5 Secret Relationship Keys that Accelerate Small Business Success

building relationships, Business-building, Generating referrals, Networking as a marketing strategy, Networking for sales success No Comments

As a small business owner, it’s essential to recognize that, even in today’s wired economy, there is a simple solution that delivers all the elements of a successful small business marketing strategy. I said simple, not easy.

This secret strategy, simplistic as it sounds, is rooted in the most basic of business axioms: the majority of business success comes from, or through a small group of satisfied clients and helpful colleagues.

Your most valuable and valued asset as a small business owner, today more than ever, lies with the customers you have (or have had) and the professional relationships you cultivate. Implement these practical, proven strategies to better leverage relationships:

1. Over-deliver value to clients. Your clients make the ultimate commitment by sharing their hard-earned dollars in exchange for your product or service, in spite of all the choices they have. Ensure they walk away perceiving they received more value than they expected or anticipated. As well as being more confident about your relationship with them, you’ll be unleashing an all-too-often under-utilized resource that will have you standing above your competitors.

2. Leverage client relationships. Your clients represent your most powerful asset and your most productive resource. Confirm their satisfaction and collect client testimonials. Then, invest more time communicating with them to discover additional needs or requirements. Ask about their lives and what their interests are. By building your relationships with them, they will think of you first, even when bombarded with advertising about others.

3. Exploit the network effect. The majority of your “best” clients have similar traits and characteristics: where they live, what they do or what they like. Make it a point to ask about these important life categories. When you confirm one or a number these, check what groups or networks they belong to. This may represent a tremendous opportunity for you if you can access, then leverage this group of like-minded people. Why not ask to attend the next event they attend? What a perfect opportunity to get introduced to other like-minded individuals.

4. Invest in creating advocates. You have a network of partners and stakeholders who support and interact with you on a daily basis. Think in terms of your accountant, banker, professional colleagues or business neighbours. What have you done lately to incent these powerful resources to promote you to their contacts and networks? Referrals are reactive. Become the professional others think of first when it comes to your product/service, by contributing to their lives in some way. The principle of reciprocation is one of the powerful forces in the universe. Put it to work for you.

5. Focus on the five percent that matter. Research has consistently proven that a core network of relationships contribute the majority of our results in business and in life (roughly about five percent of your relationships). As a Small Business Owner, make it your mission to identify and nurture these high-value contacts. Once you’ve established who they are, make them a priority and invest more time, energy and resources to remind them of your value. Find a way to continually contribute to their success. They’ll be happy to refer to their family, friends and clients

Accelerate the success of your small business by:

• Confirming client satisfaction and collecting testimonials.

• Invest time to gain a greater insight into lives of your clients.

• Commit to asking about your clients’ networks and tap into these opportunities.

• Keep a written list of your highest-value relationships and invest in maintaining them.


Michael Hughes is known as Canada’s Networking Guru. Find out more about him at www.NetworkingForResults.com and download a complimentary copy of his 12-page ebook Managing the Networking Experience.

5 Networking Secrets that Leverage Centers of Influence

building relationships, Building trust, business-building, Business-building, follow up, Generating referrals, Job or career search, Networking as a marketing strategy, Networking for sales success No Comments

We all have centers of influence. We know who they are and how they can affect our business, career or life. Yet, we continuously struggle to make the most of their power and potential.

One of the keys to maximizing centers of influence depends on how quickly, and how well, the relationship develops. Follow one or more of the strategies listed below to accelerate the process and reap the benefits these valuable relationships have to offer.

Focus on the process. Relationships follow a natural and defined process. It usually takes time and a certain number of contacts to feel comfortable with another person.
Instead of keying on the results you want, look to manage the process. There are six phases in the relationship-development process. By becoming more aware of them, you can have a direct impact on each. This is especially important when dealing with centers of influence who can offer major benefits.

Use a structure. We all lead busy lives with too much to do and too many people to keep track of. Discovering, developing and leveraging relationships with centers of influence is a priority as well as a critical success factor in business and in life. Using a specific structure to manage and track your highest-value relationships is a necessity. Develop a structure, either on paper or using technology, to keep the process moving forward for mutual benefit.

Be pro-active. We humans are social creatures. We are enamored with the relationship process. Too often, we rely on it to be self-directed. This can be enjoyable but does not help us achieve the results we want and need. Presume every conversation with a center of influence will require a follow up contact. Continually look for opportunities to confirm another meeting, create more value or bring an additional benefit.

Build trust. Trust is the single most powerful characteristic in a relationship. It is the foundation of every important relationship in your life. It can, by itself, be the stimulus to having others help you achieve your objectives. People perceive everything we do to be either for, or against, them. Discovering ways to demonstrate your trust in others, especially centers of influence, can have major effect on their willingness to help.

Clarify your objectives. You’re either working your plan, or you’re working someone else’s plan. One of the main reasons why others are not more helpful to us is that they are unclear as to how they can be of service. Evaluate each center of influence and clarify your needs from each .The more specific and selective you are, the easier you will make it for them to help you. This way, both of you will gain from the result.

Relationships take time, need to be nurtured and require investment. This can take weeks, months, or even years. Are you investing the right amount of tome effort and energy on these invaluable resources? I’ve spent the last 20 years building better relationships. If this is an area of concern or opportunity for you, contact me at info@NetworkingForResults.com. I can help.


