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Archive for February 2011

Variety is the spice

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“It is not best that we should all think alike; it is a difference of opinion that makes horse races” ~~Mark Twain

It’s true that “birds of a feather flock together” while the strength in a network expands along with its diversity.  This means leaving our comfort zone—intentionally.  Expanding contacts in order to provide better access for your customers to services they may need as well as to expand your reach into new markets.

As you grow your contacts you will find that a few people are the connectors that make it possible to bridge diverse worlds.  Wayne Baker, author of Achieving Success Through Social Capital called these connectors “linchpins…are the gateways between clumps…and [they] provide the shortcuts that convert a big world into a small one.”

This week’s action step involves adding diversity to your network.  Look for a mixer next month and add it to your schedule.  While there make it a point to introduce yourself to someone you don’t know and someone you would be unlikely to cross paths with in any other setting.  Look for someone different in age, gender, race, religion, ability, interests, and belief.

© 2011 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.

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Written by bniguy

February 27, 2011 at 2:21 am

Posted in business, HowTo, networking

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Are you frustrated with your networking results?

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“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” ~~Albert Einstein

If you have ever felt that the time spent networking was wasted I submit that it is not the activity itself with the problem. Rather it is your intent and/or your event.  Amateur networkers experience this often and heed Dr. Einstein’s observation by simply discontinuing the practice.  They are not crazy—just fed up.

This week let’s consider a more effective strategy to improve your own networking results.

The best place to initiate a change is from within so we will start there, as well.  What was your intent in attending the last networking event that frustrated you?  If it was to collect as many business cards as possible I imagine you hit that target well.  And yet, it was completely unsatisfactory.  Later that night you pulled out your bulging pocket of new contacts and did not know what to do next.  Insanely you did what you always did.  That is, you robotically keyed each one into your database and methodically sent a generic email to everyone.  This is high effort with low return.  Feels a little like insanity to continue, doesn’t it?  It is like throwing spaghetti on the wall and hoping some will eventually stick.

Sadly, some will stick.  Some connections strip mined from a loosey-goosey networking event may eventually become the perfect person to accelerate your business.  I say sadly because this fools people into doing more of the same.  Hello, Albert!

Consider this common model we are all familiar with that should illustrate what is happening.  Some people do buy winning lottery tickets. That is what keeps the vast majority buying their own.  The winner is in the ticket, though, not the purchaser.  That ticket would have gone to someone anyway.  The same is true in these lucky networking contacts.  The success comes from the person you met—not you.

Rather than rely on hope change what you think to see better results.  What is your intention in networking?  I recommend taking two main goals in with you.

The first is to look for people that can help your current customers, prospects, or strategic alliances enjoy more success. Improve their life.  Forget about helping yourself.  You tried that and have many useless lottery tickets to show for that effort.  Let’s say you are a Residential Realtor and one of your current buyers is looking for a new home they can downsize into now that they are empty-nesters.  The kids are not only out of the house but out of college.  Maybe they are avid golfers or indulgent pet owners.  Look for someone who can help these people take a memorable golf vacation or can introduce them to a great pet spa or veterinarian.  If successful, you won’t have a pocket full of business cards but will have one or two valuable contacts.  Get to know them better.  When comfortable you can introduce them to your clients.  When they know you they can introduce you to their clients—some of whom may also be downsizing (or upsizing or whatever.)

The second intent is to look for people that can further your goals. Imagine you are a mortgage broker who has an excellent program to help people that have good income and no down payments get into their first home quickly.  This may be ideal for someone who is just graduating from an expensive school and launching a lucrative profession.  However, when they first come out of school they are saddled with large school loans and can’t even start shopping homes until they get a job offer.  After that they can select the city and start the process and usually want to go fast.  This may be doctors, lawyers, engineers, and so on.

Let’s imagine you do not have any contacts into these schools.  (If you do, start there.)  If not, network for these resources.  You might look for people directly or indirectly associated with specific universities.  (Here’s a hint—these schools probably have a calendar of events.  That’s a very effective shortcut.)  Barring that, you might instead network for people who have successfully negotiated that process already.  That is, they graduated ten years ago and are now successful.  Ask if they can help you understand the issues facing your intended target market.  You may find your plan is not likely to succeed.  This is okay since it saves time and lets you reshape the plan.  You may find they are influential in the alumni association.  This is wonderful as they may be perfect golden goose for your program.  More likely you may wind up somewhere in the middle.

At any rate you will almost certainly find that your networking will be far more effective by changing your intent or your event.  Welcome to networking sanity.

© 2011 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

February 20, 2011 at 2:52 am

Take Inventory

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“To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” ~~ William Shakespeare

It is assessment time.  Inspect what you expect and take action to sharpen your strengths and augment your weaknesses.

Ivan Misner and Don Morgan surveyed more than two thousand business people throughout the US, UK, Canada, and Australia and compiled the results in Masters of Networking.  These are the top ten traits of master networkers.

