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Archive for May 2013

Communication Landmines

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“Every man at the bottom of his heart believes that he is a born detective.” ~~John Buchan

Selling is all about communication and questions are your best medium.  Listen much more than you talk.  Local author Marty Clarke wrote an excellent book entitled Communication Landmines which goes into this in much more depth.

In this post I simply want to point out three main communications errors we all make and often experience.  Master these and your networking skills will soar.

The first major problem is talking too much.  We’ve all experienced this from the receiving end and felt trapped.  Once you got locked in how much listening did you do after that?  Most likely your attention was turned to finding an exit or trying to figure out how they are breathing or just focusing on the pattern their spittle makes.  When the other person talks too much it is a horrible experience.  That said, we are also guilty of the same mistake at least once in our life.  As a detective turn your attention to assessing when the other person is starting to experience these symptoms.  They start to avoid eye contact, begin stepping backwards, look over their (and your) shoulder, yawn, glance (or stare) at their watch.  As soon as you see any of these reactions immediately turn the conversation to them and ask a question.

More importantly how do you avoid this landmine?  Practice and preparation are the best tools you have.  There are a few questions you often get at networking events and you should be prepared to answer them quickly and completely.  When I am on the phone I count my words and always try to get to the point in 25 or less.  Try that the next time you are in a conversation over the phone (tick your fingers up one-through-ten and then back down ten-through-one and finally once more one-through-five.  Stop and consider, “What was the point of the last twenty-five words?”  If you are just getting to it—accept the fact that you are taking the long way home.  Find the shortcuts and tighten up your conversation.)

The second common communication error is reliance on jargon.  Unless your audience is at the same level of expertise as you eliminate the technical terms and speak plainly.

The third common communication error is vagueness.  Focus and clarity are keys to your success.  When you ask a Realtor who they would like to meet and get the answer, “Anyone looking to buy or sell a home” who did you think of?  Is that the result you want when someone asks you the same helpful type of question?  If the Realtor is more specific we can be of more help.  “I specialize in empty-nesters.  This is a great time to move into a home more suited to their lifestyle without kids.”  About twenty words and I imagine you actually thought of someone.  If you are an engaged listener you may ask for more clarification of the term empty-nesters.  “Their kids have moved out or are in college.”

The more specific you are the wider the listener’s mind opens.  In fact, if you know exactly who you want to meet this is an excellent shortcut, very appropriate for business-to-business clients or strategic alliances for any provider.  A business banker may have a competitive rate to offer and knows of an automotive company looking to expand.  She asks for Woody Toe, the owner of a local auto body shop noting that, “Our bank understands automotive equipment leasing and we work well with repair shops like Woody’s”

This week’s action involves meeting each area directly.  First, develop a one-minute or less response to the following questions.

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

Second, eliminate jargon.  Create two columns and list every term you use (trust me; your company literature is rife with it.)  Look for terms like full-service, turnkey, small business, and so on.  Develop layperson language and simplify it so a twelve year old could understand it.

Finally, write out a complete referral request identifying the person you want to meet—listing their company, department, title, and industry.  I recommend doing as many of these as you have target markets.  Once written, then practice asking from the specific to the general, just as the banker example above.

© 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

May 19, 2013 at 4:54 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.
  • 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.  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.

Awareness is the start of improvement.  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 or less.

© 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

May 12, 2013 at 3:05 am

Break bread and make bread

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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 four 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 gatherings 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.  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.

Why not start inviting and start meeting?

© 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

May 5, 2013 at 3:39 am