automated phone attendants, or fail to put staff contact information on their website these companies insulate themselves to their detriment.

Companies put these systems in place for several reasons including filtering out sales people and controlling who the customer can access. The challenge with this tactic is that companies don’t realize that people not only tell others about these experiences, but also today’s sales person may be tomorrow’s business owner, prospect or referral source.

If you want customers to call certain people for help, then make sure that those resources who you do want them to call are available, well trained and empowered. If you don’t want sales people to call then have a way for them to compete for your business or be direct that you’re not currently in the market for what they’re selling. It’s okay to say “no.”

Having an organizational culture that relates well to customers and the public, builds goodwill that will translate into unsolicited testimonials and referrals. Instead of being defensive when people call, be passionate about assisting each caller (or getting the person who can assist them) and see how quickly and sustainably your business grows.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

How Long Does It Take for Networking to Payoff?

This question gets asked frequently and the normal answer of course is, that depends. There are no shortcuts. An old sales boss of mine used to say, “your raise becomes effective when you are.”

There are two base variables when assessing effective activity; quantity and quality. How much activity are we doing and what the quality of that activity is. The simplified rule is - we get what we do.

S = Q x A
Success = Quality of Activity x Quantity of Activity.
Like all similar formulas, when either variable is a low number or zero then success is low or non-existent.

Michael Jordan scored a lot of points because he took a lot of shots. In his words, “I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

When we’re new or short of our goals the most important variable is quantity. The quality of our activity generally improves as our experience and volume increases. Increasing the quantity of our activity is a conscious choice. Example: I will increase my sales appointments per week from 5 to 10, I will exercise for 60 minutes each day instead of 30 minutes, I will have at least 2 one-on-one networking meetings each week instead of 1 meeting, etc... The practice and reinforcement that we get from more activity naturally increases the quality of our activity both because we are getting more practice and because more volume helps us make better choices.

If you want to get more, you have to do more.

Monday, November 5, 2012

5 Self-Introduction Tragedies

Remember the adage, “You only get one chance to make a great first impression”? When we deliver an introduction we not only create an impression, but we ideally provoke the right people in the audience to take some type of action. With this kind of incentive, why then do so many networkers struggle to introduce themselves well?

Here are the top 5 reason why many 30-second introductions fail:

Passion - If you’re not excited about what you do, why should anyone else be?

Focus - There is no clear and actionable description of what you do and who you want to meet.

Audience - The message is not scripted to the audience. Be careful of industry jargon and acronyms if you’re not speaking to your industry.

Long - Less is more. When your message is too long the audience tunes out.

Call to Action - No compelling reason for people to want to connect you or connect with you.

Special Opportunity - Considering how many things don't live up to their hype (e.g., door-buster sales, Congressional committees, Snooki), makes you want to take a step back and consider how you are coming across when you stand up in front of a room for a self introduction. Too much? Not enough to make an impression? How would you know? Now you have a way to find out…we’re testing a concept to help people with their introductions. As we’re working out the system, we’re looking for a few people who would like to kick the tires. Interested? Click here to learn more.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

You Know What You Know...

Many networkers have tendency to want to talk a lot when they meet someone new. Maybe they’re not certain that they’ll get another chance so they “throw up” on the new connection. They describe their product, expertise, market position, and so on without taking a breath.

The challenge is that we’re not learning when we’re talking. To make matters worse, the person who we've just dumped our life story on tuned us out and completely discounted us not long after we started so we didn't gain any ground with our dissertation.

Our singular goal at events is to figure out who we should meet with one-on-one after the event. To do that, we must spend a lot more time listening than talking. We need to have an ability to ask good questions and a passion to hear other people’s stories.

The simple rule of thumb when you meet someone new know what you know; good networkers learn what other people know.

Monday, October 22, 2012

What’s Your In-Service Team Doing?

Progressive companies today are engaging their in-service professionals in a way that is driving huge amounts of new business.

The term in-service describes the people who provide your services at the clients site. In-service personnel range from attorneys and accounts to copier repair and caters. 

Often these in-service personnel do only what they need to do on-site and then go on to the next client. In doing so, they and consequently you leave a lot of potential opportunity on the table.

