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

June 5, 2012

Ivan Misner, father of networking and founder of Business Networking International www.bni.com 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.”

MEN VS WOMEN

“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.”

THE TORTOISE AND THE HARE

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 www.bni.com.au or if that is not possible and you want to read more about the results of this 6000+ participant networking survey – go to www.businessnetworkingandsex.com

Happy networking until next time

  

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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.

 

 

 

 

10 ways to ensure great attendance numbers at your networking events

March 26, 2012

As a professional speaker and a supporter of not for profit groups and associations, I am always intrigued why some events have very small numbers of attendees and others have hundreds of people. A few weeks ago, I spoke to one group of 8 people one day, 10 people the next day and 300 people the next day. Yes they were all in different locations, but the one with 300 people stood out for all the right reasons. Would love to share some of those reasons with you:

1. The organisers of this event were extremely organised. Once they verbally confirmed my involvement with the event, they confirmed the engagement in writing, the fee involved, location, timing etc. And this was confirmed 3 months before the event. Plus they requested my information, photo etc. at that time, so everything was completed then and there. The date was locked in, there was no confusion.

TIP: Many organisers volunteer their time and are juggling their roles, leaving many things to the last minute. However, once you lock in the speaker and confirm the date in writing, request the title of the talk, topic outline, bio, photo and introduction. Then you have everything finalised and ready for the invitation. As soon as you get the information create the invitation  so everything is done then and there.

2. They have a large database of local people who have attended events before and give those people lots of notice about the event dates. Personally I think  the more notice you give for events, the more chance you have of people attending. You really want people to lock this into their diary as a “Yes, I am definitely attending this event, and I will mention it to my friends.” If possible give people at least 4-5 weeks (minimum) notice about your event.

TIP: If you hold regular events, it helps to have a set day of the month when your events will happen. Years ago when I ran women’s networks. We met for dinner on the first Thursday of the month in the city and the 3rd Wednesday of the month in Parramatta. Members and guests knew weeks ahead what dates to hold PLUS we had invitations prepared months ahead so if people could not attend one month, they would book for the following month. And I realise in regional areas sometimes there is a need to be flexible with dates to accommodate the availability of industry experts in your region. The more organised you are, the easier it will be for you to attract good speakers – if they are not available one month, they may be able to juggle their schedules for a future event.

3. The organiser worked very closely with their sponsors and managed to secure a local community newspaper as one of the sponsors. This meant that a half page advertisement was used to promote the event over a couple of months lead up – again ensuring locals knew about the event. And the newspaper sponsor presented briefly on the day.

TIP: In a tight corporate market working win/win with sponsors is imperative. You can never guarantee that a sponsor will generate business from sponsoring an event, but if you make sure that you give them lots of recognition and show appreciation for their support – it can go a  long way to ensure their return on investment and repeat sponsorship at future events.

4. If your members or guests are notorious for late bookings – give them an incentive to book and prepay by a certain date prior to the event. Early bird booking draws can be just the incentive your potential guests need to lock in the date, and book and prepay.

TIP: Let your members know that they can donate this early bird booking prize for one or more events. Remember to ask for help before you need it and again plan your early bird incentives for at least 3 forward events, rather than leaving everything to the last minute.

5. Using social media to promote your event has never been easier. Talking about your event and who is attending on your Face book page enables you to spread the word about your event. Plus listing it on LinkedIn in the events area can attract more non members,who respond to your keywords in your promotion. Plus twitter, podcasts with short interviews from the guests speakers, free webinars, YouTube bites – are all great ways of getting your event message out.

TIP: If you are not across all social media, look within your membership or networks for social media people who can help you with this promotion. Outsourcing this task can be a great way of saving you time and tapping into an expert’s expertise. False economy is trying to do it all yourself if you are unsure where to start.

