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Archive for April 2013

Hey You

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“Stranger, if you passing meet me and desire to speak to me, why should you not speak to me? And why should I not speak to you?” ~~Walt Whitman

Networking is all about fostering relationships, sharing resources, and improving someone else’s life.  Based on that is there ever a time when networking is not appropriate?  If you stay true to the spirit then the short answer is no.  Certainly different venues introduce different degrees but the opportunity to meet others and help them is always available.

Let’s consider the numbers.

If you attend an event each day and meet one new person that is 365 new people.  On average, everyone knows 250 others on a first-name basis.  That is more than 90,000 people.  Powerful access.

It is unlikely you will connect solidly with all 365 so let’s consider one solid connection per month.  12 by the time the year is out.  These people yield nearly 5,000 contacts.

I only point those numbers out to emphasize how much opportunity exists in meeting others.  Therefore, you never have to “sell” to anyone of them.  Rather, focus on helping them.  If you meet thirty the first month, help five, and solidly connect with one everyone benefits.  You never have to worry or wonder about who will be most helpful to you since it doesn’t matter.  Help them.  End of story.

Some of the people you meet are shy.  Draw them out and introduce them to the people you know.  Some are looking for contacts you might have.  If it is appropriate, make the introduction.  The more of this you do the more help you are able to be.  What a wonderful combination!

The key, of course, is to be engaged and available at all times.  Be willing to start conversation.  Be willing to listen.  Be willing to help.  These three skills will carry you a long way.  They are fun to develop and rewarding to experience.

With that in mind, take a look at your calendar—starting with last week.  How many events did you attend?  How many contacts did you make?  How much value were you able to add to each of them?

Now, take a look at next week.  How many events are you scheduled for?  Is this enough?  Who is likely to attend?  How can you help them?

This is a good time to create a follow-up system.  Whatever system you use is best.  Here is a simple three-column example:

  1. Event name – list each event.  Include whatever detail cements this in your mind.
  2. Contacts made – list each new (and familiar) person you spoke with.  Again, provide as much detail as needed to jog your memory, when required.
  3. Follow up – this is where the rubber meets the road and you deliver on your promises to help.  If they need an introduction, log that here.  If they will benefit from an article, remark on that here, as well.

In time this activity will become second-nature.  It all starts now, though, so go out and make some new friends.

© 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

April 28, 2013 at 7:35 am

Stay in Touch

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“Action speaks louder than words but not nearly as often.” ~~ Mark Twain

We have all heard the title.  How many have considered the impact and developed systems to assure compliance with this simple—yet key—concept?

In fact, the number one trait of successful networkers is to follow up.  In some cases this alone separates you from the competition.  Have you ever called tradespeople and never gotten return calls?  When someone finally gets back to you they have a tremendous edge over the others.  Certainly you would never willingly refer the others in order to protect your own credibility.

Some of your referral partners will test you in this area—and rightly so.  Simply doing what you say you will carries tremendous benefit while failure to do the same carries an equal (or even heavier) damage-factor.

Build follow-up into your day-to-day activities, as well.  I had a friend who was exceptional at this and often refer to her in my training.  She asked for an introduction to someone I knew but not very well.  However, her solution for this person made sense to me so I put them in touch.  She kept me informed at each step along her journey.  Specifically calling me as soon as my email introduction went out, before she called him, after she called and got his voicemail, before she followed up with an email, after she followed up with that email, before she called to set an appointment, after she called to set that appointment, before she went to the appointment, after she went to that appointment, after he became a client, and after he had been a client for thirty days.  These were simple, brief voicemail messages that kept me informed at each step in her process.  If, along the way, I had run into the gentleman being “courted” I knew exactly what was happening.  She protected my relationship with him.  I also knew that she valued the introduction and had not forgotten who helped her.

Regular follow-up after the initial event is also a differentiator.  Everyone’s situation is unique (so tailor this to yours) but let’s consider a ninety-day follow-up plan over the first year of a relationship.  If you work with someone this week—late-April—then look for follow-up moments in early July, October, January, and April next year.  If you consider this, the process is not difficult.  All you need is a method you will actually use.  Accordion files, hanging files, envelopes, electronic reminders…there are many ways to do this.  The key, of course, is to actually pick one and follow it.  Based on the current date, I would plan to contact anyone I meet this week at or around July 4th and Halloween, for example.

