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WIIFM: What’s in it for me?

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“Data is not information, information is not knowledge, knowledge is not understanding, understanding is not wisdom.” ~~Clifford Stoll

This week we consider some fundamental communications skill in sales. That is, understanding and stating the difference between features and benefits. Features are simply facts. They neither engage nor inspire. They do not impel action or transfer an emotional connection. Features are a list of what that never considers why or, as the title notes, “What is in it for me?” Your prospect wonders, “Why should I care?”

Dr. Ivan Misner includes a good example of this in the 29% Solution, by listing the features of a car.

“V-6 engine, dual exhaust, front-wheel drive, sunroof…heated seats, heated glass.”

As you can see, this is a list of features you may or may not entirely understand or appreciate.

What are some of the benefits of these features?

  • The V-6 engine helps you pull out into traffic quickly. It may impress your friends.
  • Dual exhaust improves fuel efficiency, provides more power when starting out, and adds a “throaty” sound to the engine (which may also impress your friends.)
  • Front-wheel drive provides more legroom, since the driveshaft tunnel is not needed.
  • The sunroof provides the open road feel of a convertible while retaining the added structural security of a hard-body sedan.
  • Heated seats provide a warmer environment on chilly mornings and better comfort on long road trips.
  • Heated glass allows the convenience of clearing the windows in winter without manually scraping them clean.

These benefits put the prospect “in the driver’s seat.” Some of those benefits appealed to you while others did not. The professional is aware of the benefits and can align them to the prospect. If the person you are talking to is most interested in fuel efficiency then you can recommend a good automotive choice and highlight the features that support fuel efficiency. In fact, the same vehicle may appeal to two very different buyers as long as the emphasis is on the areas of interest to them.

How does this apply to networking? Since we are meeting other business owners and sales representatives many networkers do not consider the benefits and only list features. Feature lists are certainly more precise and, when shared with a colleague, can be very effective. Network administrators, for instance, can share industrial terms with each other and successfully impress with their technical grasp and currency of knowledge. However, all that jargon leaves the rest of us out. In fact, it disenfranchises us from any ability to refer them or connect them to someone they could help since we are so clueless in that arena.

If instead they spoke in terms of response speed, data security, recovery time, and reliability we could recommend them to others with confidence.

My litmus test is to imagine sharing what I do, what my product or service does, and how this can help you by imagining I am explaining it to a twelve year old. I don’t want to wear out your attention span or go over your head.

Your action this week is to highlight the benefits you provide. Consider some of your favorite customers and remember what problems you solved for them. A simple (and highly effective) shortcut is to ask them. You have been meaning to call and say hello anyway. Here’s a good excuse.

Find out the main reason they chose to spend money with you? They sought a benefit, not a feature.

The second action is to list all the features of your product or service and identify as many benefits as possible for each one. I highly recommend that you complete this portion before proceeding to next week’s blog entry.


© 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 23, 2017 at 8:49 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

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. Practice 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.

This week’s action item goes back to the buddy system. Bring a buddy to your next networking event and accept feedback in these key areas. Awareness is the start of improvement.

Also, 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.


© 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 11, 2017 at 8:34 am

Posted in communication, events, HowTo

Life is Like a Box of Chocolates

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

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

Let’s consider the numbers.

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

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

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

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

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

Action Plan for this week.

Take another look at your calendar—starting with last week. How many events did you attend? How many contacts did you make? How much value were you able to add to each of them?

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

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

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

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


© 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

May 21, 2017 at 7:38 am

Let us give thanks

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

Mother’s Day is next week and an appropriate moment to consider the simple thank you card. In the fast-paced business world we inhabit, the handwritten thank you card is a dinosaur…and that is a fantastic opportunity for you to stand out from the crowd of emailers and Facebook-posters.

Let’s consider a few key points:

First, do you appreciate it when someone does a little something extra for you? Don’t you think you should thank them? Do you think that they would appreciate your note, too? I can’t imagine any answer but “yes” to these questions.

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

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

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

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

First, who do you want to send a note to? You will probably find that there are more people you should send a note to than you do. If you take a moment and consider this I think you will agree.

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

Typically I buy 100 cards at a time and place a little “pull ticket” in when I am down to 25 to remind myself to replenish them. I used to just get them in twenty-packs at the office supply or department store. Now, I go online to and am able to create my own for a very reasonable price. Leave a little delivery time, though (that is why I start when I have twenty-five to go.)

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

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

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

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

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

May 7, 2017 at 10:36 pm

Be the Change

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“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.” ~~ William James

In networking there are three types of people. Those who wait and watch for things to happen, those who make things happen, and those who wonder what happened.

A catalyst is someone who makes things happen. This is the role you should aspire to in order to positively affect your network.

