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WIIFM: What’s in it for me?

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“Data is not information, information is not knowledge, knowledge is not understanding, understanding is not wisdom.” ~~Clifford Stoll

This week we consider some fundamental communications skill in sales. That is, understanding and stating the difference between features and benefits. Features are simply facts. They neither engage nor inspire. They do not impel action or transfer an emotional connection. Features are a list of what that never considers why or, as the title notes, “What is in it for me?” Your prospect wonders, “Why should I care?”

Dr. Ivan Misner includes a good example of this in the 29% Solution, by listing the features of a car.

“V-6 engine, dual exhaust, front-wheel drive, sunroof…heated seats, heated glass.”

As you can see, this is a list of features you may or may not entirely understand or appreciate.

What are some of the benefits of these features?

  • The V-6 engine helps you pull out into traffic quickly. It may impress your friends.
  • Dual exhaust improves fuel efficiency, provides more power when starting out, and adds a “throaty” sound to the engine (which may also impress your friends.)
  • Front-wheel drive provides more legroom, since the driveshaft tunnel is not needed.
  • The sunroof provides the open road feel of a convertible while retaining the added structural security of a hard-body sedan.
  • Heated seats provide a warmer environment on chilly mornings and better comfort on long road trips.
  • Heated glass allows the convenience of clearing the windows in winter without manually scraping them clean.

These benefits put the prospect “in the driver’s seat.” Some of those benefits appealed to you while others did not. The professional is aware of the benefits and can align them to the prospect. If the person you are talking to is most interested in fuel efficiency then you can recommend a good automotive choice and highlight the features that support fuel efficiency. In fact, the same vehicle may appeal to two very different buyers as long as the emphasis is on the areas of interest to them.

How does this apply to networking? Since we are meeting other business owners and sales representatives many networkers do not consider the benefits and only list features. Feature lists are certainly more precise and, when shared with a colleague, can be very effective. Network administrators, for instance, can share industrial terms with each other and successfully impress with their technical grasp and currency of knowledge. However, all that jargon leaves the rest of us out. In fact, it disenfranchises us from any ability to refer them or connect them to someone they could help since we are so clueless in that arena.

If instead they spoke in terms of response speed, data security, recovery time, and reliability we could recommend them to others with confidence.

My litmus test is to imagine sharing what I do, what my product or service does, and how this can help you by imagining I am explaining it to a twelve year old. I don’t want to wear out your attention span or go over your head.

Your action this week is to highlight the benefits you provide. Consider some of your favorite customers and remember what problems you solved for them. A simple (and highly effective) shortcut is to ask them. You have been meaning to call and say hello anyway. Here’s a good excuse.

Find out the main reason they chose to spend money with you? They sought a benefit, not a feature.

The second action is to list all the features of your product or service and identify as many benefits as possible for each one. I highly recommend that you complete this portion before proceeding to next week’s blog entry.

 

© 2017 by Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.
All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.

 

Written by bniguy

July 23, 2017 at 8:49 am

Seek and you will find yourself

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“There are only 3 colors, 10 digits, and 7 notes; it’s what we do with them that’s important.” ~~ Jim Rohn

Over the next few weeks we will consider communication. Naturally, one of the best communication skills you can consider is the importance of listening. Since we covered that in detail in week 7 (Take Inventory) I am just going to recommend you review it again before continuing.

Asking interesting questions is a simple short cut to effective communication. There are a number of reasons tied to listening as well as a number that help you get your message across. Human beings exhibit reciprocity. This is a powerful social force requiring that we balance the scales. When you pass someone in the hallway try this experiment to see reciprocity in action. Nod to the first person. Odds are they will nod back. Say “hello” to the next and you will probably receive a “hello” back. To the next use a more unusual phrase such as “top of the morning.” The other person may be a little surprised by the greeting but will most likely use the same phrase back to you.

The best interviewers ask questions, listen to the responses, and ask follow-on questions that get deeper to the matter at hand.

How can you use this in networking situations?

There are three main benefits of asking questions:

  • This breaks the ice. Especially if you start out with questions about the environment. “I notice you are driving a new Volvo. How do you like it?” Even the shyest person could deal with this kind of non-threatening question. You are opening in an area of their interest.
  • These questions can be an excellent sort. Networking is a give-and-take arena and some people are only takers. Those that fail to reciprocate reveal themselves and you can move along early to invest in more productive introductions.
  • Once the first two bullet points are met you can simply ask the questions you want to answer. For example after they describe their market pause a moment. In most cases they will ask you about yours.

