Category: Networking Tips

Networking Tip: Pushing the Pushers

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Selling ourselves and our brand is all about presentation. Sometimes this means giving a speech in front of a crowd of interested parties, other times it calls for a cold sell to someone you’ve met mere minutes ago. While the art of selling is a great ability to have, there are those that take the effort too far during networking situations. In conversations, they are extremely pushy, refusing to let you get a word in. In front of groups, all they can talk about is how wonderful their brand is. Though these individuals can’t be avoided,  here’s the first networking tip so they can be out maneuvered so long as you know how to approach the situation.

Listen

Immediately brushing a pushy salesperson aside can swiftly open up the door to unwanted return visits. They’ll mark you as possibly interested until they get to explain the entire scenario. In order to keep your time with them to a minimum, listen to the pitch the first time. Worst case scenario, you don’t like their brand. At this point, feel free to hand them a firm “no” and be on your way. In many cases, this will get the person to move on, as they don’t want to waste their own time, either. This is because, to them, the pitch is everything. If it can’t convince you, nothing else will.

The only time you should feel free to immediately stop the pitch is if you know it’s a product you do not nor will ever need. A coffee shop owner, for instance, would find no reason to ever purchase a fancy line of staplers, so why even waste time listening to such a spiel? During this type of situation, cut the individual off immediately, explain why you don’t need to hear anymore and feel free to move on. They’ll appreciate your honesty and respect for both of your schedules.

Exchange Information

If, during this networking event, you are strapped for time, it’s far more advantageous to get around to as many people as possible rather than get bogged down with a pusher that won’t take “no” for an answer. If you’ve found yourself stuck, ask for their business card and feel free to hand yours over as well. This will offer the potential of further communication outside of the event so both of you can go on to take further advantage of the event. For salesman, this means a possible avenue. For you, this means offering a better venue to hear the sales pitch at, one where there are no time limits.

Remember that once you are in the virtual arena, you exert a bit more power over the conversation. If you never want to deal with the email address again, block it or delete the email. If there’s a bit of interest, you’ll have time to read an email with all the information you need to make an informed decision. While it still may end up that there’s no interest on your end, moving conversation to a more personal level is appreciated by any brand.

Cut the Act

If you’ve ever had to sell anything, you understand that pitches are typically rehearsed and memorized down to the last punctuation mark. This preparation shines through the pasted on smiles of someone that has set their sights on you. Before they launch into the extended version of their product’s praise, catch them off guard. Joke about seeing how they’re ready to start their spiel. Remark on how prepared they look to perform what they’ve rehearsed for so long. This typically forces the salesperson to break character, leading to a real conversation rather than a canned stint.

Knocking them out of their rhythm my sound negative, but it’s a tactic that doesn’t have to end up in bruised egos or hurt feelings. If you are genuinely interested in the brand itself, getting them to drop the sales routine is the quickest way to have a serious discussion without all the fluff. You’ll get the answers you need, they’ll get to talk about what they want to talk about and no one’s time will be wasted as they try and hook you in with an obvious charade.

Use it to Your Advantage

At the end of the day, the pushy salesman needs to make sales in order to have made a success out of the networking event. Whether it’s a definite deal on the floor or bringing back an enormous collection of business cards to the office, these individuals are severely goal oriented, putting up blinders to virtually every social cue. Instead of trying to evade an insistence that will quickly overpower your passive avoidance, use it to your advantage. They sell something you might want. So do their competitors. How can they make their offer more enticing? Poke and prod to see just what kind of a deal you can strike.

Never be against window shopping. Typically, there will be four to five other brands selling similar products with each offering their own pros and cons. Be sure to spend some time perusing the various sellers to build a list of options being offered to you. Then, bring the offers around to the other brands to see just how far each company is willing to go to match the other. They can also help you pinpoint cons about one another that would not have seemed obvious to you at the start.

Salespeople can’t be faulted for wanting to grow their brand. It’s a desire each one of us has. Unfortunately, this means there are quite a few that willingly ignore societal cues in order to get one step closer toward making a sale. If you find yourself up against one of these pushy individuals at your next networking function, do what you can to make the most of the situation. Just because they’re annoying doesn’t always mean they should be ignored.

With Great Networking Comes Great Responsibility

Networking Strategy MeetingsIt’s easy to be the one at a networking event littering the place with your business cards, belting out a chorus of “me, me, me”, and treating people as if they were things instead of people.

I recently witnessed it at a networking event.

It was conference and it was the welcome mixer.  Everyone was mixing, mingling, and there were occasional heartfelt reunions where you would see genuine hugging and laughter.  I had my own as a saw a friend of mine and fellow BRANDido (term of endearment of those who participate in #branchat – a Twitter chat all about branding).

Then, there was that guy.  You know – the one who wants to meet all the “important people”.

I didn’t have speaker on my badge. And, he didn’t recognize the business so he said his hello, how are you, is this your first time at this conference and quickly disengaged.

