Archive for June, 2010

7 INNOVATIVE IDEAS FOR LOW COST NETWORKING

June 24, 2010

 By Robyn Henderson

Tough times and cash flow shortages call for innovative ways of keeping in touch with people who form part of your strategic alliance network. Our target may have been to initially communicate and ultimately build trust with spheres of influence in the community, who know a little bit about a lot of things and a lot about two or three areas. Often one of these areas is their work and passion, the second may be sporting or cultural areas and the third is often a charity or support group. These key networkers in the area can open many doors for us, once they feel confident enough with our levels of professionalism, service and ability. Sometimes master networkers test us with a small job – a throw away, fiddly, low profit job and we may question, is it really worth doing? Many suppliers have missed valuable opportunities by knocking back that one job, only to find it was in fact the tip of the iceberg and in being unavailable for that work, we have lost the opportunity to have the door opened to their vast network and unlimited referrals. So let’s look at ways to increase visibility within your network – in ways that do not incur huge $$$ or time. With each of the following ideas – be very clear – THIS IS NOT A SELLING OPPORTUNITY – DO NOT SELL. This is purely a ‘building trust’, ‘letting them know you better’; exercise. Be very clear on this – increased visibility is your income – and sales will result from this ultimately. This is a strategic BE SEEN, GET KNOWN, MOVE AHEAD exercise.

1. FITNESS Exercise is a great way to stay connected. You may mention that you have started a fitness program involving a daily 3-5 km walk and invite some of your allies along. Set up a time, meeting place and days of week to meet – don’t be discouraged if you only get a couple of takers – word will spread and your group will expand. And if it doesn’t , that’s okay too. Once you have a core group of starters, you will find that you build trust very quickly with these people, in a non-threatening environment.

 2. VOLUNTEERING As you get to know the main spheres of influence in your network, observe the charities they may be involved with. Most charities have fund raising events throughout the year, and each event usually has a committee or special interest group. Offer your services to one of these committees. Be realistic about your time availability and avoid over-committing. However, your skills can be put to good use and you are constantly expanding your network while supporting a worthy cause. If you are already too over-committed for a committee position why not offer to arrange a table or two of friends to support the event.

3. SCHOOL LEAVERS INFORMATION NIGHTS A very successful real estate agent had a regular annual commitment with the local high schools speaking to year 11 and 12 students. The basis of her talk covered the do’s and don’ts of renting, bonds, setting up a flat for the first time, selecting good flatmates – all the things school leavers needed to know in their first year out of school. A comprehensive hand out was always included for the participants with her contact details. Non-real estate agents may assume they could not offer this service. However, any employer could speak to students about what employers are looking for with apprenticeships, part and full time employees – everyone has something to offer this very impressionable group of future leaders.

4. WORKING BEES Rotary clubs are famous for working bees in old people’s homes and within the aged community. Again your expertise in gardening, painting, even rubbish removal can come in handy. It’s just a case of looking for opportunities, identifying them and then offering that opportunity to someone in your network.

5. MOVIE/DVD NIGHTS If you are a movie buff this area is limitless. By starting a mid week movie night with like-minded people/potential allies you create an opportunity to really have some fun. Again create a system – select potential movie goers, choice of two cinemas (one mainstream theatre and one more arthouse), decide on approx session time and a meeting place in a cafe close to the cinema. You may decide to meet at the cafe prior to the session and then adjourn to the cafe after the screening for coffee and to debrief about the film. Each member of the group has an opportunity to select a film over a period of weeks and you can rate the film – and prizes for the highest rating film or over a period of time.

 6. ACADEMY AWARDS NIGHT There are all sorts of awards today from film, through to sport. The Academy Awards or Golden Globes is a great way of having some fun and networking with like-minded people. You might like to arrange an informal dinner on the night these events are screened and at least 72 hours before, ask each guest to vote on who they think will win the Awards – prizes for the guest who selected the most winners.

7. MELBOURNE CUP SWEEPSTAKES Running a Melbourne Cup Sweep for your customers, allies and prospects is a great way of keeping in touch. Decide on the prizes (maybe you can swap/barter a voucher for your business with another organisation), make a list of the customers who will be involved in the exercise. Email them 7 days ahead to let them know to expect to hear from you on Melbourne Cup Day and what the prizes will be. Draw the sweep on the first Monday of November and then send another email to let them know their horse. Make sure the prizes arrive within 48 hours of the race being run. Be prepared for lots of positive feedback.

These simple seven ideas take organisation more than money or time. However, if you can combine your own networking with having fun – watch out for all the business opportunities that come your way as a result of just doing things a little bit differently from your competitors.

NOT TIME TO NETWORK? – MAKE TIME!