Michael Hughes is known as North America’s Networking Guru. To get more info about his services or to have him speak at your next meeting or conference, visit his web site at www.NetworkingForResults.com

 

 

Networking Power Tips: 11 Networking Confidence Builders

building relationships, Building trust, Business-building, Generating referrals, Job or career search, Miscellaneous, Networking 101 - The Basics, Networking as a marketing strategy, Networking for sales success, networking tips No Comments

Does your blood pressure rise at the mere thought of attending a networking event? Are you nervous about carrying on conversations with new contacts? You’re not alone.

Many people have great difficulty simply meeting others. There can be any number of reasons for this, all of which are real. Here are some strategies to help you build your confidence about going to the next networking event.

1. Clarify your issue. Become more aware of why you have difficulty meeting others. Is it a lack of self-confidence? Are you uncomfortable because you feel you must use networking to “sell”? Are you simply unsure of what to do or say? By addressing the reason for your discomfort, you can improve how you deal with the situation.

2. Re-enforce the value. Accept that meeting others is one of the most effective ways to get more business or advance your career. By attending the event you will be giving others the opportunity to become more informed about you and your value. By increasing your sense of value you will feel more confident in meeting others.

3. Change your mindset. Emphasize the social aspect of networking rather than feeling you must find and qualify prospects or new career opportunities. Focus on making friends instead of doing business. This will take away a lot of your anxiety while giving you essentially the same results.

4. Set an objective. Once you have made the decision to attend a networking event, invest in setting a clear objective. This will help keep you focused as you meet and talk with others. It will also give you a basis for which to measure your networking success.

5. Prepare for success. If you know you have difficulty developing conversations, why not plan to reduce the chance of being in this situation. Meet up with a friend or bring along a colleague. You could also check with the host in advance to find out who else will be there (and create an important contact during the call).

6. Have a start-up strategy. Most conversations start the same way. Plan and practice the words and actions you will use until they become second nature. Here’s a simple structure for you: make eye contact, smile, offer your hand and introduce yourself. Practice this structure until it becomes a positive habit.

7. Go public. Tell others about your discomfort when you first meet them. You’ll find that many people feel the same way. Even if they don’t, they’ll usually go out of their way to help develop a conversation and you’ll feel better having shared this with them.

8. Shift the conversational focus. Sometimes the stress about meeting others comes from feeling we must carry the conversation. The most brilliant conversation partners are excellent listeners who ask the right questions. Strive to get others talking from the moment of contact. They will enjoy your company even more.

9. Have three questions to ask. Much of the stress we feel in meeting others comes from being unsure of what to say. Having questions ready that can act as conversation starters can reduce your anxiety as you make contact with another person. Every conversation has natural opportunities to ask about things like common issues, family or background.

10. Emphasize The “secret sauce.” The most powerful human bonding agent is context. When you steer the conversation into discovering areas of common interest, especially on a personal level, you accelerate your  sense of comfort and immediately feel more confident about yourself.

11. Develop your skills. Meeting others is part of your interpersonal skills tool kit. Everyone can develop these simple and effective skills. No matter what your level of confidence or competence, you can improve if you continually assess your performance and your results.


Michael Hughes is known as THE Networking Guru. To find out more about him and receive a complimentary copy of his ebook “Managing The Networking Experience”, visit his web site at www.NetworkingForResults.com.

The Relationship Factor and How to Maximize It.

building relationships, Building trust, Business-building, Generating referrals, Networking as a marketing strategy, Networking for sales success No Comments

A number of years ago, I was very dissatisfied with my career. I had a close friend who had previously moved to another company. His new position included contact with managers who were looking to expand their employee base with outside talent. He recommended me as a potential candidate. His influence was instrumental in helping me become a member of that organization. I am deeply grateful for his help and guidance through this experience and think of him often.

A few years ago, I did business with a client was extremely satisfied with the results of his investment in my services. He supplied a testimonial letter, continues to bring me referrals and has had me return to do additional work in other areas. We have now become friends and he has been instrumental in my continued business success through his position as a leader in the local business community.

Since starting my business, I’ve had the opportunity to meet, and work with, a number of entrepreneurs and professionals. Although I value each of these relationships, there is one colleague who has been particularly helpful with information, contacts and support. I think of her often and am continually looking for ways to make her more successful.

I was pursuing a particular prospect and was having a great deal of difficulty making contact with the key decision maker. I reviewed my contact list and found a colleague that I thought might be able to help. When I contacted him, he confirmed he knew the right person and agreed to set up a lunch for the three of us. His participation in the process helped seal the deal within two weeks.

I- Relationships as resources.

As described above, it is possible to look at relationships as powerful resources that, if developed properly and leveraged effectively, can be used to achieve a specific purpose. We do this every time we use our influence with others, or respond to their ideas or suggestions on a particular topic or issue. Another way to relate this fact is to think back to the last time you had a need and scoured your personal database to ask, or collect, a favor.

In addition, the quantity and quality of our relationships in many cases dictate our ability to achieve our objectives. Our success in any particular endeavor is not only dependent on how many people we know, but who we know. Sometimes the quality of a relationship, or an individual, has more to do with the accomplishment of an objective than anything else.

In certain circumstances and for specific reasons, some contacts can be more willing, and able, than others. Accepting this fact recognizes the need to put relationships in their proper context. To maximize relationships as resources, it is necessary to classify them into specific categories. There are three basic relationship levels: contacts, circles of influence and centers of influence.