But, before he left he asked for my Twitter handle so we can follow each other (which is code for so you can follow me).

Then, he stopped where he was walking to.  Our digital manager pegged it first.  He leaned over to me and said, “he just read your Twitter profile and now you’re someone worth knowing.”

And, he turned around and asked me – so you are the head of #brandchat?

Sorry mate! Those kind of networkers are a dime a dozen.  Sadly, I don’t even remember his name to try to disguise it for this post.

They are the card collectors and the people who work through and use people.  If you’ve ever seen the movie, The Internship, he’s the Grant.

Don’t be that guy.

Top 6 Things Bad Networkers Do (And How to Not Be Like Them)

Eight Signs You’re A Terrible Networker

What Good Networkers Do… and Don’t Do

4 Places Where You Should Not Be Networking

Look at the person not the name tag

I have always said that you never know who someone is, who they will become or who they influence.

Then, I come across those networkers that are reading name tags, or follower count, fans or even titles to gauge if someone is “worth” talking to.

In order to make good connections, people have to have the opportunity to sample your character and competence and you must also take the opportunity to sample someone else’s character and competence.  This means getting to know them.

It’s also good to burn useless bridges, according to Gregory Ciotti.

“This skill is an absolute must to learn.

Eventually, you’re going to come across “leeches,” people who you’ve connected with but don’t see the relationship as give-and-take, more like, “How much can I get out of you?”

Networking is supposed to help you grow your business by meeting genuinely awesome people, not create a network of vultures who only reach out to you when they need something.

Cut these people off, and fast, you don’t need anyone holding you back.”

8 Networking Skills that Every Professional Needs to Have

Networking the Right Way: People Remember How You Make Them Feel

The 5 Keys to Networking Online Successfully

Be in the now

How many times have we heard that grunt of “uh huh” or that “oh yeah” that didn’t really have any meaning behind it.

At a networking event, if you’re thinking who this person could connect you with or what you can get from them, it’s tough to focus on the “now”.

When your mind is in the future, it is busy strategizing and you cannot hear and be fully present to the person that you’re with.

7 Tips for Networking

13 Things Mindful People Do Differently Every Day

Focus on Your Connection and Conversation

How can you help?

Do you know how you help others?  And, how do you deliver value to their lives?

When you network, if you help people in any aspect of their lives they see you as someone who can be helpful – regardless of the area of their life they need help.

It is the authentic desire to help that makes all the difference.

It is why when you network that quality beats out quantity.  If you can have a quality conversation with someone (one where you learn what they need help with our how you can help), and if you leave your “sales focus” at the door and focus on the person, you can not only develop the “know, like and trust” factor faster, you can solidify a relationship and loyalty.

It’s not givers gain

I’ve never liked that phrase.  It sounds like the motive is to gain something and in order to do that you’ll give something in exchange.

It seems very transactional and not relational.

Any networking event I’ve gone to when that’s chanted has felt like a group of people swarming others to find out “what makes them tick” and then to descend upon that information with the goals of giving something and expecting reciprocation in return.

It just never felt right.

In fact, it often brought to mind a question and answer lesson a good friend of mine, Jose Zertuche, would always share with me. He would ask, “What’s the difference between a salesperson and a con man especially when both can be so charismatic?”  His response, “intent”.  What’s your intent?

In giver’s gain, the intent to me seems solely focused on the giver with the focus (from the get go) to get that other to reciprocate.

5 Ways to Communicate Appreciation in Networking

Communicating genuine appreciation has been on my mind lately.

And, it’s a good thing since I appreciate any opportunity to focus on the good and the good things of connecting with other people

In networking with others, it is about forming friendships and alliances.  It is about seeing who is a good fit with your values, your business and your business goals.

Realistically we know that good networking takes work.

When someone’s taken the time to meet with you, converse with you or carry a conversation further than a mixer, how do you communicate appreciation in a way that meaningful to them and therefore more valuable?

#1 – Write your appreciation to them

A handwritten note still speaks volumes and is valued more than a quick thank you email, text or even a voice message of thanks.

Why E-Mail Will Never Replace the Handwritten Note

The Forgotten Power of Handwritten Notes

Some things are not meant to be simply digital.

When writing out your appreciation, it doesn’t need to be lengthy it just needs to be specific and personal.

Identify what it is that they did that you appreciate.  It’s not enough just to say “I appreciate you” or “Thank you”.  Take the time to be specific and identify what it is they did.

Then, go into how it helped you and then in the last sentence how it made a difference.

The structure is this by each sentence is:

  1. Thank them and state what you are specifically thanking them for
  2. How that has helped you.
  3. How it has made a difference.

For example:

“Thank you for taking the time to chat on the phone with me today.  You really helped me to understand what the holidays mean for your business.  Your insights really give me a better understanding of your schedule and give me some ideas on how I can help save you time.  Thank you for your help!”