The plan to build referrals through in-service personnel doesn’t need to be onerous or complicated. In-service personnel should:

  • Provide exceptional service
  • Relate well and frequently with the primary point of contact on-site
  • Ask that person periodically, “Besides what we are helping you with, are there any other challenges that you are looking to solve?”
  • You will not get a challenge every time, but when you do make sure that you understand the problem with some confirmation questions and then ask, “Is that something that you are looking for outside help with?
  • When they say “yes”, utilize your network and that of your companies to make valuable connections for your client

Clients become advocates as they realize value. When clients become advocates they passionately refer you to their associates. By creating this culture, you’ll not only retain your most valuable clients, but you’ll also activate their advocacy.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Scarcity Mentality May Be Limiting You

Is your phone ringing off the hook? Do people you network with refer you frequently? If not, your network could be confused as to where you fit and what problems you solve.

Networkers notice a significant reduction in referrals when they broadly describe who they’d like to meet. Have you ever heard someone say something like “I am a financial planner and everyone is prospect”? Often this is done because a networker doesn't want to miss out on any potential business. They see scarce possibilities so they don’t want to limit who is referred. Unfortunately in doing so they paralyze potential referral sources. Can you refer “everybody”? Do you really want to refer to someone who is not a specialist?

If your goal is to meet everyone then you do not need to network. Just open up the phonebook and start dialing. Attend every event that you can. Every interaction will be one-to-one not one-to-many! There is no leverage in this model.

When we view opportunity in abundance we describe what we do and who we’re looking to meet in very focused and narrow terms such as, “we help professionalize group medical practices in CT”. From this, we know that this person consults with physician groups in CT to improve their performance. With this kind of description it is not only much easier for us to understand their skill set, but it is also much easier for us to help them make valuable connections.

When we briefly educate our community regarding our most valuable connections, we empower them to connect us. The influence in networking occurs through intimacy not generalization.

Last week’s post explored the downside of using the term “full service” when introducing yourself for the purpose of networking. Please refer to that post - “Full Service”, Really - for more detail on this topic.

Monday, October 8, 2012

“Full Service”, Really?

How many times have you been at a networking event and heard someone describe their business or practice as “full service?” Maybe you've done it yourself. In the 30-second introductions it sounds like this, “Hi my name is Joe Schmo, I am from Vandelay Industries, and we’re a full service accounting (staffing, law, marketing, architecture etc...) firm.”

There are two significant problems with describing your business as full service:

  • It’s not true - It’s not credible or believable. No business is full service. There are customers, markets and products/services that every business serves better than others. Likewise there are services and products that every company does not provide within its industry.
  • It’s nondescript - The term full service is also vague. At a networking event recently, I heard 5 staffing firm representatives from different companies describe their businesses as full service. As a listener to these introductions I learned nothing of value about the companies. They apparently aren't experts at anything. A specialist would never describe themselves as full service.

Success in networking comes from differentiating yourself. Your sphere of influence expands in direct relation to the communities sense of your expertise.

Monday, October 1, 2012

You’re Best at Networking When...

When we’re good at networking, we’re really really good and there is no time that we are better networkers then when someone close to us gets sick.

Think about what happens. Our friend let us know that they are sick. After we empathize, we work to find ways to help. We think of who we know who has knowledge or relationships that could help our friend. We think of someone who has had a similar malady and we call them to learn about their experience. We think of someone in the medical field who might have relationships that can help our friend.

It is interesting to see what happens:

  • We go from being confident to uncertain
  • Our uncertainty makes us humble
  • Our humility causes us to seek knowledge
  • When we are interested in knowledge we ask good questions and we listen

When we listen, we learn. When we learn, we gain the tools to solve problems. The humility to listen is by far the most valuable networking skill.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Beware the Shiny Objects

Does the grass always look greener...I had a lot of fun this week at a business event watching people who were fully engaged in conversation with a great contact one minute, lose focus when a suspected good contact walked by.

Maybe it is like texting and driving, with short attention spans the temptation to be distracted is large.

Respecting the person that you’re with and keeping your attention front and center is very important when networking. Your considerate focus communicates volumes about your committed interest. Additionally, the better your attention to this conversation the quicker you can move on to the next.

Avoid striking out, keep your eye on the ball, not the shiny objects!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Are You Being Heard? Choosing How to Communicate

Do you remember the kid’s game Telephone? By playing Telephone we learned that the more removed the receiver is from the communicator the more the story changes. Like Telephone, filtered or distant communication can often leave the receiver with a different view than was intended by the sender. These misunderstandings can inadvertently cause relational stress and reduced trust.

