The opportunities to meet others are endless, starting with BNI, and on to chamber events, power lunches, coffee, seminars, before hours, after hours, during hours, open houses and ribbon cuttings. We all look for ways to connect with people, we look for ways to help others either through our business or by making introductions to others. Through all the networking we do, we need to remember the words of Dr. Ivan Misner, “It’s not net-sit or net-eat; it’s net-work.” Because its work, we should look first at our goals.  It is important to have a goal of what you want to achieve.  It could be about meeting potential clients, building alliances, or establishing credibility.  Once you know your goal then you need   to work on a plan on how you will achieve it and what your time commitment is to this goal. Without a plan we can easily find that networking quickly turns into not-working. Another characteristic of net-working is to know the costs associated with networking, the cost of membership, but also the cost of your time – time is a finite resource – you can’t get more, so how you invest it matters. And finally we need to treat networking with the same energy we put into the other work we do. Focusing on the person we are with, attention to the details, look for ways to add value, great communication, and follow up. Your challenge:  whether here at BNI or another event, set your goals, have a plan, and stay focused when net-working.

How Can I Help You

This is perhaps the most powerful question we can ask in business, Lets take a look at why. Starting with the HOW, in the HOW can I help you?  We are looking for specifics, details, instructions on what we can do to be of service, to assist someone in their cause.  We want clarity on exactly how someone would like us to be of help to them, no guessing, no missing the mark – we want to know. Next comes CAN, in the How CAN I help you?  We want to put ourselves in a position where we are able to extend ourselves, where we are in the position to lend a hand, we want to know the circumstances that are a natural for extending ourselves to others. I, In the How can I help you?  This is about me, all about me, being in the right circumstance, in the right frame of mind, in a position of power that allows me to extend myself on your behalf and make a recommendation, provide some insight, make a connection.  It’s about me taking action. HELP, in the how can I HELP you.  We are looking for ways to lend a hand, we want to play a supporting role, to be truly helpful to you in moving your business forward.  Offering help is about making it easier for someone else, providing assistance. And finally YOU, how can I help YOU?  When we make this offer, when we ask this question, we are solely focused on the other person and what would benefit them.  The focus on you is about giving without expectation of receiving, or as we often refer to it as givers gain. Your challenge: the next time you are working with a power partner, dancing with a fellow BNI member, or working with a client – ask the powerful question How can I help you? And then sit back and listen carefully to the answer.

Consistently Consistent

Being consistent is critical to both short term and long term success.  If you want on-going success than doing something once just doesn’t cut it.
  • The word consistency means doing something the same thing time and time again.
  • To create a predictable routine, that generates the same results.
  • To do something in a systematic way on a regular basis.
  • The absence of contradictions.
When we create consistency in our work, we make it easy for our team, our suppliers and our clients to know what to expect from us.  They get used to knowing how things get done, what they can expect and when they can expect it.  Contrary to popular belief this doesn’t make us boring, but rather we become reliable and dependable, and someone that others can count on. Consistency has been hailed as the cornerstone of ethics.  It implies an inner integrity.  By being consistent with who we are, it shows up in our words and in our actions.  As we all are aware actions speak louder than words; therefore acting in a consistent manner will provide evidence to those around us that we have integrity and through this trust is built. Imagine what your life would look like if you were able to achieve true consistency.  What would your business look like, what would your relationships look like? YOUR CHALLENGE:  Look at consistency in your life, where does it show up and what can you do to get more of it.

Networking Everywhere

You don’t have to be at a business event to network.  People are everywhere. You meet them at your kids sporting events, at church, at the gym, at the store, in line at the bank or the waiting at the deli. You never know who you might meet and where.  When you get used to saying a friendly ‘hello’ you just don’t know where it might lead.  People do business with people they like so being friendly and conversational can be the first step, especially when there are no expectations.  Getting used to starting conversations with complete strangers as you wait inline or sit in the bleachers at a game opens you up to a realm of possibilities. As you chat them up you can often learn something about what is going on in their life, you might even be able to make a connection for them to a realtor, a plumber, or a local retailer. You will likely find that most people are more than happy to talk but are reluctant to be the one to break-the-ice and start the conversation. Take the initiative and you will find you make a lot more friends, connections, and possible leads for your business. When the conversation inevitably comes to explaining what you do, make sure you’re crystal clear and can tell a story.  People like to hear stories, if they can be entertained or can relate to story they are more apt to make a connection with you. When two people are in close proximity, there is a natural desire to interact. At the same time people do not like to make the first move because they think the other person wants to be left in peace. As a conversation starter you’ll find that most people are happy to have someone to help pass the time of day. YOUR CHALLENGE: The next time you find yourself standing in line, say a friendly hello and ease into a conversation with someone around you.