6. The more you tell, the more you sell. Most professional speakers provide a title and outline of what they will speak about tailored to who is potentially going to be in the audience. Again once you have defined your audience, you can use a standard confirmation letter/email that outlines everything the speaker needs to know. Your membership website probably has this information anyway. I was very disappointed recently when I had provided a 250 word description for a small business presentation, weeks before the event  – and all that had been used was a description – Robyn Henderson – Networking Guru – Networking To Win. Networking To Win is the name of my business, I personally loathe the word guru, and not surprisingly only 7 people showed up. Reality is the organiser might know lots about the speaker, but the potential attendees have never heard of them.

Yes it was a regional area, but one I had driven 400 kms to be at. I suggested to the organiser that if they are limited for space with their invitation promotion – at least include the speaker’s website so that potential guests can read more about the speaker before they decide to attend. With only 7 people in attendance, the future of the network will ultimately be at risk because it becomes financially unviable for the organisers to continue holding the event. Not to mention the venues are annoyed when the numbers are low. Some insist on minimum numbers and this can drive up the overheads for the organisers as well.  Our time is so precious these days, we want to be sure we are not going to waste a  minute of it by seeing a speaker that we really don’t know much about.

TIP: Again if you are volunteering your time or find that the invitation is the last thing that you get to every month, consider engaging a virtual assistant who can create the invitations for you and aim to plan at least 3 months ahead. You will be surprised at your positive results and it will be worth engaging a professional to do the invitations for you. Remember the more you tell about the potential event, the more you sell.

7. Show bags are a great way of helping members to promote their businesses to the audience. One of my favourite networks is Women’s Network Australia www.womensnetwork.com.au Lynette Palmen is the WNA founder and runs excellent meetings across Australia with a set format and meeting flow. Whether you are in Perth or Albury, you know that the format will be consistent. One of the win/win opportunities WNA offers its members is if the member donates a lucky door prize at the event, they can include their flyer in the show bag on the seat. Obviously they have to arrive earlier at the  event to insert their flyers, but everyone gets an opportunity to win their donated gift and hear more about their business. Plus the member who donates the gifts, draws the prize winner at the end of the meeting. The Christmas event is fantastic, more than 50% of attendees usually give prizes so it is lots of fun.

TIP: A show bag does not have to be an expensive item – maybe a local business, bank, hotel or restaurant may donate the bags as a cross promotional opportunity. And giving guests a show bag ensures that the tables don’t end up with lots of paper everywhere. I always recommend to people that they look at every item in their show bag, when they take it home,  and if it is not relevant to them, it may be relevant to someone in their network and they can pass it on.

8. Name tags are a non negotiable MUST at every networking event. As a baby boomer, 50 plus, I admit to forgetting names from time to time. Interestingly in Geelong recently, I asked a group of 100 under 35s, “who in the room has trouble remembering names?” and more than 80% of the room raised their hand.  Make sure the name tags are at least 16 point font and easy to read. Many networks have a different name tag for their committee or executive, which is a great idea for two reasons. Firstly, they will gain recognition for the role they have within the network and secondly, different name tags makes it really easy for new members or first time attendees to  know who to approach with their queries.

TIP: If it is a very large event, it may be useful to have a number of registration tables with the classifications clearly marked on the table and high enough above the table for people to read from a distance e.g. A – D, E-K, L-S, T-Z. I would recommend that you sort the name tags alphabetically by surname. And help the registration person by given them an alphabetical attendee list and a highlight pen to mark guest names as they arrive. Such a minor thing and I cannot tell you how many times this is overlooked creating a bottle neck at registration.

9. Start the meeting on time and finish on time. One of my first speaking mentors, Doug Malouf, drummed this home to me 20 years ago when I launched my speaking business and ran women’s networks. Everyone’s time is really valuable – not just the speakers. If the meeting says 12.15 for a 12.30 start – 2.30 pm Start the meeting on time and finish on time. If there is a situation where some guests are delayed for whatever reason, acknowledge that situation when you start the proceedings, so that other guests won’t be too disrupted with the late arrivals, but START ON TIME!