June 22, 2010

By Robyn Henderson

Are you one of the new time poor? Too much to do and so little time to do it in? All the more reason to network…

As our diaries and palm pilots go into overload, and the days, weeks and months seem to fly past at an alarming rate – we sometimes wonder just where we will find the time to network. Many small business owners/operators and middle managers alike constantly complain of not having a ‘life’ and are constantly in a time poor state. Yet senior management continually stress the need to bring business to the organisation and the obvious way to do that is networking. So, where do we fit networking into our busy schedule? And more importantly, why should we bother?

Firstly, let’s look at how we can include networking into our busy schedule. For this exercise let’s define networking functions as internal or external (from our organisations) events, cultural, social and/or sporting functions. Straight away, we realise that networking doesn’t have to be about business – some of the best networking opportunities often take place in less formal situations. Be it a football match, cricket test, tennis game or school fete, networking opportunities abound. And if we combine networking with our social events, we will certainly be saving time.

In the networking ladder of loyalty, we can walk into a room of strangers, not knowing anyone and through communication – basically a combination of speaking and listening – we build trust. The more we communicate, the more trust we build and the faster we move our relationship up the ladder of loyalty from stranger through to acquaintance through to friend.

Some people shy away from the use of the word ‘friend’ – concerned that they either have enough friends already or that more friends means more commitments.

On the contrary basically what we are doing in building a network of friends is creating communities full of open doors. Open doors where we can pick up the phone, send an email, offer information, ask for help – knowing always that the help is reciprocal. Knowing WHO to call, can save us time, money and effort. Basically we are connecting like minded people, communicating with friends and acquaintances and cementing our blocks of trust. In doing so we form solid foundations of networks and contacts and often become known as a ‘sphere of influence’ – someone who knows a little bit about a lot of things and a lot about one or two areas of our expertise. We are reliable, professional and great at both finding and accessing vital information.

It is also helpful to remind ourselves of the three keys to networking:

1. Giving without expectation

Doing something for someone not to get something back. Basically giving without remembering and receiving without forgetting.

2. An abundance mentality

The belief system that regardless of our profession or location, there are plenty of opportunities for everyone. We are generous with sharing our information and connections, without fearing scarcity or lack.

3. The law of reciprocity

Understanding the universal law of reciprocity. This basically states that what you give out comes back tenfold – if you want referrals – start giving them to others.

Networking is a life skill, rather than just something we do when we want something – which is where most people go wrong. Whether it’s a phone call, email, text  message, thank you card or kind word to a fellow worker or neighbour – it’s all part of networking.

Based on the above definition and examples, we can see that networking actually goes way beyond attending networking functions. This in itself is a great time management bonus – fifteen minutes per day keeping in touch, following up and being remembered positively will add to our networking profile.

Networking also fits in to the income building area of our business or career. Income is generated by the product or service we provide, income building is where we plant the seeds to generate possible interest in our products or services.

One thing is certain – if you are not networking you will never know just what you are missing.

Some of the main reasons to network include:

Find out what is happening in your marketplace, not just what the media reports. You may be able to identify any future trends, movements of key players, new competitors or hear of competitors who may have gone out of business or worse, won your key account.

You have an opportunity to see where a person of your calibre, experience and integrity actually fits in the marketplace. By meeting your peers you can gauge in the big picture of your industry or profession, if you are up there in the top ten or if your ranking has slipped since you lost that last account. If you are not in the top ten, what are those people doing that you aren’t?

If you are a people person, you get to meet many interesting people and constantly learn about new ideas and concepts. The more open your mind the more interesting conversations you will have.

Energy is exchanged between people. Positive people re-energise other positive people. Sometimes you have just had a bad day when things haven’t gone to plan and attending a networking event can re-energise and revitalise your enthusiasm and love of life.

Often you will run into current and past clients. There is much less pressure in a social environment than making a phone call or unannounced visit to a past client, You can often find out informally why you are not their main supplier now. Sometimes just seeing you reminds them that they wanted to make contact with you anyway.

Every best friend you have was once a perfect stranger – if you make a new friend at every function you attend, you are blessed and it’s usually a sign that you are great company and an interesting person.

ARE YOU AN INTERESTING PERSON?

June 22, 2010

By Robyn Henderson

Off the top of your head you can probably name 20 people you consider to be interesting…

Maybe you could fill a page with names if you really gave it some thought. What are the characteristics of interesting or charismatic people? Is there any advantage in becoming more interesting? From a networkers perspective the answer is a most resounding – yes!

We all know that people do business with those they know, like and trust. Ask yourself, would you want to spend time with someone you find interesting or someone who bores you stupid?

The answer is obvious. An interesting person attracts people to them and most likely expends a lot less effort promoting and selling their products and services or fast tracking their career.

Think about the last networking and/or social function you attended. What people do you recall having a conversation with? More importantly, what do you remember about those conversations?

Many interesting people basically repeat little pieces of trivia – things they found interesting and assume others will too. Basically they teach what they learn. This doesn’t include gossip of course, only good news stories.

