Archive for the ‘Business Development’ Category

Why creating your networking plan BEFORE you attend your next industry event makes great sense!

February 1, 2013

Why is it that some people always get great results at networking events and others just seem to flounder from person to person and never appear to get results?

My research has shown that people who create a networking plan BEFORE they arrive at the industry event, definitely achieve far greater results than the ones who just show up.

A networking plan may differ from person to person – but here is a basic outline that may work for you. Feel free to adjust to suit your desired outcomes.


To really maximise your results and return on attendance, it is wise to allocate 15-30 minutes to plan your strategy as soon as you register for the event. During this preparation time, answer/complete the following:

1. Who would you like to meet at this event with a view to building a strong connection with them in the future? Ideally list at least 3-5 people.

2. Beside the 3-5 names write a specific reason why you want to meet that person.

3. Is there anything that you could do prior to that event to ensure that you make the connection productive?

e.g. If you know the person reasonably well maybe a quick phone call to them to check if they are going to the event and the reason for wanting to meet them. You might even suggest that you meet with them 15 minutes before the official start of the event. Or they may be able to spare 15 minutes at the end of the event.

b. If you don’t know a lot about the person/people – can you spend time on their website or their LinkedIn profile to get to know a little more about them? Look for common interests and mutual connections. Make a note of these points.

c. Can you send  a LinkedIn inmail introducing yourself to them and mentioning the event and indicating you will introduce yourself to them?

d. Finally Google the person and see if there is additional information that may assist you to start a conversation or make a stronger connection.

Often when I suggest this preparation strategy, my audiences groan and tell me they don’t have time, why bother, blah, blah, blah…..My response is always, if you are wanting to build a connection with someone and you know very little about them, you have to start somewhere. The least you can do is pay them the courtesy of doing your  homework before you meet them.

If you had the opportunity to “pitch” to them in a formal meeting, it is highly unlikely that you would not prepare for that meeting. So consider this preparation advance research. Why would they remotely consider doing business with you when you have not done your research around their industry or them?

e. Prepare a couple of questions that you could ask some of those people.

e.g. John, my name is Brian Johnson, we have not met before, but I was very interested in the quote you made about the XYZ project, may I ask you………..?

Susan, my name is Brian Johnson, we have not met before, but I saw where your company was a finalist in the ABC awards, may I ask what being a finalist was like for you?

f. An important step with your preparation is deciding before you attend the networking event, how to stay connected post event with these key players. You have many options here from emails, inmails with LI, a follow up note, an invitation to  another event, sending an article or a web link, a phone call – what will work best for that key contact? The more you know about the person, the easier it becomes to pick the most suitable follow up strategy. One size does not fit all here.

g. Finally how will you measure your results? Very few people walk away from an industry event with a million dollar order. It happens, but not every time. However, many people walk away with potential million dollar contacts and they never follow up or keep in touch.

Think about the dollar investment to attend industry and business networking events and memberships for the next 12 months. You might be surprised at the total investment. Why not give my suggestions a trial for the next 3 events that you are planning to attend? What have you got lose?

Remember, every best friend was once a perfect stranger!

Happy networking until next time.



January 2, 2013

As the new year dawns many people review their year – both positives and negatives –

What worked well?

What didn’t work at all?

What do you wish you had more time for?

What will you make more time for in the next 12 months?

Yet when it comes to face to face networking, if you are taking one year to review your activity – you are potentially missing lots of opportunities. Or even worse, continuing to do something that is really not working for you.

One thing I know for sure is that master networkers can make decisions quickly and accept or decline potential networking invitations in a heartbeat.

So let’s look at the decision making tips that some master networkers use on receipt of an invitation. Let’s face it – today the chances of getting a hard copy invitation via snail mail are very rare.

The standard invitation format today is sent via email, twitter, a forwarded link, meet-up, LinkedIn, Facebook, You Tube or a dedicated website. You may print off the invitation or just give it a quick scan. Let’s look the main things that grab your attention:

1. Attention compelling email header/opening sentence or event title. If the sender has targeted their marketing to a specific demographic (that includes you) you will probably move to point 2. If you are not remotely the target market, the delete button looms.

2. Your interest has been sparked – tell me more – What is the date? Where is it being held? What is the time frame? Who else will be there? Some readers will delete the invitation at this point if the location, date or time does not match their availability. If it does you may move to point 3.

3. Why should I go? What are the benefits of attending? Who else is going? Good copy can clinch the deal here or at least get you to move to the action step – point 4.

4. How much is it? Very quickly we weigh up the risk of wasting that amount of money on a bad event versus the potential benefits to be gained if you enjoy the event and get to network with the potential participants.

The definition for bad event may vary from person to person. Some may define a bad event as a poorly organised event where nothing was planned, the event started late with no real structure and everyone was left to their own devices. Sometimes a case of promise great – deliver lousy.

Yet for others the informality may be just what they love the most. Many people have a “dollar meter” that they are prepared to risk. “Well it’s only $50, so if I don’t like it, I can leave – it’s not a huge amount of money.” Someones else’s “dollar meter” might be $1,000 – it totally depends on the demographic, the event and the potential benefits.

Many people today attend a free event knowing full well that although theoretically it is FREE – there is a big chance there will be a heavy and very persuasive sell throughout the event for another event/course. All of this as the delete button looms and we quickly make a decision – yes, no or maybe.

