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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.



Written by bniguy

July 30, 2017 at 5:37 am

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

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

Deepen the roots

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“A line has to be drawn somewhere between what is essential and what is peripheral.” ~~ Sargent Shriver

By now we have set the stage for taking your networking skills to a new level. Some of this work has been easy and some has not. Some of this work has already yielded solid results. This week I am asking you to consider making a significant difference in one single relationship.

Throughout the series we have touched on a few elements to help you identify your strategic relationships. Specifically these were Field Your Winning Team, Who’s Who to You, and Revisit Your Contacts Low Hanging Fruit on the Family Tree is another although these people are less likely to be in the situation where you need to deepen the relationships.

The Bible tells the story of reaping and sowing and shares the efforts of an ambitious farmer with excellent seed. The farmer keeps on sowing the seed against the birds that take it, the thorns that choke it, and so on. Some of the seed falls on ground where the soil is shallow. The little seeds start to grow but on the first hot day the little plants wither and die. These plants could have kept the farmer’s family fed all year but the elements were stronger than the plants.

All of our relationships exist in an environment that is partially of our making and partially not. Market forces, health, genetics, circumstances, and more all have an impact on those relationships. If we do not take the time and make the effort to nourish the roots and strengthen the bonds of those relationships they will inevitably succumb to the overwhelm of outside forces.

This week I would like you to consider one relationship you would like to both protect and expand. How well do you know this person? Not just on a business level but on a personal level. Are there ways you could expand this relationship and make a difference in the larger scheme of things?

I don’t want to limit your thought but am doing a disservice if I don’t give you some ideas that will help. Imagine your friend is a builder and also cares about the environment. You may or may not know their spouse and children. Imagine working together on a Habitat for Humanity project. Imagine taking a beach weekend together—your family and theirs. The possibilities are endless and can have a very profound effect on the relationship.

This week’s action is to identify one person you want to strengthen the bonds with. Meet with them and take time to get to know them better. Learn things like:

  • What would they like to accomplish in business this year?
  • What obstacles are in the way?
  • How can I help you achieve those goals?

Look at the same considerations for their personal lives.

The important thing is to have the conversation and truly listen. This prepares you well for next week’s section, too.

© 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 9, 2017 at 3:51 pm

Flock Together and Fly in Formation

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“Every person, all the events of your life are there because you have drawn them there. What you choose to do with them is up to you.” ~~Richard Bach

This week we consider that quality known as magnetism. I won’t go into all the scientific details of electrons lining up and how the compass guides us along our journey although those concepts are important.

I will, however, underscore how important magnetism is the process of establishing the Visibility that is foundational in your networking success. Like attracts like. Busy people attract other busy people. I imagine you can realize how challenging it is to get a bunch of busy people together at once. I also imagine you can realize how valuable that shared time is.

The best way to attract the type of people you want to meet is by becoming one yourself. Look back into week seven Take Inventory and consider those traits you most want to improve on. A simple shortcut is to get around those people and benefit from modeling their behavior.

Scott Ginsberg is known as the Nametag Guy and he lists eight simple strategies you can use to start the ball rolling. Think of these as ways to walk onto someone’s porch to chat or to invite them onto your porch. You may or may not go in the house with them and it is all about breaking the ice and starting the process.

  1. Be Ready to Engage. What a simple concept. How interesting is it for you when someone asks, “How’s the weather? Do you come here often?” These are okay as openers (certainly better than silence) and yet the opportunity to take the conversation up a notch is very rewarding. We need to walk the balance between being too personal and to impersonal. If unsure of the receptiveness of the person you are meeting start with something in the environment and move closer. For example, noting that, “This elevator is slow” is much safer than, “I like your earrings.” The latter—if accepted—moves the relationship closer quicker although it is riskier. The simple advice is to be in the moment and attentive to the other person.
  2. Focus on CPI. Look for a “Common Point of Interest.” This helps establish the bond quickly and firmly.
  3. Give Flavored Answers. There are many interactions where a question is asked as a polite conversation starter and does not expect any thoughtful response. “How are you today?” is a common example. Most of us answer with the one word “Fine” and this is expected. Try coming back with something more interesting. I have a friend that never answers this question the same way and is quite capable of hundreds of different replies. “Amazing. If I was any better I’d have to be twins.” “I don’t know yet. Let me hum a few bars.” I never know what to expect and since his business is all about helping companies craft creative solutions it engages a new person quickly and establishes his credibility in the arena at the same time.
  4. Body Language is Important. It may be tempting to cross your arms, for example, if you are tired, cold, bored…but don’t. That clearly sends the message to stay way. If you are there to meet people then make an effort to be open. Smile. Extend your hand. Join conversations in progress and leave the small group open to other people, rather than closing ranks. If two people are face-to-face and eye-to-eye no one else can enter the conversation. There are times when this is exactly what you want. There are other times, though, when it is not. Instead of being face-to-face open your shoulder lines so a third person can slip in. If you are ever cornered and looking for an exit strategy this is a good method to know—although having a few exit lines is more proactive.
  5. Provide Different Options for Communications. Some people prefer face-to-face encounters. Some prefer telephone conversations or email interactions. Include these on your business card, your website, and your signature lines.
  6. Always Have Business Cards. If you carry a portfolio keep some extra cards in there. As a backup have more in the glove box of your car. As a backup to the backup keep more in your trunk. You never know when the moment will arrive to share contact information and not everyone carries a PDA. Business cards are all-purpose, all-weather snapshot reminders of who you are. Keep them handy.
  7. Conquer Your Fear. I know Mom told you not to talk to strangers and that is important advice for a trusting, defenseless child. Leverage points one through four above and meet new people. You may need to stretch your comfort zone a little. Guess what? That is where growth comes from. Do it in a controlled environment such as a Business Networking event. The other guy is there for the same reason and may be more (or less) comfortable than you.
  8. Wear Your Nametag. This has become Scott Ginsberg’s claim to fame (or ticket to celebrity) and his points are all well taken. If you are serious about your business embroider your company name on the clothes you wear. If this is not appropriate then get a magnetic or pinned version to wear all the time. You may think wearing those sticky nametags look silly but they do make it easier for others to talk to you. I made a mistake once and put the nametag on upside down and it became a great way to open conversations. The helpful people pointed it out. The less helpful ignored it. This can be a good sort, too, although it may be a little manipulative. I have a nametag on a lanyard and wear it just about everywhere.