Referral Triangle

Sometimes we forget that there are three people involved in every referral.
  • First, there is the Referral Source, often a close friend or colleague, sometimes known as the trusted advisor, or maybe known as simply as the person who ‘has a guy’.
  • Second, there is the person receiving a referral, the Referree, or maybe referred to as simply the ‘lucky one’.
  • And last but not least there is the Referral, the person or business that is being referred based on a need or a perceived need by either the Referral Source or the Referral Target.
At any given point in time, we may take on a different role in the referral triangle.  Because our role can change under different circumstances it is important to understand the responsibilities that come with each of the roles involved.  Let’s look at how this can play out. As the referral source, there is can be an overwhelming sense of responsibility for the quality of the individual or business that we are going to refer.  This feeling can have both positive and negative side effects.  On the positive side, by making sure that our referrals reflect our values and quality products or services, we are reinforcing our position as trusted advisor with quality connections.  On the negative side, the sense of responsibility can run deep and get in the way of making referrals or making connections because we strive for absolute certainty or believe that we must have used the service in order to refer business.  The lesson here is to be realistic and communicate your expectations to the person being referred in. As the person receiving the referral, we need to listen carefully to the person giving the referral.  Do they provide any sort of endorsement or personal experience with the individual that reinforces the quality of the referral.  Do they refer one person for the job or do they give you a short list of possible candidates.  There is nothing wrong with either approach – the choice is up to you to make sure that you are comfortable engaging the right product or service.  Your responsibility in this relationship is provide constructive feedback to the person giving the referral.  By letting them know your experience they will know even better about the quality of the referral and what to expect when referring them. And finally the referral.  As the person that is being referred in by someone else, you will be well served to take your queues from the person referring on timing, approach, and needs.  Your responsibility is to be responsive, to keep your source informed, to provide quality products and services, and most importantly thank your referral source. YOUR CHALLENGE:   The next time you have the opportunity to provide a referral take into account all three members of the referral triangle, know your role and recognize what their needs may be.

Service Matters

During difficult economic times service matters more than ever.  Let me tell you why… When times are good, people make decisions quickly and sometimes don’t notice your efforts.  In tighter times, people move more cautiously, and notice every extra effort that you make. When people buy during an economic downturn they are extremely conscious of the “hard earned” money they spend. Customers want more attention, appreciation and recognition for their purchases, not less. In tough times, people talk more with each other about saving money and getting good value. “Positive word of mouth” is a powerful force at any time. In difficult times, even more ears will be listening. Be sure the words spoken about your business are good ones. Giving great service in tough times makes good business sense. So how do you actually achieve it? Here are a few simple ideas you can use…
  • Use quality service to differentiate your business from your competition. Make a real difference by providing personalized, responsive and “extra-mile service” that stands out in a unique way which customers will appreciate and remember.
  • Learn to manage your customer’s expectations. You can’t always give customers everything their hearts desire. Sometimes you need to bring their expectations into line with what you know you can deliver. Another way to manage customers’ expectations is with the tactic called “Under Promise and Over Deliver”.
  • Bounce back with effective service recovery. Sometimes things do go wrong. When it happens to your customers, do everything you can to make things right again, as soon as possible. Restoring customer goodwill is worth the price in future orders and new business.
  • Appreciate your complaining customers. Customers with complaints can be your best allies in building and improving your business. They point out where your system is faulty, and where procedures are weak or problematic. The complainer gives you a chance to reply and set things right.
  • Make time to stand on the other side of the desk or listen on the other end of the phone. Be a “mystery shopper” at your own place of business. Or be a customer for your competition. What you notice is what your customers experience every day!
Finally, remember that service is the currency that keeps our economy moving. “I serve you in one business, you serve me in another. YOUR CHALLENGE: Focus on becoming known as a stellar customer service organization that just happens to be in your line of business!