II- Contacts vs Centers of Influence.

We all have a lot of contacts. A contact is simply a point of reference. It has an informational component but holds little or no personal connection. There is no formal relationship component other than an introduction or physical contact point. A contact could be a person you met at a luncheon and exchanged cards with. It could be a colleague you met at a conference. In each case there is an awareness of the other person as a resource but no relationship involvement or investment.

Even though we tend to measure our worth by the size of our contact base, the majority of these names have no real value other than to make us feel good. The 80-90% of names on our contact list will never contribute to our success. They lack the key ingredients of personal investment and trust. These two critical success factors allow contacts to grow into a more personal and intimate relationship, allowing access to mutual circles of influence. Here are some key facts that support this hypothesis.

Principle of Human Dynamics. Every person you meet has the potential to contribute to your objectives, to the extent she/he is willing and able. Your mission is to discover that person’s ability relative to your needs and develop her/his willingness to contribute.

Marketing Reality. The majority of your success in business and in life will come from, or through, a small group of satisfied clients and helpful colleagues. This happens as a natural by-product of the powerful relationships with the people who have come to value your qualities and trust your judgment as person and as a professional.

The Power of Relationships. Relationships are our most valued and precious assets. We invest a great deal of time, effort and energy nurturing and building them. We hesitate, and often resist sharing them with others, keenly aware that the fragile balance of trust and quality is easily damaged or destroyed. Yet we are ready and willing to contribute when they identify an area of need or we see an opportunity to add value.

• Relationships as Circles of Influence. Each of us has circles of influence. They come as part of the relationships we create and develop. Every relationship has within it an area of potential and power to affect the attitudes and actions of others. Each circle of influence is individual and unique, and is based on the quality of a relationship. Circles of influence are a part of every relationship: with your professional contacts, your clients and prospects, as well as your personal network.

Relationships as Influence Areas. Not all relationships are created equal. In certain circumstances and for specific reasons, some contacts can be more willing, and able, than others to help or support us. Accepting this fact recognizes the need to put relationships in their proper context. Remember, your mandate as a professional means that you must continually prioritize relationships in relation to their potential to impact your objectives.

III-Maximizing Your Relationship Focus.

Are you investing time to identify your strongest relationships and prioritizing contacts as a strategy for maximizing your sales activities, your business or your career? I’ve developed a Contact Prioritization Exercise that allows you zero in on your highest-value contacts. Email me at info@NetworkingForResults.com and I’ll send you a copy.

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Michael J. Hughes is THE recognized authority on utilizing networking as a business strategy. To find out more about him, or to have him present at your next meeting or conference, contact him at his web site at www.NetworkingForResults.com

 

7 Secret Chamber of Commerce Member Success Strategies

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Your annual Chamber of Commerce membership renewal notice has just arrived and you’re not sure whether you should renew. Is it really worth the time and effort?

Below are the seven strategies I’ve implemented over and over to drive my business results, along with specific information and examples of how they worked.

1.Embrace the Chamber of Commerce as a primary marketing strategy.

Your Chamber of Commerce membership includes a myriad of opportunities and options to attract new clients, expand your visibility and build your business. Treat it as a marketing strategy and commit yourself to it as a long term investment.

CASE STUDY: In the early days of my Chamber of Commerce membership, I took a haphazard approach to attending Chamber events and being active in the Chamber network.

In my second year, I made a conscious effort to become more involved and more active. The by-product of this decision and its activity was a surge in contacts, leads and client opportunities. I was amazed the marketing options that appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, once I became aware of the Chamber network and its inner workings.

Between year three and year five, I became a household name in the Chamber community and the local business community. The quality and quantity of opportunities increased until I was invited to be on the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. This offered visibility on an entirely new level and served to add to both my professional and personal credibility.

The ultimate payoff of my Chamber of Commerce membership strategy came when, in 2006, I was asked to be the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce, one of the oldest and most respected Chambers in Canada. Today, more than a dozen years after my first Chamber of Commerce event, I am still reaping the rewards of signing up for that first event through the Chamber network I am still a part of. This story is not an advertisement that you should aspire to become the Chamber of Commerce Chair, rather it is proof that you can.

2. Attend events.

If you take nothing else from this resource than this point and put it into practice, you will recoup your investment ten-fold. There is no simpler, nor more effective, strategy to grow your business than to get out into the business community and connect with other professionals and entrepreneurs.

There is no more credible, nor comprehensive, business network than the Chamber of Commerce. It has the potential to act as the direct, and indirect, vehicle to contacts, clients, advocates, partners and suppliers. There are two requirements to converting this resource into results: persistence and consistency. You must be willing to make a one-to-three year commitment to attending Chamber events and using these as the basis to build productive and profitable relationships.

CASE STUDY: Networking is the core of my business expertise. Consequently, the Chamber of Commerce appeared to be the ideal resource to promote my services and expertise. Yet, like you, I didn’t maximize its value until I made it my primary external marketing strategy, using Chamber events as the basis for igniting, then building relationships.

With the benefit of hindsight, I can now see how my commitment to attending events on an on-going basis acted as the basis for much, if not most, of my later success. The consistent application of this simple strategy allowed me to continually grow my base of prospects and clients, increase my visibility and build a level of market credibility I would never have otherwise achieved in so short a time.

