Archive for November, 2010

10 questions to know the answers to before your next briefing

November 23, 2010

Have you ever sat in a briefing with a potential client and kicked yourself because you had not done sufficient homework to know the answers to some really key questions?

The days of winging it in briefings are well and truly over in this tight and very competitive market. Recently I shared a pre-briefing checklist with a client – and it might be useful for you too:

Here are the questions I need answers to PRIOR to the briefing:

1. How many people do you know in their organisation and how well do you know them?

2. What do you know about this organisation?

3. Who are your competitors and how long have they been a service provider for this firm?

4. Do you know anyone who has a strategic alliance with XYZ?

5. Can you make contact with them prior to the briefing, and gain some insight into their relationship with XYZ?

6. Is there any way you can refer business to XYZ  in the future?

7. What can you offer that their current service provider cannot?

8. If you were XYZ, what would make you change service providers?

9. Assuming you know the names of the people at the future – briefing, do you know anyone in their network? LinkedIn would be a great tool to track these connections – assuming they are on LinkedIn.

10. What do you know about these individuals? – interests, sponsorships, awards, alliances?

If you know the answers to all 10 questions – well done – you are prepared. If you don’t you might research via their website, their industry’s websites, advanced google, their blogs,  Facebook etc.

The one question you absolutely MUST know the answer to is – NO. 3 who are your competitors and how long have they been service providers? If you don’t know who or what you are competing with – you risk making the wrong offer. Or overlooking something that is key to sealing the deal.

Some readers may think – this is way too much effort with no guarantee of return.  Exactly, and that is why you stand out as a professional service provider when you are prepared.

One of the things you are aiming to create with your research is a trilogy of trust connection. The trust that one person has with another, that is passed on to the third-party. John plays golf with James regularly. You know James through a social contact – he is a great friend of your sister-in-laws and you have socialized with James many times and support his charity projects. John certainly knows James well enough to ask the question – what can you tell me about XYZ?

Let’s hope it’s all good news. When faced with multiple suppliers with similar “deals” – we often look for a stronger connection, something that will set us apart from our competitors – maybe we too support a local sporting team or charity, maybe we are fans of the same sport. The more digging we do, the easier those connections become.

Research is never wasted, file it away in your memory bank or better still your key industry information file and you just never know when you refer to that information in the future.

Happy networking until next time

Who motivates the motivator?

November 8, 2010

Who is the person responsible for motivating you? Is it your boss, your work -mates, your partner, your friends? Who? Although many motivators may disagree with me believing that as motivational speakers – they can motivate anyone, anywhere, anytime. I actually believe that is not true.  I believe WE are responsible as individuals  for motivating ourselves.  We are responsible for staying upbeat when times are tough or we have had major disappointments on any one day.

I am a real film buff – absolutely love watching films – preferably those with interesting stories and not much violence. Yesterday I wasn’t even feeling flat – but after going to the movies came out feeling on top of the world – and I would like to explain why.

I went to see The Social Network – basically the story of Mark Zukerberg  – the founder of Facebook. I had no idea about the legal cases he had fought and lost and really didn’t know much about the film at all. Here’s what I loved about the film – and could totally relate it to networking and being an entrepreneur:

1. Mark had an idea about an online profile system, that people could update themselves – ONE GOOD IDEA – he believed in it, and then shared it with his mate – who encouraged him to go for it! Often that’s all we need, just that one bit of encouragement from a mate  sometimes even a total stranger – someone – who basically says – yes I believe in you and your idea is great. Sometimes they might even add a twist or a slight turn or offer a slight change/improvement to the original idea – all in the spirit of – I want you to succeed with this idea.

Mark met Sean – the founder of Napster who suggested he delete the work THE from the original title – The Facebook – minor alteration – major improvement. Isn’t that they way with some of our own ideas – a minor tweak has a dramatic effect – that’s why we have to be open to constructive feedback from others.