Once in place, this keeps you current with many.  Coincidentally, this week I spoke to two people that I have not seen in a few years.  Our relationships were established with frequent, meaningful contact in the early days and less frequent communication over the years.  In both cases, though, they had moved away and we lost touch.  One lives in Connecticut and the other in Wyoming and I was fortunate enough to be able to help both.

© 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

April 21, 2013 at 8:08 am

Thank You

with 8 comments

“Develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation.” ~~ Brian Tracy

Consider the simple thank you card.  In the fast-paced business world we inhabit, the handwritten thank you card is a dinosaur…and that is a fantastic opportunity for you to stand out from the crowd of emailers and Facebook-posters.

Let’s consider a few key points:

First, do you appreciate it when someone does a little something extra for you?  Don’t you think you should thank them?  Do you think that they would appreciate your note, too?  I can’t imagine any answer but “yes” to these questions so please post a comment if you disagree and I will either elaborate or rethink my position.

Second, how long do you think it would take to write, hand-address, hand-stamp, and drop off the note in the mail?  Likely, it is far less than you think.  A simple, three-sentence note may take two minutes to write, two minutes to address (if you need to look the address up online,) and two minutes to stamp and walk out to the mailbox.  How the heck can you possibly find all that time?

Let’s start with the last step first.  I imagine you receive your mail now and can probably post outgoing mail in the same trip.  Therefore, if you mail everything once a day this is not an added step at all.

Addressing a card is pretty easy.  Many business cards and websites include a mailing address.  If not, the research using Google™ is not very complicated. Sometimes these options are not available or successful.  In these cases making a simple phone call will solve it.

This brings us to the first part—actually writing the note itself.  There are a few things to consider here.

First, who do you want to send a note to?  You will probably find that there are more people you should send a note to than you do.  If you take a moment and consider this I think you will agree.  Again, please post your disagreements and we will consider that.  For now, though, I will move along with your permission.

Once you know who to thank (and by extension what to thank them for) then the actual words may be difficult to select.  The easiest way to solve this is to go back to the moment and re-experience the feeling you had.  “I was amazed.  Your thoughtfulness made me feel very grateful.  I was lost until you stepped in.”  These words are easy and sincere.

Typically I buy 100 cards at a time and place a little “pull ticket” in when I am down to 75 to remind myself to replenish them.  I used to just get them in twenty-packs at the office supply or department store.  Now, I go online to thankyoucards.com and am able to create my own for a very reasonable price.  Leave a little delivery time, though (that is why I start when I have twenty-five to go.)

Another good option is sendoutcards.com.  I like this since it creates a “slicker” card and lets me replace my pathetic handwriting with something infinitely more legible.  I created a personal font but it still looks like a ransom note so I prefer to use the “envelope” font (which is generic handwriting.)

I personally use Send Out Cards when sending a lot of the same type (often with different personal messages) to multiple people, like holidays or big events.  I send out at the more unusual holidays, though, like St. Patrick’s Day, Groundhog’s Day, and so on.  This represents about ten percent of my mailing effort.

The handwritten notes are for individual events.  If you have some blank cards handy you will be surprised how often the time opens up.  Bring them along to the next doctor’s waiting room.  Have some ready while waiting to pick up the kids, the car from the repair shop, the ATM machine to open up, etc.

One last point.  There is (almost) never a time to include your business card.  If I promised someone my contact information I will handwrite it.  Email can be complicated (especially with my penmanship) so that is the lone exception.  I write it first, though.

Your action item this week is to go buy some Thank You Cards and commit to send out three in the next week.  Once you break the ice you will find this a valuable exercise that moves your relationships forward, 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

April 14, 2013 at 2:12 am

Posted in communication, HowTo

Go Out on a Limb…That’s Where the Fruit Is

with 2 comments

“Every person, all the events of your life are there because you have drawn them there. What you choose to do with them is up to you.” ~~Richard Bach

Consider that quality known as magnetism.  I won’t go into all the scientific details of electrons lining up and how the compass guides us along our journey although those concepts are important.

I will, however, underscore how important magnetism is the process of establishing the Visibility that is foundational in your networking success.  Like attracts like.  Busy people attract other busy people.  I imagine you can realize how challenging it is to get a bunch of busy people together at once.  I also imagine you can realize how valuable that shared time is.

The best way to attract the type of people you want to meet is by becoming one yourself.  If there are areas you want to improve upon, a simple shortcut is to get around those people that possess the desired traits and begin modeling their behavior.

Scott Ginsberg is known as the Nametag Guy and he lists eight simple strategies you can use to start the ball rolling.  Think of these as ways to walk onto someone’s porch to chat or to invite them onto your porch.  You may or may not go in the house with them and it is all about breaking the ice and starting the process.