Participation in the first few events was a little uncomfortable. Attending any event where you know few people will always be that way. Once I fought through that early anxiety and connected with a few other Chamber members, the events quickly became something I looked forward to, where I would re-connect with colleagues and professionals I respected, many of whom became clients or referrals sources.

To this day, I still make attending Chamber of Commerce events a priority in my calendar. I recommend it to you as the first (if not the only) tactic to put into action as a result of reading this document. I know it has worked for me.

3. Build relationships.

Success in business and in life is all about relationships. Investing in a Chamber of Commerce membership opens the door to success and supplies the resources to get there. Your mission is to leverage them into clients, referrals and results. Relationships are the secret key to achieving all of these. Relationship-building is, by its very nature, a long term process. Accept this reality and incorporate it into your Chamber of Commerce strategy. Develop the discipline of using Chamber events to connect, then build trust and deepen relationships by supplying value as the basis for doing business. This little-used strategy will deliver optimal results.

CASE STUDY: My networking philosophy and methodology has been to meet fewer people at events, and use these interactions as launch pads to building relationships. My goal at any event is the same: connect with no more than two or three new contacts. I focus primarily on getting to know them, as I would when meeting someone at a family gathering, as opposed to “qualifying” them as business prospects. I have found that, by taking this tack, I am perceived as more professional and can discover more and better information. By intensifying the personal value of this meeting, I heighten the chances of my conversation partner wanting to meet with me again.

Relationships require investment, take time and must be nurtured. I take full and complete responsibility for all three. I am prepared to follow up within 48 hours of an initial contact to create a one-on-one meeting, so I can get even more insight into this person’s issues and needs. I use this as an opportunity to find a way to add value to them and/or their life, without expectation of reward. I am prepared to continue this strategy for up to 90 days. By this time, the other person has seen such value she/he will agree to do business with me, act as an advocate on my behalf or she/he has discovered some way for us to work together.

I can supply any number of specific results by using this “delayed gratification” formula: Fortune 500 clients for my corporate training sessions and consulting work, conference speaking engagements (in Hawaii no less), product purchases or marketing opportunities, some of which I had never dreamed of. The exponential bonus of my philosophy is that these clients and advocates continue to work on my behalf for months and years to come. Isn’t this the kind of result you want and need from your Chamber of Commerce investment?

4. Be strategic.

There is no conceivable way you can connect directly, or build solid relationships with, every Chamber of Commerce member. There simply isn’t enough time. But not all Chamber members are created equal. Some of them, because of their company characteristics, business situation or market sector, hold more potential.

It’s important and necessary that you prioritize connecting with these higher-value prospects and fostering relationships with them, if you are to maximize your Chamber of Commerce investment and involvement.

CASE STUDY: I spent my first year as a Chamber of Commerce member attending events and meeting other business professionals. When I reviewed my results after twelve months, I was quite disappointed to realize I hadn’t confirmed one client and seriously considered not renewing my membership.

I decided to invest in the Chamber for one more year, with the vow to be more strategic in both my approach and my activity. As a first step, I went through the member directory and highlighted the companies I felt were my best prospects. That way, I could zero in on connecting with these higher-value contacts at events, knowing who I wanted to meet. Next, I reviewed the list of events and prioritized events with topics or timing these companies and individuals would attend. These two strategies accelerated my chances of meeting more and better prospects and I found I had much better success. In addition, I invested time and effort in meeting and building relationships with a number of seasoned Chamber members and leaders, who were happy to introduce me to their network of contacts, both inside and outside the Chamber of Commerce.

By the end of my second year, I had developed a list of clients that acted as the foundation for increasing both my revenues and my visibility in the local marketplace. Being strategic had an exponential effect in driving my results, relationships and revenues.

5. Contribute value to other members.

Membership is a two-edged sword. Not only does becoming part of the Chamber of Commerce allow access to a network of prospects and professional services, it also holds the opportunity to showcase your talents and skills by sharing value. This can be accomplished by being of service to members on a one-to-one basis, but there is another option that holds much more potential: acting as a Chamber resource. In this capacity, you will be endorsed as more credible and competent. Also, you will reach more members faster. Read the following story to find out how.

CASE STUDY: Recognizing that one of the stated benefits of Chamber of Commerce membership was networking, I approached the Executive Director with the idea of delivering a series of short networking skills workshops for members. My intent was to help Chamber members network more effectively as I showcased my value in this area.

I prepared a business case that demonstrated how this initiative would benefit members and the Chamber in a number of ways: the sessions would be offered to all members at a reduced rate, profit shared with the Chamber. In addition, new members, or members renewing their membership, would be offered a free seat. All in all, it was a package that would greatly benefit both the Chamber and its members. The proposal was accepted and I was seen as a contributor to the Chamber’s success.

Some of my colleagues saw this and questioned my sanity in offering so much value for little, or seemingly no, return. Let’s take a closer look at the entire program and what it contributed to my business. The sessions were co-sponsored, meaning that I received an endorsement as a trusted Chamber resource. They were advertised multiple times to the entire Chamber of Commerce database, supplying me huge marketing leverage I never could have managed on my own. The reduced-rate sessions supplied enough revenue to offset costs and a small profit.

My biggest payoff was from the free seats allocated to new members or member renewals. Every one of these professionals got the chance to experience my value. The short duration of the program meant that many wanted to know more. I can directly attribute two contracts with national corporations as a result of this unique Chamber of Commerce member program.