2. Mark borrowed $1000 start-up from the same mate – $1000 for something that grew to be a multi million dollar idea – don’t you wish all your ideas were that “on trend” and successful – for such a small financial outlay. Again that mate believed in him – enough to support him financially. The friend knew he had the knowledge to create the code required to make it happen and was prepared to invest $1000 – and hope for the best. Unfortunately down the track they had a falling out and their friendship was dissolved – but originally there was total faith and trust between the two mates.

3. Mark worked tirelessly to get his system working – and was totally alert for little things that could improve his system – based on the needs of his customers – who in this case were college students. He knew them perfectly, he was one of them, but as a geek – often felt he was on the outside looking in. Yet he was certainly close enough to identify a need when he saw it. And he capitalised on this and adapted his end product as quickly as it was possible.

What inspired me most about the film was Mark Zukerberg’s determination and belief in his idea – just one good idea – that truly became a great idea. As entrepreneurs we have lots and lots of ideas every day, week or month. But only a handful of those do we actually get really strong hunches  about – strong enough to take action.

And often those great ideas come when we are not cashed up, and really have to think creatively about how we can make it happen – how we can crack the code to get this product or idea to market with a limited budget.

3. Without giving the story away, there was another player with the idea – who had  a much smaller profile idea and a tiny version of what ultimately became Facebook. These guys huffed and puffed so much about their idea and how great it would be – but they wanted to keep the concept within the one college – definitely scarcity thinkers, not abundance thinkers who know there is always plenty for everyone. Exclusivity is not abundance thinking.  Their focus was much, much smaller than the end product and the two products really were totally different – even though the lawyers would not necessarily agree with my opinion.

Here are a few things that I do if I am “stuck”, unmotivated or need a boost:

1. Take a day off – or at least an afternoon. Spend that time focusing on what is working, rather than what is going wrong – recharge your batteries.

2. Have a good belly laugh – one that almost brings tears to your eyes. When we change our physiology, our whole body responds positively.

3. Avoid negative people – this is not always possible in a work environment, or if you are sharing a home with negative people – but all that flat energy rubs off after a very short time. So surround yourself with as many positive people as you can.

4. Play – remember how to play? Maybe its a sport, a swim, a run (but leave the stopwatch at home) – run for pleasure not to beat your best – playing is about having fun – not setting a new personal best record. Some may argue that setting that record will motivate you – yes it might – but the task today is to PLAY – not compete.

5. Remember why you are an entrepreneur – and how satisfying it is when you do create something from nothing – when you do take one idea and follow it through to completion and it flies – that is a fantastic feeling.

6. Sean, the founder of Napster, had a great line in the movie – when he was giving an opinion on something – “I don’t have a dog in this fight.” How often do we get hooked in to things that really have nothing to do with us – things that are not our fight. These things are another way that we waste our previous positive energy and enthusiasm.

7. I first heard the phrase gratitude attitude from Oprah Winfrey – what am I grateful for? No matter how tough the day may be – there is always something to be grateful for.

Finally, a quick story. I was presenting at an international  conference where there were 15 women and 800 + men – obviously women struggled to be heard in that country and specific profession and the balance of power was definitely with the men.

At the lunchtime break, one of the woman sat with me and asked my advice on her current problem. For years she had worked for an organisation, where she was continually passed over for promotion – yet she knew that most of the “great ideas” that were put forward to senior management and implemented were her ideas originally  – yet she never received recognition for them. Her bosses had a habit of cutting and pasting her ideas and presenting it as their own and receiving recognition for them.

She was incredibly frustrated as there was a shortage of jobs, and in that country being self-employed was not necessarily an option for a woman. My tip to her was you can’t change what they are doing, but what you can change is your response to what they do. Every time one of your ideas gets over the line celebrate in some way yes you are not being acknowledged for it – in time that may change. But for now celebrate – you will never be in their situation where they are stuck and can’t come up with even one idea. You have unlimited ideas – what a gift you have.