So let’s put on a master networker’s hat when we look at the next invitation we receive. In addition to the above 4 points, the master networker has done their pre-event homework weeks before. They have decided that in this quarter, they are looking to attend networking events – local, nationally or internationally where:

a. Their specific potential prospect demographic is located. e.g. you are a recruitment firm specialising in finding candidates for banking and finance organisations. So you will definitely plan to attend the high $$ ticket events where your banking and finance decision makers flock. This might be a state or national conference, a post budget breakfast or maybe even a charity fundraiser that their organisation supports. Their marketing budget would include attendance at these events. Stricly speaking the higher the cost of the ticket, the more senior the level of decision maker attending the event. e.g. if the event is a $275.00 AFR lunch, it is highly unlikely you will find the personal assistant or support staff in attendance. But you will find a number of senior managers there. Yes they are there for the speaker/information/panel as well as the opportunity to network with their peers, competitors and prospects.

b. Their current client base are regulars at these events. Today once the business is secured, in some professions there is no need for regular contact with the client by the original negotiator – your team are the ones making contact. However, it is always a healthy networking habit to run into/reconnect with your client from time to time at social or business networks. You are reconnecting with them, updating yourself on what is happening in their world, not just professionally but also personally (when appropriate), and supporting their networks as well.

c. Lapsed clients are also in the master networkers radar for this quarter. So they will make an effort to show up at networking events where they can run into lapsed clients. Past clients are lapsed for all sorts of reasons, e.g. they only require your product or services occasionally, you blew it – they gave you a chance and you stuffed up at that point in time with your product or service, complacency may have also set in and you lost their business because you stopped valuing their business. Often in an informal networking situation lapsed clients or more than happy to discuss doing business again – or highlighting to you, why that will never be possible. At least you will know. And face to face you will be able to get to that much faster than over the phone or email.

So why can master networkers make decisions quickly about whether they will invest time, money and energy attending a networking event or not? The answer is simple – they have a networking plan – their a, b and c target is very clear, they also know why they want to network with them and in what location and they have allocated a networking budget.

Finally, they are great delegators. Yes they will attend the AFR lunch with the $275 ticket, but they might encourage their PA and support staff to take a table at the $55.00 breakfast and invite some of their client’s PA’s as well. In this way they are strengthening their networks within their client’s organisation and drilling down with cross networking staff members. And their senior team and support staff know that there is a marketing budget available if they see an event that would be a great networking opportunity for their firm. They are encouraged and more than welcome to flick the invitation to the manager with 3 reasons why they think it would be great for them to attend and maybe take a couple of clients along as well. Their requests are rarely declined – because they use their system. And all the team are aware of the firm’s a, b and c networking targets. These targets are for the team, not just one individual.

Master networkers have systems – they measure their return on attendance at every event they or their team attend. The result’s measurement includes immediate (1 week) short term (30-60 days) and long term (90-120 days).

The reality today is that your return on attendance networking events is often NOT immediate. However, you have made the connection, extended your network, reconnected or reacquainted yourself with a prospect at an event and followed up with your contacts post event. The worst thing you can do in 2013 is only attend a networking ONCE! You must go back to that network to continue to build your profile, reconnect with those you met and expand your network.

Sometimes you meet someone and at that point in time they are a 9 out of 10 prospect for you. In their world, you are a 5 out of 10 – “one day I will use that person’s services, just not today”. Attending a network a second time, will increase your chances of getting your return on attendance.

Have a brilliant 2013 – and remember networking can open every door for you – you just have to know what you want, why you want it and how you are going to make it happen.

Have fun networking until next time!

3 ice breaker ideas when strangers meet at social events

December 2, 2012

Picture this – you are hosting a social event/party with more than fifty people attending. You know everyone on the list – they are drawn from all sectors of your life. However, many of these people will know no one. Many of them are attending by themselves – and you being a master networker want to be one step ahead of the networking game. You know that you have done as much as you can to ensure the food, drink, entertainment, location are all first class. But how do you ensure that the experience for everyone is memorable, fun and enjoyable.

NAME TAGS – going one step further
In addition to the person’s name, why not put a tag line with a humourous and accurate note. e.g. John Smith – born in Tasmania. Mary James – mad Rugby fan. Dave Jones – loves the Swans. Bronwen Jamison – new to Sydney.

Obviously care must be taken with the tag lines – but what you are creating is an ice breaker. Something that will enable one stranger to talk to another stranger without feeling awkward.

PLAYING CARDS – finding a pair
Remember the Mission Impossible line – “Your task if you choose to complete it is to” find your other card half. If there are more than 100 people in attendance, then maybe it will be enough just to match your half king card with another half king. If there are less than 50 people, you will have to find the exact match – a half king of diamonds, finds another half king of diamonds. To incentivise the activity you may include some lucky door prizes for the first three couples who match their playing cards. Logistically if you give everyone a name tag and click the half playing card to the back of the name tag and have a couple of very clearly worded signs explaining what people have to do – you will certainly have people mingling and mixing quickly and enthusiastically.

CARD MATCH – matching heads and tails.
This system requires you to purchase some inexpensive packs of colourful christmas cards – the more designs the better. Step two is to cut the christmas cards in half horizontally, and shuffle the cards so that no two matching cards are together. Then as guests collect their name tags, give everyone half a christmas card. Again very clear signage explains how the cards are to be matched and examples of complete cards could be placed on the explanation board.

Why go to so much trouble? These three ideas will take time, effort and energy. However, your return on effort will be that your guests will have a fun time, they will have reasons to engage with total strangers without feeling awkward and there will be an instant buzz in the air.

Don’t be surprised when people leave the event, that they compliment you on the effort you went to and enthusiastically thank you for your invitation.

One thing I know for sure, whether your guests stay at your event for one, two, three hours or more, you can never give them that time back. They have given it to you. So the least you can do is everything in your control to make it a great event.

Enjoy 2013 and make the most of every networking opportunity that comes your way.

It’s a small world after all!

November 4, 2012

Six degrees of separation is finished!

Long live two degrees of separation – in today’s global market place. Let me share an amazing story with you. Last week I presented to the team at Mondo Direct, a leading recruitment firm in North Sydney. When I arrived, the CEO, Simone Allan mentioned that she had run into someone I knew last week – Alban – also in recruitment. I mentioned that I had a LinkedIn message from Alban the day before.

Apparently, Simone and Alban were both attending a conference in Shanghai and happened to be in a hotel lift together and started to chat –  as you do….. The topic of networking was mentioned and Alban (who is based in Singapore) said that he had learned a  lot about networking from Robyn Henderson, a woman who presented a few years ago to the recruitment company he was working with at that time in Sydney.

Simone’s response – “I know Robyn, she is speaking to our team next Tuesday in Sydney.” Can you believe that? What are the chances of a conversation in Shanghai between two people who knew me (and I worked out I was in Tweed Heads at that time) – chatting about something I was doing in North Sydney.