6. Contribute to the Chamber of Commerce financial success.

Almost all member-based organizations, and especially Chambers of Commerce, have, as part of their business model, a two-pronged approach. The first is dependent on member dues, and is directly related to the on-going need to recruit and retain members. Member revenues are the lifeblood of the organization’s existence and financial health. This will always be a priority. The second is non-member revenues. These are revenues that come through events, promotional or sponsorship opportunities.

Any member contributing to strengthening these areas will be seen as more valuable. This can act as a huge opportunity to gaining more leverage from your Chamber of Commerce membership.

CASE STUDY: As part of my involvement with the Chamber of Commerce, I became aware of the intense value that member growth and retention play in the Chamber’s on-going success. I decided to make a one-year personal commitment to impact this important area. The strategy I used was to invite a non-member to every Chamber event. Yes, it cost me money in additional event fees, but every person I invited was very appreciative.

It proved to be an excellent marketing strategy, as they often connected with business prospects and saw me as the source of their good fortune. In addition, many, if not most, of my guests, joined the Chamber as a result of their experience. The unexpected payoff of this commitment was that, unbeknownst to me, the Chamber was running a member referral contest that year.

Because of my referral results and as winner of the referral drive, I was invited to golf with the Chamber President and Chair, paving the way to be invited to be part of the Chamber Board of Directors. The following year, I lead a Chamber fundraising project that brought the Disney Professional Development Program to our city and contributed unplanned revenues to the Chamber and increased my position as contributor to the Chamber’s financial success.

The moral of this story is that any effort that positively impacts the financial stability of the Chamber will supply you with great leverage and/or credibility in the Chamber and with other members.

7. Take on a leadership role

The Chamber of Commerce is a community of business people working to help one another succeed. As such, it is a member-led and member-driven organization. This reality accepts the fact that membership success links opportunity with obligation. There is no more effective strategy for increasing professional or personal visibility, accelerating trust or creating an enhanced profile than to take on a leadership role. The caveat here is to ensure that the leadership role is aligned to the professional capacity you want to promote. The exponential bonus of this investment is that members will feel they have received something from you and feel you are more professional, trustworthy and competent.

CASE STUDY: In my second year as a Chamber of Commerce member, I decided I wanted to increase my profile. I looked for a Chamber role that would allow me to showcase my area of expertise and supply additional visibility. I met with the Chamber President who suggested I join the membership committee. This proved an ideal opportunity for me to demonstrate how my experience and expertise could enhance this high-need Chamber area. I worked with Chamber staff to increase their networking and business development skills. I delivered networking workshops for members to help them get more value from Chamber activities. I chaired the Ambassador Corps, a unique Chamber resource that focuses on building relationships with new members.

As a result of my increased profile, I was invited to be on the Board of Directors of the Chamber of Commerce. Yes, this required additional time and effort, but the payoff was that I was associated with many of the most successful and professional companies in our region, while I got the chance to build relationships with high-profile entrepreneurs and corporate professionals. The end result was a number of contracts that I would never have had access to without this investment and involvement.

And finally, I was selected to be the 2006 Chair of the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce. What an honor! Add to this the press I received in our local newspaper and the profile it gave me in our community. Today, years removed from this portfolio, I am still reaping the rewards in credibility and respect.

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Michael Hughes is known as Canada’s Networking Guru. Find out more about him at www.NetworkingForResults.com and download a complimentary copy of his 12-page ebook Managing the Networking Experience.

Referrals: Why Others Don’t Help and What to Do About It.

Business-building, Generating referrals, Networking for sales success No Comments

We all complain about not getting enough referrals. We all want more business. We are frustrated because we seem to do everything we can, and yet our referral business does not improve. There are specific reasons why others are not as helpful as they could. Read the list below to confirm the reasons why.

1. Why Others Don’t help.

Not asked. Believe it r not, the most common reason others do not help is because they are not asked. Fear of rejection is a powerful emotion and by not asking, we do not set ourselves up to be rejected. Conversely, by not asking we rob others of the opportunity to be of service. Developing the discipline of asking for help in every client or colleague conversation.

Not enough trust. When we ask another person for a referral we are asking not only for a name. We are asking that other person to put their entire reputation on the line. We want them to risk all the time, effort and energy they have invested in their relationship. This takes a great deal of trust, and it’s the primary reason why others hesitate to share their circle of influence with us. Overcome this obstacle by first building so much trust others will be happy to share their relationships with you

We all complain about not getting enough referrals. We all want more business. We are frustrated because we seem to do everything we can, and yet our referral business does not improve. There are specific reasons why others are not as helpful as they could. Read the list below to confirm the reasons why.

1. Why Others Don’t help.

Not asked. Believe it r not, the most common reason others do not help is because they are not asked. Fear of rejection is a powerful emotion and by not asking, we do not set ourselves up to be rejected. Conversely, by not asking we rob others of the opportunity to be of service. Developing the discipline of asking for help in every client or colleague conversation.

Not enough trust.  When we ask another person for a referral we are asking not only for a name. We are asking that other person to put their entire reputation on the line. We want them to risk all the time, effort and energy they have invested in their relationship. This takes a great deal of trust, and it’s the primary reason why others hesitate to share their circle of influence with us. Overcome this obstacle by first building so much trust others will be happy to share their relationships with you

Not clear on how they can help. Most of our colleagues and clients want to be of service. They feel indebted to us for our friendship and our investment in their lives. In many cases, they would be happy to help but are unclear as to how they can help. They do not have a clear picture of what we want or need, and consequently hold back on some issues that might be helpful.