True entrepreneurs are continually thinking up great ideas – and will continue to do so – particularly when they hang out and brainstorm with other entrepreneurial thinkers.

Wishing you your next BIG idea in 2011 – no doubt networking will help you bring your idea to market.


Networking face to face – 10 years on

November 3, 2010

This week I was interviewed by a journalist asking about the changes in face to face networking in the last 10 years. We reflected – Remember when –

* there were a lot less business and social networks to attend

* you received emails by the dozen not the hundred.

* you made and received many more phone calls on a landline

* you knew 50% of the people at any network you attended

* LinkedIn had not been invented

* you received many hard copy invitations by snail mail

* websites only told our business story

Now social media has given us an opportunity to enhance our face to face networking by:

* following up after meeting strangers in multiple ways – yes the phone call is definitely still there, and we can also email, join them in Facebook, follow them on LinkedIn, read their blogs, their website, send them ebooks about our special interests and passions – not to mention – plus we can flick another invitation or email that we find of interest – all without being pushy.

Today there are many more ways of staying connected and expanding our networks.The strong point I made with the journalist was whatever social media tool we choose to use – and many choose multiple options – we need to put the time in every day/week to make it work for us.

I am guilty of letting my blog slip from time to time – and have now introduced a weekly discipline to ensure more blogs go out every week.

The one tool I am using regularly with great results is LinkedIn – and again I must thank Iggy Pintado for encouraging me to take the LinkedIn step earlier this year. LinkedIn has enabled me to connect with so many old connections and contacts – people that were 10 years ago in my address book – and have moved multiple times since I knew them – and I have found them on LinkedIn connected in sometimes a totally obscure way.

This week, I noticed a number of high profile authors linked to my network connections. So I thought – let’s invite them to join my connections – the worst thing that happens is they delete my message. Amazingly 90% of them said yes and 50% of them sent me an individual message. In the case of one author, with my LinkedIn invitation I mentioned where i had seen him present in the States and how much I enjoyed the presentation – so it was not just a cold – link with me.

I believe social media is similar to face to face networking – in that we have to very quickly build a connection – electronically we have to send a message that is warm, polite and hopefully builds a connection. We would not just walk up to someone and hand them a business card – we would talk to them first, build some rapport before asking for their card.

As many of you know I moved from Sydney to the far north coast of NSW about 8 years ago. When I make trips to Sydney I try to ensure that I build a trip around a face to face networking event – or at least create an informal networking event with some connections. As we lead into the Christmas/end of year season, I had planned a trip to Sydney late November – as it turns out there are 4 events that I will be able to go to on this one day – a breakfast, a lunch, a mid afternoon and evening event. I will certainly need to keep my water intake up that day – meeting lots of people can be exhausting. And most importantly make time to follow up with people post event – not all of them necessarily – but at least 25 as I know and have proved many times that 25% of the strangers I meet will become prospects, referees or clients.

I am also recommending that LI connections arrive at events 1 hour earlier or for that matter stay 1 hour later to connect face to face with some of their connections – I have found this ramps up the networking considerably. I also have a theory that Wednesday is the most popular day of the week for holding events – so if you are wanting big numbers at your event – avoid Wednesday!

The smart networkers today – realise that it is about the number of touchpoints you have with your connections. I spoke at a business network recently where there were about 35 people in the room and the organiser was apologising for the low numbers. I suggested that they may consider doing an audio recording of the speakers presentations in future – so that people who could not physically be in the room – could actually access the information for a fee. The objection was made – that might mean we have less people in the room, if people know they can get the invitation as a download. On the contrary, if we think abundantly, i believe it is the number of people that we touch with our presentations and information. Reality is the listeners could be anywhere in the world, and that specific network is not just generating extra income, they are also potentially expanding their networks big time.

I summed up with the journalist, 10 years ago face to face networking was more controlled, with the inclusion of social media, your networking is limitless – and your ability to link people, refer business to others and stay connected has never been easier – and  that is very exciting.

Have a great month! – stay connected