Gifted story-tellers

Interesting people are often gifted at telling stories. Unfortunately at social and networking functions, you often have to give a shortened version of an event and this may take practice. We all know people who can embellish a story and stretch the truth. In the networking world stretching the truth is totally unnecessary and very often backfires. More often than not, it’s a great story just as it happened. It’s the story teller that makes the story come alive with passion and enthusiasm.

If you are really serious about improving your personal skills including your communication or social skills, let’s consider story telling. Would you agree that people recall stories, especially when they are positive, entertaining and trigger emotions – happy or sad. By the way, if sadness has been triggered, the great story teller has a way of turning a negative into a positive, even if it is just to state how lucky we are in that moment.

So let’s look at simple strategies that you may consider introducing into your life to become a more interesting person. (The basic reason for doing this would be for you to have a more interesting life, more fulfilment and a broader circle of friends. Once trust is built, who knows how many of those people may be interested in furthering your career).

Always be sincere and give without expectation. People can intuitively sense a fraud a mile away. We all know those people who are just being nice to you because they want something. They are rarely interesting – basically because they are only interested in themselves and what they can take, not in what they can give.

In todays competitive marketplace, many employees get caught up in the – ‘work long hours, go home, crash – work long hours, go home, crash – cycle. When they do get a day off, it’s all they can do to drag themselves out of bed and may have to really force themselves to go out and do something remotely social. Life is like exercise, once you are actually at the gym you feel great. It’s just getting there that takes the effort.

Research your interests

The Internet has opened up the information world. All we have to do is know how to access that information. Search engines make that incredibly easy for us. Google is now a verb in the dictionary – just google whatever you want to know.

I have an interest in taking photos of sunsets and sunrises and as I travel, I get to see many examples of natures magnificence. One night, I collected a batch of photos and was a little disappointed with them. Other than doing a photography course I wondered if  google might have a suggestion for me. Sure enough, after typing in a query: “Where would I learn to take better photos of sunrises and sunsets?” I was directed to an article: “How to take better photos of sunsets”. I kid you not!

Get focussed

Take a few moments now and write a list of 20 things that you would be interested in doing if you had a month off and an unlimited budget. Really let your imagination take hold. Your list may include some old hobbies, new interests, maybe even more of what you are currently doing.

Move out of your comfort zone

Many people sit back and wait for life to happen – they wait a long time! Proactive people are the ones who make life happen.

Attend a special course

So many people think that networking has to be work related. In actual fact some of the best contacts you will make will be in a social or special interest situation.

Time poor people may be reluctant to commit to long term studies. However many colleges regularly have many short term special interest courses to suit our restricted availability. What a great way to network!

You are learning something new, improving your skill, making new friends and the by product is – you are becoming more interesting.

John Lennon summed it up with his quote: “Life is what happens while you are making other plans” Interesting people are not born. You won’t find ‘interesting person’ listed in the newspaper birth notices. However, they are easy to spot at networking functions. They are the ones that everyone wants to be around!

Happy Networking.

DON’T JUST FOCUS ON THE ‘BIG KAHUNA’ – (the important people)

June 22, 2010

By Robyn Henderson

Mastering the gentle art of conversation, can help you avoid trade expo disasters and set sales records…

Picture this scenario: You have blown your budget on your trade display, had thousands of brochures printed, updated your website, have a full complement of staff in attendance and on day two, you still haven’t taken your first order! What is happening – or rather not happening?

Many sales people would love potential buyers to wear a sign saying “My name is John Smith and I am in the market for one of your $50, 000 widgets – be nice to me and you may get the order.” Or “I’m married to the head of the company you are trying to secure a contract from. If you treat me as the intelligent person I am, rather than ignoring me as you are doing now, I may introduce you to my partner.” Or, “I am the company scout – I am checking out all the stands today, before the big boss arrives tomorrow. If you keep patronising me today, you will not see my boss and the decision maker tomorrow – I will make sure of it!”

That would be really simple for everyone and then all we would have to do is be able to read. Sure, when you read the name badge of the potential customer, interpret whatever code the organisers are using (be it colour or symbol) we could then only speak to those that we perceive to be important.

How foolish that would be…

It’s not what you know

Remember, it’s not what you know but who knows what you know.

No one is a nobody. Yes, their name badge may have a lesser code than someone else however, who do they know and why are they looking at your stand? Certainly not for something to do to fill in their day. We are all so time poor today, that sometimes we just don’t realise how important it is to take the time to have a conversation with everyone we come into contact with – whether they look like buyers or not!

Pick up The Big Kahuna movie with Danny De Vito and Kevin Spacey when you next visit your video store. It brings home well and truly the “no one is a nobody”. The Big Kahuna’s – (the No.1 buyers) – often deliberately avoid drawing attention to themselves.