Every study of non-verbal communication since the 1960’s has validated the importance of tone and body language over the spoken or written words used when accurate communication is important.

Based on this, when we’re aiming to build relationships the most preferred modes of communication are:

  1. In person, face-to-face
  2. Via video with sound - use tools like Skype or Google Hangout
  3. Audio - use the phone or voice-mail
  4. And lastly, via text - such as email and memo

Email is a great tool for saying “yes” or “no,” but when you’re looking to be understood nothing comes close to the effectiveness of face-to-face.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Cost of Assuming Wrong

Has anyone ever responded in a aggravated way to you without knowing all of the facts? Sure it’s happened to all of us. Maybe they misunderstood what was to be delivered, maybe they didn't see the extra services that you performed, or maybe they got their information 2nd or 3rd hand. In any regard they made an incorrect assumption and as a consequence they blamed you.

Have you ever assumed incorrectly in a similar way and blamed someone else? Our court system is filled with people who have assumed wrong. It is almost impossible not too...I am not proud to say this, but I know I’ve assumed wrong and laid blame prematurely many times.

In our fast paced world the speed at which we are being required to make decisions continues to accelerate. Through this process, it is sometimes just easiest to assume the worst of someone.

This ready, fire, aim reaction when we assume has a dramatic effect on relationships and trust. Our aggressive and ego centered communication builds walls where we should be building bridges.

Take a moment and imagine the last time that you thought the worst about someone. You now see them somehow messing up and you see the challenge that it causes you. Even if you have all of the facts, do you think they started their day by saying “I am going to really mess up today and cause challenge for someone important to me”?

What would change if we assumed that the people around us have the best intent not the worst? Would our relationships improve? Would we build trust? It would be nice to find out wouldn’t it? We’re not going to perfect, but let’s do a lot better.

For more information on building trust read Elements of Building Trust or When Trust Breaks Down There are 5 Rules.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Playing Hurt

Presenteeism is a new term created by human resource professionals to describe individuals who are physically present at work, but because of some personal issue such as sickness or family distraction they are not mentally attentive at work.

While “showing up” at networking events is the first step to success, making sure that you aren’t just present will significantly improve your results when it is your turn to play hurt. Do these three things to give yourself a quick attitude adjustment before entering the meeting:

  • Identify who you want to meet by name or discipline
  • Rehearse how you’re going to introduce yourself at least twice
  • Take three relaxing deep breaths and get in the game

When you are meeting new people you want your “A” game and sometime that requires playing hurt. When you have time to reflect, after the event, you’ll be very glad that you made the extra effort.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Template One-on-One Meeting Agenda

Setting the agenda for a one-on-one meeting begins when we make the appointment. The purpose can be as simple as “to get to know more about each other.” The person who initiated the meeting should restate this purpose at the outset of the meeting to set a direction and destination. This clarity makes it easy for the initiator to begin the learning process by asking some questions.

One-on-one networking meetings are generally 30-60 minutes in length. The concept of these meetings is to learn about each other's background, skills, competence, and interests. Networkers who succeed at one-on-one meetings have a real passion to hear other people's stories. Each of the suggested questions below has many potential follow-up questions. Where we go really depends on how they respond. Good listening skills are essential to getting the most out of these exchanges. As we prepare our agenda for any specific one-on-one meeting there are three general areas of discussion that should be included.

  • Current World - This is where we develop a significant understanding of what this person is doing today. Asking the right questions will allow you to figure out how to make the best connections for them and to them.
    • What do they do?
    • What is their role and responsibility?
    • What are the strengths of their product or service?
    • Who do they serve (demographics)?
    • Besides existing customers, where do their best leads come from?
    • What are their biggest priorities?
    • How are they rewarded?
  • Background - These questions give us a better view of the person and their experiences. Your goal here is to get a real sense of the depth and breadth of this individual’s experience. Connections and our desire to facilitate them are often driven by our regard for the person.
    • How did they get here?
    • What has been their career path?
    • Where are they from?
    • What types of projects have they worked on?
    • What did they used to do and where?
    • What do they do when they're not working?
    • What are their hobbies and passions?
    • Where do they live?
    • Where did they grow up? If different from home, what brought them here?
  • Goals - Knowing where someone is going with build your opportunity to help them make valuable connections.
    • Is there a specific goal that you have for this year?
    • What do imagine will happen when you are able to reach that goal?
    • Have you ever thought about starting a (another) business? If so, what would it be?
    • Are there additional opportunities here for you at XYZ Company?
    • Are there some goals that you’d personally like to accomplish in the next 5-years or so?