Not willing/able to help with a specific request. Others want to help us. Unfortunately, when we ask for something they are unable to help us with, it has a negative impact on the overall relationship. They are embarrassed they cannot help and we feel hurt they could not fulfill our request. The more specific and customized we can make a referral request, the easier we make it for the other person to feel good.

Not willing/able to help at this time. One of life’s most common sayings is that timing is everything. In many cases the other person wants to be helpful but is impacted by the timing of your request relative to her/his time constraints, schedule or environment. Giving the other person more options or alternatives with respect to timing increases the chances of them being able to respond to your request.

No reason to help. This is one of the most common reason others do not respond to a referral request. They have no incentive. To incent means to move another to action. This presumes that you have done something to cause this. That’s right, the real reason why others are not as helpful as they could be is we have not invested in the relationship and earned the right to a request for help.

How do your overcome there very real issues. Think in terms of the relationship, not the sale. The most successful professionals see referrals as a strategy, not an activity. Recognize that referrals are a by-product of relationship and be prepared to delay, defer or abstain from asking if you’re not comfortable with any, or all of the factors below.

2. Referral Strategies.

Build trust. Trust is both the key reason why others don’t refer more business and the underlying cause to having them share more of their key relationships with us. This seems like a simple strategy but it is one we too often take for granted. Trust is the essential cornerstone of every relationship. You can never have too much trust. Developing the discipline of confirming and renewing trust before, during and after every referral request is essential.

Create value. Value is a necessary part of every relationship. We automatically create value in relationships by investing our time, effort and energy in the activities that are part of every day life. Discovering innovative ways to create value for others is an ideal way to demonstrate a sincere interest in another person. Confirming value is the secret to using this investment wisely.

Collect incentives. We all have needs. We all want to help others, especially those that mean the most to us or those who have been helpful to us in the past. Incentives are simply reasons others would want to help us. They are investments in the future. They work best when they are used in multiples. Preparing for a request by first demonstrating your sincere willingness to unselfishly help is a common and useful strategy.

Customize your request. This is one of the most common mistake in receiving referrals and business from colleagues and clients. By not recognizing the need to confirm that the other person has the resources, willingness or ability to fulfill the request, we hurt both ourselves and them. The more customized and specific your request is, the easier and positive it will make the process.

Consider the timing. In many cases, a request must be put into the context of the other person. The timing of your request and how it fits into their situation and schedule can be crucial. Confirm that they are willing and able to fulfill your request, then be prepared to be patient in having them follow through. Make them part of the process and communicate your results. They will be as happy as you in a positive outcome.

This article is an excerpt from the “How to Create  a Referral-Generating Machine ebook. Check it out at http://www.networkingforresults.com/products/books/more_referrals.php

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Michael Hughes is known as Canada’s Networking Guru. Find out more about him at www.NetworkingForResults.com and download a complimentary copy of his 12-page ebook Managing the Networking Experience.

10 Leverage Strategies to Get Others to Help You

building relationships, Building trust, Business-building, Generating referrals, Job or career search, Networking as a marketing strategy, Networking for sales success No Comments

Identifying, prioritizing and developing key relationships is an integral part of a successful personal marketing program, but the most difficult part is getting others to help.

What can we do that will stimulate others to work on our behalf? What will cause others to want to help us, even when we’re not around? How can we develop a mindset in others to get them to recommend us to their contacts, colleagues and clients?

Here are the ten most effective options in recruiting others as active partners in a personal marketing program. Each work will work, but they function best when used in conjunction with one another.

1. Accelerate their trust level.

We all want others to help us. One of the best methods for getting others to want to help us is to demonstrate our willingness to be of service to them. One tangible action to bring value or render service will accomplish more than all the talk in the world. Listen care-fully in conversations. Ask specific questions. Discover what they want or need. Then do something to help them achieve it. Do it unselfishly and be prepared for the results.

2. Develop your trust level.

Helping others first is a key leverage factor because it activates the principle of reciprocation. One of the reasons why we don’t help others more is that we don’t have a high enough level of trust in them. Make yourself more comfortable about their product or service by investing in it. Once you become a client you will not only have activated the principle of reciprocation, you will be more confident in speaking to others about them.

3. Increase your confidence about their competence and expertise.

Invest more time in listening to them and asking questions about their product or service. As you become more aware of their level of expertise, you will be more comfortable in referring them to others. Also, by becoming more knowledgeable about their products or services, the more quickly you will find them qualified prospects for their product or service and increase your leverage potential.

4. Participate in the process of moving qualified referrals to satisfied clients.

The difference between a lead and a referral is that a referral includes the active participation of the person who passes along a name. It contains a commitment on the part of the giver to be a partner in the referral process. Make it a point to be seen as a resource for your referrals and actively participate in the process of moving people you see as qualified prospects into satisfied clients for your friends and colleagues.

5. Promote them through introductions or group presentation opportunities.

Be free and open about giving these valuable assets the opportunity and the access to your circle of influence. Make your introduction more personal and make sure to include their strongest asset or skill. Include in your conversation that others would greatly benefit from finding out more about their product or service. Help them access more people more quickly by arranging a group presentation where possible or beneficial.