Assess your strengths against this list and get comfortable with the CPI concept.

Let’s also take a look outside the box, based on the CPI that you may not have considered. So far we have considered friends and family as well as new acquaintances as strategic partners. How about your competitors? Don’t they share your same CPI? Couldn’t they be the perfect strategic alliance for you?

How is that for out-of-the-box thinking?

Your action item this week is twofold. Consider your top three competitors and imagine what it would be like if you could collaborate. That may not be as far-fetched as you might imagine. What are your unique selling propositions and how do they dovetail with the competitor. Some CPAs do audits others do not. Some general contractors do not want jobs smaller than five day projects while others do. Some business professionals do not travel more than ten miles away while others do.

The second action item is to think of three magnetic people you know and go with them to a networking function. You will learn a lot and deepen your relationship while expanding your skill base and network at the same time.


© 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 2, 2017 at 5:34 pm

Are you frustrated with your networking results?

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“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” ~~Albert Einstein

If you have ever felt that the time spent networking was wasted I submit that it is not the activity itself with the problem. Rather it is your intent and/or your event. Amateur networkers experience this often and heed Dr. Einstein’s observation by simply discontinuing the practice. They are not crazy—just fed up.

This week let’s consider a more effective strategy to improve your own networking results.

The best place to initiate a change is from within so we will start there, as well. What was your intent in attending the last networking event that frustrated you? If it was to collect as many business cards as possible I imagine you hit that target well. And yet, it was completely unsatisfactory. Later that night you pulled out of your bulging pocket many new contacts–and did not know what to do next. Insanely you did what you always did. That is, you robotically keyed each one into your database and methodically sent a generic email to everyone. This is high effort with low return. Feels a little like insanity to continue, doesn’t it? It is like throwing spaghetti on the wall and hoping some will eventually stick.

Sadly, some will stick. Some connections strip mined from a loosey-goosey networking event may eventually become the perfect person to accelerate your business. I say sadly because this fools people into doing more of the same. Hello, Albert!

Consider this common model we are all familiar with that should illustrate what is happening. Some people do buy winning lottery tickets. That is what keeps the vast majority buying their own. The winner is in the ticket, though, not the purchaser. That ticket would have gone to someone anyway. The same is true in these lucky networking contacts. The success comes from the person you met—not you.

Rather than rely on hope change what you think to see better results. What is your intention in networking? I recommend taking two main goals in with you.

The first is to look for people that can help your current customers, prospects, or strategic alliances enjoy more success. Improve their life. Forget about helping yourself. You tried that and have many useless lottery tickets to show for that effort. Let’s say you are a Residential Realtor and one of your current buyers is looking for a new home they can downsize into now that they are empty-nesters. The kids are not only out of the house but out of college. Maybe they are avid golfers or indulgent pet owners. Look for someone who can help these people take a memorable golf vacation or can introduce them to a great pet spa or veterinarian. If successful, you won’t have a pocket full of business cards but will have one or two valuable contacts. Get to know them better. When comfortable you can introduce them to your clients. When they know you they can introduce you to their clients—some of whom may also be downsizing (or upsizing or whatever.)

The second intent is to look for people that can further your goals. Imagine you are a mortgage broker who has an excellent program to help people that have good income and no down payments get into their first home quickly. This may be ideal for someone who is just graduating from an expensive school and launching a lucrative profession. However, when they first come out of school they are saddled with large school loans and can’t even start shopping homes until they get a job offer. After that they can select the city and start the process and usually want to go fast. These may be doctors, lawyers, engineers, and so on.

Let’s imagine you do not have any contacts into these schools. (If you do, start there.) If not, network for these resources. You might look for people directly or indirectly associated with specific universities. (Here’s a hint—these schools probably have a calendar of events. That’s a very effective shortcut.) Barring that, you might instead network for people who have successfully negotiated that process already. That is, they graduated ten years ago and are now successful. Ask if they can help you understand the issues facing your intended target market. You may find your plan is not likely to succeed. This is okay since it saves time and lets you reshape the plan. You may find they are influential in the alumni association. This is wonderful as they may be perfect golden goose for your program. More likely you may wind up somewhere in the middle.

At any rate you will almost certainly find that your networking will be far more effective by changing your intent or your event. Welcome to networking sanity.

© 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

February 19, 2017 at 6:49 am