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Speak and You Shall Receive

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In repeated studies over the years people rank their fear of public speaking above the fear of dying. This can be a daunting experience but if you are in sales your business is going to involve public speaking. Let me take you one step further. If you are in business you are in sales.

Please take a few deep breaths…we can get through this together. Standing in front of a room presenting your product or service brings butterflies in the stomach for some. Like two sides of a coin, though, strengths and weaknesses are joined. Those butterflies provide valuable energy when you can teach them to fly in formation.

As a business professional you are often asked to give a sixty-second elevator pitch at networking events. Sometimes that expands to a ten-minute chamber function talk or a twenty-minute sales presentation. Ideally, you will not only share the information with confidence but include motivation and leadership at the same time. (see week 23.) As intimidating as this may all seem your audience is rooting for your success, as well. After all, they have time invested in the talk, too.

There are professionals that can help you. One of the best local resources is your Toastmasters club. There are dozens within a short drive of most people and these are supportive training environments where you move at your own pace. Membership dues are insignificant and participation is voluntary (although that is where skills are developed.) I think of it as renting an audience.

There are business coaches, life coaches, sales trainers, and even speaking coaches in your local area, as well.

For those do-it-yourselfers (experienced and not so) here is a short list of five tips to consider:

  1. “A winning effort begins with preparation.” ~~Joe Gibbs Prepare, prepare, prepare! Prepare an outline and practice using note cards. Write (or better type) using large font and simple words. Make it incredibly easy to read. Avoid over-preparation, though, as that leads to nervousness. See the next point for more on this.
  2. “A man’s accomplishments in life are the cumulative effect of his attention to detail.” ~~John Foster Dulles Focus on one or two areas you know best. This will be easier for you to talk about which raises your confidence level and reduces stress.
  3. “A picture is worth a thousand words.” ~~Napoleon Bonaparte Using visual aids provides a ready roadmap to follow for both the speaker and the audience. Avoid the temptation to simply read the slides, however. This is insulting to your audience and diminishes your credibility, as well.
  4. “Who’s to say who’s an expert?” ~~Paul Newman The audience is here to listen to you. Remain credible and engaging and remember that you are the expert du jour.
  5. “I would rather entertain and hope that people learned something than educate people and hope they were entertained.” ~~Walt Disney Creativity goes a long way. Ask questions to engage your audience. Move around the room. If you can juggle or sing, that is a compelling ice breaker, as well.

In BNI, members have the opportunity to present ten-minute presentations to their fellow members. For some people, this is reason enough not to join. In fact, presenting is not required although it is a wonderful opportunity. Recently a CPA faced this reluctantly and was at a complete loss. She considered rescinding her membership rather than face the group—who are a very supportive audience. A fellow member recommended that she simply come up with ten questions and take twenty seconds to ask the question and forty seconds to answer it. This seemed palatable to the accountant and she prepared the questions before the day of their delivery arrived. Nervously, she stood and read from the sheet. Question One. Answer One. Question Two. Realizing that the question assumed a little knowledge she wasn’t sure the members had, she interjected a two-sentence clarification and read Answer Two. Question Three. Answer Three needed more elaboration, so she spoke directly to the audience about this area of accounting—an area she was knowledgeable and passionate on. This was easier than she expected. Glancing down at the paper she combined Question Four and Answer Four and expounded on exactly how this element faced her clients and the solutions she brought to their businesses. It was a little surprising to her when the President stood up and let her know that she had already gone over by a few minutes and recommend people get together with the CPA later to hear more.

There are many resources about public speaking. Please avail yourself of them.

Your action this week is to look for opportunities to present and practice each of the five tips above. If you are terrified, simply focus on a single sixty-second presentation and hone it to perfection. Find as many different venues to repeat it as you can. Start with the dog as your first audience, if you must, then move up to a networking environment. Enhance creativity by including a joke, poem, or catchy saying. Expand your repertoire of presentations over time. As your skill develops, seek out small speaking opportunities such as lunch-and-learns, chamber of commerce events, professional associations, and so on. Many groups are often faced with the challenge of finding qualified speakers. Make their life easier and yours richer by becoming a competent speaker.

 

© 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 26, 2017 at 6:32 am

How Can I Help You?

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“Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others. Unsuccessful people are always asking, ‘What’s in it for me?’” ~~Brian Tracy

At your next networking event mentally step back a moment and scan the room. It is usually full of people hoping to make connections and find business. As noted in week 9 (Frustrated) we found that most people attend networking events with the “What can I get?” mentality and become frustrated when they find that people do business with those they know, like, and trust rather than a stranger they are just meeting.

The nameless crowd jostles and schmoozes with limited results.

If you would like to take a different path there is a simple shift of behavior you can employ and it starts with simply taking on a specific role.