#2 – Spend some quality time with your contact

All though handwritten notes are by far the most popular and meaningful way to express sincere appreciation to a networking connection – they are not the only way.  And, they are not always the best.

For some, having someone spend some uninterrupted quality time with them can say “thank you” more than any note could.

This could happen as a group like at a sports game or event. Or, even a group of connections going to lunch together.

Or, it could take place one-on-one as a meeting or even over coffee.

For some, just having someone slow down long enough to hear them and to value their time or company, is the highest form of appreciation they could ever receive.

Nothing says “I appreciate you” more than an investment of your time, especially because everyone knows how busy you are.

#3 – Do something that they want done for them in return

Have you ever heard the term – words are cheap?

Or this one – actions speak louder than words?

Those come from someone who would feel appreciated when someone provide an act of service to them to helpout.

Imagine that a networking contact of yours who has truly been helpful to you is completely swamped with work and cannot even get a chance to check a sporting schedule or potentially a great restaurant s/he would like to take the family to.

What if you went ahead and research the schedule and sent it to them?  Or found some great reviews on family friendly restaurants and sent that link to them or even provided them a contact name/phone number of someone at that restaurant.

Sometimes those kind acts of service are exactly the language of appreciation that someone would here.

Recently, I spoke at an event and was in the buffet line with a fellow speaker who within our 10 minutes in the line provided such a wealth of knowledge to me that I was genuinely grateful.  I then asked him what he was working on that I might be able to help with because I did appreciate his willingness to help me and answer my questions so thoroughly.  He responded that he was working on his first book and provided me some details.   I sent him a book on how to get started and the name of a book writing coach and publicist that could help him.  He called me and said what I provided him just really showed him how grateful I was for his help.

#4 – Gifts can show them how appreciative you are.

Not everyone is excited about receiving gifts.  But for those who are, be sure that the gift is specific to them. Sending golf balls to someone who doesn’t golf, is not a great way for you to show your appreciation and value for them.

If you send them specialty coffee and they’re not a coffee drinker, it could potentially hurt the relationship mores that it would nurture it leaving them feeling like you really don’t know them and you haven’t really been paying attention or listening to them.

The Problem with Gifts of Appreciation

#5 – Attaboys, Fist-bumps and Pats on the back

These are normally spontaneous but remember to give someone something like these after you know what they prefer.

Extending a fist bump to someone who’s not familiar with a fist bump can be quite awkward.

Fist bumps can’t replace handshakes: Your Say

Keep these five ways that your appreciation can be heard and received with the gratitude that you intended.

Any others’ that you’ve come across not mentioned here?

Please mention them in the comment section below.

5 Things You Need to Stop Doing Now to Create Strong Connections in 2015

I know, I know – the year’s just barely halfway through and now I’m writing about next year’s activities.  You can start now to put the foundation and resources in place so that you’re one step ahead of everyone.

Making Connections Work for Your Brand (and more importantly for you, it’s important to create strong connections)

You probably have heard the expression “people do business with those they know and trust.” It’s true. In a world where we are constantly bombarded with sales pitches, sales offers and an endless stream of online updates and messages, it’s the people you trust and have personal connections with that are likely to come through for you.

Ask any senior level executive, industry leader or even politician which skill plays a big part of their success – and a large majority will say making connections/networking. If you want to grow your brand, making the right connections is crucial.

As you embark on making meaningful connections, you realize that not everyone in or associated with your brand might have the same networking skills as you do. People are different, and where you might excel in communicating with others, some of your team members might not do so well. As a brand, you want to portray a unified front, so identifying members who may need a little work on their networking skills is important.

Do you need to develop your connection skillset? Here are some helpful articles for you to develop a foundation for online and offline connections:

The Importance of Connections

Why is making connections so important?

For starters, no man is an island. You need people around you to help you grow, learn and to share information with. But further from the team that helps your brand grow, you need people that will buy into the strategy and vision you have set out. For this to happen, a connection has to happen first.

Meaningful connections will share the vision that you have, and through word of mouth communicate it with others they interact with. A positive word dropped here and there works wonders for your brand. Also, it is through such connections that you start establishing your business contacts.

Through connections, you are able to understand the best practices and trends in your industry or area of expertise. Attending conferences and meetings allows you to interact with thought leaders and experts, and by making connections you learn the best methods and resources to use to deliver results effectively and efficiently.

The importance of developing relationships around your brand:

1.  Stop trying to look big

Be real, be human

Let your brand portray a human side. Be real and genuine in your messaging and approach. Know the target audience you cater. You are a good starting point of the ideal audience, so think what would appeal to you. How would you like to be approached?

It’s all about engaging with people and making meaningful, genuine connections. Listen and learn, and you’ll be on your way to creating the kind of connections you want.

Small business owners, this is where you excel.  Keep from wasting that by trying to look big and putting large business practices in place that encumber your responsiveness.

To Do Item:  Remain agile, responsive and human in your interaction. 