Of course, each meeting should have a different set of questions that are aimed to help you really get to know the person across from you. The more you know, the more you’ll be able to make valuable connections thereby establishing strong goodwill with this person and in your community.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The One-On-One Meeting Misstep

Many years ago in a moment of pure frustration I am sure, a boss of mine said, “Bill you know what you know, if you stop to listen you’ll learn what other people know.”

The purpose of getting together one-on-one is to learn what other people know. You need to uncover their background, skills and competencies. You need to learn about them and the only way that you can do that is to be passionately interested in hearing their story.

This concept challenges how most networkers handle one-on-one meetings. They ask for a meeting and then proceed to either do a sales pitch or dominate the conversation with their stories. At the end of the meeting, they may even try to convince their new friend to send them leads. How would it work if someone did that to you?

Networking value and exchange is built by making matches. Connecting people who would benefit from knowing each other is how you earn goodwill. You can only make good matches when you have great intimacy with key people in your community. You need to have both knowledge about the capabilities of someone and trust in them to make a good introduction.

Accept for a moment the best referrals that you’ll ever get will come from your current or past clients. Then your one-on-one meetings need to be focused on building a bullpen of resources that can solve the problems most likely to be experienced by your key clients. The better your ability to solve the problems experienced by your clients the more likely they will be to advocate you...It is that simple.

Next week we’ll explore one-on-one meeting agendas...

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Where Should You Meet?

When you survey most networkers they will tell you that the best place to conduct one-on-one meetings is at a neutral location such as your favorite coffee shop or at a new and interesting restaurant.

To understand where to meet you must first understand why you would want to get together with someone one-on-one. The networking purpose of getting together one-on-one is to learn about the other person. So, would getting together at a neutral location be the best place to meet if your goal is to learn as much as is possible about the other person?

When possible, meeting at the other person’s place of business will allow you to learn the most about them. You’ll meet their co-workers and associates. You’ll see examples of their work. You’ll see their awards, diplomas, and certification. You’ll see their facility. More than anything you’ll see many references to the quality and credibility of their work that are not present at Starbucks.

Meeting at their place of business will give you more credible information in 60-minutes than you’ll get in 6 meetings anywhere else. The non-verbal verification and validation will allow you to gain intimate knowledge that will give you great benefit later.

One of the best parts of meeting at your counterpart’s office first is that you have an automatic reason for a second that they can visit you at your place of business.

It is recognized that there are many valuable people to get to know who do not have formal office space or maybe they work out of their home where they don’t feel comfortable having visitors. That’s okay. Simply have them visit you at your office. At least you’ll be at the home court for one of you where greater intimacy will always be built.

Should neither person have an office, certainly a neutral site will work. In this case you’re best to choose a location that is reasonably quiet. Make sure that you are mentally prepared to learn as much as you can about them. Your questioning and listening skills will need to be top notch!

Join us again next week when we’ll discuss why the purpose of one-on-one meeting is to learn as much as you can about the other person.

Monday, August 6, 2012

One-On-One Meetings: With Whom?

Getting together with key individuals one-on-one is the best way to create the level of intimacy needed to build advocacy. Without significant intimacy and trust most of us are very reluctant to advocate others. By getting together one-on-one we begin to invest in each other in a way that allows the potential of valuable exchange.

So, who should you get together with?
  • Centers of Influence - People who can help you by virtue of whom or what they know. Generally only 5-10% of any audience are centers of influence for you. These are very specific people who are connected to knowledge and relationships that are high leverage for you.
  • Resources - People who deliver valuable products and services that your customers may need. Having a bullpen of exceptional and diverse resources will help you become a preferred provider to your customers.
  • Connected People - People who seem to know “everybody.” These mavens have very broad connections that will add significant reach to your network. When you don’t know where else to go...your connected people will.
Join us again next week when we’ll discuss where to meet one-on-one...

Monday, July 30, 2012

The One Purpose in Event Attendance

It’s clear by the limited results that so many experience that many professionals are confused as to the primary networking purpose in event attendance. While most understand that successful networking is built on developing meaningful trust relationships their event performance belies that intent.