Tweed Heads – Shanghai – Singapore – North Sydney – true networking in our global marketplace

Closer to home, I regularly watch the sunrise on my morning walks and hopefully see a whale or two, though the season is almost over, so the whales are few and far between this week. Point Danger is a beautiful headland between Snapper Rocks and Duranbah Beach and has a great view of the horizon and is a fantastic whale spotting location. Yesterday I was walking past Point Danger and stopped to chat to a photographer I had spoken to a couple of times previously. Whales were few and far between and he mentioned that he puts his photos on flickr – and had taken some great cloud photos that morning.

We chatted away as you do on an early Sunday morning and I said I would check out his photos which I did later that day. They were excellent and as an amateur photographer, I thought I must look at some of his earlier shots and see if they were always as good as they are now. So I randomly flicked back through his photo library and there were many brilliant nature images.  Then I saw a photo of my Kingscliff hairdresser, who had told me ages ago about a  trek he did through Tasmania and Cradle Mountain. Amazingly,  Larry the photographer and Trevor the hairdresser were on the same Tasmanian trek.

Those two degrees of separation are at it again.

In my networking presentations I often say that no one wears a sign dangling from their ears or their wrist with a list of all the people that they know. If they did, you could then know before you even start a conversation, the reason for connecting with them.

The randomness of networking is what really makes networking exciting. Two strangers meet, share a general conversation and then indirectly find they have mutual connections, shared interests or knowledge. Trust is built through communication and when there is a third party connection and sometimes almost an endorsement of that person, you are inclined to trust them that much more.

Bill Gates  calls this the trilogy of trust, the trust that one person has in another that is passed on to a third party. We certainly do live in a very small world.

Chances conversations not only expand your network but also make you realise how small the world really is today. Can I encourage you to speak to at least one total stranger every day? You will be surprised who you meet.  And always remember that every best was once a perfect stranger.

Happpy networking until next time.

What is on your life of choice sheet?

September 9, 2012

One of my favourite Saturday activities, after my morning walk, is reading multiple newspapers over breakfast.  Yes I know I can read newspapers  online or on an I pad – but I really enjoy the mental stimulation and relaxation of reading my way through the national and local papers. There is something about turning those pages that I enjoy. Go figure, I guess that’s why I also like reading actual books rather than ebooks – but that’s another conversation. Admittedly I love living on the far north coast of NSW, and sometimes I feel it is like living in a bubble, when you are not exposed to many of the national and international happenings in the local paper. So Saturday is my day for a news catch up, what did I miss this week and what is happening in the world that may impact significantly on my profession, my future plans and my clients’ worlds? I do read three newspapers every day, but Saturday is the big five newspaper days.  And I for one, will be very sad when the day comes when actual hard copy newspapers are discontinued. But I digress.

In the Sydney Morning Herald 8.9.12 – there was an interesting article by Marcus Padley – headed – Only 250,624 hours left! It’s time to prioritise. The article went on to describe the Death Sheet – a spread sheet that applies actual life-expectancy tables. So based on this theory, I have worked out that if I live for another 30 years, allowing for leap years, etc., that will be 10,057 days, 1560 weekend, 262,968 hours.

It makes you realise how important it is to dig out your bucket list and started adding and deleting a few activities as well as realising how important it is to spend your free time with people you like to be around.

Marcus quotes an embellished tale about Warren Buffett being harassed by someone who just wanted an hour of his time. Warren’s reply:” I have worked out that I have 42,515 hours left to live. If you don’t mind, I don’t want to waste any of them.”

With respect to all actuaries, I have renamed your death sheet – Your Life of Choice sheet – because I know I do have a choice how I spend my time, the work I choose to do, the understanding friends I have neglected from time to time and those I will  spend quality time with in the future, the films I see, walks I take, books I read, emails I respond to and those I delete. Every day is filled with streams of multiple choices, will I, won’t I?

No wonder I love tele-coffees – those pre-arranged phone calls, that may last no more than 10 minutes, but cut to the chase of an issue or query, often resulting in a quick decision or outcome.  I definitely don’t want to spend too many of my future  260,000+ hours sitting in traffic or looking for parking spots reasonably close to the potential meeting. I love the speed of emails, and nothing beats a phone call – talking to a human and getting a decision or answer on the spot. Unfortunately phone calls and newspapers are both dying breeds – what a shame.

Yikes I have just worked out that I have already lived 517,032 hours – that could potentially be a depressing thought – if I let it be.

So let’s not waste another hour – and by that I don’t mean you have to DO anything. Sometimes spending hours doing nothing, is the best thing for you. Sometimes we have to slow down first, rest and recharge our inner batteries, our spirt, before we can speed up and move towards our next life of choice goal or activity. One of the lessons I have learned the hard way is doing nothing without feeling guilty.

Enjoy working out how many days, weekends, hours and if you want minutes and seconds you have to live. Then all you have to do is value every minute, enjoy your life and be open to all those amazing opportunities on the horizon. Networking can really fast track most of the things you want in life – and always remember every best friend was once a perfect stranger.

“Live each day as if it was your last – because one day it will be” – anonymous.


Business Networking and Sex (not what you think) – book highlights

June 5, 2012

Ivan Misner, father of networking and founder of Business Networking International is currently touring Australia launching his new book Business Networking and Sex (not what you think) co-authored by  Ivan Misner, Hazel M. Walker and Frank J. De Raffele Jr. I had the privilege of being the emcee at his Sunshine Coast book launch last week and want to share some of the key points I took away from Ivan’s fantastic presentation:

“Has someone you didn’t even know ever solicited you for a referral or business?” Ivan calls that PREMATURE SOLICITATION

“Are you completely insane? I’m going to introduce you, someone I don’t know and don’t have any relationship with, to someone I do know and have built a relationshp with over a long period of time? And you are going to proposition him just as you have me, to sell him your product or service that he may or may not need. And that I know nothing about and have not used myself. That’s never going to happen!”

Yet how often is this happening to you at many of the Australian networks you are going to? In this current tight market, many people barely tell you their name or ask yours, before they move in with their sales pitch. And they get quite offended when you don’t respond enthusiastically. (RH)

“Networking is not about hunting. It is about farming. It’s about cultivating relationships. Dont engage in “premature solicitation.” You’ll be a better networker if you remember that”.