2.  Stop acquiring more connections than you can cultivate

Earlier I wrote that you need Stop Meeting People to Be Known and Get Referred and that’s a practice that you need to put into place before 2015.

Superficial connections, huge lists of contacts, and putting everyone that we meet into our database only becomes problematic, unmanageable and stressful to us.  It also takes away from the great connections that we could possibly make with others since all of our energy is often squandered away in trying to manage everyone we have contact with.

To Do Item:  When it comes to relationship building, less is more.

3.  Stop thinking it’s a numbers game.

It’s important to be strategic in our connections and in order to do that we have to know what it is we uniquely deliver to a connection.  When we know what it is we know or uniquely bring to any connection, then we can begin to develop relationships with others who can be a part of our support network, referral or information network.  Variety trumps quantity.   Developing stellar connections, means looking for others who have additional information or perspective that can lend itself to our growth and understanding.  It’s not about seeking others who speak from the same beliefs or even same knowledge background.

To Do Item:  Know your unique skills and perspective to strategically seek others who can complement us.

4.  Stop developing boundaries around your roles

When you have a variety of connections that can be helpful to others, you are in a perfect position to be a “hub” of resources to your connections.  Stop separating your resources by roles.  A great event planner at your church could be a stellar connection for customer in need of some ideas or connections on planning an “open house” event for their business.  A great volunteer you connect with at a non-profit who knows all the ins and outs of a word processing software, could be a great resources or even trainer to your team members (or connections) on knowing all the shortcuts in using this software.

To Do Item: Reach across the many roles you play in your life from PTA parent to member of the board of directors – bringing people together across a variety of roles is a valuable skillset.  

5.  Stop guarding your resources

In a minute you can Google most anything that you want to know more about so the days of keeping a resources or piece of information “top secret” are fleeting. When you can recognize problems or opportunities, and provide solutions you elevate your value in someone’s mind.  I’m not saying to “give the farm away”. What I’m recommending is when you find a great tool to help someone solve a problem, then share the information with them.

In positioning people who are experts in their field, you often here this statement, “identify the problem before they even know about that problem and you’ll be seen as an expert.”  The same belief applies here. Identify a solution or resource before they even know where to begin seeking assistance and you’ll be seen as a valuable connection.

To Do Item:  What resources have you been using, that you could inform someone about that would assist them? Start getting into a habit of reviewing your resources and sharing how people can acquire the resource for themselves. 

3 Practices That Elevate You as a Leader in Intelligent Connections

This past week I participated in a Community Manager Hangout and enjoyed learning more from fellow community developers.  It was a learning moment along with lots of affirmation of practices that I myself actually do along with practices that I train/coach others on. As I listened to the other panelists, I kept wondering why the title they’ve been given for their profession is community “manager”. After all, a community is created of individual people.  And, for a long time, I’ve tried to live a life engaged with others with this thought in mind, “Manage Things; Lead People”. 

This amazing group of individuals don’t just “manage” their community – they lead, nurture, care, feed, encourage, inspire and motivate their community members.  Why chance managing people and leaving them to feel like numbers, unimportant and mere statistics to a business?  A beautiful practice that was mentioned on the Hangout to increase their own creativity in their own community development was to continually people watch.  In dealing with online relationships, it’s easy to forget some of the basics in human interaction.  After all, you’re dealing with a realm that interacts at the speed of thought, the anonymity of behind the screen conversations and first interactions that are often complaints and concerns.  When you engage in watching people interactions in the offline world, it helps remind you of some of the nuances in relationship building that are second nature for us in face-to-face interactions but not easily read or shared in keyboard interactions.

As you strive to make more intelligent connections, along with people watching, here are some great articles to help you focus on using your online and offline resources to strengthen and build relationships:

Here are three practices to implement immediately to strengthen your connections:

  1. Know Your S.O.A.R.

We often hear of the S.W.O.T. analysis in business.  SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.  While this is widely used as a way to assess many business situations, I prefer, when you’re making connections, to not give life to the negative.  Sometimes when you look for the threat you often find it or even inadvertently develop the circumstances that create it.

I, personally, focus on a S.O.A.R. analysis.  SOAR stands for Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations and Results.

It’s imperative that you know your Strengths. This is your unique promise of value that you alone deliver to each and every situation and interaction.  It doesn’t matter the environment – that’s your strength area and deliverable.

Then, it’s also your job to know and seek your Opportunities.  What’s available to you now? What current networks are you already involved in? What connections do you already have that might need to be developed?

Aspirations are your goals. They are what you want to accomplish coupled with the “why” you want to accomplish them.

And what Results do you want? What’s the end game? What’s the definition of success for you and how will you know you’ve achieved it?

I could go on but my colleague, Peter Sterlacci, does an excellent job covering the topic completely and here’s another article that also focuses on your S.O.A.R.

For you to make the best and strongest connections, ever, you will need to S.O.A.R. first.