The sole purpose in attending events is to determine who to meet one-on-one outside the event. You’re not looking to be advocated or start referring your key clients. Heck you don’t even know if you like someone let alone trust them after 3-5 minutes together at a networking event. The best you can hope for is to learn enough to see if getting together makes sense.

While event participation is important, effectively meeting with the right people one-on-one is where networking value is created. Join us over the next several weeks as we explore how to get the most out of one-on-one meetings.

Monday, July 23, 2012

When Trust Breaks Down There are 5 Rules

Something happened. The details of what exactly happened doesn't really matter, in someone else's eyes you failed to deliver. It doesn’t even matter if it’s your fault or not. Your relationships hinge on how much you care about others. Overcoming breakdowns in trust and rebuilding the relationship is your largest networking opportunity. In the words of John Maxwell, author of The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

When you or your company makes a mistake follow these 5 rules:
  1. Speed - This rule underscores the other four rules. Relationships are perishable. Problems are like cancer. The quicker you act the more is preserved. 
  2. Understand - Use your empathic listening to fully understand the problem or issue. 
  3. Apologize - Saying that you’re sorry is an amazing elixir for healing. It doesn’t have to be your fault for you to express that you’re sorry. 
  4. Fix - Remediate the problem. 
  5. Confirm - Check-in to make sure that all is well and to see if you can be of additional assistance. 
We don’t always control what happens, but we do control how we respond. Many good relationships have been made great when a constituent experiences how much we care. If you want passionate advocates let your associates experience you at your best when the chips are down.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Elements of Building Trust

As we discussed last week, building a foundation of trust in your community is critical to networking success. Without trust meaningful exchange does not happen.

Here are the four most important components of trust:

Competence - Are you competent? Referrals go to people who can solve problems, people who are the best at what they do, and people who will make us look good when we refer to them.

Empathic - Are you a good listener? Truly understanding the goals, passions and interests of others from their point view of allows networkers to make the most productive connection, thereby building the deepest relations.

Believable - Are you believable? “Always honest no matter what” is the credo for those who are most believable. Our communication style also plays into our believability. Being direct, comfortable and adjusting to the style of the receiver helps our believability. Pretenders are always discovered.

Reliable - Do you walk the walk? Doing what you say you’re going to do and making your actions congruent with ethical principles is fundamental to building reliability. You can do a lot of things right, but if you’re not reliable your efforts will all be for naught.

There is no perfection in building trust. In fact imperfection often allows our community to experience how much we really care. Next week post will be about responding to a self-created breakdown of trust.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Testing Your Trust IQ

Building and maintaining trust in your community is the most important critical success factor for networkers. You can do a lot of other things right, but if your peers and associates don’t trust you you’re sunk.
Building and maintaining trust is a long-term proposition. Not only does trust take a long time to foster, but its maintenance takes constant vigilance. Those who look for the get rich solution to being perceived as trustworthy need not apply here.
The presence of trust allows professionals to collaborate, refer, advocate, connect and passionately create efficiencies for each other that would otherwise be unattainable.
Over the next couple of weeks we will explore the topic of trust and how you can build and maintain a high level of trust with your community.
To help us kick off the conversation, please answer the question below about trust. Not only will you see the results to date when you submit your response, but we’ll also publish a full summary next week. The factors that allow trust are very individual and in some cases situational so your prospective is very important to this conversation!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Do You Inwork?

Progressive employers are working hard to create a culture of referral through inworking. While most networkers focus their efforts outside of their company, some are creating spectacular success by focusing in-house.

First adopted by multi-discipline professional practice firms a few years back, inworking is the act of networking within your organization. Take the example of a 300 person accounting firm with 6 areas of specialty. Normally in a firm like this each business unit would operate completely independently. Each discipline would participate in independent networks. In this best practice firm however, cross discipline inworking events take place frequently at all levels. These inworking events look a lot like the networking events that you've been to except everyone is from the same firm. A foundation of managing partner engagement and continuous partner and associate training have created a dynamic where the firm now generates more new clients from internal referral than any other source.

Other businesses use inworking events to provide a better connection between staff and management as well as staff who are geographically distributed. These practices are great for helping individuals develop their own career advancement network within the company as well as connecting to peers for collaborative purposes.