6. Contribute to their professional or personal success with your skills or resources.

We live in a “me first” society. When we encounter a person who has a specific skill, and is willing to unselfishly use it to help us, we are very impressed and seek to return the favor. Work hard to discover the secret aspirations of the important people in your life, then do everything within your power to help them. You will be amazed at how quickly they will work as hard for you.

7. Develop your knowledge of, and contribute to, their family and personal status.

Our professional contacts tend to focus on business issues, overlooking the leverage value of family. There is nothing more important to us than our family, and we all have personal objectives that are important to us. Invest more time discovering the information relating to the family and personal issues of your key contacts. Helping them help their family to achieve objectives can be as powerful a leverage tool as helping close a sale.

8. Invest more time identifying their key contacts and organizations.

The important contacts we have want to help us succeed. By investing time to research who they know, we can make it easier for them to help. Listening and probing during conversations will elicit their key contacts. Sometimes who, or what, a person knows is more important. In some situations, a person’s knowledge or position in an organization can be helpful in achieving our goals. Their ability to influence others can a powerful asset.

9. Make it easy for them to help you by communicating your needs effectively.

One of the most common reasons why people don’t refer more business to us are they are unclear as to how they can help us. This is one of the main reasons they hesitate to recommend us to others. How you communicate your needs is as important as identifying them. Make it easy for others to help by having simple, precise needs that relate to them and their situation. Then communicate it.

10. Discover innovative, personalized ways to reward their help.

We all enjoy helping others. It’s a positive part of every relationship. But we also need to feel appreciated. Without positive feedback that our actions were helpful, we will not repeat the activity.

P.S.: Make it a point to reward others for their actions on your behalf. This could be as simple as a thank you call or note, or as elaborate as a gift certificate. Personalize your reward to make your reward more powerful and make others remember your thoughtfulness for their kindness.

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To get more info about Michael Hughes or to have him speak at your next meeting or conference, visit his web site at www.NetworkingForResults.com

The Metrics of Networking for Results – Part Two of Two

building relationships, Building trust, follow up, Generating referrals, Job or career search, Networking as a marketing strategy, Networking for sales success No Comments

You attended a networking event and made some quality contacts. The conversations you had indicated a number of these people could be candidates for your service offering or your next career move. How do convert these valuable connections into the results you need and deserve?

Networking for results consists of creating and developing relationships. Relationships need to be nurtured, require investment and take time to evolve. Expecting others to do business with you, refer you or hire you after a 30-second conversation isn’t just unrealistic; it flies in the face of how life works.

Relationships have a life of their own. They evolve and expand, develop and deepen through an on-going social process. This process is both measurable and manageable. Here are five metrics that can be monitored to maximize its impact.

Contact drives the speed at which a relationship develops. Managing contact, especially early on in a relationship, is crucial to its success. Contact, in and of itself, creates a personal connection, builds trust and stimulates bonding. One of the primary objectives in every communication should be to create and confirm a next-contact. Are you making contact a measurable component of relationships?

Context , the sense of connection to another human being, is the super-glue that accelerates and deepens a relationship. Relationships, especially those that are the most meaningful and powerful are holistic in nature. They transcend the “business only” perspective to include and, in fact emphasize, the personal side of a relationship. Every conversation should include a context-building component. Are you measuring your context-building impact in every relationship conversation?

Value is the essential quality at the center of our most treasured relationships. It can only be discovered over time, through contact and context. Initially, we tend to see value through the filter of our own agenda (i.e.: how our value can help others). The reality is the only time value is relevant is when it relates to the other person’s needs. Are you investing time in every relationship conversation to elicit value areas and value needs?

Contribution dictates the impact of a relationship. There is no question that unselfishly contributing to another person’s business, life or success has a huge impact. The key to leveraging this in a relationship is to identify a high-need area and focus the contribution on that. The bonus is that the perception of contribution is as powerful as the contribution itself. Are you continuously looking ways to make tangible and specific contributions to those who are your highest-value relationships?

Outcomes are a requirement of relationship management. Yes, relationships, in and of themselves, are both satisfying and enjoyable. Having said that, and especially as it relates to professional relationships, there is a need to establish clear, tangible outcomes. Without them, you will never be willing to make the investment in time, effort and resources necessary. Are you clarifying and confirming the results you require from your highest-value relationships?

Summary: every one of the categories listed above represents a contributing factor to relationship success whether in business, sales or career development. Each one is a measurable component that can and should be planned and monitored to ensure the relationship is moving forward by design, not be default.

NOTE: want to start measuring your relationship results? Email me at info@NetworkingForResults.com to receive a free copy of my one-page Relationship Planning & Tracking Summary.

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Michael J. Hughes is a recognized authority on utilizing networking as a business strategy. To find out more about him, or to have him present at your next meeting or conference, contact him at his web site at http://www.networkingforresults.com/.

Top 10 Chamber of Commerce Business-Building Tactics

building relationships, Building trust, follow up, Generating referrals, Uncategorized No Comments

In assessing today’s marketplace, you realize that you must improve your visibility and credibility. You’ve made the important decision to join the Chamber of Commerce. How can you make sure your investment of time, money and effort pays off? Check out these proven, practical tactics.

1. Research the Chamber Directory. Scan the member directory, using a highlighter, to identify those companies and/or people who are your highest-value contacts or prospects. This simple act will allow you to immediately focus your attention and efforts to the right members, accelerating your chances of maximizing your attendance at events.