“The message I’m about to give you is really for men, but should be considered by women, too. Spending money needlessly on marketing is just stupid. The benefits of face-to-face networking not only outweigh paid advertising, but stretch far beyond just growing your business. Guys, if you persist in discounting networking and some of the small challenges that accompany it, you’re foolish….

If you were to add up the soft-money investments of labour, networking, connecting and building relationshps you may be surprised at the financial value you’ve delivered to your business. Let’s look at the array of positive wealth effects that networking brings, beyond just sales numbers:

* added sales volume

* higher average transaction amount per sale

* greater closing ratio

* referrals tend to be very qualified professionals

* higher occurrences of leads and referrals

* more repeat business

* greater positive word-of-mouth marketing benefits

* more customer loyalty

* stronger community recognition

* greater perceived value.”


“Our survey says that men spend more time networking than women do, but it appears that women get better results. At first this seemed a little confusing until  I began to look at what women do compared to what the men do. Women call going to events to network, networking….

Remember that women are more likely to be relational, they taken their time, they look for common ground and find places that they can support and collaborate…. Women socialize, they connect. Men always called it gossiping; often it was done over the back fence, it was relationship building…. The next step in the progression for women is how to ask their networks to help them build their businesses. Women spend a great deal of time networking; but it is often unintentional. One of the ways to strengthen their networking muscle is to be intentional with their networking activities. Men often serve on boards as a way of connecting and networking, but women serve on boards because they care about the cause and often never connect their business networking to it. If we would be more cognizant of our network, we would realize  that we have a vast array of people who can and will help us in our business.”


Women take the slower, steady path to networking, stopping along the way to invest time in building their relationships, while men sprint the male dash straight to getting business fast by skipping some of the developmental, middle steps in networking. At the finish line, men seem to have a quicker return for their time, but it is the women who are winning the race, breaking through the ribbon with deeper, and more fruitful connections.”

I hope you have a chance to see Ivan Misner during his Australian tour – more details are available at or if that is not possible and you want to read more about the results of this 6000+ participant networking survey – go to

Happy networking until next time


Phone call or face to face meetings – how to get to yes faster!

April 20, 2012

In today’s busy marketplace, having someone agree to meet you face to face is a real gift and a rarity – unless your product or service is close to the top of their priority list.  Yet in our wired world, where we are spending most of the day scanning emails and messages, sometimes we think a face to face meeting is a MUST HAVE – whereas I think of it as a great to have, but definitely not necessary and not the only option for exchanging information!

It’s not that they are not interested in a potential meeting, but their to-do list is growing by the hour and unfortunately you are not one of their top five priorities. But please don’t take it personally. Tele-coffees and planned phone calls are a very easy alternative and one that rarely get’s a negative response. Personally I would rather have a pre-planned 3-4 minute phone call with a busy person where I was able to ask them no more than two quick questions than wait months to get in front of them face to face.

Recently I read online, that an old friend/client (whom I had not physcially seen for 10 years) was  co-chair of the board of an organisation I was having a meeting with. I was connected to her on LinkedIn, so quickly sent an inmail asking if it was possible to have a quick phone call within the next week. As it turned out, I did not get a response until the following week as the person had been away, but they were more than happy to take a call and gave me their personal number. On the pre-arranged day, I phoned in the morning (when unfortunately they were busy) and set up a time for a phone call meeting. They gave me an alternate time and later that day, I had my two questions answered quickly, succintly and I was most grateful. And the whole call took less than three minutes.

The clearer you are on the help you need, the easier you make it for someone to help you

At the opposite end of the scale, I received an email from a third party, who mentioned a mutual friend and asked if I could meet with her the next time I was in Brisbane. She wanted to discuss book writing, professional speaking etc.  As luck would have it, I was flying out of Brisbane the next week and attending a lunch in Brisbane within two weeks, so I was able to give two face to face meeting time  options via email. Let me explain that I live 90 minutes drive from Brisbane and only go there for business or occasionally for direct flights that do not depart from the Gold Coast. On average I would be there once a month.

I suggested we meet at the airport an hour before my flight was due to leave, or the alternate option was to meet for an hour before the lunch meeting I had in the next fortnight. Neither of these were convenient – that’s life.

My alternate offer was to suggest that as I would be driving for at least 90 minutes on the Wednesday between a set time, or 90 minutes return trip from the airport on the Thursday night –  she was welcome to phone me on my hands free mobile during those times and ask whatever questions she wanted. I explained that I like taking calls during these airport drives as it makes the time pass quickly and I can normally give someone more time than they would get in a face to face meeting.

Believe it or not, this person declined that offer too and said they would wait until I was in Brisbane or maybe they were coming down my way and we could meet face to face. I saw that as a missed opportunity and unbeknown to the person, I don’t arrange business meetings on weekends – that is my time out and it would have to be a very, very good client for me to break that rule – not a stranger.

Recently I was referred to a prospect via someone I knew reasonably well, but had met a number of years ago and not seen for some time. The prospect mentioned the referee’s name when they initially made contact. Once the presentation was confirmed, I made contact with the referee – again via LinkedIn – (don’t you just love Linkedin? – it is such a brilliant networking tracking tool) thanked her for the referral, confirmed I was booked to speak to the organisation and asked if she could spare 5 minutes on the phone at a time to suit her (giving her a choice of 3 days) to ask a little bit about the organisation. We had a great phone conversation, which did last longer than 5 minutes, and I gained some real insight into the organisation, much more than I was able to glean from the prospect’s website.

So let’s look at a couple of key points to make sure you get to yes as often as possible and people are responsive to your requests:

1. Be clear on why you want to speak to the person. Are they the only person with the information? Do you know for sure they know the answer to your potential questions? Don’t be surprised or disappointed if they don’t know the answers.

2. Be flexible with your time. I was surprised with suggesting two face to face meeting times or two phone times that none of them were suitable or convenient for this lady who wanted to discuss book writing. Maybe it just wasn’t as important a priority as she thought it was. If someone says they can take your call at 6.30 a.m. or 8.30 p.m. – that is such a gift – if possible move your schedule to accommodate their offer. Or, don’t make your call until you have a clear diary yourself. They are your priority, not vice versa.