You can ask questions about their business, questions about them, and/or questions about things in general. Open-ended questions are better than multiple choice or yes/no queries as they elicit elaboration.

Business questions include:

  • Who is your target market?
  • What sets you apart from your competition?
  • What is your most popular product (or service?)
  • What is new in your business?

Personal questions include:

  • Why did you choose to go into your profession?
  • What do you like best about what you do?
  • What is your biggest challenge?

General questions include:

  • What do you do?
  • How long have you been in business?
  • Where are you located? Why there? If you could choose a perfect location, what would it be?
  • How do you generate most of your business?

Bob Burg, author of Endless Referrals has an excellent question he recommends you practice until the pacing is smooth. Ask the other person, “How can I know if the person I am talking to is a good prospect for you?” Be prepared with your own response, as well.

Your action this week is twofold. First, go back to week seven and review the traits of master networkers. This will prepare you for the process of taking your networking to a new level. Second, consider some answers you would like to share and craft questions you would like to answer. Go to your next networking event and try these questions out. Be prepared to listen carefully and help those you meet.

 

© 2017 by Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.
All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.

 

Written by bniguy

July 16, 2017 at 12:11 pm

The host with the most

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“The more credit you give away, the more will come back to you. The more you help others, the more they will want to help you.” ~~Brian Tracy

Last week we considered the benefits of sponsoring events. This week we look at the other side of that coin and consider hosting events.

I am not referring to simple get-togethers—although they are also important—but talking about events tied to a purpose or reason.

These fall into two large categories—singular events and regular events. Singular events happen once and are usually tied to a specific situation. These may be grand openings, award ceremonies, and so on. Although you may hold annual (or more frequent) award ceremonies this particular one is special and should be treated as such. There is usually a theme and purpose.

Regular events are usually more casual social networking designed around a recurring pattern. The theme is usually tied to food and drink or specific entertainment.

Consider a grand opening. This is a wonderful time to showcase a new location or new product line or some similar watershed event. Usually these are invitation only and align with the business. An example might be a new music shop. It is great to include musicians and this enhances the celebratory party-like atmosphere. Another example may be a clothing store which could showcase new fashions on the runway, too.

In these events, consider some of the benefits to the host. Start with the event itself and consider the purpose and how it aligns with your business goals. Who will be invited and how will that happen? Knowing that, who in my network would benefit from meeting these people? How can this event maximize those introductions? What kind of expenses can you anticipate? Who in my network is looking for a way to help me? What can I offer my sponsors?

Thoughtful preparation is the key to a successful event and some business people are very adept at making this event memorable and productive. Consider some of the people who would benefit from meeting the guests. They might be financial planners, estate planning attorneys, or bankers. A caterer may also benefit and welcome the chance to showcase their ability. A promotional items professional may engage a photographer in order to further their relationship. The possibilities are varied.

If you are hosting an event engage sponsors for signage, invitations, and so on. Commit to review the guest list with your sponsors and make personal introductions to the appropriate parties.

There is a lot of work involved in these singular events and attention to detail helps make them memorable.

One way to leverage the same effort is to host regular events. They can simply be based around a common interest—such as cheering for a team—or as simple as a midweek wine-tasting. Golf outings are an excellent venue. By carving out a regular recurring event you can build relationships and provide a forum for connecting people in a friendly way. In fact, this is an excellent way to deepen the roots of those significant relationships.

Your action this week is to consider some creative ways you can introduce your network to one another and celebrate an event by hosting a purposeful gathering.

 

© 2017 by Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.
All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.

Written by bniguy

July 9, 2017 at 4:13 am

Posted in events, HowTo, planning

Team up

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“If you support the community, they will support you.” ~~Jerry Greenfield

Promotion is a key component in expanding a company’s or organization’s reach. Sponsorship of local events is an accessible method to consider.

Let’s look at the bigger model. If you look at any NASCAR vehicle (or driver’s uniform, for that matter,) you can see that every inch sports a sponsor’s logo. An attorney I know started his business by sponsoring a local race team. Certainly, his objectives were to have the car go around the track and never get a dent. The driver was more interested in winning the race anyway possible. The lawyer knew, though, that some of these people would get speeding tickets on the way home and wanted them to call him immediately.

