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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

With a Little Help For Your Friends

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“Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.” ~~Albert Einstein

I considered using the famous quote from The Three Musketeers by Dumas, specifically, “All for one and one for all” to open this week’s entry. It is also appropriate and reflects how a Master Networker, like you, is ready to back up your business partners when the opportunity presents itself. Trust me, they always do.
We talked about ten traits to develop in week seven. The bottom five include:
6: Commitment to networking 24/7. Master networkers are always tuned in…
7: Gratitude. The more you do this the more chances you will have…
8: Helpfulness. Master networkers actively seek out solutions…
9: Sincerity
10: Dedicated. The master networker is dedicated to working their network…
These five traits are wonderfully combined in this week’s strategy. The cornerstone is sincerity and integrity. If you do this just to gain a competitive edge, you will not have the success as it is designed. It is far better to wade in and help someone without keeping score. A friend of mine refers to this is NATO-Not Attached To Outcome. Golf certainly benefits from this attitude on some weekends.
In two weeks I will elaborate on reading the newspaper with the Giver’s Gain mindset. For now, consider many things that affect your business partners directly and have no apparent impact on you. These can include regulations, construction, events, etc. to simply name a few.
Let’s say that a local government initiative is underway to change how a strategic partner’s business is run. Imagine that the state board is holding a public hearing to discuss requiring that Realtors pay for property staging service. Right now, your Realtor friends may or may not use staging services, as needed. Some pay for this by building it into their fee. Others recommend the benefit and let the buyers negotiate directly with the stager. For others, staging is not likely to have significant impact on the transaction or not welcomed by the buyer.
If you see that the board will hold hearings about this you can mobilize your support by writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper about this. You can also send that letter to trade journals that are Real Estate specific and send a copy to every Realtor and Mortgage Broker you know. You can do the same for other professionals that work closely with these experts—such as Closing Attorneys, Home Inspectors, and so on. Home Stagers, too.
Again, check your motivation against the list of five traits above. If you do not have a strong opinion about home staging, do not dive in. If you are only doing this to shine the spotlight on yourself, do not join the fray. If, however, you feel strongly that this would have an impact and feel your voice will add value then dedicate yourself to the cause.
When professionals see this some will call to thank you. This is a great time to deepen the relationship and influentially make referrals to other professionals that can enhance the Realtor’s own Power Team.
We will go a little deeper in this arena in two weeks and your action this week sets you up to gain more benefit now and then.
First, figure out what your partners are reading—their trade journals. That is an easy question to ask and also stay tuned in while in their offices, in their cars, meeting them outside, too. Certainly, align their interests with your own. If you don’t care, don’t bother. When you do care, however, the passion will motivate you and cement your relationship, as well.
Second, once you have some background and find an issue that matters to you, ask your strategic partners if and how it might affect them. The process alone is valuable. Once you uncover an issue that resonates take the third step and offer to write a letter on behalf of their industry. One for all and all for one.
© 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

November 5, 2017 at 9:47 am

The Bell Tolls

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“I’ve found that luck is quite predictable. If you want more luck, take more chances. Be more active. Show up more often.” ~~ Brian Tracy

In week 14 we talked about some of the considerations of magnetism (specifically about Giving Flavored Answers) and last week we opened the conversation about introductions. We’ll combine the two and elaborate on the importance of tooting your own horn. Most of us are reluctant to brag. In some cases, we do not want to represent ourselves as needy, either, so it is a dilemma when some helpful soul inquires with an innocuous, “How is business?” or some similar question.

The typical response, “Everything is fine” does not engage any further. A very common response would be an enthusiastic, “Business is great!” This implies one of two things. First, just as stated, business is great. Second, business is not really great but I don’t want to go into it. The problem with this typical response is that it does not encourage inbound referrals. Business may be great but I assume you could handle more, so why not position yourself properly to welcome that?

Instead of simply replying by rote, inject some reality into your responses. Here are a few examples you might consider:

  • The third quarter was excellent and we are ramping up for a strong fourth quarter, too.
  • We’ve added eight clients so far, this year with a goal of twenty, so are doing well but a little behind the pace.
  • I’m taking a course now to shorten the sales cycle.
  • We are just about to enter the slow season so I am more actively networking these days.
  • If things continue we should be adding a new sales person next month.
  • Sales are up over last year although a little under our projections.

As you inject these responses it sets up an opportunity for a success story, presented a few weeks ago.

Your action this week is to come up with two responses for each of these mundane questions, memorize the response, and start using them immediately.

  • Q1: How is it going?
  • Q2: What’s new?
  • Q3: How’s business?