  1.  Empower others and build community with them

When you empower and encourage others, their sense of belonging to a community and being a valued member increases.  I’m not asking you to be a community developer, but I am recommending that you act as a community developer.

If you are the hub of information, resources and support, you become a valuable resource and ally to others.  Understand that being that hub must come from a place of sincerity and if it doesn’t then it will be the opposite of empowering and actually demotivating to others.

How can you empower others?

  1. Let go of the reins and let them steer, provide input and feedback.
  2. Encourage opportunities for sharing thoughts and ideas.
  3. Listen actively. This means listening for feeling and not just the words.  The best advice I ever received from someone about communicating in text mode is to:

Read first for the words and the content; Read second for the feeling and the context. (tweet this!)

  1. Know when your own personal idiosyncrasies or frames of reference might be getting in the way of you fully providing credence to someone’s thoughts.
  2. Be coherent to your own values.  Consistency is often thrown around as something you want to be (I’ve used it myself).  Yet, I recently learned that being coherent allows you to adjust and grow while still utilizing your values as a guidepost and the very essence of who you are. They are still your non-negotiables but they are not stagnant.

Here’s where I heard about brand coherence and a few other great lessons:

  1.  Loyalty matters and goes both ways

It does. Stephen Covey said it well in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, when he said “retain the loyalty of those people in the room by not speaking ill of those people outside of the room.”

You solidify trust when someone has the opportunity to sample your character and competence and they see coherent behavior.  They develop an affinity for you when they see the sum of all your attributes is congruent with what you say.  Reputation is currency these days and it’s that currency that will finance third party endorsements and positive word of mouth.

If interactions do not feel personalized, then people will not take you personally to their personal circle of influence or provide their personal recommendations.

I extend this thought as you take online relationships and turn them to offline meetings. During the Hangout, I mentioned going to conferences for the sake of the “hallway conversations”.  Those hallway interactions are far more valuable than the content inside the meeting rooms. While I do value the training, if my purpose for going to an event/conference is to network.  Then, it’s my work to reach out to the people and relationships that I want to develop further.

It’s easy to be distracted by the celebrity hype at some of these events.  A huge name makes an appearance, a star/guru imparts amazing wisdom on us and there’s a book signing to boot! Remember, that the true value is in the relationships that you form and strengthen during the event.  The value is not in those one off selfies of you and the “star”.  It’s the selfies of you and the person who’s been your online supporter for the last three years (Gary J. Nix); or the person who created a loyalty program for your chat that’s become a foundation of your twitterchat (Gerald Moczynski, I’m In Stitches LLC); or the person that selflessly connects you with others and is a bright morning smile each and every day you jump online (Brandie McCallum).

Quick Tip: When going to a conference or face to face event, don’t just go “hoping” to meet people.  Go with a plan and be strategic.

  1. Invite people that are already in your online circle who may be going or be from the area to meet AFK (away from the keyboard).
  2. Look to see who the speakers, authors, presenters are and make a “hit list” of who you would like to meet and develop a relationship with further.  These people can be great allies along with provide cutting edge information since they are keeping a finger on the pulse of your industry.
  3. Look for the conference organizing staff’s names and other industry leaders and make it a point to be in those sessions, lunches, meetings, break times with them to develop at first awareness of who you are and then listen intently as you learn and develop relationship.

I made this video for a specific online networking group, but the practice I outline in it can apply to any face-to-face event.  Alignable Members Tutorial:  An Easy Way to Make the Most of Your Alignable Membership

I would appreciate hearing your own stories of how you take the lead in your own relationship and connection development. Please share them in the comments section!

4 Easy Steps to Crafting Your Vital Connection Story

The cornerstone of connections is the relationships we develop that compel others to connect us with their circle of influence and speak positively on our behalf.

The cadence of relationship building is tempered by the opportunities that someone has to get to know you and to sample your character and competence.  One of the ways to accelerate this is being able to tell a story in a succinct way that elicits emotions, creates a stronger connection with others and even inspires them.

Here are some solid posts about the importance and scarcity (and value) of those with great relationship building skills.

Brevity is key

It’s easy (and annoying) to be a lengthy story teller.  When you’re consistently singing out “me, me, me, me, me” you’ll quickly find people disconnecting from and even avoiding you.

Getting to the point or the interesting aspects is important in your story telling, your profiles and your social networks.

I coach and train on creating a solid core network strategy, developing next relationship steps. While many can make friends, many waste time or create as they go and don’t know how to develop a solid social portfolio.

Here are the four key components to crafting a powerful connection story:

Step One:  Give the Background (in short form)

This is your “once upon a time”.  It gives the listener a frame of reference and literally brings them to the same page where your story starts.

Imagine your best customer and be able to describe them demographically along with their wants, interests and networks and put that at the beginning of your story.

It sets the stage for your connections to understand the main character (what your best client looks like and sounds like) and aligns that character with their own hopes, anxieties and dreams.

