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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.

 

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Written by bniguy

July 30, 2017 at 5:37 am

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

Join a Chamber of Commerce

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“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” ~~Albert Einstein

Diversification of your networking allows you to meet more linchpins, expanding your reach and your impact. See week eight Variety is the Spice for a refresher.
Diversification of networks is also advisable. Ideally, you will find that by belonging to three different types of networks you will optimize your networking time.
One valuable type which can be found in almost any community is the local Chamber of Commerce. A chamber usually has a broad membership base. You will be welcomed while finding that chamber cultures differ. Some are heavily weighted toward a focus on large, corporate clients. Some hold many networking events. Some provide continuing training events. It is well worth your time to visit a few and get a feel for the culture that best meets your needs. When you find one—join. When you join one—get involved. In fact, there is no need to join if you do not get involved. By becoming a leader in your chamber you can raise your personal credibility and that of your company.
Another type of network to consider is one that supports your preferred strategic partners. In week four’s post Field Your Winning Team, we defined some valuable partners for your business. Most professions have professional associations designed to help those partners leverage the knowledge of others in the same profession. A variation on that theme would include trade associations. These are usually arranged in state and national levels and add a level of political lobbying to their activities.
Seek them out and get known while getting to know them.
One caveat, however, is not to spread yourself too thin. Strike a balance between networking and the rest of your business activity (selling, production, customer service, etc.)
Your action item this week is to seek out a local chamber of commerce. Visit a few and visit each a few times. Find a fit and then become an active part of that vibrant community. Membership is not free but significantly less than effective advertising.
© 2017 by Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI. All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.

 

Written by bniguy

June 25, 2017 at 4:58 am

Posted in business, HowTo, networking

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

Make it so

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“The civil rights movement would experience many important victories, but Rosa Parks will always be remembered as its catalyst.” ~~Jim Costa

You have probably heard the expression about swimming out to your ship rather than simply waiting for it to arrive. This action-taking is catalytic.

How do you apply this concept in business? You can use catalyst events to foster introductions and establish relationships. These are especially useful for the more difficult introductions.

We have a National Hockey League team in town and they play more than three dozen home games. There are two Real Estate professionals that are fans and hold a few season tickets. They don’t sit together but are in the same general section. If one has a guest the other should meet they simply arrange to buy beer from the same kiosk at the end of the first period. What could be simpler?

You can do this with any activity you enjoy from golf to opera. I have a friend who teaches poker to small groups and this is a great way for the Mortgage Broker to meet more Realtors. It is also a good way for Realtors to meet more builders or for builders to meet more investors.

Bring people to something they would like to do and put them together with others they would like to meet. This is not a selling event or a training event or anything other than a social event. However, in this setting relationships have the opportunity to be established. That may or may not happen. If it doesn’t at least you enjoyed a good time and were able to thank someone important to you.

I have a Realtor friend that invites people over for frittatas every Easter Sunday. Over the past twenty-three years these have become signature events and many people look forward to this every spring.

This week’s action is to start the process in your life. Think of an event you enjoy, invite a few others, and start adding this to your occasional activities.

 

© 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 28, 2017 at 5:14 am

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