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.