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Ask. The World Turns

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“Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” ~~Robert Frost

The most effective method to grow your business is by word of mouth marketing—specifically, by referral. When surveying business owners about this all claim to use this. Once probed further, though, we generally find that they have abandoned the process as unsuccessful. See if the typical experience lines up with yours. They usually ask a few key people and keep the request vague (“open” is their term.) “I am looking for anyone that needs my services.” That might be a new transmission, their deck rebuilt, to sell their house, a new bank account, etc. After receiving a few polite promises to “keep that in mind” with no tangible results, they stop asking.

Who do you know that is looking for a new bank account?

That is not an easy sort, is it? For those of you that truly want to help, here is the process. You need to stop whatever you are otherwise thinking about, mentally scroll through everyone you know, consider whether or not they are looking for a bank account…wait a second…I have no idea who’s looking for a bank account. Let’s think about the last conversation with a specific person (trust me, few referral partners ever get this far) and replay that conversation in memory. “We spoke about the football team, their golf game, their new car, their trip to Florida next month, their job, their in-laws…No; I don’t think they need a bank account.” Seriously, how many of the 250 people you know on a first-name basis do you want to perform this exercise on? Can you expect your business partner—who isn’t even in your business—to do more than that?

If your referral partner even considers one this fully they are hard-pressed to consider many more. The person asked gives up quickly and unless the person asking is totally oblivious, they stop asking for more, as well.

This is all very counterintuitive, since we do not take the time to examine what we are asking people to do. Please stay with me here. It is important.

Who do you know who needs a bank account? How would you possibly know that? Heck, you might even need a new bank account and not even realize it.

I grew up in upstate New York and snow was a common driving environment. In fact, one of my earliest driving pleasures was taking the VW bug out to the department store parking lots on Sundays to “do doughnuts,” which is sending the little rear-engine vehicle into an intentional spin, like my own personal tilt-a-whirl. It was great fun.

As winter drivers we learned to regain control in a skid by turning the wheel into it. I boldfaced that since snow season is upon us and a reminder is always a good thing. Although that is the more effective driving technique it is totally counterintuitive.

The same is true in asking for referrals. I fully realize that anyone walking into your bank branch office that wants to open an account you can help. It doesn’t matter if they are married, single, young, old, Christian, Muslim, straight, gay. I guess the only qualification is that they need to be breathing.

Asking for living people keeps it open (my term is “vague”) and sends your referral partners into the “We’ll call you” corner.

How can you be more specific? Who needs to open an account? Too vague. Why do they need a new bank account? Knowing that, it is far easier to recognize them.

Consider what your bank has to offer new account holders. Who would find that appealing?

Answering a few of these questions up front will be more useful. Mark Sheer, author of the book Referrals, recommends a simple two step statement and question that is very effective. In fact, he recommends that you never change a word.

Here it is: “I’m expanding my business. Who do you know who…?”

Let’s try that for our banker.

“I’m expanding my business. Who do you know who has a child in college locally?” In order to be more helpful, I would name a few local schools, as well.

“I’m expanding my business. Who do you know who is a Real Estate Attorney?”

“I’m expanding my business. Who do you know who manages a church or community fund?”

Let’s take one of these and expand the mental process for your referral partner as an example. “Do you know anyone with kids at UNC or Duke? Do you know anyone with students at NC State or Meredith?”

Now, with this little bit of focus the person can run through their mind and pull out anyone with college-aged kids, sorting from the 250 they know down to 75 that qualify. Some may be in school, some may be out, and some may not be going to college at all. Along the way they will find they know people in the alumni associations, university professors, and season ticket holders who can also be good entry points into the college student market.

When you asked for anybody you got nobody. When you asked for a specific population you find a number of candidates.

I took a look at Wikipedia and found that there are more than 5,000 universities in the United Sates, an average of 115 per state, with 14 million students (4.75% of the US population.) Our banker wants to add 40 new accounts per month. Would it trouble her in any way if every new account was an NC State student? The answer is clearly no. Is it possible to find 40 new accounts per month from that population? The answer is clearly yes. Commit to that population, market heavily, and make it easy for new student account holders to bring their friends in as referrals. Could you run a contest among fraternities and sororities and offer playoff tickets to the winner and a pizza party to second place finishers? My guess is that your client that runs a pizza shop would probably donate the prize, as well.

By focusing on NC State students you may be conceding attorneys and church secretaries, but that is just temporary. Once the student program is running itself then you can turn your attention to another group, such as that.