TIP:  I have emceed many events and I always check with the organiser how flexible they want to be with time. However, I stress to them, if we don’t start on time, we cannot expect to finish on time. And the fall out or disruption created in the kitchen when time blows out can be the difference between a great meal and a disaster.

10. Appoint two meet and greet persons for the event. Ideally two friendly people, who can arrive early and are happy to take on the role. A meet and greet person does exactly that – “Hi I am Robyn, thanks for coming tonight?’ If it is the guest’s first time at the event and/or the guest knows no one in the room, the first meet and greet person, then takes them away from the registration table and introduces them to their next person – the second meet and greet person. You can have great speakers, great food, great atmosphere, but if a guest feels awkward or unwelcome, they don’t come back.

TIP: I encourage networks to put a small star sticker or a small dot – something to indicate to “the regulars” that this guest is a first timer at this event. The reason is to make the person feel special and make it easier for them to be identified. Don’t even think about doing this if you don’t have a couple of people lined up to look out for the first timers. However, if you do take this step, you will be surprised how quickly these guests become members. Great news travels fast – people love to share their positive (and negative) experiences today via social media, word of mouth and networking.

I firmly believe when you put the time in to create systems that work and you stick to the systems and ensure that September’s meeting format is similiar to July’s meeting format, your members will respond to your professionalism and keep coming back to your events. That is not to say I would not encourage innovation – however, every event MUST start with a plan, a checklist and an awareness. This is what we do to ensure we can create the potentially best event possible within our budget. We do this because we want our members, guest speakers and guests to have a fantastic experience, to feel that they have justified taking x hours out of their busy day to attend the event, and that we respect the financial and time investment they give us every time they book to attend an event.

These are my 10 tips based on experiences in the last few weeks. Feel free to let me know what you think  attracts people to attend events in today’s crowded networking events space. And look out for my  future blogs on the latest global networking event models.

Until next time – happy networking.

Looking at the lighter side of being a road warrior can keep you sane!

March 25, 2012

For those who don’t travel extensively with their work, it may sound very exciting to have one day in Brisbane, one in Sydney and the next in Perth – but the road warrior knows – it can be exhausting. Would love to share the lighter side of last week with you and I am sure any regular road warriors will also appreciate the humour in my experiences.

These days with a tight corporate market, I aim to make myself available to as many speaking opportunities as I can – even though sometimes the logistics become very interesting. Last week was a perfect example – On Tuesday night I presented in Geelong, Wednesday lunchtime in Hobart, Thursday evening in Brisbane and Friday afternoon in Sydney. Sounds simple enough. Logistically it looked like this:

1. Tuesday – fly to Melbourne – pick up a rental car – drive to Geelong – check in to hotel – mini rest in the afternoon, presented to a great group of young professionals in the evening, back to the hotel around 8pm, watched a bit of TV and off to sleep.

2. Wednesday – Woke at 5 a.m., drove from Geelong to Tullamarine airport, topped up the petrol, returned the rental car, breakfast at the airport, flew to Hobart, presented to a small group of business owners about writing articles, ebooks, blogs etc., taxi to the airport, 3 hour wait for flight Hobart to Gold Coast and home to Tweed Heads around 10 pm.

3. Thursday – catch up mode in the office in the morning and then drove to Brisbane. Checked into the hotel, had a couple of hours nap, set up for the evening presentation to a group of Office Professionals – great presentation, lots of questions, chatted to the participants, back to the hotel room and a reasonably early night.

4. Friday – Alarm woke me at 5 a.m. NSW time, checked out of  hotel, drove to Brisbane airport in time for 6 a.m. Qld. departure, navigated the Brisbane airport car park – which will be fantastic when it is completed, but is slightly confusing right now for a New South Welshman, breakfast at the airport,  flight delayed, we finally board at 6.30 am qld and eventually get to Sydney around 9 a.m. nsw Thankfully I am the after lunch speaker so I make my way to Luna park – a great venue for the  Executive Assistants Network conference – lots of fun with the audience. Quick change back into my travel clothes, back to the airport for another 2 hour wait for flight departure to Brisbane. Traverse the Brisbane airport car park again and drive back to Tweed Heads – Lots of road works, entertained myself by listening to the car radio – unfortunately my football team lost their match, home at 10.30 pm. Exhausted!