3. Respect their time. If you asked for five minutes, then five minutes it is. If they choose to extend, be grateful.

4. Respect their information. One of the most frustrating things I have found with face to face meetings (and probably why I avoid them unless I know  it is a committed recipient) is to take time to meet with someone and then hear or see that they have done nothing with the information. Six months later they ring again and ask for another meeting. And when you check, well what has happened since the last meeting? The answer is –  Zero! They have not acted on anything you discussed.  I normally decline the meeting and suggest that they just check their notes from the last meeting and let me know when they have taken any action.

This might sound bitchy. But life is precious and we all have 24 hours in a day – what we choose to do with that time, is up to us. I always laugh when people say, how do you get time to write so many books? I often tease them and say, “didn’t you know, authors get an extra six hours a day to fit in their writing. Don’t tell anyone though, it’s a secret!” The real secret is  – we all have 24 hours in a day, and allowing for eating and sleeping, we might have 6-10 hours of productive time each day. And our choices may include making time to write, read,  exercise, network, socialise, build friendships,  special time with loved ones, chilling time – to do absolutely nothing but recharge the batteries or choose to share your information often with total strangers.

5. Be courteous – sometimes I will phone someone asking them if I can set up a time to ask them a couple of questions. 90% of the time, they answer the questions on the spot. But I personally think the better and more courteous way is to email them giving them a bit of background (50-60 words) and idea of your questions – no more than 3 questions and your phone numbers. Sometimes they will phone you and give you the answers on the spot. And sometimes you will never hear from them – and that’s okay too. They made a choice too!

The current marketplace is the new normal – it’s still very competitive, buyers are discerning often with restricted budgets, their expectations are as high as they ever were and our marketplace is continually changing due to natural disasters, changes to government policies, plus influences and impacts from international marketplaces. So always value your connections. Be generous with your information and understand the law of reciprocity – what you give out comes back tenfold.

But always reserve the right to say no, not now. Or no, not ever. Or yes definitely! The choice is always with you.





When it comes to referrals, LinkedIn is NOT Facebook!

March 6, 2012

Social media is brilliant – however, many people don’t get it. Even on social media, we must still earn the right to ask for and receive referrals – just because you are linked – does not mean I know you well enough to recommend you, like or trust you or am prepared to open my valued network to you. Yes I choose to have an open profile, and I encourage all LinkedIn connections to have open profiles. However, for you to maximise trawling through my connections list, before you connect or send an invitation to connect to someone you don’t really know, it will pay you to put in the time reading the person’s profiles, groups they belong to and review the number of people you have in common. Networking takes time and maximising your opportunities on LinkedIn takes time too yet the results and potential rewards are worth it.

Please don’t be offended by this. Here are the facts (as I see the world). And I know that some readers will disagree and that’s okay. I believe if you don’t stand for something, you may fall for anything.:

* every time I give a referral to someone in my network, I risk losing my own credibility. So my policy when it comes to recommending speakers or industry experts is to only refer people who I have seen speak professionally. This sounds logical enough. Yet a week does not go past, without someone somewhere asking me to open up my client list to them – because they happen to know me or know someone who knows me. And I know I risk losing them as a connection when I explain that I only refer speakers, who I have seen speak. You see, I would rather lose one connection, who disapproved of my recommendations policy, rather than my reputation with someone whom I know well. and have built a bridge of trust of a period of time. And I will often say to the speaker wanting the introduction, invite me to an event you are speaking at, so I can see you present. I can count on one hand, those invitations I have received over the last twenty years.

* And in saying that, if someone asked me for a specific topic and I didn’t personally know that speaker, I would definitely mention them to the third party, but explain that they should do their homework on the speaker’s suitability for their project. And LinkedIn makes checking recommendations very easy – by just looking at the person’s profile and checking out their recommendations you will be able to check their suitability for yourself.

Of course, this principal does not just apply for professional speakers, it applies across the board with all professions. Every time you give a referral you risk losing some of your own credibility if the referee does not meet the third parties expectations.

* what I am also noticing on LinkedIn, is that once you connect, some people send you an “offer” – 50% off, 80% off – a “deal” – and a request to recommend me to your friends. Why would I do that? I may not even be interested in your unrequested offer, so why would I fill up my valued networks inbox with offers that they don’t want either. Well there might be a handful that would be interested – but I will let them find you through their various search methods, rather than risk alienating my network. Or if you become active on LinkedIn – you too will build a strong and broad network. LinkedIn is NOT Facebook.

* Once you understand the law of reciprocity – what you give out comes back ten fold – you will realise that if you want recommendations for your LinkedIn profile – all you have to do is recommend others. In my networking presentations, I suggest to people that as a minimum they give away one referral a week to their network, whether it’s a referral for business, a restaurant, event or film you have experienced and enjoyed  – a recommendation.  And if that is not possible, then talk something up, have something good to say about another.

How long should your LinkedIn recommendation be for a service provider, supplier or one of your network? Sometimes one line is enough, sometimes it may be a paragraph or two. I will give LinkedIn full credit – it is continually improving its systems and makes it so easy for you to recommend people in your network. And you have to make the effort to do it.

Again I know I risk alienating even more people when I say no to a request for a recommendation or an easy introduction – but I know that business and relationships are built on clear communication, building trust and valuing your network.

Let me share with you the difference between a tip, a lead and a referral. I know I have blogged about this before, but it is one of the keys to your business or career growth.

A tip – is almost gossip – e.g. there is a hotel in the CBD doing a refurbishment. this is almost useless information and not very helpful at all if you are in the refurbishing business.

A lead, the Central Plaza Hotel is doing a large refurbishing project this year.  Yes I have more information and at least have identified the location.

A referral, I have been speaking to John Smith from the Central Plaza Hotel in the CBD, they are doing a large refurbishing project this year. I mentioned you would be perfect for that project and I gave him your details. Here is his number, he is expecting to hear from you in the next 24 hours. That is a referral!