Think about some of the better communicators in your networks – what makes them different? Is it that they do any or all of the following:

Listen to your answer

Allow you to finish your response without interrupting

Make eye contact (unless it’s culturally unacceptable)

Genuinely act as though they do care about your answer

Somehow make you feel special

Follow up when they say they will

Offer helpful suggestions

Remember snippets of previous conversations you may have had that may be relevant to the current situation

The heart to heart connection

Not surprisingly, most good sales people also do all of the above.

The one thing that great communicators and sales people do is make a heart to heart connection with you.

This is not in a romantic sense. Rather the listener focuses on you and the conversation you are having together. Whether there are one or five people in the group, they are focussed on the general conversation. They are not distracted. They are ‘in the moment’ or ‘in the now’. They are listening with their heart as well as their ears.

When we speak from our heads, we often become flustered and nervous, stumbling over words. We are so worried about missing the next ‘important’ person that comes on to the stand and we mentally try to weigh up whether this current person is buying or not. Meanwhile we have lost two potential customers, the one we are speaking to and the one who came on to the stand, who overheard your distracted conversation and made a decision not to come back.

When we make a heart to heart connection we listen actively to the conversation. We don’t have to worry about what we are going to say next, because when we are listening we also receive lots of cues for responses or more questions. And, if we are quiet long enough, we can even learn lots of things.

Trade show tips

Start treating people the way you would like to be treated. Ask open ended questions that start with who, what, how, when, where, why and allow the person to expand on what is possibly one of the most important things in their life – their business.

Good exhibitors usually have a couple of open ended questions prepared. Questions that they feel comfortable asking and answering. Here are a few examples:

Tell me about your business, what type of customers do you have?

How many businesses in your area sell the same products as you?

Throughout the exhibition, what product has caught your eye so far?

What, specifically, did you come to the trade show for?

What size is your showroom?

What sort of effect has the internet and e-business had on your outlet?

What has been the highlight of your day?

Rather than constantly looking for the sale, look for a quality conversation. No one wants to be treated like a dollar sign! However, quality conversation builds trust and from trust comes business opportunities. The quickest way to turn a prospect into an advocate is to make a heart to heart connection. Focus on the person in front of you, not those walking down the aisles, those you think you may miss.

They will come back to you again and again – you see, good communicators are hard to find. Communicate today, build trust and most of all have fun and the orders will follow. Why not try it and see for yourself?

NO STRINGS NETWORKING

June 22, 2010

by Robyn Henderson

 In our time poor society, attending a business networking function may be the last thing employees and business owner operators want to do at the end of a busy day. Yet smart networkers are realising that with a bit of planning it is possible to combine their interests, building relationships, networking and having fun at the same time. They are realising that if they have an interest in something maybe their latest prospect or client may also share that interest. All you have to do is ask! “I’m going to a golf day next month, would you like to come?” Only a keen golfer would agree to go as most people know when it comes to sport participation, you can’t exactly fake it until you make it!

Traditionally golf days and sporting events have been the domain of the serious male networking – yet these days both sexes are realising that combining networking with getting a life can result in business opportunities. And many women are becoming a whole lot more creative with their networking pursuits. Trust is the glue that keeps networking together and what better way to build trust than getting to know someone in a social setting with a shared interest.

So let’s look at some different yet popular non-traditional no strings networking possibilities:

SPA DAYS – a social day at a day spa may appeal to females more than males – yet some corporations are rewarding clients and their business development staff with this innovative way of relaxing and unwinding. Plus the day spas are more than happy to provide a great rate for group bookings.

RUNNING – Fun-runs and running competitively either in a corporate games event or a lunchtime game can again bridge that gap between client and service provider.

TRIVIA NIGHTS – These events usually include donating the proceeds to a favourite charity and are sometimes held in a pub or club to add to the atmosphere. Often the office geek becomes the hero as they shine with a photographic memory and an ability to get more answers right than wrong.

VOLUNTEERING – for a charity fund raising event or special interest group – usually assisting disadvantaged groups. This may take the shape of inviting a table full of guests to a fundraiser on one extreme, to actually donning overalls, mops and buckets and giving a pensioner’s home a makeover. The more physical the activity, the more team bonding seems to happen e.g. Clean Up Australia campaign – office attend as a group to clean up a local area.

TOASTMASTERS – many large corporations have an in house Toastmasters group, which is a great way for staff across the board not only to improve their presentation skills, but also getting to know each other better. The cross networking opportunities occur when members of one club attend another corporate club, enter competitions, or volunteer to present at other clubs locally or nationally.

BOOK CLUBS – again a more social event, which can consist of people coming together to share one book that everyone has read, or people coming together with individual books and sharing their thoughts and feedback. Again this does not look like networking but it can combine education, fun & companionship.

FITNESS – May take the shape of gym membership – what a great thank you gift for a client (as long as they are interested in fitness and would not take offence with the gift). Other potential team sports might include golf, tennis, darts, pool , bushwalking and swimming.