Thankfully not every week is like this – have voice will travel. Would love to share some funny things that happened during those travels.

1. On Thursday night after my presentation I was given a lovely bunch of flowers and I also had a bag with some books in it, handouts etc. and a display unit for the books. I asked one of the staff to help me carry my bits and pieces to my room, which was on the same floor as the conference room. We were chatting away and as I got to the room and swiped the lock I opened the door to a very neat room, all the pillows fluffed up on the bed, curtains closed, chocolates on the bed. “Oh no, this isn’t my room”  – “Well it must be your room or you would not be able to open the door.” No, I definitely left my room messy, I had a sleep this afternoon and I didn’t make the bed, and I definitely would not have chocolates on the bed because I would eat them.” “Robyn, this is definitely your room. The housemaid freshens up the rooms every evening.” I slunk into the room feeling like a total idiot! It definitely was my room and those chocolates were very tasty!

2. On Tuesday driving from Geelong to Melbourne airport was interesting. I have been known to get lost before and I have a resistance to using GPS navigators as I think if we keep dumbing down our brains by using appliances to think for us – we will end up with inactive brains. Well that’s my theory. I know I had driven from Melbourne airport to Geelong – but I did take a wrong turn with some road works and ended up on the wrong road, so I made sure I checked with the hotel receptionist – “you can’t miss it, just get into the western ring road and follow the airport sign”. That sounded easy enough and I managed to find the right road heading out of Geelong – and I was off. Lots of airport signs, I was on a roll. Picture me driving on a straight road, no chance to turn off anywhere since the last airport sign I had seen. And all of sudden – there is a sign Corio and another name that escapes me, but no airport signage. Mild panic overtook as I doubted my navigational ability, wondered exactly how on a straight road I had managed to get onto the wrong road – and now I looked like I was on the road to Corio. I had almost talked myself into purchasing a GPS device, when I saw that wonderful blue airport sign – phew – I was still on the right road – I am not totally incompetent. Before long I was at the airport, now to fill up the petrol and return the rental car.

3. Just in case you find yourself in a similiar situation – let me share my mistake with you. As you approach tullamarine airport there are large domestic arrival, departures, car park, rental car return signs – but only if you are facing the actual airport. There is only one garage close to the airport where you can top up your petrol and as you approach the airport entrance, you must turn to the right to get to the petrol station. Then once you have filled up you come back on that same road and turn right into the drive up to the arrivals, departures and parking – but there are no signs visible as you turn right. So what looks to be rental cars return is in fact the short and long term car park entrance – as I found out.

Definitely not where I wanted to be, but driving into that entrance, I did see the sign for the next lane saying rental car returns. So I quickly did a u-turn, cameras flashed recording my driving the wrong way – who knows when I will get the fine for that error and I quickly zipped back out onto the road and back in to the rental car returns lane. I wondered to myself, how many people get caught with that scenario every day. As I left the rental car with the attendant I suggested that the rental car companies suggest some signage for the people coming from the garage – to avoid what had just happened to me. “Yes, we get complaints all the time. You are you lucky didn’t go through the short term car park and drive around the block, because they would have charged you for that short term visit – even though they know you are a rental car looking for us”. So I guess I should be grateful, that I may only get a fine for driving the wrong way out of the car park entrance!   And I made the flight on time.

4. Speaking of that flight. By the time I grabbed some breakfast, bought the newspapers and waited for the flight, I was tired. So much so that as I boarded the Melbourne/Hobart flight I knew I would probably sleep my way to Hobart.  Thankfully I had a window seat and was no sooner in the seat than I shut my eyes and dropped into a deep sleep. What seemed an hour later I opened my eyes to see the plane taxi-ing along the runway, and I patted myself on the back thinking how smart am I – I have slept the whole Melbourne/Hobart flight and feel totally refreshed.