In fact, the sports world exemplifies big business sponsorship to the point that Super Bowl ads have become more important in many circles than the game itself.

This applies well at the local level, too. There are a number of benefits to consider in sponsoring events:

  • Promotion of your brand. This is enhanced when you line up your business with the proper demographic.

  • An opportunity to showcase your products and services.

  • A chance to meet and greet potential prospects and strategic alliances.

  • An occasion to deepen an alliance partner relationship.

  • A way to make a difference in your community.

On the other hand you must evaluate each sponsorship situation carefully. There are more opportunities than you could possibly support and more are being created all the time. Not every one of them is a fit. Here are some questions to consider first:

  • What is the target market for this event?

  • Do I get direct access to this audience?

  • How does this align with my networking goals?

  • What kind of exposure do I get for my investment?

  • Does it make sense to be there?

  • Can I get this exposure without this type of investment?

  • How does this enhance my credibility with the person I am helping?

  • Are there any competitors as other sponsors?

  • Are there any other alliance partners as sponsors?

  • Why should I do it?

  • Why should I not do this?

 

Action for this week is to consider those in your network that are holding events—a conference, an open house, a fund-raiser—that can use your support. In order to strengthen your relationship offer as much help as your business can provide and realize it may not all be financial.

 

© 2017 by Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.
All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.

 

Written by bniguy

July 2, 2017 at 6:55 am

Join a Chamber of Commerce

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“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” ~~Albert Einstein

Diversification of your networking allows you to meet more linchpins, expanding your reach and your impact. See week eight Variety is the Spice for a refresher.
Diversification of networks is also advisable. Ideally, you will find that by belonging to three different types of networks you will optimize your networking time.
One valuable type which can be found in almost any community is the local Chamber of Commerce. A chamber usually has a broad membership base. You will be welcomed while finding that chamber cultures differ. Some are heavily weighted toward a focus on large, corporate clients. Some hold many networking events. Some provide continuing training events. It is well worth your time to visit a few and get a feel for the culture that best meets your needs. When you find one—join. When you join one—get involved. In fact, there is no need to join if you do not get involved. By becoming a leader in your chamber you can raise your personal credibility and that of your company.
Another type of network to consider is one that supports your preferred strategic partners. In week four’s post Field Your Winning Team, we defined some valuable partners for your business. Most professions have professional associations designed to help those partners leverage the knowledge of others in the same profession. A variation on that theme would include trade associations. These are usually arranged in state and national levels and add a level of political lobbying to their activities.
Seek them out and get known while getting to know them.
One caveat, however, is not to spread yourself too thin. Strike a balance between networking and the rest of your business activity (selling, production, customer service, etc.)
Your action item this week is to seek out a local chamber of commerce. Visit a few and visit each a few times. Find a fit and then become an active part of that vibrant community. Membership is not free but significantly less than effective advertising.
© 2017 by Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI. All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.

 

Written by bniguy

June 25, 2017 at 4:58 am

Posted in business, HowTo, networking

Get Real

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“Networking is an essential part of building wealth.” ~~Armstrong Williams

Teams outperform individuals. This is especially true when trying to accomplish something new or where creativity is essential. A team will always outperform an individual—even when that individual has superior ability.
Business is a perfect environment where those two objectives exist. Creativity is a great way to open new markets, for example, and a team is an essential ingredient for  success. Brian Tracy is credited with one of my favorite quotes, “Teamwork is so important that it is virtually impossible for you to reach the heights of your capabilities or make the money that you want without becoming very good at it.
This is easier said than done, however. Building internal teams can be a costly process in time and money. Aligning strategic partnerships is a complicated trial-and-error exercise, as well. There is a shortcut and the answer may seem self-serving, so feel free to reject it if you wish. There is an organization dedicated to business success and structured to foster creative solutions to meet your business objectives. Imagine having several dozen salespeople working on your behalf to bring you new business. Imagine further that you do not have to pay them a salary or commission and you do not have to provide office space or set up a retirement plan for them. These team members would involve themselves and work to improve their skills and expand their networks to assist you, as well.
That sounds like a good environment and it exists closer than you might imagine. Referral networks do exactly this. The world’s largest and most successful is BNI: Business Network International. Right now there are 8,000+ chapters in more than 70 countries around the world. Based on the simple yet powerful philosophy of “Givers Gain” BNI generates many billions of dollars of revenue for its members worldwide.
In the area of full disclosure, I joined BNI more than a dozen years ago. The business generated there has enabled me to become debt-free and leave the corporate world. Now I represent eastern and central North Carolina helping nearly eight-hundred BNI members attain success.
I am sure there is a BNI chapter near you.
Your action this week is to visit www.bni.com and find a group or groups near you. Experience this first hand. Ideally, take your workout partner along or, if they are in a distant city, compare notes after you both attend separately.

