BNIGuy's Blog

It's all about business!

Archive for the ‘referral’ Category

Breaking (and Making) Bread Together

leave a comment »

“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

leave a comment »

“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.




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

leave a comment »

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

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.

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

leave a comment »

“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

Design Your Winning Team

leave a comment »

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

leave a comment »

“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

Who Loves Ya, Baby?

leave a comment »

“In sales, a referral is the key to the door of resistance.” ~~Bo Bennett

This post may be a little controversial so let’s just wade right in.  Most people make the mistake of believing that customers are their best source of referrals.  I heard your mental door slam.  You don’t believe it when I say customers are NOT the best source and appreciate the sentiment.  Customers can and do provide referrals and can be exceptional sources.  However, over the long (and often short) run, strategic alliances run circles around them.

With a well-developed referral network you can realize more good referrals from one or two professionals than you could ever see from all of your clients combined.

There are a number of reasons for this and I will simply address two concepts.  The first is to consider the strengths of other professionals.  The second is to consider the dynamics of customer interaction.

Let’s level the playing field first by making the assumption that you demonstrate integrity, are experienced (with a decent customer base to draw from,) and are competent.  These can be speed bumps in any process, so let’s assume you are a professional.

Let’s also assume that as a professional you have established some business relationships along the way.

This puts us at the starting line to draw comparisons.

As you add clients they often need services you do not provide.  These can be nicely complemented by other professionals.  Examples include power-washer and painter, event planner and caterer, mortgage provider and closing attorney, to name a few.  If you are in the second seat of being referred (or consulted) by the lead company (or hub firm) then you can appreciate the situation and may crack that mental door back open a little.  The shortest path to success for the second seat professional is to drive business to the hub firm whenever possible.  Drive business to the Realtor and many downstream professionals come along for the ride.

In addition everyone along the line is a better sales representative than your clients.  When properly trained and motivated they can see the opportunities and introduce those referrals in a steady stream of activity.  In some cases they even have a vested interest in your success.

Now let’s consider the dynamic of customers, as well.  If you are spending part of your time with them to generate referrals you are diverting attention from their needs to your own.  Customers will not trust this dynamic long or often.

It is certainly possible to build asking for referrals into the process and there are key points where this is seamless and natural.  However, pressing too hard can terminate the entire relationship, so tread lightly.

Finally, there is also an important significant benefit in building productive relationships with other professionals—namely feedback.  A professional can tell you when your price is too high, your message too vague, or your offer too weak.  Customers just vanish quietly into the night and it takes a lot longer to correct a faulty course.

Let me close 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.” ~~Brian Tracy

Make your team work!

© 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

January 20, 2013 at 9:11 am