Do yourself a favor and pull out a sheet of paper.  Number the rows 1 through 10.  Leave a space for the description and run five columns down for your scores.  For each trait below, rate yourself as follows:

  1. Never
  2. Rarely
  3. Sometimes
  4. Usually
  5. Always

Just for breathing you will score ten points.  Therefore, I recommend reading each area and rating yourself conservatively.  The score is entirely private so why not be as brutally honest as you can handle?

1: Follow-up.  Timely follow-up on referrals is the number one trait of master networkers.  This is important on so many levels but let’s consider a fear of loss component.  The more you fail to follow-up the fewer opportunities you will receive.  On the positive side of the equation is that you can follow-up while the opportunity is hot, enhance your referral partner’s reputation, etc.

2: Positive attitude.  Positive attitudes are contagious and people want to associate with you.  Conversely, a consistently negative attitude (no matter how justifiable it is to you) is a deterrent to productive relationships.

3: Enthusiasm and motivation.  These two go well with the positive attitude.  Many sales experts list enthusiasm as the best characteristic to display and we need to sell ourselves to our network.  Enthusiasm does this and translates well to action.

4: Trustworthiness.  In networking your reputation is your currency.  Every transaction carries an implied (or stated) endorsement and you must guard that carefully.  In some settings you are granted trust (certifications, for example.)  In others it is only earned over time.  In all cases it can unravel quickly.  When setting an appointment—show up.  You do not have to be an expert at everything—it is perfectly acceptable to acknowledge that you do not have the answer.  However, if you promise to find one—do so in a timely manner.

5: Good listening skills.  Focus on what the other person is saying rather than simply waiting for them to pause so you can jump in with your own comments.  How well can you tune out the many distractions?  How well do you remember new people’s names?  Assess based on these concepts.

6: Commitment to networking 24/7.  Master networkers are always tuned in to the many ways they can help their referral partners in a Giver’s Gain model—not only at mixers and after hours events but at the gym, in the grocery line, etc.

7: Gratitude.  This can manifest itself in many ways—thank you cards, testimonials, and simple acknowledgement whenever possible.  The more you do this the more chances you will have.

8: Helpfulness.  Master networkers know what help their partners need and actively seek out solutions.

9: Sincerity.  Many of the traits above combine here.  Being grateful and enthusiastic, for example, as well as demonstrating good listening skills.  I like call waiting but never use it as an excuse to switch over from the call I am on.  If ever in a situation where that might happen I let the person know before the chance occurs.

10: Dedicated.  The master networker is dedicated to working their network.  This manifests by having a current, complete database; by carrying their referral partners’ business cards and materials along with their own; and by holding frequent, regular get-togethers for strategy and follow-up.

Trust me; we will revisit these concepts in future posts.  I recommend reviewing the baseline today and setting strategies to improve those areas most in need.  Come back every ninety days and reassess.  When you return consider examples and measurements to deepen your skills, as well.

© 2011 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

February 13, 2011 at 2:05 am

Posted in business, HowTo, networking

Tagged with ,

Who’s Who to You

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“Business is not just doing deals; business is having great products, doing great engineering, and providing tremendous service to customers. Finally, business is a cobweb of human relationships.” ~~ Ross Perot

We’ve all heard the expressions, “It is best to have an attitude of gratitude,” or “no man is an island” or “it takes a village” or “there is no ‘I’ in ‘TEAM.”  All of these reflect on the value of collaboration and how important our relationships are in life and in business.

How many people do you know? The typical person knows 250 others on a first-name basis.  Master networkers go deeper than that and so can you if you consider everyone you ever knew.  My grammar school experience was in a class of about thirty kids in the nineteen-sixties.  From first grade through eighth we all stayed together, adding and losing a few along the way.  This was many years ago and I estimate that fifteen kids were with me most of the way while another fifty or sixty revolved at four years or less.  Each year we had one teacher all day and were with gym teachers, librarians, administration, lunch room people, janitors, etc.  Our class moved like a bubble through this populated, shifting environment.

That is how all of our experiences are.  Church.  College.  Military service.  Career(s.)  Hobbies.  Neighborhoods.  I can still name most of the fifteen that stayed with me in grammar school as well as most of the teachers, gym teachers, etc.

As a networker maintaining profitable relationships is essential.  Relationships are sustained by frequent and recent contact.  Managing this requires some form of dynamic database, including such elements as:

  • General contact info such as name, current address, phone number, email, company, industry, title, etc
  • Who is important to them such as spouse, children, parents, etc
  • Significant dates like birthdays, anniversaries, other milestones
  • Interest areas like hobbies, dreams, goals, etc
  • Who they want to meet and how to introduce them
  • Significant accomplishments
  • What you can (and often) do for them
  • What they can (and often) do for you

I hope you can see the value in capturing this information and would like to hear from you about how you do this.  Some people use software (ACT, Outlook, or more sophisticated tools.)  Some people use no-tech or low-tech tools like Rolodex™, business card files, notes, etc.

Your action this week is to take inventory of who’s who to you and begin tracking some of the significant elements noted.  If you have some ideas, please post them as comments, too.

© 2011 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

February 6, 2011 at 1:57 am