Not quite, as I looked beyond the runway, I realised we were still in Melbourne and the flight had not even lifted off the tarmac – we were still moving on the ground. Oh dear, tiredness often makes you imagine things that are not as they are.

5. Finally, on Friday night I made my way through the Brisbane Airport carpark, starting at the ground floor, up two flights on the travelator with my trolley to get across the road and into the main carpark building, pay the parking ticket in the quickest credit card muncher I have ever seen, and make my way in the lift back down to the ground floor to my car. Having mislaid my car many times over the year, I am very particular now about making a note of the row where I left the car and I knew that my car was on the ground floor  in row NI – now just in case you ever park in NI – let me tell you that how a car park looks at 5 a.m. Qld when you park the car and 9 pm Qld when you collect the car is very different – even NI looks different – and heads up – NI is in two sections – north and south. And I am now very familiar with both of them.

I believe I have one of the best jobs in the world and love what I do. And I have also learned to reduce my stress, I have to look for the humour in things when they don’t quite go to plan. And for the non road warriors, rather than imagine how glamorous all that travel sounds, the next time you speak to your road warrior mate, ask them about some of the things that don’t quite go to plan.

Happy networking until next time.

 

 

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.

 THE BIGGER THE POTENTIAL CLIENT, THE MORE TOUCH POINTS/REFEREES YOU NEED TO CULTIVATE

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.

 BE FRIENDLY TO EVERYONE, YOU NEVER KNOW WHOM THEY KNOW AND WHOM THEY COULD POTENTIALLY REFER YOU TO.


 
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.

 PART ONE = POTENTIAL CLIENT XYZ

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.

1.  IDENTIFY  YOUR POTENTIAL CLIENT

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.

 2. IDENTIFY  THE KEY DECISION MAKER/S AND THE PEOPLE IN THEIR INNER CIRCLE IF POSSIBLE

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:

3. WHO  DO YOU KNOW IN THEIR INNER CIRCLE, OR WHOM DO YOU KNOW WHO KNOWS SOMEONE  N THEIR INNER CIRCLE?

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.

 5. WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT THE POTENTIAL DECISION MAKER/S?

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. www.google.com 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.

 WHO IS  THEIR CURRENT SERVICE PROVIDER?

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.

6. IS THERE ANYWAY YOU CAN REFER BUSINESS TO XYZ IN THE SHORT OR LONG TERM?

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.

 7. DO  YOU KNOW ANYONE WHO ALREADY HAS A STRATEGIC ALLIANCE WITH XYZ?

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.

 8. ARE ANY OF YOUR CURRENT ADVOCATES AND A CLASS CLIENTS CURRENT SERVICE  PROVIDERS TO XYZ?

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.

 9. HOW  MANY PEOPLE DO YOU KNOW WITHIN XYZ COMPANY?

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.

10. HOW MUCH EFFORT ARE YOU PREPARED TO COMMIT TO THIS XYZ PROJECT?

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:

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?

 

  1. HOW  MUCH TIME CAN YOU COMMIT TO THE XYZ PROJECT?

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?

 3. WHAT  IS YOUR PROJECT XYZ PLAN?

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.

 4. WHO CAN YOU INCLUDE IN YOUR PROJECT FROM BOTH YOUR INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL NETWORK?

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.

 5.  WHAT MIGHT YOU HAVE TO GIVE UP ALONG THE WAY TO MAKE TIME FOR PROJECT XYZ?

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.

 EFFORT = TIME + MONEY + ENERGY = RESULTS

 5. REMEMBER  SOME PEOPLE ARE NON-PROSPECTS

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

 WHAT WOULD I DO IF I KNEW THAT I COULD NOT FAIL? And do it.

FORENSIC NETWORKING TAKES TIME AND EFFORT.

 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 –

BIG CLIENTS EXPECT EXCELLENT EVERY TIME

  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.

