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The Rubber Meets the Road

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“What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention, and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.”~~Herbert Simon

Testimonials influence us in many subtle ways and range from professional to personal. Advertisers appreciate this and pay for celebrity endorsements, despite a healthy skepticism from consumers. At a subconscious level, though, people that admire Michael Jordan might reason that, “If it’s good enough for him its good enough for me.” Pressed to consider this point, most would deny the influence and yet advertisers that study cause and effect can measure the influence regardless of how independent we think we are.

The next level of professional endorsements that influence buying decisions come from reviewers. These include movie reviewers, restaurant critics, product advisors, and so on. At a simple level we might check a movie review when deciding whether or not to see it although we can appreciate that the reviewer doesn’t know or perhaps even share our taste exactly. We can get a more convincing endorsement from a friend who has seen the film and knows our likes and dislikes. These personal endorsements (or warnings) are much more powerful, although less frequently sought.

A third category emerges, sandwiched between the professional and personal and that is the testimonial provided by non-professionals.

This is the focus of this week’s topic.

Testimonials from other customers can be powerful in moving us to take action. Many customers offer them in an informal, unsolicited manner. One way to encourage this behavior, by the way, is to give away an item with your logo on it. People like to help one another, generally, and will recommend a proven solution and include a personal story of the benefit received. Most satisfied customers will provide more formal testimonials, if asked.

Often, however, when willing they get hung up on exactly what to say and by providing guidance you can resolve that, too.

There is more of an art than a science as to determining when to ask. Once you start to recognize this, opportunities will present themselves regularly. Let’s consider this scenario. One month before completion of a long-term project you ask your client how they are enjoying the process, so far. If they announce that you have made a huge difference in their operations and saved them a lot of time and expense, ask if they would be willing to share that with other customers by writing that on their company letterhead. Coach them on pertinent issues such as why they chose to work with you, what benefits have they experienced that they did not expect, and so on. This conversation will make it easier for them to complete this favor. Negotiate a delivery date.

Once you have these testimonials in hand then consider placement. Some companies print them and leave them in the lobby for waiting room clients to see. Others have a page on their website or sprinkle them in various places throughout the website. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages.

Whatever model you use, be certain to revisit these testimonials regularly to cull those that are out-of-date and request more current entries.

Your action items this week are to ask for three written testimonials. Make it easy for the author by specifying what should be emphasized. Negotiate a delivery date and decide how you will deploy the information once received. Finally, develop a strategy to regularly ask for and review these comments. It goes without saying that you must earn these and seeking them regularly is an effective method to place your customer service level on a constantly improving plane.

 

© 2017 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

September 17, 2017 at 6:02 am

Elementary, my dear Watson

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

Continuing with the importance of communication think of yourself as a detective. Questions are your best resource. Listen much more than you talk. My friend, 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. We talked about that in more depth last week so I won’t elaborate. However, this week’s action steps meet each of these head on and we’ll examine it more in that section.

The third common communication error is vagueness. Many of these posts address that, as 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 (from two weeks ago—repeated here.)

  • 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.

Third, 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 practicing asking from the specific to the general, just as the banker example above.

© 2017 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

July 30, 2017 at 5:37 am

Seek and you will find yourself

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“There are only 3 colors, 10 digits, and 7 notes; it’s what we do with them that’s important.” ~~ Jim Rohn

Over the next few weeks we will consider communication. Naturally, one of the best communication skills you can consider is the importance of listening. Since we covered that in detail in week 7 (Take Inventory) I am just going to recommend you review it again before continuing.

Asking interesting questions is a simple short cut to effective communication. There are a number of reasons tied to listening as well as a number that help you get your message across. Human beings exhibit reciprocity. This is a powerful social force requiring that we balance the scales. When you pass someone in the hallway try this experiment to see reciprocity in action. Nod to the first person. Odds are they will nod back. Say “hello” to the next and you will probably receive a “hello” back. To the next use a more unusual phrase such as “top of the morning.” The other person may be a little surprised by the greeting but will most likely use the same phrase back to you.

The best interviewers ask questions, listen to the responses, and ask follow-on questions that get deeper to the matter at hand.

How can you use this in networking situations?

There are three main benefits of asking questions:

  • This breaks the ice. Especially if you start out with questions about the environment. “I notice you are driving a new Volvo. How do you like it?” Even the shyest person could deal with this kind of non-threatening question. You are opening in an area of their interest.
  • These questions can be an excellent sort. Networking is a give-and-take arena and some people are only takers. Those that fail to reciprocate reveal themselves and you can move along early to invest in more productive introductions.
  • Once the first two bullet points are met you can simply ask the questions you want to answer. For example after they describe their market pause a moment. In most cases they will ask you about yours.

You can ask questions about their business, questions about them, and/or questions about things in general. Open-ended questions are better than multiple choice or yes/no queries as they elicit elaboration.

Business questions include:

  • 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?

Personal questions include:

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

General questions include:

  • 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?

Bob Burg, author of Endless Referrals has an excellent question he recommends you practice until the pacing is smooth. Ask the other person, “How can I know if the person I am talking to is a good prospect for you?” Be prepared with your own response, as well.