Your action item this week is to internalize these concepts and select a single specific market. If you need help in this area return to week 3 Picture the Perfect Customer (https://bniguy.wordpress.com/2011/01/16/picture-the-perfect-customer/) and week 31 Elementary My Dear Watson (https://bniguy.wordpress.com/2011/07/31/elementary/.)  Write three specific “who do you know?” questions and send those, via email, to every client you have. If you belong to a networking group bring these three specific questions to the group and use them as the basis for your weekly presentation. Commit to stay with these three questions until you master them.

© 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

November 12, 2017 at 9:17 am

Follow Your Dollars

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“If you go to work on your goals, your goals will go to work on you. If you go to work on your plan, your plan will go to work on you. Whatever good things we build end up building us.” ~~Jim Rohn

My parents used to joke when I was a kid that we built our dentist’s new office. Braces were expensive, after all. Seriously, though, I am sure you have some businesses you support on a regular basis—veterinarian, auto repair, eyeglasses, lawn care, and so forth. When was the last time they returned the favor and sent you any business?

This is actually easier than you might imagine but is not without some effort on your part.

The first thing to do is actually assess the scope of the opportunity available to you. Rather than trust to memory I highly recommend you get your checkbook(s) and credit card statements and start working through them. Take the last six months as a representative sampling. You can add older, bigger ticket items later.

For each vendor (especially the personal local ones although grocery stores and power companies are worth considering, as well) fill out the following details:

  1. Name (business/contact)
  2. Frequency (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc)
  3. Monthly amount
  4. Annual amount
  5. Five year amount

A monthly hair stylist at $40 per visit is $480 per year. How long have you been going? Five years? That is $2400.

You can see that this will add up quickly so do this for every business you work with. Armed with this you can move to the next step.

Many of these businesses would be willing to work with you; they just do not have a system or viable method. This is where you must be creative and find that solution for them.

Again, this is easier than it might appear. Look through your list and tackle those you do the most with and have the best rapport with.

Here are a few examples to get you started. Certainly, post any other ideas you have, too, to help others.

Let’s start with a Financial Planner that regularly uses the hairstylist (and looks successfully well-groomed as a result, by the way.) How can these two work together? As a customer, what does the Financial Planner do when in the chair? Read, watch TV, chat. Here is an opportunity—if you can see it. I recommend that the Planner meet with the Stylist away from the salon where they can talk. It might be good to actually buy them coffee (or lunch) and recap the relationship before pitching the idea. Here is a possible scenario.

Dawn: Thank you for joining me. I wanted us to get away from the salon to talk business. I have enjoyed being a client for the past five years and was very glad to refer some of my clients to you, too. I wanted to ask if you would be willing to help support my business, as well.

Carol: I very much appreciate your business and the referrals. What do you have in mind?

Dawn: As a client I receive your quarterly newsletter and see that you have local businesses advertising in there. Would you give me space for a year?

Carol: Gladly, Dawn. The annual rate is $500.

Dawn: Actually, Carol, I was hoping you would do that at no charge in return for the referrals and loyalty over the years.

Carol: I have never thought about that before, but it makes sense. I am glad to give you the space. Is there anything else you would like me to do?

Dawn: As a matter of fact there is. Could I leave one of my newsletters in your waiting area?

Carol: Please do.

Smart business people can appreciate that reciprocity works both ways. If your Stylist (in this example) is reluctant you might want to reconsider a different service provider.

What could a veterinarian do for a carpet cleaner? The carpet cleaner brings her pets to the vet and many of the vet’s other clients have animals that make a mess in their homes. The carpet cleaner could regularly clean the vet’s lobby. The veterinarian could include an occasional (or even regular) article on carpet care in his newsletter—written by the cleaner. The carpet cleaner could leave brochures and business cards in the lobby. The vet could sponsor a fundraiser or other event. They could share a business expo booth together. The possibilities are endless.

Your action step this week includes two components. First, do the analysis of where you are spending your money. This is great for budgeting, anyway. Then, brainstorm all the ways you can work with your biggest vendors and commit to approaching three over the next week. This is a strategy with a lot of upside potential.

© 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

October 29, 2017 at 2:47 pm

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

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 1,000. 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. 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

 

© 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 4, 2017 at 4:57 am

Givers Gain

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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.

© 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

January 29, 2017 at 6:16 am

Two short videos

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Here are two short videos.  The first talks about building a productive team and the second is all about working it.  Please enjoy these.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ehs2hrUCmqQ

Your customers need more than you can provide and by aligning with non-competing professionals benefits accrue in every direction.

Once you have established the team, then it is time to get things rolling in a productive way.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=sJDOWAWqXnY

The first vignette skewers a common one-to-one model.  The second, though, demonstrates what is entirely possible.  Share these concepts with your business partners.

Written by bniguy

June 9, 2013 at 8:18 am

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.

Written by bniguy

May 19, 2013 at 4:54 am