Will you get the contract? Possibly something like this might be a tender situation, but talking to the key player will certainly give you heads up on the brief, time frame etc. And if it’s not a tender situation, well at least you throw your hat into the ring with that third party endorsement.

Over time, you will build a network of suppliers and service providers that you will trust almost with your life – certainly with your reputation. And sometimes they too may let you down. Let me share a recent experience with you. Without hesitation, I recommended a graphic designer to an author I was working with and gave them a huge wrap. The author paid a 50% deposit, we briefed the designer and waited for the proofs. What came through was nothing like what the author or I had requested – not the right colours, image, it was a disaster.

I spoke to the author immediately and explained I did not know why the graphic designer had not met the brief and recommended that we not proceed with the designs. The client was very disappointed and suggested they would use their regular graphic designer and that was that.

I knew that the graphic designer had a death in the family 6 weeks previously, and although they appeared to be on top of things, grief, as many of us know takes time to recover from. I was delighted when I saw the email from the original graphic designer to the author, admitting their error in not following the brief, apologising profusely and advising that they would refund the deposit that day. I was delighted they had taken that action, the author was pleased and commented on the graphic designer’s professionalism. Will I continue to refer work to the graphic designer? Yes, I have already. I believe we can always forgive an OOPS (a mistake) – when it is managed well and no one is disadvantaged.

Isn’t it an exciting world we live in today? This is just my personal opinion, you may agree with part or all of it or none of it – and thats okay too.

The master networkers, whom I respect have systems, proceedures and ways of operating – and they stick to them – even though at times their decisions are not popular. Similar to leadership, networking is not a popularity contest – and not everyone is going to like you. However, when they understand the reasons behind your decisions, maybe they accept you to not – and that’s okay too.

An action step you may consider for today, is to look at your LinkedIn connections list and select 5 people you would recommend and send them a recommendation. Don’t be surprised if you received some very appreciative response.

Happy networking until next time.

5 tips for completing a self audit before you start a strategic alliance

March 6, 2012

My favourite  strategic alliance quote is taken from an African proverb – “To go fast, go alone. To go far, go togther.” Yet often when we approach people about forming strategic alliances, we approach them “cap in hand” so to speak – as if they are doing us a favour by saying yes. Rather than valuing what we have to offer an alliance. For your own sense of self worth, I recommend that you complete the following exercise prior to setting up a strategic alliance.

1. CONSIDER YOUR NETWORKS – how large are your networks, how diverse, what industries do they cross, how geographically diverse are they? How percentage of your network would  be advocates for you?

2. WORK HISTORY – what skills are you currently using in your current role as well as all your past positions? What other skills do you have that you may have developed in special interest groups or peer groups? What skills are a little rusty and just need a little top up to bring you back to speed?

3. LIFE EXPERIENCES – we are not our jobs or the titles on our business card. We are people who have had a lifetime of experiences both negative and positive that we bring to every meeting we attend or network we break into. Of course none of these experiences are obvious to look at us. You may have lived in another country for your school years – that doesn’t show now, but what a gift to bring to an alliance when someone is wanting to do business in that country. Local knowledge is invaluable. You have knowlege that is not written in the guide books or the general websites. Your life experiences are your real gifts to your networks and alliances.

4. PASSION – we are all passionate about something – for some it’s a sporting team, a political cause, a charity, our future, our children and our career and business. Coupled with our life experiences our passions are incredibly valuable.

5. RESOURCES – this is a very descriptive word and covers available income to invest in this project/alliance, available time to commit to the outcomes, potential staff members that you can lend to the project administrative duties, you may have a virtual assistant who you can delegate some of the work to, you may step up as the leader of the project, or more importantly the person who ensures the project is completed.

Based on your responses to these five points, my intention is to make you realise just how valuable you are to the success of the alliance. Never again go cap in hand to anything – you have thousands, no, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of invaluable gifts and knowledge to bring to every network, alliance and opportunity that will come across your path this week, this month or this year.

When you value you, other people value you too!

FORENSIC NETWORKING – a skill for serious networking

February 9, 2012

With over twenty years experience within the speaking industry, I found over time that not only did audience size increase, but also the size of the organizations I was working with. I put this down to a number of things – my reputation was increasing as I wrote articles and features for industry magazines and spoke at large association events, the need for networking became increasingly more important not only for business development people, but also for organizations in general, staff had great technical skills, but very little experience with the soft skills like networking and the word networking was showing up in the media more often. And it was becoming something that people knew they needed to know more about.

Then I started to realise that breaking into large organizations (whether that was defined by turnover or number of employees specific to industry) really needed to be quite strategic and very professional. And the more touch points or connection points within an organization, the more chance you had of getting a positive approach from the decision maker. Large organizations are made up of multiple pockets of influence and the cross networking opportunities abound, once you get in there – but how to do that is often the dilemma.

I first heard the expression Forensic Networking from a very successful senior partner of an international accounting firm. Forensic networking was something the firm did prior to meeting with potential clients and included accessing public domain information about the potential client/s, their personal interests, their networks – looking for potential touch points, within their already substantial client base, who could potentially be an advocate for their firm.


And I realised that many people do this, but not usually in a systematic or strategic way. As a consequence, the results can be very inconsistent. We know that maintaining networks and connections is greatly assisted with systems, so I have come up with a model to assist with your forensic networking activity. Be warned this does require effort, energy and time. Some of the information can be more easily accessed that others. Yet the greater the effort, the greater the result. I believe that you really get one shot at a potential client – one chance to really prove your worth or value to that organization. And if you blow that opportunity when you meet with the decision maker/s – it may take a long, long time before they give you a second chance. So the more touch points, the more chances of a favourable outcome.

