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Archive for March 2013

The Past is Now

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“Study the past, if you would divine the future.” ~~Confucius

Relationships are strengthened as a function of frequency and recency. (That’s not a word, I know, but rhymes well and helps remind of the concept.)

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.

Frequency was what cemented the relationship as we were together for eight years every school day.  None are recent as grammar school was long ago.  We were together through the Cuban missile crisis, Kennedy’s assassination, and so on.  As children world events swirled around the bubble of our relationships.

I turn your mind to this so you can also consider your past briefly.  There are people you were inseparable from in relationships forged by intense frequency. If you were to reconnect the bond can be quickly reestablished at a very deep level.

For master networkers the Internet in general and Facebook™ in particular makes it very easy to reconnect with these important people in our lives.

Take a few moments to draw out the names of those you cared about in the past.  They felt the same way and, given an opportunity to help you would do so willingly.  Networking with the willing is far more effective than networking with strangers, by the way. Many of us never take advantage of this powerful resource, though.

Once you have a list of people you would like to reconnect with consider what to offer them.  Maybe it is simply to reconnect.  They will likely celebrate your business success or new grandchild just as excitedly as you.  These are simple places to start and should lead quickly to areas of more significant value.  Some of your old friends may be in the same field as you with brighter credentials.  If so, they may want to mentor you.  Others may be starting on a path you have already walked and you can mentor them.  More likely they are in different fields and can become connectors into new networks.  Again, consider your intent.  You are there to reconnect and add value to their lives, as well.

Most importantly, simply enjoy this walk down memory lane on this day dedicated to rebirth.

© 2013 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

March 31, 2013 at 8:16 am

Stop the Madness

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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 of your bulging pocket many new contacts–and did not know what to do next.  Insanely doing what you always do, 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.

© 2013 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

March 24, 2013 at 10:49 am

Put Your Muscle Where Your Money Is

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“Giving is better than receiving because giving starts the receiving process.” ~~Jim Rohn

Now that you have begun assembling a winning team, it is time to start working together as a unit.  Have you ever seen the duplex with knee-high grass?  Both owners are waiting for the other guy to get out the lawn mower and nothing gets done.

Starting new relationships that are planned to be mutually beneficial are a lot like that.  Somebody has to make the first move.  The best way to get things rolling is by giving.  For example, give your strategic alliance partner an introduction to some of your customers.

I hope you understand why this is important and won’t skip that in case you don’t.  Word-of-mouth recommendations are built on mutual trust. Trust is earned and the surest way you can earn it is by giving.  Introduce your carpet cleaner to a customer that has a nasty old stain in their lobby.  In the early stages of your relationship you might take the carpet expert onsite to assess the issue before the introduction.  This is good for everyone.  You are learning his business capabilities and do not want to overpromise.  The important thing is to start giving.  It will become easier and you will get better over time.

That leads to the second consideration.  How?  The carpet cleaner and the stain is a simple example.  Start expanding what you see at every opportunity.  Begin to look at the world through the eyes of your strategic alliance partner.  Begin to look at the world through the eyes of your customer.  Ask questions.  How long have you used such-and-such service?  How has that worked out?  What do you like best?  What would you change if you could?

Once you have a solution and can introduce the perfect person for the job you gain currency from your customer and the strategic alliance partner.  Eventually, you will become the “go to” guy for all kinds of needs and can line them up or seek them out.

Be proactive and teach your fellow teammates to do the same.

I have two simple actions you can take this week that are easy and fun.

First, get a card file that will hold multiple copies of all their business cards.  Some people turn them into brochures or collateral.  That will be fine in the future.  For now, let’s just stay simple and flexible.  Get a card file and load ten cards for every resource partner you have.

Second, let your world know that you have these resources available.  Put together a short introductory note and begin sending that out to everyone you know.  Use a variety of media (letter, postcard, email, Facebook, etc.)  Here’s an example:

Dear ____________:

Referrals to competent, credible professionals outside my area of expertise are one of the services I provide to all my customers.

Attached is a list of areas in which I know very ethical and professional experts.  If you are looking for an outstanding individual in any of these areas, please let me know and it will be my pleasure to put you in touch with the people I know who provide these services.

Sincerely,

____________________

It is important that you only list professions, not names and contacts.  You want your customer to go through you for the introductions.  This lets you qualify the situation more completely, emphasize your support role, and make your customer’s (and strategic alliance’s) success more likely.

It won’t be long before this simple exercise bears some fruit and this will engage the other members of your team more actively, as well.

© 2013 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

March 17, 2013 at 8:13 am

Design Your Winning Team

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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.” ~~Brian Tracy

Recently we discussed defining the perfect customer.  Armed with that it is easy to define the best strategic alliances to form and nourish.  These people work with our customers for different reasons.

Ultimately, beginning from this exercise and continuing throughout your career, you are building a winning team.  You may not be a sports fan but probably know a little about baseball.  Actually, any team sport or, as Brian Tracy notes in this week’s quote, almost any human endeavor of any consequence is enhanced with a quality team.  For illustration purposes I will choose baseball.  Feel free to select a more comfortable analogy of your own, however.