Step Two:  Share the Conflict

The conflict in a story is the struggle.  It’s what suddenly happens that challenges your main character.  Picture your best customer or something that you recently accomplished, what is the problem you solved or it solved.  Communicate what that problem is in this section of your storytelling.

Be very detailed in this section (yet still brief!)  You want your listener to see themselves and their struggle in this character and conflict.

Step Three:  Describe the Turning Point

This point in the story is when things finally start to move in a different direction and it may not always be a positive direction. But, in your case and your vital connection story – more than likely it will be a positive turn for the better that you were involved in creating.

From here, things start to work themselves out in the story.

Step Four:  The Resolution

This is the solution.  It’s the “happily ever after”.  Describe what happened, how you helped and how this benefited your client.  Connect the dots for your listener.

Here’s an example:

Step One – The Background:  There was this entrepreneur who felt she was continually “making it up as she goes along” as she built and developed relationships.

Step Two – The Conflict:   Then, she started to get a few more clients.  Not enough to make a huge impact on revenue but enough to keep her too busy to market. When those customers left, she had no more customers and no more prospective potential customers to call on.

Step Three – The Turning Point:  I helped train her to create a strategy so that she was making the necessary connections of people who consistently refer business to her and coached her on developing those relationships.

Step Four – The Resolution:  Her business, for the last two years, has hit a consistent level of revenue growth making marketing simpler for her, easily do-able, more effectively and profitably producing results.

Your turn!

Please share your four step story below.  I look forward to reading them!

How to Accelerate the Referral Process in Personal Meetings

It’s often said that social media is word of mouth on steroids.  It gives quick opportunities for people to get to know you, your interests and your specialties.  And, it gives them a window into your character and competence.

Instead of viewing social media as a platform that can take the place of personal meetings, start looking at social media as a way to connect with people prior to meeting them in person. It’s a way to interact and engage with them and to help you overcome that first hurdle when you finally meet them face to face (or via Google Hangout, Skype, or even phone).

Focus on making sure your initial impression and connection are ones that encourage someone to connect with you more.

Make a Good First Digital Impression

If a person you’re scheduled to meet visits your social profiles prior to your meeting, would they feel informed and encouraged to meet or would they feel concerned and apprehensive?

Imagine the scenario in which a professional contact sees your Facebook account and you’re ranting about a stupid advertisement campaign you saw online and you’re throwing around absolutes about disliking people or your exhibiting solid closed minded behavior.

Here are other tips to help you make that first digital impression that’s worth a second look:

LinkedIn Helps You Connect Better

There’s a reason that the articles listed previously often mentioned LinkedIn.   LinkedIn is still considered the most professional and business focused social network.  If the person you’re meeting face-to-face for the first time is a second or third degree connection on LinkedIn, this knowledge can really help you engage better with that person. Because of the connection, you can ask the person to whom you’re mutually connected to make an introduction, or you can easily introduce yourself beforehand and mention the name of the person you’re both connected to. Once you are able to meet and chat with each other on LinkedIn, it could easily pave the way for a better and more interesting meeting in person.

Think about it: Who would you trust more? A person whom you have a mutual connection with on LinkedIn, or a person who shares a mutual friend with you on Facebook?

Give Yourself Authority

Through answering questions and participating in discussions and groups, social platforms provide opportunity for you to become known as an expert in your field. As more and more people get to know what you’re about, it really fosters the potential for deeper relationships to be formed when you finally meet face-to-face. You become an authoritative figure in your career or industry, and people you meet in person are more likely to carefully consider what it is that you have to say.

Creating a group is also a great way to connect with people who have similar interests and passions. By being a group’s administrator, you establish yourself as an authoritative figure, and the more popular your group is, the farther your reach. When people come to know you as the leader of the group, this will make it easier to establish better relationships in personal meetings.

It’s easy to develop groups in Facebook, LinkedIn and even through Twitter Chats.

Research Your Connection (and Know They Will Research You)

Before meeting someone, find out how you know each other or some common frames of reference.  Communication and connection happen much easier when you do have some common interests and helps in quickly building rapport.

In today’s highly digitalized world, many people are forgoing personal meetings; they are instead focusing on connecting with others through social media and other forms of digital communication. But you should always keep in mind that strong personal connections are best formed in person (again, let me qualify that this can happen via phone, Google Hangout or Skype).

The Secret to Making Networking Work

Some people love it while others hate it, but it can’t be denied that networking is an essential part of business and socialization. This is how you form meaningful relationships with other people, whether they’re your clients, business partners, colleagues or even your bosses.

But there is such a thing as networking the right way. You want to make sure that you network effectively, which means connecting with the other person in a good way. You don’t want to leave anyone feeling used and abused in your attempts to make that person a part of your network.

As you know, people remember how you make them feel. The interaction between the two of you becomes the basis for your relationship. Here are some tips to help you effectively network and connect with other people.