Quick story, I once met with a financial client, who had booked me to do a Networking for Bankers full day program. Our meeting, in my mind, was to serve as a briefing for the program outcomes. In the client’s mind, it was a very different outcome. (Names and locations have been changed to protect privacy). Our conversation went something like:

“Hi Robyn, glad you could stop by this afternoon, don’t sit down, this won’t take long.” (Here was me thinking I would be there for at least an hour, and it seemed like 3 minutes was more on the cards here)

“We are looking forward to your Networking For Bankers program next week – Sue Smith from Newcastle, John James from Warrnambool and Fred from HR saw you speak at the national institute conference and said you were pretty good and we would gain from getting you in. I am on a board with Sue and John, they don’t work for the bank as you know, but I trust their opinion. Robyn, I want to be straight with you, we have potentially 600 business development staff that you could train nationally, if next weeks session, goes well, we will work out a stack of dates with you for the next few months and get everyone trained up. If next week is a dud and I have to warn you I have put some really tough cookies in your group – but I figure if you can win them over and they come away raving fans, then you are worth your high fee. If you don’t win them over, well, you might wait a long time to get paid. Thanks for coming in Robyn, see Sue on the way out and confirm your logistical stuff.”

How pressured do you think I was feeling! The good news, the session went well, I did win over the tough cookies and went on to train the 600 staff. In hindsight, I had the trust of three people, whom the decision maker trusted – without that; I would not have been booked. And at the time I met those people, who coincidentally worked for much smaller organizations, none of them were wearing signs saying be really nice to me, I will introduce you to a potentially large client for you.


There are two parts to forensic networking, the first involves your potential client, and the second involves you and your commitment to securing that client.


Consists of a list of questions about your client’s organizations, networks, potential touch points/connectors – much is public domain information and some will be almost like piecing together a jigsaw puzzle. At first it’s just a jumble of information and as you continue to work on it, the pattern and images become clearer.


From their website, you should be able to obtain lots of information about their executive team, their products and services. Study all this information and highlight the most relevant pieces and prepare your own organisational summary. Allocate a two-ring binder filled with plastic sleeve and dividers and start your forensic activity. Use the file to store the WebPages information as well as your summary and key points.

Keep copies of any further information from newspapers, magazines, financial pages etc. – you are virtually building a dossier on this organization.


Inner circles can be formed through multiple connections, their children’s friends and families, old school or university contacts, previously worked together in other organizations, cities or sometimes countries (ex-pats have very strong ties), special interests groups – the arts, sports, environmental groups, politics etc. The list is truly endless – and the point for going to all this effort is to make check if some of their inner circle members are already in your inner circle or your current or past client base. Which leads to the next point:


Once identified, you can then make contact with your network and ask the question, “I wonder if you can help me, we are wanting to work with XYZ and it appears John Smith is the key player there. I understand you know John quite well and was wondering what advice you could give me about the best way to approach him.” Of course they have the right to decline politely, but more often than not, they will recommend that you attend somewhere where that prospect is going to be. Maybe there is a community event or charity that they support and you could attend an event or book a table to support this project, maybe you would be invited to share a box at a sporting event.

Now here is where the strategic part comes in – if you have no interest at all in that sport, and you work with someone who does have a passion for the sport or the team – suggest that you arrange a meeting with your co-worker and your contact, so that a connection is made there and then ask (very politely) if its possible that both you and the co-workers attend that sporting event.  Your request may be declined, however now you have another piece in the jigsaw. And you may find that your co-worker is in fact the person who can potentially be one of your touch points for XYZ organization.

If your contact generously invites both of you – do your homework. You can’t fake passion or interest in a sport or activity you are not interested in. Yet combined your co-worker has the passion and you have the interest. Your co-worker can give you heads up about the key rules prior to the game and then its up to you to get involved on the day. I often think of one of my favourite films, In Pursuit of Happyness with Will Smith and how he missed out on a major account through attending a ball game, but made great contacts anyway. In the film the potential XYZ identified himself as a non-prospect, but he liked Will anyway, and connected him with his mates.


Sponsorships, awards they support or have won, alliances that have in the industry, charities they support, and corporate social responsibility initiatives they may be part of.

Your folder should be bulging with clippings and pieces of important information as your collect this data. Also don’t forget your internal network – asking the question at a group meeting – does anyone know JA and BB, decision makers at XYZ or do you know anyone who works at XYZ. and other search engines can also be a great help here – again you are collecting key pieces of information. Remember you may only get one shot at this potential client; you want to make sure you are prepared for that meeting.


You need to know the name of your competitor, how long they have been servicing XYZ, the products and services they provide. What is different about your product/service? Be honest, is there product better than yours? And if so, what can you offer XYZ that your competitor cannot? Are they under contract or tender, when does the tender expire? All this information is placed in your folder (manual or electronic) as you build a case to gain that large client.

 5. THINK  LIKE THE CLIENT, NOT LIKE THE POTENTIAL SERVICE PROVIDER. If you were XYZ,      what would make you consider changing service providers? Price is often      not the sole determining factor for supplier decisions. Think more      strategically about what you have to offer.


The law of reciprocity states that what you give out comes back ten-fold. So if there is a way that you can refer business to XYZ, prior to you approaching them re. business – then you are standing out from your competitors as trying to assist them to grow their business, not just expecting them to grow yours. Forensic networkers are creative thinkers.


How well do you know them? Can you arrange a phone meeting or catch up with them to ask for help. “We are wanting to supply XYZ, if you were me what would you do?” Similar to point 3, you may again find out key information to assist with your strategic targeting.


If you don’t know, ask the question. Referrals are often so close to the surface of organizations, you just have to do your research. If you have an advocate who is already supplying XYZ, what a great link for you – and the advocate already knows how good you are, and can certainly give you a testimonial, possibly an invitation to an event where XYZ will be or an introduction at an appropriate time.


Make a list of names – and grade them A, B or C contact – with A as the highest contact –know them well, have their number in your mobile, connect once a month with them. Then if you ask your internal network, who knows anyone at XYZ, and go through the same ABC process, you may find you have a lot of overlap with connections. And if you ask the second question, how do you know them, you gain a lot more information to add to your original profile.

Using flipcharts or mind maps is a great way to visually display these connections – I often think of a detective’s white board when you place all these names and connections in the one spot. Your jigsaw is really taking shape. If you don’t know anyone at all, make a list of the positions that key people may hold and find out who they are – if you drill down, you may find you do have connections. It is no longer six degrees of separation, more like two degrees of separation these days.