Baseball features “position players.” There are infielders, pitchers, outfielders, catchers, and so on.  Some are renowned for strength, some for speed, some for control, etc.  By and large they each need some measure of all aspects while their specialty—and their specific talent—emphasize certain attributes.

Your winning team will follow that same model.  In baseball these teams don the same uniforms and combine their efforts to score more runs than the opponent.  In your team everyone on it works with the same customers with the ultimate goal of improving their customer’s lot in life.  The better we do that the more additional customers they will bring to us.  The better we handle them the more customers we gain and the better the caliber of teammates we can attract.

Let’s consider four attributes that help sort out suitable players:

  1. They need to work with the same customer type as you do on a regular basis—yet be there for a different reason.  No competition among players on the same team.
  2. They need to know, like, and trust you well enough to introduce you to their best customers.
  3. They are influential enough that others will listen to what they say.
  4. They have firsthand (or secondhand) experience with your product or service.

Consider restaurants as the perfect customer for a Merchant Services business.  Potential teammates for that market include CPAs, printers, uniform companies, commercial pest control, beverage and food wholesalers, etc.

Who would an Interior Designer align with?  Residential Realtors, Furniture Representatives, Painters, Flooring experts, and remodelers—just to name a few.

Go ahead and define at least three Word-of-Mouth business partners for you.  While you are at it, look for the best of the best at every position.  If you can only have one shortstop on your team, why not get the best?  If you will be working exclusively with one Sign Company, why not align with the industry leader?

Here’s a question to ponder.  “Why accept mediocrity when excellence is an option?”

© 2013 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

March 10, 2013 at 7:42 am

Clear the Path

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“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” ~~Albert Einstein

Networking involves mining relationships, sharing resources, and working together.  The more clearly you define your target the easier it is for the other person to know quickly if they can help or not.  Additionally, you can align everything you do to support that target market with your proficiency—becoming the subject matter expert for this specific group.

Defining your perfect customer clearly is one of the key elements of success.  This is entirely counter-intuitive, though, and most people miss the mark because of that.  For example, your product or service can often help a wide variety of people.  Let’s call this vast population “anybody.”  Therefore, we mistakenly think that it will be easier for our business partners to just bring us “anybody.”  There are two major problems with this.

The first is that we are often brought the wrong prospects.  Either they don’t qualify, are not the decision-maker, or we don’t understand their needs well enough to align our benefits with their requirements, etc.  When “anybody” shows up on our doorstep, it is no better than starting from scratch and that is frustrating for us, for our partner, and for the prospect.  Everyone has heightened expectations and the results are disappointing.

The second problem is that we are often brought no prospects when asking for “anybody.”  This happens for two primary reasons.  For those people motivated to bring us what we ask for (see the prior paragraph) they give up as we seem ungrateful or incompetent.  For those that are less motivated (trust me, this is a bigger population) our request is out-of-sight-and-out-of-mind.  If any opportunity ever luckily clicks we wind up back in the same briar patch of the previous paragraph.

There is also a hidden problem because when we find “anybody” in our own process, we are equipped with the knowledge to qualify them and build the relationship at the same time.  This fools us to believe that all our networking partners can and will do the same.

This area is one of the biggest causes of networking failure.  Mastery here will make a huge difference in your success.

It is far more effective to clearly define the target as precisely as possible.  Let me give an example that may illustrate this better.

Imagine you have a credit card processing company and your service handles many small-to-medium sized transactions quickly and accurately.  You offer and support loyalty memberships, can calculate discounts on-the-fly, and provide durable, reliable equipment.  Knowing this, you will likely find that restaurants are your favorite customers.

Define that market more completely. You are looking to meet more owners of non-chain restaurants with the average meal price under twelve dollars for lunch or breakfast.  These businesses have (or want) an active to-go trade and have more than twenty and less than fifty tables, located in Wake County.

It is relatively easy for your business partners to identify these businesses.  They may frequent them occasionally or may be very close friends with the owner.  You can strategize with each opportunity completely and you can become an expert in the food service industry.  Will you service dry cleaners and auto repair shops, as well?  Of course, but leverage your networking community by focusing their efforts on restaurant introductions.

You will find in time that these restaurant owners need more services than you can provide—such as staffing, furniture, uniforms, pest control, menu printing, signage, etc.  When you build strategic alliances with these companies the opportunities expand tremendously.

It all starts with this specific exercise.

Here are ten attributes for business-to-consumer and business-to-business markets.  Add more and fill in the elements as fully as possible.

For business-to-business consider things like Public or Private, Profit or Non-Profit, Industry, Specialty or Type of Business, Size (Revenue,) Size (Employees,) Location, Years in Business, Department, and Title.

For business-to-consumer consider Gender, Age, Marital status, Home Owner or Renter, Children/no children, Working or retired, Household income, Location, Education, and Family structure, among others.

Remember, this exercise is counter-intuitive and you will be tempted to skip or short change this.  Please resist that temptation and paint a vivid picture of your perfect customer.

Also, consider whether or not you would have a problem if your next twenty customers were all (fill in the blanks: restaurant owners, single parents, business attorneys?)

With the proper focus your strategic alliance can recognize them immediately and know how to facilitate this valuable introduction.

© 2013 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

March 3, 2013 at 9:59 am