Ultimately inworking builds the most valuable organizational asset, the staff effectiveness and efficiency. When inworking is well implemented and nurtured the institutional knowledge is fully leveraged.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Your Summer Networking Reading List

Many professionals look to refresh and rejuvenate their skills during the summer by reading books that offer best practice advice. If you are looking to continue your networking growth, here are a few outstanding books that I’d recommend:

  • 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R. Covey - This is the granddaddy of all professional self help books. Covey’s focus on building long-tern relationship and interdependence are foundational for networking.
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie - For nearly eighty years this classic has helped professionals learn how build the most valuable asset in networking, TRUST.
  • Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty: The Only Networking Book You’ll Ever Need, by Harvey Mackay - If you understand the title, you may not need to read the book. Do it anyway as Mackay weaves in wonderful stories and suggestions that will help you.
  • Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success One Relationship at a Time, by Keith Ferrazzi - Another book where the title gives away the punch line, but you’ll want to read this for Ferrazi’s techniques and to truly understand the value of breaking bread.
  • The Purple Cow, by Seth Godin - Anyone who needs to give a 30-second introduction needs to read this book. While not written specifically for networking you’ll learn everything that you need to about being unique.
  • The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, by Malcolm Gladwell - Not only does this book look at networking from a completely unique view, but it also helps the reader understand how to make their ideas spread virally.

While not all of these books were written specifically for networking, they have some incredibly valuable guidance. R
ead these books and you'll have all of the tools that you need to be very successful at business networking.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Are You Willing to Get Uncomfortable?

Do you hesitate to enter networking events sometimes? Do you spend a lot of time with people who you know when networking? Do you avoid opportunities to public speak or give you 30-second introduction to a room full of networkers. Do you delay your follow up with the key people that you meet? If so, you may need to actively work to expand your comfort zone.

Whether you think expanding your comfort zone is easy or hard, you are absolutely right. The primary step to expand your comfort zone is to...STOP DOING THE THINGS THAT MAKE YOU COMFORTABLE!

  • Before entering your next networking event, set a goal. Identify specific people who you want to meet by name or discipline. Take a minute before you enter, in your car if you drove, and review your plan. Walk in with a purpose...use your best skills to connect with the contacts that will be most meaningful. You’ll find it much easier to fully commit yourself to events when you are purposeful.
  • At your next networking event, talk only to people who you don’t know. Whether it is a sitting or standing event your role is to meet as many new people as you can. Get uncomfortable...choose to be a part of new groups of people that you don’t know where possible. Be curious...learn about them.
  • At your next networking event, be the first to volunteer to speak. You might be giving your 30-second introduction or giving feedback. It doesn't matter. Exercise your participation muscle.
  • After your next networking event, call all of the people that you met on your way to your next destination. You’ll probably get their voicemail...that’s OK. Let them know it was great to meet them and that you are looking forward to learning more about them. Where it is appropriate suggest some times for getting together one-on-one. Ask them to confirm a day and time that works best for them.
Growing you comfort zone will empower you to get significantly more out of your current and future networking activities. As the limitations that you now experience begin to dissolve, you will leverage opportunities that until now have been out of reach.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

What’s Your Valid Purpose?

Why aren’t people returning your calls or emails? Why aren’t they re-connecting with you after you meet them at an event? It’s because your valid purpose isn’t their valid purpose.

It is difficult for two professionals to commit to building a relationship without a matching
valid purpose. Imagine that you and I meet at an event and I express to you that I’d like to get together to see who you could refer me to or to sell you an insurance policy. It’s very likely that you will not have the same interest in getting together that I do.

A valid purpose is a reason to engage, meet, or have continuing dialog based on the interests of the person with whom you want to build a relationship. Your valid purpose must be receiver centered. In other words, you need to be empathic. By understanding the needs and wants of the person across from you, develop a valid purpose that is meaningful for them. Here’s a sample valid purpose, ask for a meeting to learn more about someone’s services as you have customers who may have a need for their assistance.

It would be easy to construe from this brief description that your valid purpose can be just a veil to get you the meeting. Nothing would be further from the truth. Your stated valid purpose must be congruent with your intent. Trust is build by what you do overtime not in one moment.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Going Direct - Operating Without a Net

While most networkers would prefer to be introduced before calling someone that they don’t know, sometime that’s just not possible. What happens when you do not have a connection? Is it feasible, reasonable, and not against any rules to go direct? Absolutely!