  1. Be Ready to Engage.  What a simple concept.  How interesting is it for you when someone asks, “How’s the weather?  Do you come here often?”  These are okay as openers (certainly better than silence) and yet the opportunity to take the conversation up a notch is very rewarding.  We need to walk the balance between being too personal and too impersonal.  If unsure of the receptiveness of the person you are meeting start with something in the environment and move closer.  For example, noting that, “This elevator is slow” is much safer than, “I like your earrings.”  The latter—if accepted—moves the relationship closer quicker although it is certainly riskier.  The simple advice is to be in the moment and attentive to the other person.
  2. Focus on CPI.  Look for a “Common Point of Interest.”  This helps establish the bond quickly and firmly.
  3. Give Flavored Answers.  There are many interactions where a question is asked as a polite conversation starter and does not expect any thoughtful response.  “How are you today?” is a common example.  Most of us answer with the one word “Fine” and this is expected.  Try coming back with something more interesting.  I have a friend that never answers this question the same way and is quite capable of hundreds of different replies.  “Amazing.  If I was any better I’d have to be twins.”  “I don’t know yet.  Let me hum a few bars.”  I never know what to expect and since his business is all about helping companies craft creative solutions it engages a new person quickly and establishes his credibility in the arena at the same time.
  4. Body Language is Important.  It may be tempting to cross your arms, for example, if you are tired, cold, bored…but don’t.  That clearly sends the message to stay way.  If you are there to meet people then make an effort to be open.  Smile.  Extend your hand.  Join conversations in progress and leave the small group open to other people, rather than closing ranks.  If two people are face-to-face and eye-to-eye no one else can enter the conversation.  There are times when this is exactly what you want.  There are other times, though, when it is not.  Instead of being face-to-face open your shoulder lines so a third person can slip in.  If you are ever cornered and looking for an exit strategy this is a good method to know—although having a few exit lines is more proactive.
  5. Provide Different Options for Communications.  Some people prefer face-to-face encounters.  Some prefer telephone conversations or email interactions.  Include these on your business card, your website, and your signature lines.
  6. Always Have Business Cards.  If you carry a portfolio keep some extra cards in there.  As a backup have more in the glove box of your car.  As a backup to the backup keep more in your trunk.  You never know when the moment will arrive to share contact information and not everyone carries a PDA.  Business cards are all-purpose, all-weather snapshot reminders of who you are.  Keep them handy.
  7. Conquer Your Fear.  I know Mom told you not to talk to strangers and that is important advice for a trusting, defenseless child.  Leverage points one through four above and meet new people.  You may need to stretch your comfort zone a little.  Guess what?  That is where growth comes from.  Do it in a controlled environment such as a Business Networking event.  The other guy is there for the same reason and may be more (or less) comfortable than you.
  8. Wear Your Nametag.  This has become Scott Ginsberg’s claim to fame (or ticket to celebrity) and his points are all well taken.  If you are serious about your business embroider your company name on the clothes you wear.  If this is not appropriate then get a magnetic or pinned version to wear all the time.  You may think wearing those sticky nametags look silly but they do make it easier for others to talk to you.  I made a mistake once and put the nametag on upside down and it became a great way to open conversations.  The helpful people pointed it out.  The less helpful ignored it.  This can be a good sort, too, although it may be a little manipulative.  I have a nametag on a lanyard and wear it just about everywhere.

Assess your strengths against this list and get comfortable with the CPI concept.

Let’s also take a look outside the box, based on the CPI that you may not have thought of.  Generally, we consider friends and family and new acquaintances as breeding grounds for strategic partners.  How about your competitors?  Don’t they share your same CPI?  Couldn’t they be the perfect strategic alliance for you?

How is that for out-of-the-box thinking?

If you choose to further this, consider these two exercises.  First, consider your top three competitors and imagine what it would be like if you could collaborate.  That may not be as far-fetched as you might imagine.  What are your unique selling propositions and how do they dovetail with the competitor.  Some CPAs do audits others do not.  Some general contractors do not want jobs smaller than five day projects while others do.  Some business professionals do not travel more than ten miles away while others do.

A second action item is to think of three magnetic people you know and go with them to a networking function.  You will learn a lot and deepen your relationship while expanding your skill base and network at the same time.  As noted in the title, go out on a limb since that is where the fruit is.

© 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

April 7, 2013 at 5:40 am