ACADEMY AWARDS NIGHTS GUESSING COMPETITIONS – guests are invited to enter their choices a week prior to the awards night. On the night they create their own Academy Awards night theme with formal wear, and pretend statues and prizes go to the guests who select the most winners on the night. Again a relatively low cost event with a big WOW factor.

MELBOURNE CUP SWEEPS AFTERNOON – an oldie and still a goody. Lots of fun, a full afternoon and the budget is whatever you want it to be. If your clients are unable to attend you can still allocate a horse for them in the sweep.

KNITTING AND NATTERING NIGHTS – have you heard that knitting is the new meditation? And knitting and nattering nights are sweeping the country. Some people just come for the nattering, others come for the knitting, but what transpires is a relaxing environment with interesting conversation, no pressure, no alcohol or big meals – just friendship, laughter and fun – and males and females are attending.

So the next time you moan under the weight of your business networking diary, glance over the above list and see if you can put a sparkle back into your networking and have some fun at the same time. The no-strings networking is what is often referred to as accidental networking – it just happens. When laughter, friendship,  fun and conversation come together – the result is trust and trust is the foundation for serious networking results.

Have fun!

MASTER NETWORKERS ARE GLOBAL CITIZENS

June 22, 2010

By Robyn Henderson

A global citizen could be defined as someone who looks at the bigger picture – the global picture, and adapts that world view to their own community or organisation. Master networkers all share that global vision. As Anita Roddick says ‘Think globally, act locally’. Global citizens individually are conscious of their own triple bottom line. The triple bottom line – another buzz word or faddish jargon or is it the answer to the corporate world profits today. Many companies reviewing their poor results for the year are considering that possibly striving for profits above all else is, in fact, backfiring on them and driving the profits down. As a citizen is it just about how much money we can make and spend or does quality of life matter a lot more than just $$$.

So what is the triple bottom line? Companies or individuals consciously focussing on a combination of:

People, Planet and Profit

Rather than making profit or money their sole motivator, enlightened organisations and individuals are looking beyond the dollars and creating preferred working environments. Places where people seek employment, not just for the salary packages but rather for their company’s commitment to the community as well as the environment. Companies that are aware that 10-12 hour days are not healthy for the company or the individual. Mistakes are made from fatigue and lack of concentration. Preferred workplaces where senior managers literally chase their managers out of the building after 6pm – encouraging them to get home and have a life. For some this new way of thinking is frightening and needs some major adjustment in their life. For others they talk in high praise of the organisation that they feel part of. The community, that they, as individuals, share.

So let’s look at what has triggered this movement. In the 90’s we saw dramatic retrenchments, downsizing, re-engineering, call it what you will, the bottom line was there were less and less people to do the same amount of work.

Even high salaries weren’t enough to keep good workers; they started to look for more balance, more company caring. Networking events abounded with speakers talking about ‘finding balance’, ‘looking within’ and saying no to increased demands from employers. Many resigned only to be invited back as consultants at often a much higher rate of pay and hours to suit the individual rather than the company.

Television shows like ‘Sea Change’ shot through the roof with their ratings as people considered how they could make their own sea change and many did.

Astute investors are looking for ethical investments; putting their money and energy behind supporting companies who are clearly showing support of the environment and the community. Some organisations are seconding their staff to work on a part or full time basis with community groups- a very humbling experience for many.

Visibility is critical – Be Seen, Get Known, Move Ahead

The basis of the triple bottom line is the basis of networking – treat people the way you would like to be treated. So how can we do this on a practical basis, how can we become master networkers and global citizens, with our own triple bottom line awareness?

Here’s a few simple ideas you may consider:

Do your homework on your service providers. Do they support the community?, How well are their staff treated? If you don’t agree with all of their policies, look for an alternate provider, even if it costs a little more.

How much money do you spend in your local community? The ripple effect from spending locally provides employment, keeps businesses trading and most of all keeps money circulating locally.

Where do you make your larger purchases? Would paying 5% more make that big of a difference to you if you were able to purchase within 10 minutes from home?

What about travel and holidays? With the weakened Australian dollar, more travellers are realising the magnificence of their own country and region. A travel agent recently told me that most Australians have seen more of the World than they have of their own State. How well do you know your own neighbourhood and city, let alone state or country?

Do you recycle? Most homes these days are equipped with recycled garage areas and are well supported. But what about recycling larger goods, like books, outdated computer equipment, mobile phones and furniture? One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. Many charities can often arrange collection of sizable donations of goods.

Is buying Australian made goods and products important to you? Sometimes you may have to ask many questions to find these products, maybe even write to a supermarket or department store requesting Australian made items. Global citizens know that long term it’s about short term pain for long term gain for you and the country. What if all CDs, books and videos made and produced in Australia, bore an ‘Australian Artist’ sticker?

As the triple bottom line becomes the rule rather than the exception, global citizens will network more and more with like minded individuals and support organisations who realise that it’s not up to the Government or the boss, it’s up to me. And as a wise person once said IF IT’S TO BE, IT’S UP TO ME.