Think back to when you last hosted a party. Your objectives were to make sure everyone had a good time. You kept the drinks filled, let them know when food would be served (and what it was,) showed them to the restroom, and made sure to introduce people to others they would enjoy getting to know better. You arrived early and stayed late. It was work—at some points more than others—and yet you still had fun. After a successful party you are already considering the next one.

The next time you go to a networking event adopt the host mentality. Arrive early and help the true hosts with actual last-minute details. Get to know the layout of the room(s) and find out the agenda. As other networkers arrive greet them, help them get started in the room, and introduce them to people they would benefit from meeting.

This simple shift from being a guest (passively waiting for opportunity) to being a host (actively helping others) can have a profound difference. Hear me; however, this is not a silver bullet or some magic shortcut. It is an attitude you should always adopt at every function and once engrained in your psyche will make the desired difference—over time.

Your action this week is to attend the next networking event as a host. Commit to maintain that posture all evening (or afternoon) and avoid the temptation to fall back into the guest patterns of anonymity. Set a goal, also, to introduce three people to someone they don’t know. Over time the law of reciprocity will pay handsome dividends.

© 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 22, 2017 at 6:06 am

Posted in events, HowTo, networking

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

Elementary, my dear Watson

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“Every man at the bottom of his heart believes that he is a born detective.” ~~John Buchan

Continuing with the importance of communication think of yourself as a detective. Questions are your best resource. Listen much more than you talk. My friend, Marty Clarke, wrote an excellent book entitled Communication Landmines which goes into this in much more depth.

In this post I simply want to point out three main communications errors we all make and often experience. Master these and your networking skills will soar.

The first major problem is talking too much. We’ve all experienced this from the receiving end and felt trapped. Once you got locked in how much listening did you do after that? Most likely your attention was turned to finding an exit or trying to figure out how they are breathing or just focusing on the pattern their spittle makes. When the other person talks too much it is a horrible experience. That said, we are also guilty of the same mistake at least once in our life. As a detective turn your attention to assessing when the other person is starting to experience these symptoms. They start to avoid eye contact, begin stepping backwards, look over their (and your) shoulder, yawn, glance (or stare) at their watch. As soon as you see any of these reactions immediately turn the conversation to them and ask a question.

More importantly how do you avoid this landmine? Practice and preparation are the best tools you have. There are a few questions you often get at networking events and you should be prepared to answer them quickly and completely. When I am on the phone I count my words and always try to get to the point in 25 or less. Try that the next time you are in a conversation over the phone (tick your fingers up one-through-ten and then back down ten-through-one and finally once more one-through-five. Stop and consider, “What was the point of the last twenty-five words?” If you are just getting to it—accept the fact that you are taking the long way home. Find the shortcuts and tighten up your conversation.)

The second common communication error is reliance on jargon. We talked about that in more depth last week so I won’t elaborate. However, this week’s action steps meet each of these head on and we’ll examine it more in that section.

The third common communication error is vagueness. Many of these posts address that, as focus and clarity are keys to your success. When you ask a Realtor who they would like to meet and get the answer, “Anyone looking to buy or sell a home” who did you think of? Is that the result you want when someone asks you the same helpful type of question? If the Realtor is more specific we can be of more help. “I specialize in empty-nesters. This is a great time to move into a home more suited to their lifestyle without kids.” About twenty words and I imagine you actually thought of someone. If you are an engaged listener you may ask for more clarification of the term empty-nesters. “Their kids have moved out or are in college.” The more specific you are the wider the listener’s mind opens. In fact, if you know exactly who you want to meet this is an excellent shortcut, very appropriate for business-to-business clients or strategic alliances for any provider. A business banker may have a competitive rate to offer and knows of an automotive company looking to expand. She asks for Woody Toe, the owner of a local auto body shop noting that, “Our bank understands automotive equipment leasing and we work well with repair shops like Woody’s”

This week’s action involves meeting each area directly. First, develop a one-minute or less response to the following questions (from two weeks ago—repeated here.)

  • Who is your target market?
  • What sets you apart from your competition?
  • What is your most popular product (or service?)
  • What is new in your business?
  • Why did you choose to go into your profession?
  • What do you like best about what you do?
  • What is your biggest challenge?
  • What do you do?
  • How long have you been in business?
  • Where are you located? Why there? If you could choose a perfect location, what would it be?
  • How do you generate most of your business?

Second, eliminate jargon. Create two columns and list every term you use (trust me; your company literature is rife with it.) Look for terms like full-service, turnkey, small business, and so on. Develop layperson language and simplify it so a twelve year old could understand it.

Third, write out a complete referral request identifying the person you want to meet—listing their company, department, title, and industry. I recommend doing as many of these as you have target markets. Once written, then practicing asking from the specific to the general, just as the banker example above.

© 2017 by Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.
All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.

 

Written by bniguy

July 30, 2017 at 5:37 am

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