Here are some thoughts that might help...

The rule when you’re connecting with someone new, whether you have been connected by a third party or not, is to have a
valid purpose. You may have heard of WIIFM before or “what’s in it for me.” Practicing WIIFM requires you to understand and appeal to an important value of the person who you are reaching out to. People worth meeting generally don’t like wasting time so make sure that your valid purpose is stated quickly and clearly. Make it about them and you’ll be in good shape.

We have so many communication tools available to make a first, email, social media, a handwritten note, etc...Which should you use? The tendency today for first contact is certainly towards email and social media. While the efficiency here cannot be argued, the challenge is that it is difficult for the receiver to discern tone on email and social media. Whether your phone call leads directly to a conversation or a voicemail the receiver will hear your passion and
valid purpose in a way that they never will when your message is two dimensional.

While networking is a powerful tool it does not solve every need to make contact. Sometimes you’ll need to travel without a net and go direct!

Monday, May 28, 2012

LinkedIn - Introduce Me

You've run across an ideal contact on LinkedIn. You don’t know them, but an acquaintance of yours does. What should you do? Should you use LinkedIn’s introduction feature to have your connection make the introduction?

Similar to the best practices for offline networking, the answer is predicated on how well you know the prospective introducer and how well they know the introducee.

Clearly the objective is to leverage a friend’s coattails to build a relationship with a new contact. We have to be careful though to make sure that our relationship with our “friend” is as good as we think it is and that their relationship with the person that we want to meet is similarly strong.

Some thoughts that should help you

  • Is your contact an advocate? - Only ask when you feel confident in your relationship otherwise your credibility will be lost. In his book, Dig a Well before You’re Thirsty, Harvey MacKay created the perfect metaphor for the order of activities in the networking process.
  • Assure that there is a connection - Just because people are “friends” on a social media platform doesn't mean that they have a strong relationship. Asking someone to introduce you to someone that they don’t know well doesn't exercise the type of leverage that is possible.
  • There is no harm in going direct - It is important that you don’t limit your success because you lack an introduction. Pick up the phone, send an email or an InMail. You’ll be glad that you did.

Introductions are a truly powerful tool in business networking. Focus on being worthy...the rest will take care of itself.

Monday, May 21, 2012

LinkedIn - Recommend Me Pretty Please

Have you ever received a request for recommendation on LinkedIn from someone that you barely know? What did you do? How did you respond? Have you ever asked for a recommendation in the same manner?

Recommendations are an exceptional way for an individual to gain credibility based on the integrity and advocacy of another individual. Think of the recommendation like references that you might use in a job search or when promoting your company, a past employer or a customer agreeing to promote you if someone calls.

How many recommendations are best?
Well how many references do you offer to a prospective employer or customer? More is not always better. Often the more references that you offer the more your really good ones will be diluted. Since LinkedIn does not give a cumulative rating such as the star system on Amazon and Yelp a few really good recommendations will always trump 100 mediocre recommendations.

Who should you ask for a recommendation?
Only people who know you well. It is critical that any tool that you use to promote your credibility be trustworthy. The world always discovers the pretenders. One challenge of social media is that users can mistakenly assume a different set of etiquette than they would use in person. Just think about who you would ask to be a reference.

Helpful tip. The best way to get recommended is to recommend others. Don’t wait to be asked. Be an advocate for the people who you know well and who have WOW’d you.

While it is great to be recommended by many people and LinkedIn certainly makes that easy, it is important to seek quality over quantity.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Cinderella Effect

Do you remember the story of Cinderella? She’s the gal who goes to the ball and at the stroke of midnight her gown turns into rags, her carriage turns into a pumpkin, her coachman and horses turn into mice and she looses her glass slipper…

Every room full of people is just as perishable. In most cases, each group of attendees will never appear together again. Not everybody attends every event. New and interesting people are in the room for the first time. Success comes from treating this moment like a unique and precious opportunity.

The magic of the event is revealed when you know how to meet your Prince Charming. Determine who you want to meet and use all of your resources the host, senior participants, and your friends are all there to help you connect…just ask them.

Sand is running out of your hourglass, midnight is approaching, so get focused and get moving.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

No Need to Chew You Arm Off...Separating from Conversations

Have you ever recognized that a conversation is over but not known how to exit? Whether you’ve had a great 3-5 minute conversation with a person of interest at a networking event or you’re stuck in a circular conversation with a bottom feeder, wander or clinger you need to have some tools to gracefully separate and move onto the next conversation.