There are four main characteristics shared by catalytic people. These are:

  • Initiative. Catalytic people make things happen in all aspects of their lives. They have a “Do it now” mentality. When they see a need for something they apply action to that need. My CPA’s marketing expert sees herself as a “step up to the plate kind of girl” and she certainly is.
  • Intention. Catalytic people are goal oriented. They do not simply rely on luck but create their own chances for success. They understand the process of moving from point A to L and navigate those steps steadily and surely—not easily discouraged by the inevitable setbacks encountered. They learn the goals of others and align with them whenever possible, knowing it is far easier to leverage gravity than struggle against it.
  • Confidence. Catalytic people are confident in their abilities as both team players and leaders. They have positive attitudes that are contagious and help bring out the best in others.
  • Motivation. Catalytic people are both motivated and motivating. These people excite, exhort, and exhilarate people to perform at their very best. You will see them at the front of the pack—leading by example and urging others to follow. You will see them in the middle of the pack—encouraging others to keep going and broaden the trail. You will see them at the back of the pack—pushing others to keep moving forward.

Think of your network as a row of dominoes. As a catalyst you will tip one over and get the others in gear. Hopefully, this weekly blog is a catalyst for you.

Action steps this week are simply to identify the next domino. Who is a value-added friend? How can you work together to motivate your network?


© 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

April 16, 2017 at 5:23 am

It’s a Wired, Wired World

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“Anyone can use these sites – companies and colleges, teachers and students, young and old all make use of networking sites to connect with people electronically to share pictures, information, course work, and common interests.” ~~ Mike Fitzpatrick

So far, all of our focus has been on face-to-face (or at least person-to-person) networking. By now you have a few strategies to expand and deepen your contact database and have, ideally, started to see some results. This week we will venture beyond the confines of our neighborhoods and start to network with the world at large.

As of today (March 26, 2017) there are at least 17 virtual communities with more than 100 million active users. These include more than 2 billion for Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Google+, and YouTube. 46% of the human population used the Internet last year (ten times the amount in1995.)

Facebook, for example, was launched in February 2004 and in the past thirteen years has become synonymous with the term “social media.” If you are in business the Internet, especially via social media, provides a wide audience 24 hour each day, 7 days each week, and 365 days every year. Wide open.

Like any offline community, however, there are rules and norms that enhance your ability and you will move through three distinct levels of participation.

The first level is Visibility. This can be daunting against a population of 1 billion Instagram people. Do you think they were busily engaged before you registered and created your online presence? Do you think they will remain that way whether or not you are member 1,127,841,416 or not? Absolutely. Your first challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to gain visibility. You do this by being active. In simple terms activity is measured by posts added. If you have some ideas to share then please do. Start with what you know. You can quickly become a subject matter expert and writing a regular blog is a very good way to do that. WordPress has some very complete tools for doing this, although there are many more.

The key to Visibility is recency and frequency. Visit often and post regularly. Add value every time rather than just noise. Comment on other postings. Subscribe to writers you find value in.

Visibility gets you in the door while Credibility is the currency of success. Your information should emanate and germinate from the vantage point of competence. Back your statements up with empirical data. Keep an open mind. Encourage continual growth. Promote other experts, as well, even when they have conflicting ideas.

When Visibility and Credibility combine against any active population the opportunity for Profitability exists. This triad is called the VCP model.

One word of caution, though, is to apply your time realistically to these sites. Carve a small amount of your schedule for this and stick to that plan. It is very easy to let this time get away from you. I recommend using less productive time for this, as well, until it begins to bear fruit. If you can meet with clients or strategic partners rather than work online—do that. If you can provide customer service or work on your business rather than connect to social media—do that. Small effort on a regular basis is the most effective strategy as opposed to pulling an all-nighter and then avoiding the online world for weeks or months. If you use the word “new” make sure it is. That is, don’t leave information about a new application (dated May 3, 2007.) Go back and change the word NEW to USEFUL. The person or persons on the other end will be checking in their less productive time and taking sips rather than gulps, as well.

Action steps for this week

  1. Join one or more online networking communities. Be selective. Look at other members’ profiles and build yours with the VCP model in mind. You only need a few and take on those you can actually sustain. 2. Start a blog or write a regular column. Think of ten things you wish you knew before starting your business. This can become one entry or ten. Think of ten things you have learned over the past year. Brainstorm other ideas and wade in…the water is fine. 3. Develop an email newsletter for your company. That is a large topic beyond the scope of this blog (at least for now) and many good resources are available. 4. Remember that both online and offline networking are always based on trust. 5. Understand that online networking has its own cultural norms. Find your niche where you are comfortable and be receptive to feedback.

Ultimately what you bring to the equation is entirely unique and valuable. Let your talent shine through.


© 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

March 26, 2017 at 4:39 am

Posted in HowTo, online, social media