 

 

New Year Networking – 10 tips to fast track networking results in 2012

January 1, 2012

Happy New Year! I can’t believe how quickly the last year has flown – and on reflection there were lots of great opportunities that I took and of course some that I missed. So this year I want to be sure that I capitalise on the connections that I made in the last twelve months, reconnect with some past clients who didn’t need my services in 2011 and also continue to grow a list of potential clients/prospects for 2012 and beyond.

Maybe you are in the same boat, so I thought I would share 10 tips I am introducing to grow my network in 2012 and get fast results.

1. It’s time to do a networking audit – just how large is your network, how up to date is your database, how long since you have made contact with current and past clients, prospects and your peers?  With your audit, you are really wanting to identify your A class connections – the people who you will connect/reconnect with in the next 30-45 days and with a clear plan for the next 12 months. You also want to identify the B class network – those people who may not need your services immediately, but they are prospects and your contact with them, will be slightly different from your A class plan.

2.  Identify the sphere of influence in your networks – those key connectors and leaders who have the capacity to influence and network with multiple people. I often use the analogy if you want to get 100 people to attend a charity event, you don’t have to ask 100 people individually. I recommend that you invite 10-12 spheres of influence to book a table of 10 and give them lots of reasons why it will be worth the trouble. It goes without saying that you of course deliver 110% at the event and give them lots of recognition as a supporter of the event.

3. Allocate a networking budget for the year. There may be some months when your expenses are high e.g. I attend my peer group’s conference – Meetings Events Australia www.mea.org.au  And I know in April when I attend their conference in Sydney this year, there will be flights, accommodation and the conference itself – but I also know my return on attendance is 100% guaranteed based on previous results. Ideally you want to attend a least two business networking events every month. Some of these opportunities might be social or sporting opportunities – parties, sporting events, your children’s school events – so do think beyond the traditional business networks. Often some community events are free or very low cost and can give you access to many community locals. But without a budget and an intention to network, you will definitely miss opportunities to grow your business.

4.  Which network is best for you? Primarily the answer to that question is where do your clients or prospects go? Its great to network with your peers, and I do recommend that you join your industry association or network. But if you want to network with decision makers you will need to do your homework on which networks fit your criteria. e.g. potential clients attend, it is within your budget, geographically possible and the time and day of the event suit your schedule. I recommend that you don’t join any network until you have attended the events at least twice. The first time everything is different and you are sometimes out of your comfort zone. However, the second time you attend, you are more familiar with the format and will probably form a clearer decision on the benefits of being a member. In some cases, you may feel the network is not quite what you are after, you may be better to just pay the non members rate and attend meetings in an ad hoc manner. Usually though when you make a commitment to join a network, the fellow members are a lot keener to do business with you.

4. Allocate follow up time post event. One of the big mistakes many people make with face to face networking is not allocating sufficient time post event to follow up with the people that they have met. I always make notes on the backs of the business cards I exchange with the date I met the person, where I met them and something I remember about them – what i call the WOW – the thing that is unique to them. What I also do when that is not possible in a crowded room, and I know that I want to follow up with that person, is to gently fold the corner of their business card when I put it in my pocket or handbag. Then at the end of the night or the next day when I check the cards, I immediately know which person/s are expecting to be followed up.

5. Keep a monthly self networking tracker. I have been using a tracker for years and find it really helpful. Allocate one monthly tracker for each month. At the start of the month you write down at least 3 networking things you intend to do. At the  end of the month record the networking activity you did do. Often what you planned to do is not what you ended up doing and that is fine. I also record the names of the key players/spheres of influence that I met that month and my intention is to keep in touch with them on a regular basis – not just  for what they can do for me, but what I can do for them as well. I then list 3 things I plan to do the next month and finally the $$ value of business this month I can track from past networking. It’s great to be able to identify where your new business comes from and make the connections and links if it is a referral.

6. Allocate LinkedIn time every day/week – I love LinkedIn – and I am continually amazed at the improvements that are continually being made to their systems. I am close to 4,000 connections now and I do put the time in to building my connections – at least 15 minutes a day. Some days I do more but I have certainly had my return on investment from this system. I do have a complimentary ebook you can download, from my website www.networkingtowin.com.au – why I love LinkedIn and how I went from zero to 2500 in twelve months.

