Dominate the Listening, Not the Conversation

The most successful networkers – like the most successful people in general – are skilled at making other people feel important (not themselves). When you’re in a conversation with someone else, look them in the eye, use their name during the discussion, suggest topics that are easy to discuss (not controversial), and actively listen to what they have to say. Often, people who are poor at networking overcompensate by controlling the discussion. Be a great conversationalist, not a great talker.

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Get Your House in Order Before You Grow

How do you create positive word-of-mouth marketing? How do you create brand advocates? How to you build loyalty programs? How do you act of customer feedback?

These are a few of the questions that were asked of me this week in an interview I did for SunTrust Bank’s Small Business Resource Center and I wanted to share some of the key points I made in that interview with you today.

The first step in answering any of these questions is to get your house in order. If your house (eg. Your business) is not in a good place, adding more customers will only make a bad problem worse. You will end up spreading negative word-of-mouth and creating brand detractors. If you take an honest look at your business and your customer service isn’t up to snuff or you get a lot of complaints from customers or you have high staff turnover, you have some fixing to do before even thinking about growth.

A great tool to include in this analysis that I use and recommend, is the “Net Promoter Score” (NPS). The NPS is a very simple and powerful tool that works like this:

Ask your customers how likely they are to recommend your product/service to a family member or friend on a 0-10 scale. 0 being Not Likely At All – 10 being Very Likely.

NPS is calculated by taking the percentage of people who scored 0 or 10 less the percentage of people who scored 6 or less.

Promoters (scored 9 or 10) is the term given to people who are enthusiastic to speak highly of the service they received. Neutrals (or passives, those who score 7 or 8) are fairly neutral about speaking highly of the service. Detractors (score 6 or less) are those who will be active in saying something negative about the service.

Now you have some information that you can use to get your house in order. If you have a high percentage of Detractors, you should reach out to as many of them as possible and find out why they gave you the score they did. This becomes your punch list of what you need to work on as a business before you implement any kind of word-of-mouth marketing campaign. Similarly, you should contact ALL of your Promoters – show these folks some love, because they love you – and ask them exactly why they scored you so highly … why do they love you and your business?

If you are interested in spreading the word about all of the positive your business does, step one is to make sure that your customers have good things to say about your business. Without taking this step, you will only made a bad problem worse.

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Follow-up Before An Event

You should know your follow-up plan before you even go to a networking event. Without a follow up plan, why even go? Have a systematic approach to post-event follow-up. For example, plan to invest 1-hour immediately following an event to do your follow-ups … from the business cards/contacts you’ve collected, send a note (I use Send Out Cards for this part) indicating that it was nice to meet someone, and then send an email to schedule the follow-up 1-2-1 meeting.

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Book Summary – “Business Brilliant” by Lewis Schiff

business brilliant

Being brilliant at business has little to do with IQ or education.

Richard Branson became a billionaire even though he is dyslexic and can’t read a financial spreadsheet.

A high-school educated circus clown created the most impressive show of our time—Cirque du Soleil.

Warren Buffett started getting rich as soon as he stopped investing the “Warren Buffett Way.”

Suze Orman built her personal wealth by ignoring her own advice of frugality.

Bill Gates got his start not because he’s a computer genius or an “outlier” but because he executed on a simple three-step business strategy that anyone can learn.

Steve Jobs stumbled into his greatest fortune by sheer accident – and then rewrote history so it looked like it had been his plan all along.

In his book Business Brilliant: Surprising Lessons from the Greatest Self-Made Business Icons, Lewis Schiff busts the commonly held myths around achieving success in business.

He takes a look at some of the most notable cases of successes and failures in the business world and backs it up with the extensive research over 12 years he calls the Business Brilliant survey that was conducted among self-made millionaires. He then compares the answers to those of the middle-class respondents and draws amazing comparisons between the beliefs of the two groups.

To sum it all up, he found 7 behaviors that explain the success of self-made millionaires:

  1. They are better at “following the money.” Self-made millionaires focus on those activities which are extremely valuable to others.
  2. They are better at asking for money. Self-made millionaires always ask for more even though they know that most of the time the answer will be ‘no.’
  3. They execute. Self-made millionaire know that doing something well is more important than doing something new.
  4. They cultivate their networks. Self-made millionaires know that friends or associates who can help them when it matters most can make a difference.
  5. They can walk away. When the deal isn’t right, self-made millionaires move on.
  6. They build teams. Self-made millionaires try to maximize their time by undertaking tasks where they add more value than others. In other cases, they try to delegate.
  7. They fail. Self-made millionaires know that failure is not a stigma, it’s a powerful learning tool to learn what you’re best at.

Lewis ends the book with a powerful call to action:

“Double down on what you do best. Press your advantage whenever and wherever you have the advantage. Work your network. Try and try again.

Above all: Ask. Ask for what you want. Ask even when it feels uncomfortable. Ask for more than what you need. Ask for what you’re afraid to ask for, and ask for it more than once. Ask until the word “no” loses its sting.

When you can laugh at “no” and look at each setback as a source of instruction, then you’ll know you’ve become one of the lucky people destined to become Business Brilliant.”