How to generate endless referrals

June 22, 2010

By Robyn Henderson

Businesses live and die by the volume of regular referrals they receive. Yet many business operators place little or no energy on the art of giving and receiving referrals. As a result they regularly experience erratic cash flow. Let’s look at six strategies to ensure you maintain your regular referral flow.

1. Where do they come from?

Diarise time next week, to track your last 25-50 clients, where they came from, how much $$ value you place on past and future business opportunities with them, and how much money was spent to get their business in the first place? If the business came from a referee or sphere of influence, did you acknowledge or thank the person and advise them of the outcome of the lead?

TIP: Many referral sources dry up, because the referral recipient did not follow up or give feedback. Always give feedback to your referees, whether actual business eventuates or not.

2. How well do you know your prospects?

Create and maintain a database of prospects and aim to add to this list every week. Keep updating information about these potential clients until you have complete contact details, a list of their interests outside of work and any major achievements. The more you know about someone the easier it is to communicate and network with them regularly.

TIP: You will get real value from the magazines and newspapers that you read by looking for items that may be of interest to your prospects. Cutting out an article or better still, sending a copy of the magazine itself with a ‘with compliments’ slip on the page and a note “Saw this and thought of you” – will certainly make you top of mind with these prospects.

3. How often do you make contact?

The universal law of recency states that the person who made the last contact, more often than not, is the person who gets the business. Not everyone has effective data management systems in place. So, when they need a new supplier or to re-connect with an old supplier, they often have no way of tracking where your business card is, or how to connect with you.

If you are regularly sending your clients and prospects an electronic newsletter, update, new product release or just a keep in touch article, you make it easy for people to do business with you.

TIP: Make contact with current clients and prospects every 60-90 days. Ideally send something that will be of interest to them – not just something that promotes your business.

4. Visibility is critical.

Building a profile in your industry or community can be costly. However some low cost/no cost ideas would be to have a magnetic strip with your business name and contact details put on your car. Wearing a name badge when you shop locally helps people get to know your name as well as what it is that you do. Reports show that 80% of the population have trouble remembering names, so again we are making it easy for people to make contact with us. Sponsorship of the printing of a local school’s newsletter or junior sports team can be very inexpensive and may give you access to potential clients. Offering to contribute a regular column in the community newspaper lets you share useful information as well as get the spin off if raising your profile.

TIP: Aim for regular community exposure rather than one-off splashes that can quickly be forgotten.

5. Spend money locally.

Spending money in your community not only contributes to the local economy and provides employment opportunities – it is a great way of showing support to others. Sometimes you pay slightly more for some products, however, if you want people to support your business, look at how you can support theirs.

TIP: As Anita Roddick says, ‘think globally, act locally’

6. Give away a referral every day.

We have all heard the saying, ‘What you give out comes back tenfold’. The law of reciprocity at work can give us a steady flow of leads and referrals. If you are unable to give a daily hot business lead, think about referring a restaurant, movie, supplier or share a positive customer appreciation story within your network. As this becomes a daily habit, you will find that you start to receive daily referrals from others. The interesting phenomena with referrals is that the people you give the referrals to, are always indirectly connected to the people you receive referrals from.

TIP: Always ask the new client or prospect “How did you hear about my business or me?” If you don’t track referrals they are guaranteed to disappear.

The final tip in giving referrals must be to always ask for feedback. ‘I have found John to be a true professional; if he doesn’t meet your expectations please let me know’. Mastering the art of giving referrals may take practise, however, when mastered, it will ensure the longevity and growth of your home-based business.

STOP SABOTAGING AND START NETWORKING

June 14, 2010

With Robyn Henderson

You’re attending the business networks, handing out the business cards, following up within 48hours of exchanging cards and still NOTHING. Could it be that your language is sabotaging your results? Not me, you say. If you are not getting results from your networking, your self sabotaging behaviours may be one of the reasons.

 When we are new to an industry, profession, city, country or network, our language is one way that we often sabotage our networking success. Just because we have only worked with a firm for 3 months in this new senior role, does not mean that the 5 years with another firm is dismissed, unless we are the ones dismissing it or not bothering to mention it at all. People will not value you, unless you give them something to value.

 In the same vein, we have launched our small business six months ago with great fanfare. Since then we have been battling to make ends meet and we just seem to be going nowhere fast. However, every time we introduce ourselves, our voice quavers and our credibility is often lost instantly. We may have been in our own small business only 6 months, however, we have had 15 years in the industry. We were in fact so good at our work that we were continually headhunted by other companies wanting our expertise. So why is it so hard to talk ourselves up today and possibly attract new clients.

 Whatever your position, reports show we have less than 30 seconds to really make an impression. Sure we can look good (we can buy flattering clothes), we can make all the right moves, but if our language is letting us down, we are going to have to network ten times as hard as someone who values their worth. That means, you will have to talk to nine more people than a confident person and quite frankly, if you are into self sabotaging language, its highly unlikely you will normally speak to nine people all night!!

