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Archive for June 2011

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.

© 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

June 26, 2011 at 2:22 am

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.  A team is an essential ingredient in 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 more than 6.000 chapters in dozens of countries around the world.  Based on the simple yet powerful philosophy of “Givers Gain” BNI generates billions of dollars of revenue for its members worldwide.

In the area of full disclosure, I joined BNI more than ten years ago.  The business generated there has enabled me to become debt-free and leave the corporate world.  Now I represent a small eleven county area of North Carolina helping nearly seven-hundred BNI members attain success.

I am sure there is a BNI chapter near you.

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.

© 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

June 19, 2011 at 2:06 am

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 for service.
  • You finally reach the front of the line at the DMV (or post office or grocery store.)
  • 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.  Try 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.

© 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

June 12, 2011 at 2:06 am

Breaking (and Making) Bread Together

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“Everything should be as simple as it is, but not simpler.” ~~Albert Einstein

One of the most valuable times in every networker’s week is meal time.  This is a wonderful part of every day when we can relax with someone over food and really get deeper into a relationship or strategy.  If you stop and think about how many meals we enjoy every year, the opportunity to maximize this is incredible.

Let’s look at the numbers.

We eat three meals a day every day for 365 days each year.  That is more than 1000.  Let’s back that down to weekdays only (5 days per week and go with 50 weeks for simplicity’s sake) leaving 750.  I recommend cutting that into thirds where one third is for your family, one third for yourself and non-business friends, and one-third for purposeful food encounters.  Let’s simplify the math once more and convert 250 to 20 per month.  That is basically one meal per working day.  These can be breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  I personally prefer one dinner per week and twice as many breakfasts and lunches.  That is, four dinners and sixteen others mixed.  Some months it is twelve breakfasts and four lunches.  Some months it is the reverse.

What is a purposeful food encounter?  It is a planned event with just a few select people.  They typically include 2-4 people and fall into one of these patterns:  one-to-one, one-to-two, or two-to-two.

One-to-one sessions are level one sessions with one other person to set strategy and further existing relationships.  I find it most powerful to select a single target market or single aspect of your business offer and focus on just that.  Talk about the problems your target prospects experience, what phrases or comments would indicate their experience with these issues, what solutions you can provide, what common objections they might have, and how to move the introduction along.  You should also discuss strategic alliances, good and bad referrals, and the typical cycle you encounter in this arena.  In the beginning of the process, this may be the only type of session you do and twenty or even forty of these purposeful meetings carry strong results. As well as setting the stage for the next level up.

Level two meetings are when the actual introductions are done.  These are usually three or four people together and put either the strategic alliance partners together or the problem holders and problem solvers.  This is to establish a new relationship by bridging the gap between these two parties using an existing relationship to introduce a new one.

Think of this as a triangle.  Let’s set the stage.  We have Matt Plastic who represents a credit card company that works very well with the restaurant industry.  As you may recall we considered that in Week Three Find the Perfect Customer.  Matt has a very good friend named Mary Shields, who is a Commercial Insurance Agent.  Mary’s friend, Wolf Davis, runs a restaurant and is a client.  Matt and Mary got together in an earlier meal meeting and Matt talked about how he helped restaurant owners.  Mary looked through her client list and arranged a meeting with Wolf.

As you can see, this can become a very productive meal meeting.  The parties that already know each other (Matt-Mary and Mary-Wolf) strengthen their relationships regardless of whether or not Matt-Wolf clicks or not.

Your action item this week is to start having these powerful meal sessions.

  • Look over your schedule and carve out twenty slots
  • Create a short list of potential partners
  • Rank by most valuable
  • Start inviting, start meeting

© 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

June 5, 2011 at 2:04 am