Your action this week is twofold. First, go back to week seven and review the traits of master networkers. This will prepare you for the process of taking your networking to a new level. Second, consider some answers you would like to share and craft questions you would like to answer. Go to your next networking event and try these questions out. Be prepared to listen carefully and help those you meet.

 

© 2017 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

July 16, 2017 at 12:11 pm

The host with the most

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“The more credit you give away, the more will come back to you. The more you help others, the more they will want to help you.” ~~Brian Tracy

Last week we considered the benefits of sponsoring events. This week we look at the other side of that coin and consider hosting events.

I am not referring to simple get-togethers—although they are also important—but talking about events tied to a purpose or reason.

These fall into two large categories—singular events and regular events. Singular events happen once and are usually tied to a specific situation. These may be grand openings, award ceremonies, and so on. Although you may hold annual (or more frequent) award ceremonies this particular one is special and should be treated as such. There is usually a theme and purpose.

Regular events are usually more casual social networking designed around a recurring pattern. The theme is usually tied to food and drink or specific entertainment.

Consider a grand opening. This is a wonderful time to showcase a new location or new product line or some similar watershed event. Usually these are invitation only and align with the business. An example might be a new music shop. It is great to include musicians and this enhances the celebratory party-like atmosphere. Another example may be a clothing store which could showcase new fashions on the runway, too.

In these events, consider some of the benefits to the host. Start with the event itself and consider the purpose and how it aligns with your business goals. Who will be invited and how will that happen? Knowing that, who in my network would benefit from meeting these people? How can this event maximize those introductions? What kind of expenses can you anticipate? Who in my network is looking for a way to help me? What can I offer my sponsors?

Thoughtful preparation is the key to a successful event and some business people are very adept at making this event memorable and productive. Consider some of the people who would benefit from meeting the guests. They might be financial planners, estate planning attorneys, or bankers. A caterer may also benefit and welcome the chance to showcase their ability. A promotional items professional may engage a photographer in order to further their relationship. The possibilities are varied.

If you are hosting an event engage sponsors for signage, invitations, and so on. Commit to review the guest list with your sponsors and make personal introductions to the appropriate parties.

There is a lot of work involved in these singular events and attention to detail helps make them memorable.

One way to leverage the same effort is to host regular events. They can simply be based around a common interest—such as cheering for a team—or as simple as a midweek wine-tasting. Golf outings are an excellent venue. By carving out a regular recurring event you can build relationships and provide a forum for connecting people in a friendly way. In fact, this is an excellent way to deepen the roots of those significant relationships.

Your action this week is to consider some creative ways you can introduce your network to one another and celebrate an event by hosting a purposeful gathering.

 

© 2017 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

July 9, 2017 at 4:13 am

Posted in events, HowTo, planning

Team up

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“If you support the community, they will support you.” ~~Jerry Greenfield

Promotion is a key component in expanding a company’s or organization’s reach. Sponsorship of local events is an accessible method to consider.

Let’s look at the bigger model. If you look at any NASCAR vehicle (or driver’s uniform, for that matter,) you can see that every inch sports a sponsor’s logo. An attorney I know started his business by sponsoring a local race team. Certainly, his objectives were to have the car go around the track and never get a dent. The driver was more interested in winning the race anyway possible. The lawyer knew, though, that some of these people would get speeding tickets on the way home and wanted them to call him immediately.

In fact, the sports world exemplifies big business sponsorship to the point that Super Bowl ads have become more important in many circles than the game itself.

This applies well at the local level, too. There are a number of benefits to consider in sponsoring events:

  • Promotion of your brand. This is enhanced when you line up your business with the proper demographic.

  • An opportunity to showcase your products and services.

  • A chance to meet and greet potential prospects and strategic alliances.

  • An occasion to deepen an alliance partner relationship.

  • A way to make a difference in your community.

On the other hand you must evaluate each sponsorship situation carefully. There are more opportunities than you could possibly support and more are being created all the time. Not every one of them is a fit. Here are some questions to consider first:

  • What is the target market for this event?

  • Do I get direct access to this audience?

  • How does this align with my networking goals?

  • What kind of exposure do I get for my investment?

  • Does it make sense to be there?

  • Can I get this exposure without this type of investment?

  • How does this enhance my credibility with the person I am helping?

  • Are there any competitors as other sponsors?

  • Are there any other alliance partners as sponsors?

  • Why should I do it?

  • Why should I not do this?

 

Action for this week is to consider those in your network that are holding events—a conference, an open house, a fund-raiser—that can use your support. In order to strengthen your relationship offer as much help as your business can provide and realize it may not all be financial.

 

© 2017 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

July 2, 2017 at 6:55 am

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.
© 2017 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 25, 2017 at 4:58 am

Posted in business, HowTo, networking

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, and a team is an essential ingredient for  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 8,000+ chapters in more than 70 countries around the world. Based on the simple yet powerful philosophy of “Givers Gain” BNI generates many billions of dollars of revenue for its members worldwide.
In the area of full disclosure, I joined BNI more than a dozen years ago. The business generated there has enabled me to become debt-free and leave the corporate world. Now I represent eastern and central North Carolina helping nearly eight-hundred BNI members attain success.
I am sure there is a BNI chapter near you.
Your 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.

 

© 2017 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 18, 2017 at 12:37 pm

Posted in business, HowTo