2. Meet with Chamber executive/leader. Make it a point to schedule a coffee or lunch (at your cost) with the top Chamber of Commerce executive or volunteer leader (or both). During this meeting, invest time to discover the Chamber’s mandate, main issues and needs. Then position yourself, your company and your products/services to support or strengthen the Chamber. This will separate you from your competitors and highlight your professionalism and integrity.

3. Schedule Chamber events. The mainstay of leveraging your Chamber of Commerce membership is attending events. Check the annual Chamber event calendar and lock in these important dates. Make it a priority to attend all events, especially early in your membership. When others become aware you are serious about investing in the Chamber, they will share their contacts and colleagues. Fully 75% of your success with the Chamber of Commerce rests with this tactic.

4. Arrive early. Most quality networking occurs prior to an event. Arriving early means you will meet more people and you can position yourself as a one-person welcoming committee. Also, this is an ideal time to connect with Chamber staff required to be at the event. These invaluable resources will share information and assist in meeting the right people. This little-used tactic has incredible potential to help you achieve more and better results.

5. Collect business cards. Develop the discipline of asking for business cards. This is one of the most misunderstood issues about networking. By getting the other person’s contact information, you have control. Get into the habit of asking “Can I get your card?” It’s expected (yet rarely done), others will be honored you asked and you will have all the information you need to follow up, if you so choose.

6. Have a product positioning statement. Help other members help you by having a short statement that identifies your target market, the top benefit of your product/service and the result of doing business with you. Prepare and practice delivering this important statement until you can do it naturally. Use it in every conversation. Remember, others will forget from one meeting to the next.

7. Follow up with contacts. Fully 90% of professionals admit they don’t follow up as well as they could or should. Connecting at a Chamber of Commerce event is the ignition point of a relationship. Following up with a new connection within 48 hours of meeting is not only a good idea, it is essential if you want to move the relationship forward. Chamber events create contact, your job is to link into the relationship process by following up.

8. Contribute value. Most networking and event contacts are quickly forgotten. Every once in a while, however, we connect with someone who makes a significant impact on us through their sincere efforts on our behalf. Be that person. Rather than using Chamber of Commerce events to prospect, see each new member contact as an opportunity to contribute. When others become aware of your sincerity and compassion, they will remember you and work on your behalf. This has been my business and life philosophy. Trust me, it works.

9. Think long term. Some Chamber of Commerce members, especially new arrivals, expect short term results. There is no question other members may express interest, but more often than not, they will require more than a cursory overview of your product or service to make an investment. Rather than finding fault with this reality, seek to delay your expectations of personal gain. Instead, work on building long term relationships. These powerful resources will supply repeated results that will grow over time

10. Measure results. Investing in a Chamber of Commerce is, above all, a business investment. As such, there is a requirement that it be managed effectively and produce tangible outcomes. Establishing specific objectives that are time-specific will help manage and maximize your Chamber of Commerce investment. Review them on a quarterly, monthly and weekly basis. This will allow you to monitor your progress and motivate you to achieve even more success.

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Michael Hughes is known as THE Networking Guru. To find out more about him and receive a complimentary copy of his ebook “Managing The Networking Experience”, visit his web site at www.NetworkingForResults.com.

5 Most Powerful Referral Motivators

Building trust, Generating referrals, Networking as a marketing strategy, Networking for sales success No Comments

How can you increase the quantity and quality of referrals you receive from colleagues, clients and contacts? Review each category below and rate yourself. Then commit to improving your performance in one area, and watch the referrals accelerate.

1. Expertise

One of the greatest assets an individual can develop is to be regarded as an expert in his or her field. We all defer to an expert. Developing and promoting your expertise with respect to your product or service is one of the most effective ways to get more referrals.

Strategy: help others become more aware of your level of skill and competence so that contacts and associates will think of you first when it comes to your product or service.

2. Professionalism

The serious lack of quality and professionalism today means that any small competitive difference can have a tremendous positive impact. People relate to a professional attitude and behavior with stronger feelings of trust and value.

Strategy: strive to have others see you as a professional resource they will feel comfortable in sharing with others by continually emphasizing areas such as attention to detail, punctuality and integrity.

3. Value

Value is a pre-requisite to doing business with others. As soon as we become aware of the value of a product or service, we move to a positive state of mind because we can justify our expenditure in time, money or energy.

Strategy: continually develop and re-enforce the value you represent so that others will be proud to share your services with their friends and associates.

4. Service

It is an accepted fact that the service level in our society is appalling. We as consumers are starving for people who appreciate and respect our investment in their services. As soon as others become aware that we care about them and their situation, they become our most loyal advocates and advertisers.

Strategy: demonstrate a quality of service so high and valued, your customers and friends will have others feel indebted to them for suggesting you and your services.

5. Trust

The #1 thing we sell is trust. When we are in the process of making a buying decision, one of the most powerful influencing forces is the level of trust we feel towards the other person involved in the transaction. Trust, in fact, can be the single reason why we do business with others, overriding all other criteria.

Strategy: focus on developing and maintaining trust in relationships so that others will feel more confident in suggesting your products or services when discussing the needs and issues of their close friends and associates.

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Michael Hughes is known as THE Networking Guru. To contact Michael about a presentation for your group, team or association, or to receive his FREE weekly email networking tip, visit his web site at www.NetworkingForResults.com

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