So let’s take a look at some of the introductions I have heard in recent months from what appeared to be initially  well dressed,  professionals, who I may have considered doing business with, or at least introducing to someone in my network who may have been interested in doing business with them.

  My thought responses are in brackets after their comments, followed by a possible introduction (in italics) that does not diminish the ability of the person and can in fact further the conversation and then my possible response to the new introduction.

 I’m just a junior partner 

 (well sounds like I had better wait until I meet the senior partner, before I give my business to your firm.)

 I’m a junior partner with XYZ – we are true innovators in the areas of bbb and aaa. You may have seen our firm written up in last Thursday’s Financial Review.

 (this person really sounds like they know what they are doing – I wonder if he has room for another client?)

 I’ve just started my small business. I’m um a designer, a graphic designer,  but I am finding it really tough to get things happening

 (sounds a bit too vague to me, not sure what he does, can’t be any good or he would be busy, I think I will steer clear for now – let someone else find out if he’s good or not)

 I’m a graphic designer, I specialise in corporate logos, advertisements, website, anything that corporates need to make them look good as well as be memorable. I work for myself now, after 15 years in the industry, and find that I can now give clients that one on one service that is missing in the marketplace today.

 (one on one, that’s what I need, someone who understands me, quick get his card)

And this from a fearless but sabotaging 25 year old, who allowed themselves to be intimidated by someone 10 years older than them, – I’m just a graduate with DDD, they don’t let me near any clients yet, just put me in the back room to do all the support stuff. I’m really good at what I do though. I topped my class at uni.

 (If you were that good they would let you out in the marketplace, I don’t think so. . . . .back in the box, I won’t follow up with this one – not experienced enough yet)

  I work with DDD, they headhunted me as I topped my class at uni. They realise that even though I am only 25, I still have a lot to offer the organization and the client base. We specialise in creating. . . . .. .

 (Wow what a bright young person, she will really go far – good on her, it’s great to see a 25 year old with that much confidence. I must connect her with a few of the movers and shakers tonight.)

 If you feel you may have been guilty of sabotaging yourself through your negative introductions start practising today – even if you have to write our your introduction and repeat it again and again until it rolls off your tongue.

 Also remove the following negative words from your vocabulary –

but, no worries, can’t, won’t, might, try and of course just a. . . ..

 You will be surprised how easily people will respond to you, when you start to value your own worth. Because the bottom line is if you don’t value yourself, how can you expect anyone else to value you?

 Happy networking.   

 For more articles by Robyn Henderson visit www.networkingtowin.com.au

Did you know it’s O.K. to ask for help?

June 14, 2010

One of the biggest mistakes people make when they are trying to grow their business or their career, is to avoid at all costs asking for help.  So if asking for help is the most obvious way to solve a problem, why do many people resist to the point of failing themselves, rather than take that perceived gigantic step?

 Would fear possibly contribute to their dilemma? Fear of being indebted to someone, fear of looking or sounding stupid by not knowing how to do something in the first place. And even frustration that although they consider themselves to be a smart, intelligent person – how come they can’t do something that people say is “easy”.

 Asking for help is the answer to most questions.

As Harvey Mackey says, “it’s not what you know, but who knows what you know.” Master networkers spend a lifetime gathering useless pieces of trivia and information. They store it away, often in a variety of easily assessed formats. More often than not, it is in their head. Their mastery comes in being able to connect two or three seemingly obscure pieces of information and making them relevant. We are in a knowledge economy – information is the new currency.

 Let’s look at some of the asking for help options available to savvy networkers:

Fee for service:

This is by far the most popular – engage a tradesperson, service provider or professional who will normally quote for the job or service to be provided and charge accordingly. Yes, we will pay more for this service, but the job will be done exactly as we want it to be done. This is more often than not the most time efficient and, in the long run, economical way to ask for help.

 Undertaking training:

Most skills can be learned and there are hundreds of courses available at TAFEs, evening colleges, BECs, universities, schools etc. The choice is really – what value do we place on our time spent in mastering the skill versus the cost of paying someone to do the job for us?

 A friend recently bemoaned the fact that she was having terrible trouble mastering web site building. I asked, “Why wouldn’t you go to a recommended web master and get the job done in a quarter of the time?” Her response was that she wanted to learn how it was done – even though she knew it would be a one off and she had no intention of embarking on a web site building career. Each to his or her own – my thought was her time could have been spent better elsewhere, rather than mastering a one off skill.

 Barter services:

What skills in your area of expertise, do you have to trade with another service provider, who has the skills that you want? One hour of your time giving some marketing advice, may be considered a fair swap for someone who can give you a lesson in mastering technology.

 Bartering always works when it is win/win – that means when both parties gain from the experience. This gain may not necessarily be financial, but the experience of learning and mastering another skill and the opportunity to extend your network.