·       © 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 8, 2017 at 9:01 am

Let me please introduce myself

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“Although it is generally known, I think it’s about time to announce that I was born at a very early age.” ~~ Douglas Horton

Networking is all about connections and connections begin with introductions. Since introductions are the gateway to networks, paying attention to them is an essential, and often overlooked, component.

Introductions take place in formal settings and informal. Both are valuable and opportunities to take care of. This week’s topic is brief and yet so profound that it actually spans two weeks.

Let’s set the stage for effective introductions by considering how many misconceptions they can clarify. A complete introduction includes all the elements of a good news story, answering who you are, what you are about, and why it should matter to the person you are meeting.

Who you are should be self-explanatory but too many of us simply refer to our business or profession as though it was our identity. If you want to remain anonymous, this is an excellent strategy. If, however, you want to be more memorable (trust me, that is the goal) then this is not enough. Emphasize what makes you different. A short tag line is an effective tool. “I am the entrepreneur’s CPA” says much more than just another number-cruncher. “We specialize in helping golfers shave strokes off their game” moves you into a class of your own. As you can see, these short introductions convey all three elements and actually begin to facilitate the next introduction, as well.

A more formal introduction takes place when you are speaking at an event. Writing that will simplify the process of the informal introduction, as well.

Your action this week is to develop a formal introduction. Here is a simple framework to consider:

  • Name and business
  • What you offer
  • Credential and major accomplishments
  • Mission statement and purpose
  • Recent story about how you helped someone (include a happy ending and facts)

Bear in mind that this introduction should be tweaked and adjusted for each situation. When providing a written introduction please type it (not handwritten) in a large, clear font and keep words short and simple. Eliminate jargon. Do this today and next week we will expand on your results.

 

© 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 1, 2017 at 10:26 am

Facts Tell

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“If you’ve heard this story before, don’t stop me, because I’d like to hear it again.” ~~ Groucho Marx

We are a species that loves a good story and enjoy sharing it. Some people I know always have a new joke and deliver it with enthusiasm, employing voices and gestures that accentuate the action. Stories are the oldest communication format and were passed through generations before the advent of more permanent technology—like the written word.

Anecdotes are a powerful way to share your message and you can empower your network with memorable success stories, as well.

The best narrative is to consider one related to your best client (see week three for examples.) Profile this client completely (see week 31) and develop a story that helps your network find other similar clients.

Let’s dissect a good story.

Who. An engaging beginning defines who we want to meet and sets the stage for the pending action. Use demographics to define this individual fully—including number of employees, years in business, etc.

What. Why. The action-packed middle of the story should introduce the problem your client experienced and some ineffective actions taken or consequences faced before you arrived on the scene.

How. When. Your success stories should always have a Happy Ending. Describe how you solved the problem. This is the part of the story that gets repeated the most often. Include facts, figures, and statistics that matter.

Develop these stories and write them down so you can refer to them as needed. Treat them like a key-ring, each designed to open a specific door. Have a story or three for every target market you serve, every benefit you provide, and every objection you might face.

 

© 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

September 24, 2017 at 11:56 am

Posted in communication, HowTo

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.

 

Written by bniguy

September 17, 2017 at 6:02 am

Be the Message

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“Any general statement is like a check drawn on a bank. Its value depends on what is there to meet it.” ~~Ezra Pound

The longer you are in business the more subject matter expertise you gain. This knowledge can be shared and leveraged if you consider a strategy for doing just that.

There are a number of resources at your disposal. Many publications, both virtual and physical, rely on quality content and editors are always seeking knowledgeable expertise to share with their readership.

Knowing this and taking action on it are two very different things and this can be a frustrating uphill climb until the first few opportunities appear. Therefore, select topics where you have both expertise and passion. At worst, you gain the advantage of sharpening your message while soliciting rejection letters and the passion will carry you through.

Nothing replaces activity for this process, so I will move directly to the action step.

First of all take an assessment of your personal expertise, unique perspective, and passion to share. Find potential venues that might welcome this information. Visit their websites and pay particular attention to the section targeting advertisers. This is who the publication would like to gain traction with. If your expertise aligns well that is a shortcut.

Second, outline four articles that reflect this expertise and will appeal to your intended forum. Four is a good number to choose as it is wide enough to provide breadth without diluting the message.

Once you have this arena in mind write a letter of introduction to each perspective editor and pitch your idea. Have a plan to deal with rejection. The best bet is to listen for what the editor is looking for and the rejection provides an opportunity to have that conversation.

 

© 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

September 10, 2017 at 8:59 am

Posted in communication, HowTo, sales