 

© 2017 by Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI. All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.

Written by bniguy

June 18, 2017 at 12:37 pm

Posted in business, HowTo

Quick Study

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“Don’t leave inferences to be drawn when evidence can be presented.” ~~Richard Wright

If you are the father of a teenage daughter how long does it take you to size up her date?

Studies and personal experience puts this at about seven seconds. We give someone seven seconds to assess their intent, ability, and integrity. Obviously, the same time is afforded to us from the other side of the coin. That is, we have seven seconds to make a good first impression.

For those readers who cannot relate to the example above, consider some business models we are all familiar with where companies pay attention to that first seven seconds (or don’t) and how we use this experience to anticipate our results.

  • Your waiter appears at the table for the first time this evening.
  • You arrive at the front desk in your distant hotel.
  • You walk up to the service desk to drop off your car.
  • You finally reach the front of the line at the post office or DMV.
  • You present your health insurance card at the doctor’s office.

Your initial assessment may be right or wrong but we are quick to recognize corroborating evidence and slower to accept proof of our faulty judgment. If the counter guy is greasy, fails to make eye contact, and appears bored we expect our auto repair will be painful. The price quoted may be fair but we remain suspicious. The wait may be shorter than expected so we wonder if they were thorough. The repair technician and the company may be fantastic…yet we are harder to convince after that pathetic first impression.

How does this apply to master professional networkers like you and I?

I think the answer is obvious. We only have seven seconds to make a good first impression. That first impression sets the tone for the rest of our relationship and changing it is more difficult than supporting it.

With that in mind, let’s consider some high impact elements.

Your attitude is the single biggest toggle. Do you think that had a bearing on the scenarios presented above? Do you think it will have the same bearing on you? Be aware of your attitude and adjust it in the parking lot before you go in. Maybe traffic was terrible. Leave that in the car. Be prepared to smile, listen, and make some new friends. Don’t knock the competition or monopolize the conversation.

Your appearance is the next area and this is more complicated and often we want to justify our appearance rather than adjust it. This also engages each of our senses so be alert to all of them.

Dress appropriately…not for you but for the audience. You may be a fitness instructor and work regularly in sweats. While networking, though, you would have better success with clean khakis, a collared shirt, and dress shoes.

Here’s a controversial area, as well. You may have a beautiful body and enjoy showing it off. In some settings, this is entirely appropriate. In business, though, it can be a distraction or even a perceived threat.

Consider the sense of smell, too. I am glad I don’t smoke and am sympathetic with those that do not realize how the odor is repellant for many people. Heavy perfume carries the same effect and we all perceive these scents differently. When you first start wearing aftershave a small dab is all you need. Over time, though, you become immune to it and add more and more. Pretty soon the aroma announces your arrival before you enter the room. Even at lower levels some may like the fragrance while others perceive it as closer to bug spray.

It would be wonderful if everyone had open minds. On this planet, though, most do not. Your talent is missed when others cannot get past your appearance.

Body language is another key element which is mostly subconscious. A firm handshake, given while making eye contact, conveys confidence. Listen carefully and leave your position open to new people mingling. Stand tall rather than slouch or lean. Resist the urge to cross your arms or have your hands full of food and drink. I find the most successful strategy is to eat and drink at separate times, so you have one hand free. Practice chewing with your mouth closed.

In all of these areas, you are meeting new people. Educating them to have open minds is more work than you should invest and misses the point. Be a little friendlier, a little more conservative, and a little more cognizant of their first impression. Let your hair down after the event is over.

This week’s action item goes back to the buddy system. Bring a buddy to your next networking event and accept feedback in these key areas. Awareness is the start of improvement.

Also, take a look at yourself before going out and answer the question, “What do I think about this person before me? Would I want to meet them? Would I want to listen to what they have to say?” You will be able to answer that in seven seconds.

 

© 2017 by Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI. All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.

 

Written by bniguy

June 11, 2017 at 8:34 am

Posted in communication, events, HowTo