1. Be yourself

Don’t attempt to be someone you’re not. People are a lot smarter these days, and no one likes talking to someone who appears artificial or fake. In networking situations, remember that people typically enjoy being informal and relaxed. So you don’t have to have a script ready whenever people talk to you. What’s better is to be spontaneous and genuine – show off the real you.
Most people don’t really do business with just anybody – they would only do so with people whom they really know and genuinely like. So be authentic; show off who you really are, and you may be surprised that you are able to connect more with people.

2. Be friendly and approachable

The key to networking effectively is to be friendly. You don’t have to be the life of the party, but you should look approachable, introduce yourself to people, and listen attentively when someone speaks to you. When you make people feel good around you, then they will flock to you more.

3. Be interested in what other people are saying

Though you may be networking to increase your business contacts or clients, it shouldn’t always be about you. You should also listen and appear interested in what the other person is saying – don’t be one-dimensional.
The great thing about networking is engaging in two-way conversations with other people, so it becomes a win-win situation. So even if you’re promoting yourself, your business or product, make sure that you do this sparingly and within the context of the conversation.

4. Think quality, not quantity

Though the more people you know, the merrier you may be, when it comes to networking, quality is more important than quantity. Knowing and connecting with the few right people is a lot more important than creating less meaningful relationships with dozens of people.

When you network, whether for personal and professional reasons, it’s important that you be yourself, be approachable, be interested in what other people are saying, and think quality, not quantity. Sometimes, it’s not even about what you tell other people – more people will remember you by how they felt interacting with you, so make sure that you make them feel good and not used or abused.

Your Brand is Built By Association

Smart Money magazine’s September issue shared a fantastic fact published by Careerbuilder.com.  It stated that 63% of hiring managers did not hire a candidate because of what appeared on a social website.  They were not referring to a blog the candidate wrote, not even a You Tube video or a publicized chat gone badly.  They were referring to pictures and comments posted about the candidate from someone they knew – like a son or daughter, friend, cousin, mom, sister or brother.

Comments like: “she always lies”; “I can’t believe he got the whole meal paid by his company”; “she drinks too much”; “he cheats at everything”; “my mom was wasted last night and drove home”; and “he just brings supplies home” have deterred hiring professionals from ever contacting the candidate.  The study also included negative feedback from fraternity or sorority parties found on the web, to fishing trip photos and personal videos online.

Believe it or not people are “searching” you on-line when they first meet you.  They’re seeing what comes up whether it’s you or not and whether you posted it or not.  It’s online “identity theft” of a different sort and the time to start managing it is now.

Personal Brand Association

It was almost ten years ago when Tom Peters wrote the article, A Brand Called You.

Before then and still, even in some circles, branding is seen as something only for large corporations, companies and products.  And, that’s a myth.  Organizations and professionals understand the importance of reputation management and the ability to differentiate themselves from others.  I’m sure you’re familiar with the saying, “it’s not what you know, it is who you know”.  Let me take that one further, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know and who knows you WELL.”  Whether it’s companies, organizations or for profits, people become involved because of other people.

Being built by association happens online and offline.  Managing your own brand means managing, how people describe you when they introduce you face to face and monitoring what’s being said about you in cyberspace.

So, first let’s start with your online brand management.  Take the time to “Google” yourself right now.  Put your name in quotes, (i.e. “John Smith”) in the Google search bar.  Check out what comes up.  Is it you?  Other forms of you?  Or, someone totally different?  Look not only at website – checkout images, too.

Next, sign up for “Google Alerts”.  It’s a free on-line service that will email you every time your name is used on the web.  You want to know when your name appears anywhere on the web immediately.  You can then actively deal with it and lower its ranking on the Google search.

Most of the time, the first three pages of a Google search are the ones most often read.  After the first three pages, interest wanes in searching the person further.  Your job is to make sure that the first three pages are the real you and that you “push further down the list” anyone or anything else listed about you.

There are several ways to do that.  You can hire a service to clean up or restore your on-line reputation such as reputationdefender.com or defendmyname.com yet if you set up a time, for example once a week, you can do it yourself.

Here’s how to do that.  First, create a blog.  There are many blog sites that are free to nominal cost to use.  The one I highly recommend is wordpress.  It’s easy to navigate and there’s no software to download.  Each blog post is seen as a page on the web.  The more pages that appear with your name on it the more the search engines pick up your name and the higher you list on Google.

What would you blog about?  What is of most interest to you that you value and are passionate about?  If your seeking place in the world of work, then write about what you’re good at, ask questions online and post information and answers shared from others, even posting conversations and interviews that you have with mentors or potential employers will get you far in both the digital and analog world.

Post comments on other blogs, too.  Find some that are of interest to you and your area of expertise and subscribe to the RSS feed so that you’ll stay in the know of what are the most up to date conversations.  Cocomment.com is a useful tool that automatically tracks your on-line footsteps and provided reciprocal links between your blog, those you like to comment on and those who like to comment on your blog.  Make sure you respond with your real name so that when you name is searched these are the type of comments that will appear.  If you’ll set aside a certain time to do this, you’ll see that you’ll start doing this consistently and make a significant impact to your online identity.  For example, I post on one blog every night.  I know that I will read something online every night so it’s a part of my routine to post a comment on one when I’m reading.