The bigger the client, the more effort is required to secure that client. You might get really lucky e.g you are a bank, and they have a particularly bad bank day – and you just happen to offer to sort out their problem. More likely though, little things keep building and building with a disgruntled supplier until one little thing can tip the edge and you can jump in as their next supplier.


Part two is all about YOU and I encourage you to ask yourself these questions?

1. Why  do you want to become a service provider to this organization (XYZ)?

Is this a short or long term prospect? Is there prestige attached to being a service provider? Is it all about bonuses, targets and sales? Do you want to genuinely assist XYZ with your product? When the going gets tough and you seem to be taking one step forward and three steps back, you really need to be clear on the WHY?



There is a finite number of hours in the week and we assume you will have other work to do as well as study XYZ – so you need to be clear on your time commitment and get mutual agreement from your peers with this time allocation. e.g.  XYZ’s decision maker may be a keen yachtsmen, as are you. And Wednesday afternoon twilight sessions are when XYZ sails with his peers and then back to the clubhouse for drinks. If you think sailing on Wednesday afternoons is a strategic networking opportunity, be sure to get agreement from your peers or they may become very resentful. Even keeping abreast of the daily news may take up to 30 minutes a day, where can you find that time – or will it be stolen minutes here and there throughout the day?


Be clear on time frame, possible resources, other staff involved – without an action plan it will be very easy to give up and drown in a sea of newspaper clippings and paper.


Create a list of names and contact details. When you do make the approach to them, be very clear how much time you are asking them to commit? Phone time/ text messaging/emails may be a convenient use of time. Maybe you just need the okay to run your progress past them from time to time. And of course, you must respect their choice if they decline your invitation. It is far better for them to decline than to agree and then be a no-show at the bulk of your meetings.


Maybe you can squeeze this project into your current day – but be warned forensic networking can suck up a lot of time, particularly in the early stages, when you are collecting the most information. One of the keys is deciding if you can combine your networking with your interests – eg. Sailing, running, gym, special interests.  If you can, you will find that you are a lot more passionate about project XYZ, than if you have to miss your hobbies to make room for project XYZ.



The sooner you identify this – the better for everyone. Forensic networking will give you the answer to your question  COULD XYZ POTENTIALLY BE A NON-PROSPECT? This might be due to strong loyalty to their current supplier, a long-standing gentleman’s agreement, and a less than obvious connection in the supply chain.

Quick story, I have a wonderful web designer, who has created many websites for me over the last 15 years. He is patient, speaks in everyday language, is up with trends that work and those that are faulty when it comes to web traffic, is affordable and always does a great job for anyone I refer to him. I was recently at a business networking breakfast presentation with at least five other potential web designers, one of who approached me at the start of the breakfast and told me all the things he could do to improve my websites. And when I repeatedly said, that I was a non-prospect – he didn’t get it – he just went on and on about what he wanted to do and what it would cost. Now I have no doubt that he may have some new ideas, and he could be very good – but I am loyal to many of my suppliers, especially my web designer. I want to work with people that I know are professional, affordable, delivery on time, tell you if you are about to waste money on something that won’t work, are up to speed on trends in the marketplace and those that are overnight wonders and those worth investing in. And most importantly, will always do a great job for the people you refer to them. They call it loyalty and there is still a lot of loyalty in the marketplace today.

In your forensic research when you find out who is XYZ’s current provider, a critical question to ask is of course, how long have they been supplying XYZ, If its more than 10 years, they may have a serious case of loyalty happening and are potentially a non-prospect. Of course, if you never ask the question, the answer is always no. But don’t be disheartened if you get beaten by loyalty, maybe some of your forensic networking time needs to be allocated to researching what you would have to do to get your current clients to all be advocates! Just a thought!

 6. Final   question – you need to ask yourself



 And sometimes when you finally get that XYZ client, then the work really starts. But your research helps you build your connections with XYZ’s key players and as you nurture those contacts you build your internal XYZ web and it becomes stronger and stronger every month. You stand out from your competitors because you try to build XYZ’s company as well as your own. Where possible you:

* Give  them regular referrals

* Invite  them to networking events where they can meet potential clients

* Connect them with some of your current advocates for mutual connections

* Keep  clear communication lines happening

* Make  sure that they keep seeing you rather than the offsider you offload their  work to – this is important. Maybe you don’t make the time for face to  face, but working your database and sending them snippets of relevant  information by text, email or snail mail, keeps you in their face. In time  your offsider will have the trust with them that you have, but initially it takes time.

  • Exceed  their expectations with the service you provide – they expect great – you aim to exceed greed every time.
  • If  you stuff up ever, fix it immediately – and offer compensation if  possible.

Another quick story to finish this blog. I recently gave a presentation to a large organization with over 20,000 Australian employees. For this specific event, there were 90 people in the room and the session was very well received. I included complimentary quality 12 page handouts, so they had something to take away, gave prizes of books and brilliant ideas books for audience participation, spent the entire day at the exhibition they had, so that I had lots of really up to date information and could tie in the previous speakers links. And I invested a lot of time and money into the presentation to make sure it really hit the mark the client had identified in our briefing.

At the end of the presentation we did a lucky book prize draw for the written evaluations, this ensured that everyone did write an evaluation. As I sat with the client and went through each evaluation, there ended up being 86 excellent, 3 very goods and 1 good – there is always one you don’t reach! I was very impressed with the evaluations and asked the client if they had any further comments. (I was wearing a 3 piece suit with some silver sparkly shoes – and have worn them many times and always received compliments for the outfit).

“Those shoes are definitely not corporate Robyn and I suggest you don’t wear the in Sydney next week for our next session. They will not be appropriate. And you repeated that networking phrase twice in the one hour session – you probably need only make the point once.”

To say I was surprised was an understatement – I thanked her for her feedback and excused myself to catch a taxi to the airport. I let her shoe comment bug me for a day or two, told everyone I came in contact with about the it and the fact they she didn’t even say the presentation was good – even though 86 people thought it was excellent. And then when I started to write this blog, I realised that big clients have big expectations –


  That’s why they pay you a high fee. It is almost an expected given that you will do an above average job. This last big client, was no different to the client I described at the start of the chapter. Forensic networking will give you the clues- but you still have to exceed their expectations – every time.