 Volunteer:

With the global trend towards people wanting to give back to the community, there is no shortage of people looking for groups that they can become involved with. Maybe gardening or renovating houses is something you are keen to learn about. Seek out those charities which provide working bees at restoring homes or looking after pensioners’ premises. This is definitely a win/win for you, as you are doing something good for the community and learning at the same time.

 Find a mentor:

Sometimes we are so busy working in our business and career, that we lose sight of the bigger picture. Finding a mentor for a short or long term role, can give you a very fresh perspective on your situation.

 Over twenty years ago when I started my own business, I re-invented the wheel month after month, rather than ask people to show me a better way to do things. Not only did I waste time, money and energy, my business was stifled because of my fear of looking stupid by admitting I didn’t know something that I thought everyone knew – except me. It was only when I developed enough courage to mention some of the things I needed help with, that I found there were dozens of people in similar situations. We all needed help and we could help each other or invite an expert in and share the costs.

 So the next time you feel stuck, not skilled enough to complete a task, and frustrated at your perceived incompetence – be courageous. Speak up, ask for help and become a role model for so many people, too afraid to ask for what they want.

 Always remember it’s okay to ask for help.

 For more articles by Robyn Henderson visit www.networkingtowin.com.au

ARE YOUR STRATEGIC ALLIANCES WORKING FOR YOU?

June 14, 2010

By Robyn Henderson

 Strategic alliances are definitely becoming a competitive advantage in this tight economic market. Let’s clarify the difference between a strategic alliance and networking. The basis of networking is giving without expectation – doing something for someone not to get something back – but because you want to help someone achieve what they want. It may be a tiny piece of information to you – but a very relevant piece of information for that person. You make a decision to share the information not expecting anything in return. No money exchanges hands, you share the information and that is it.

On the other hand, strategic alliances occur when two or more people come together in a pre-defined situation and both expect a return on a relationship or project etc. e.g. a company sponsors a conference or an event hoping to gain business from that alliances. Their expectation is that the other party will endorse their sponsorship and assist them to gain new business by giving them access to the members or attendees. In this example there are no guarantees but an above average expectation of mutual gain.

Another example might be where an accountant, banker and real estate agent form an alliance, meeting regularly and cross network clients – facilitating a regular stream of referrals for all concerned.  

All of these alliances are built on a high level of trust.  Some have a predetermined conclusion e.g. the convention ends and the sponsorship ends. Unfortunately, some alliances dwindle out and fade away without a formal conclusion and sometimes this builds resentment with one or more parties. So let’s look at some ways to avoid strategic alliance pitfalls.

  • Watch out for different personal habits e.g. mixing non-smokers with heavy smokers, people who run late with people who are always on time or early. This may not sound like a small point but over time can become a very irritating habit and ultimately sabotage the alliances
  • Ensure all parties are prepared to lose or invest the same amount of effort or money.  There is no shortage of great ideas for alliances, but there can be a shortage or limit to potential financial commitment. Again resentment can creep in when one party is expected to contribute more than the other with no obvious advantage
  • The alliance is open ended.  Using the example of the accountant, banker and real estate agent – lets say the banker and the accountant initially gain most from that alliance, but seem to be unable to refer home buyers and sellers to the real estate agent – who may eventually become resentful and stop giving the referrals. A way to avoid that situation would be to initially come together in an informal referral network for a set amount of time. By tracking the referrals over a three month period  and assessing the return on effort/investment of time  at the end of that period, the group can then decide if they are going to continue the arrangement or disband. The real estate agent will also have an opportunity to express his disappointment and maybe suggest ways that will make it easy for the others to speed up the referrals.
  • Be prepared to cut your losses. If you have given an alliance your best shot, exhausted your budget and still no results. Then you have to really look at your options with this alliance  – whether you continue or walk away. Is the market ready for your project? Have you missed the market? Have circumstances beyond your control affected the potential number of buyers e.g. market crash, natural disaster etc.  Are you prepared to broaden the potential allies to create a cash injection or alternately open new networks to you? Sometimes all you need is a month or so away from the project/alliance to allow for fresh ideas and recharging of energy – maybe even waiting until the market catches up or a market downturn adjusts.  Having honest and direct communication at these times is very important to ensure longevity of the alliance. Plus how you manage a difficult or tricky situation is often discussed amongst your allies networks as well. Many people don’t realize the ramifications of this when they abuse trust or deal unethically with a ally – they not only destroy the one connection, often their destroy any future connections with their allies networks as well.

 My final tip would be to aim for quality alliances, not quantity. Alliances come in all shapes and sizes – electronic, physical, global, local, national – social, business – the options are endless.

Start small, communicate well, aim for mutually beneficial results, work project by project always in an ethical manner and you will enjoy a lifetime of valuable connections.

 For more articles by Robyn Henderson visit www.networkingtowin.com.au