Review books on amazon.com.  Again, utilize your real name. Review only books that are of interest to you such as self improvement, cooking, design or comedy.  Those associations with books that are consider providing expertise in a field that your interested will associate you with the good reputation of those publications.

From Online to Offline Connections

Offline is a little bit different because you have to show up and can’t just post to develop your brand face to face.

First, I recommend that you look at who you know already.  Most people think that in order to develop and get their brand known by others that they need to immediately begin “gripping, grinning and grazing”.  When I’m coaching a client, my first response is to not go meet new people until we take care of who we already know.

I call this the database cull.  It’s looking through and making sure all the information that you possess on someone is accurate and up to date. From email to phone number and addresses, spend the time gathering information on who you are already “in the know” with.

Secondly, look at what you know about each of them.  Do you know where they spend their free time?  Do you know where they work?  Who they know? Where they spend their free time?  Wayne Baker, in his pivotal book, Achieving Success Through Social Capital, found that each person knows about 250 other people.  Knowing this, when you know more information about someone you know who they know and who they influence.  When you’re out there looking for assistance on a project or seeking employment, doesn’t it make sense to be introduced by someone that person you want to meet already knows, someone they trust?

Borrowing From Another’s Credibility

I like to start my connection with people much higher up by borrowing from the credibility and the reputation of the other person.  It saves time and yields better return.

The only caveat is that people will not introduce you to people who know, like and trust them unless they have “know, like and trust with you”.  In order for them to have that with you, they must sample your character and competence.  And, in order for them to do that you must know what makes you so unique.  You must know what your vision is?  What you value?  What your purpose is? And, what you’re passionate about.

In order, to move a relationship from merely visibility to credibility and then eventually to profitability you must know what makes you stand out and is your unique talent.  That is where the branding process is extremely key because extracting what is authentically you will help you know what makes you unique.

Have you ever seen those long and lavish mission statements on a plaque of the corporate wall?  Or, inscribed on a company’s stationery?  Other popular places are on the back of business cards, on websites, brochures, and annual reports.  Yet, it’s the person who is “belly to belly” with the customer that is that company.  It’s not the corporate crafted mission statement that defines that company’s image.  It is the stock clerk, the teller, the barista, the ticket taker and the sales representative who has direct contact with their clients.  Even in the non-profit world, many will become involved for the cause, yet the majority become involved because of a person – either someone they know, someone affected or a special someone who asked for their help.

And, as organizations are built by association, so are you.  I believe that having great command of the “rules of engagement” and a good understanding your core value will help you put together a brand communication plan that engages others.

No Fail : Own Your Connections

Your connections begin in your own database.  When I’m asked about how to “own your game”, or dominate your niche, the first place I begin asking about is what do you know about your database?

Even those born within this last minute, already have a handful of people in their personal database.  From the mother that carried them, to the physician that delivered them, to the nurses in the delivery room, the pediatrician and the nurses in the nursery – the newborn even know somebody!

How can you make the most of who you are already connected to?

First, clean your list.  Start going through to see whose email, phone number, cell phone, address, and employment information is up-to-date and who is not.  Your first focus is to make sure you have the most current, effective information for those people who already know you.

Second, grade your list.  No, I’m not talking about judging people yet I am talking about categorizing them in a way that makes sense for you.  Who really knows you well?  I mean they have spoken positively on your behalf, they know your hopes, dreams and aspirations.  They may even know the good, the bad and the ugly!  They know you.  They know what you do for a living.  How many close contacts can actually say that?  Often we’re connected with those who “kind of, sort of” know what we do so they could never repeat it to anyone or effectively explain it or even speak to a prospective employer or prospect about how you can help them.

Start first with those who really know you well.  And, then work through your list seeing who you really know.  Again, use the same criteria.- do you know their hopes, dreams and aspirations?  Do you know their strengths?  Do you know what they really do for a living (not just their title)?

Third, of those who really know you – what gaps do you see in the information you have on them?  Maybe you don’t even know if they’re currently married, divorced or single.  Maybe you don’t know where they graduated from?  Or, you might have their work number yet you don’t have their email address or cell phone number.  Focus on where you have gaps and make a plan on garnering some of that information.  It might be that you’ll find out at the next ball game or happy hour get together.  Whenever it is, make sure that you flow your information gathering into the conversation and not sound like you’re going through a checklist.  To do so, would surely shut down conversation.

Lastly, who on that list really supports you?  They have been “your brand advocate” all along.  They cheer you on and sing your praises!  Do any of them fall in the following categories?

  • People who have mentored you?
  • People you have mentored or taught?
  • Former managers, supervisors or instructors?
  • And, yes, even co-workers?

These are the foundation of your brand advocates and you must identify them first to own your connections.