7. Volunteering is a fun way to network! For the second year in a row, I volunteered at a Christmas day lunch for homeless people at Labrador on the Gold Coast. A great mate of mine Susie Christie is the visionary behind the event. This year we had more than 150 volunteers for the 130 plus homeless people – so they were more than looked after with a great lunch, gifts, entertainment and hospitality. We have arranged a volunteers drink next week as a thank you and let’s see what else we can do in 2012. I compare volunteering and the trust that is built very quickly, to going to a football final and meeting people who support the same team. The bond of trust is built immediately, there are no job titles, no hierarchies, everyone is equal, and everyone is there to support a cause and give freely of their time.

8. Speed of response  – whether it’s returning phone calls, responding to emails, sending proposals, quotes etc. I believe the early bird really does catch the worm these days. We are in a wired world and expectations for quick responses are there – even if they are not verbalised. Often, if a query comes in over the phone – whether its a local, national or international query, I will often pick the phone and call them directly. More often than not you get a decision on the spot and the return email ends up being a confirmation of a booking. I have also found that people are online at all hours of the day, so if I do get a query on the weekend or after hours and I happen to be online, I will often email my phone number and say they are welcome to phone between a certain time frame if they wish. Not everyone takes up the offer, but the feedback is they do appreciate the opportunity.

9. Flexibility – who knows where our marketplace will end up in 2012? There is much financial uncertainty globally and it is inevitable that there will be some flow on to Australia. Not to mention potential natural disasters – hopefully we won’t have anymore of those in Australia – but no doubt this community or other communities throughout Australia will be negatively affected at some time in 2012. For the last couple of years (since the global financial crisis actually) when someone asks me, “what is your fee?” I respond with, well that depends what you are after, what your budget is and what are you wanting to achieve? I then try to flexibly create a program for them that meets their criteria, within their budget and time frame. And the reality is that sometimes I refer the work to others and sometimes I waive my fee totally and come up with other potential income options for the client. At the end of the day, we are problem solvers. Someone needs a removalist, a new car, a doctor, a real estate agent, a pest exterminator, a networking speaker – that is their problem. And we provide the solution – ideally within their anticipated budget, time frame and expectations.

And if we do a great job and exceed their expecations, then they are more than likely to refer us to their network. I call this the trilogy of trust, the trust that one person has in another, that is passed on to the third party. It really is the life time value of the client.

10. Pick up the phone! Email, the internet and social media are brilliant time savers. But too many people hide behind email or use it as their only marketing tool. They send out proposals and wait, and wait and wait. As a baby boomer, I have been in the workforce for 40 years, I was working in the sales and business development areas long before the advent of email. And much as I love email, it can make you a lazy sales person or staff member. Pick up the phone – have a conversation with a live person who is interested in your product or service. They won’t bite and you will have an opportunity to answer any queries that they have, clarify your offer, find out if you have been shortlisted for the job and when they are actually going to be making a decision.

My wish for you in 2012 is that you have more fun with your networking, your life and your friends. This current market may well be the “new normal” and one thing I know for sure is that networking will open any door in the world for you.  Your reputation is everything and it can be destroyed in a blink. But I believe if we live and work in integrity and work in an honest, fair and ethical manner we will attract like minded peers and clients to build better communities and strong alliances that can last a lifetime. Happy 2012.

Nature and Networking – another great way to connect

October 4, 2011

Many of you know I am a humpback whale fan – and am blessed to live close to the Rainbow Bay/Greenmount Beach/Point Danger area close to the Qld. border.At this time of year, At this time of year, I am always on the look out for whales as I complete my morning walk around the headland – as many of the humpback whales head south from their annual migration to Hervey Bay.