The primary goal of attending events is to learn who you should meet with outside of the event in an effort to deepen the relationship. Therefore once you’ve learn enough to know if a meeting outside is warranted then it is prudent to move to the next conversation. This not only assures that you will get to learn about more people, but it also respects the time and goals of the people that you meet.

In fact, your success in networking is in large part built on the strength of each of your contacts network. Making sure that your contacts expand their network will exponentially grow your network.

Rather than feigning a need to use the restroom or awkwardly walking away, check out these simple statements to help you separate from conversations:

  • Sincere - “I really appreciate getting to chat for a few minutes, but I do not want to monopolize your time. Would it make sense if we split up for now to meet some additional people?”
  • Forward Thinker - “Who are you hoping to meet tonight?” They answer. You respond. “Great, I am looking to meet _________, should we separate and when we run across someone who would be a good connection for each other that we walk them across the room to make the introduction?”
  • Achiever - “I see someone who you should meet. Would you mind if I walk you over to make the introduction?”
The key to successful separation is to keep the other person in mind. Helping them achieve their goals is the first investment that you can make in this new relationship.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Breaking into Conversations

Have you ever wanted to speak with someone at an event, but they always seemed to be occupied with other people? You circle around, stand patiently, and speak with other attendees to keep yourself occupied until your intended contact becomes available.

Of course there is considerable tension as you attempt to be considerate. You don’t want to barge in and interrupt as this would likely challenge your fledgling relationship. At the same time, not meeting this valuable contact would be a significant opportunity lost.

So what to you do? Here are few tactics that you can adjust to fit the exact circumstances at a specific event:

  • Big Brother - Ask the host or a group leader to introduce may be easier for them to get the attention of the person who you want to meet
  • Gentle Elbow In - Pass the person you want to meet your card and apologize for interrupting, but let them know that you’d love to chat with them when they’re done
  • Last Resort - Make a note to call them in the your call reference that you were at the same event and that you’d like to learn more about them

However you break in the key is to be courteous and sensitive to the agenda of both your intended contact and the person with whom they are speaking.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Guilty as Charged...The Hazards of Premature Discrimination

Figuring out whom to spend time with is one of the most difficult challenges in networking.  We attend events. Maybe we have even had a chance to review the projected attendee list before the event. We look for intriguing company names and people of note. When we get to the event we survey the name tags as we walk through the room and evaluate people’s appearance in the hopes of eliciting a clue as to who to meet. Ultimately, these superficial indicators prove not to be very valuable and we walk right by some of our most valuable connections.

This is the final of three posts that focus on exploring the three most dysfunctional personality types who attend networking events. Not only do we need to be aware of these personalities, but we also must have a plan as to how to deal with them. It is important that these personalities not distract you from your ultimate goal.

While we may not be a bottom feeder or a wander or clinger the personalities profiled in the first two posts of this series, chances are each of us has been a premature discriminator. While some discrimination is important as it allows us to focus our relationship building efforts, premature discrimination causes us to miss some of the most valuable relationships because we “judged the book by its cover.”

So let’s put the shoe on the other foot to see how limiting our choices have been. Would it be fair for someone walking past you at an event to choose not to introduce them self based on your name tag or appearance? Would they be able to tell about your vast background in a variety of industries? Would they know all of the positions that you’ve held or who you are connected to by your name tag? Would they know who you’re married to, who your parents are or who your best friend from high school is? OF COURSE NOT AND NOT MEETING YOU WOULD BE THEIR LOSS!

You can definitely improve your ability to connect to the right people at events by reviewing the projected attendee list and scanning the name badges at the check-in table. Get to the next level of key contacts by using these tactics:

  • Ask the host or tenured members who you should meet - be prepared to guide them if needed, but you may find it best not to limit their thinking
  • Ask your most valuable contacts in the group who else you should meet - these contacts know you and they have a better level of intimacy with some key people in the group who you should meet
  • Make it a habit to introduce yourself to and learn about at least a couple of people at each event who you normally would have by-passed - expanding your comfort zone as well as your perspective is vitally important to your networking success

These tips are geared to help you leverage the knowledge and relationships of the people who you know to help you continue to build a more vibrant and effective network. Look beyond the name tag and appearance. See the person and their rich background.