This week, I (and many people on the walking trail) saw an amazing sight – a pod of six whales, possibly two mothers and their calves were swimming in a row and as each came to the surface and exhaled a high water spout – it appeared almost as synchronised breathing. Each of the six water spouts came up within 10 seconds of each other. This amazing sight was hypnotic – almost like six fountains spurting into the sky across a very calm ocean and it continued for many minutes as the whales gracefully made their way along the coast line.

And the other side of this wonderful sight was the conversations that were started with people, who you previously walked past with a friendly “morning” but not much more. These beautiful whales had brought many people together and we could not help but comment on this amazing sight. And consequently share our names, our whale experiences and engage with each other.

Watching rows of surfers lined up waiting for that perfect wave, actually turned away from the waves and turned to face this extraordinary whale parade was quite a vision – times like this you really wish you had your favourite camera to capture the magic moment.

And just as in networking at business networks, the next time you see that person with the whale connection, you have certainly gone from stranger to acquaintance and engage in conversation again and again.

What are your passions? What are the fun things that you like to do in nature? Maybe you have not thought of creating networking opportunities out of these situations – but there is no faster way to connect with someone than to find that you are both passionate about the same thing.

As the market continues to tighten, maybe it’s time to take the blinkers off and look at combining more of your passions with your everyday life. Remember no one wears a sign on their forehead saying be really nice to me, I am going to introduce you to your next biggest client, new best friend, flat mate, partner – whoever. Yet every connection we make starts with a simple word – “Hi!”

In the next thirty days, why not set yourself a task to combine your special interests with your networking and ideally speak to at least 10 strangers in the next thirty days about your passion/special interest – ideally why you are doing it. Remember, don’t try to sell yourself or anything else – just connect, engage and have a quality conversation. Who knows where it may lead?
Have fun until next time.

Networking & Sporting Events – a great combination

October 4, 2011

What a great time of year to be networking with all the sporting finals and the World Cup happening. Last week was a great opportuntiy to reconnect with a number of clients who are football mad – even if their teams ere not in the finals. Pre-game everyone has an opinion on which team will win and why. And of course it’s another story post-game – “if that last goal had not hit the post”, or “they truly just missed out” – and so it goes.

I was very fortunate to learn a valuable  lesson from one of my early mentors Doug Malouf, 20 years ago when I first started speaking professionally. I was checking in with Doug after a big presentation I had given. And I made the comment, that they were all raving on about the cricket results and I really had no interest at all.

And I will never forget his words, “Robyn, it’s not about YOU, it’s about your audience.” If they are interested in cricket for whatever reason, it is important to them, get interested. I pleaded that I didn’t understand the game, “so ask them to explain it to you. Robyn, what will get you through your speaking career is always knowing the two teams at the top of the ladder and the bottom of the ladder – across all codes. Scan the sporting pages, and even if you don’t totally understand the game, you can always ask the question – what you do think about XYZ? (whoever was in the headlines that day).

I always took on board Doug’s suggestions, what’s the point of having a mentor if you don’t listen to them? So the next presentation I gave, remembering this was the early ’90s, when pagers were around, I came back from the break with the latest cricket score – 4 for 198. I didn’t exactly know what it meant – but the audience were delighted to hear it. 

  In the next few weeks Australia will stop for 3 minutes (plus) for the running of the Melbourne Cup. Why not consider running a sweep for your clients? Decide on a budget for prizes 1st, 2nd, 3rd and last placed horses. The prizes need not be expensive gifts – maybe some of your clients would donate a few prizes for the sweep and vice versa.

Make contact  with your clients the day prior to the Melbourne Cup telling them about the sweep and advise you will email them their house on the morning of the Cup. Have fun on Melbourne Cup Day and of course you will need to email them the day after to advise who had the winning horses. Don’t be surprised if when you make that first or second contact, the client  says something like, “we were just talking about you the other day, saying we would have to get more “widgets” (whatever your product or service is).

Good networking is based on great communication and staying connected. Have fun with the Melbourne Cup sweep – and look for an event in your local community to celebrate the race – it’s always a fun event and you never know who you might meet on the day.

Have fun, be friendly and most of all value your connections.