Thanks to Gus Iurillo (Career Transformation Expert/Business Ownership Coach, The Entrepreneur’s Source) for turning me on to this excellent book and for the additional notes that follow:

Business Brilliant – Lewis Schiff

Self-made millionaires are better suited to thrive in this new, freewheeling economy because they’re more comfortable dealing with risk. It’s not that they’re big risk takers; they’re just more proficient at controlling it

Seven in 10 middle class believe “Do what you love and the money will follow; only 2 in 10 millionaires believe the same. They believe “Do what you love, but follow the money”

-8 in 10 of them have a substantial ownership stake in their work vs. 1 in 10 middle class (despite fact that 6 in 10 middle class believe it’s important)

Many in middle class suffer from paycheck paralysis. They start out following the passion and get stuck dependent on the rewards and what others demand of them, to figure out what they truly want for themselves

9 in 10 self-made millionaires say it’s important in negotiations to exploit weaknesses of others; 2 in 10 middle class agree

-in salary negotiations, most people accept 1st offer, when employer was often willing to give more and respect person more for asking’

Middle class chooses conflict avoidance and being well regarded over earning more $

1 in 3 expect to be taken advantage of, in negotiation vs. 2 in 3 millionaires

If you never hear No in negotiations, you’re not trying hard enough

7 in 10 middle class believe “big or new idea” needed to become wealthy; only 3 in 10 millionaires agreed

People like a good innovation story, but the reality is that most new businesses aren’t based on innovation, but better execution

88% of Inc. 500 said business based on exceptional execution of an ordinary idea

9 in 10 millionaires said it was more important to do something well than something new

Companies typically aren’t born in garages; they’re born in other companies

Most franchise companies based on ordinary ideas, well executed, with ongoing improvements in execution developed by other franchisees

Kinko’s – voice message system that allowed store owners to broadcast ideas to colleagues all over country every day

9 in 10 middle class believe putting one’s own capital at risk is critical to success while less than 4 in 10 millionaires agree

Buffett’s rule: Invest in a way that limits your risk, so you won’t lose all your money if a deal goes south

6 in 10 millionaires think you need to get others to invest with you and 4 in 10 believe don’t risk any capital at all

Many small businesses fail because owners run out of capital just as they reach brink of success

Smart entrepreneurs look for deals where success will be rewarded but failure exacts minimal cost

One percent of households have investment in private business managed by someone outside household

Entrepreneurs take profits by brokering relationships between disparate groups who would ordinarily not find each other

Millionaires tend to have smaller, tighter networks than Middle Class

7 in 10 millionaires say it’s important to know motivations of my business associates, while only 2 in 10 middle class agree

Successful folks have more weak ties, where they are connectors or bridges between many networks, rather than deeply embedded in one (Book: Connected)

8 in 10 millionaires believe luck is important to their success vs. 4 in 10 for middle class. Middle class seems to favor Know-How over Know-Who (contributor to luck)

7 in 10 millionaires can walk away from a deal if it’s not just right vs. 2 in 10 middle class

Least interest principle – the party with the least to lose from a deal can insist that terms go their way

Most middle class don’t realize when they have upper hand or afraid to exploit least interest position, when they have it

When you project an air of indifference about whether deal succeeds or not, it make the other party envision what they might lose

Among the top self-made millionaires, fewer than 2 in 10 believe Win/Win is a winner

-what that really means is that they either seek out a true Win/Win or walk from the deal, rather than be so preoccupied with trying to make it work, that they get Win/Lose

-need to determine what you really want, what you’ll accept and what would make you walk away, before getting into negotiation

Having written goals correlates highly with success (you know what you want before you go out into the world or a negotiation)

-writing goals makes you feel more committed and less likely to change your mind later

You want to understand the other side’s interests, but not lose sight of your own; empathy can actually get in the way

More bad sales/deals are made based on the neediness of someone than any other single factor

Most people set goals that are too modest, fail to prepare and lack desire to succeed

It is hard for most people to set high goals because they fear the bad feelings they’ll have when they fall short, even by a little

97% of millionaires believe in business dealings, it’s not their responsibility to look out for other person’s interests vs. less than 25% for the middle class

9 in 10 self-made millionaires believe Machiavellianism is key to their success vs. 2 in 10 middle class

-not as affected as others by social norms and social pressures

9 in 10 self-made millionaires delegate tasks they’re not as good at to others while 2 in 3 middle class say they would do those tasks anyway

Companies headed by dyslexic owners grow 2x faster than those run by others

Fewer than 1 in 10 millionaires interested in trying the unfamiliar, rather they prefer to focus on what they’re already exceptionally good at

They spend their time avoiding their weaknesses so they can focus on their strengths, where fulfillment and profits are found

85% millionaires know what they’re good at that makes them money vs. half of middle class

7 in 10 say that setbacks and failures taught them what they’re good at vs. 2 in 10 middle class

-most of them have had at least 3 serious setbacks in their careers (if I fail more often than you, I win)

-middle class usually let one failure get them never to try again

They also trust others to do the work for them, but keep blame and responsibility for themselves

9 in 10 say they’re excited by what they do at work, 8 in 10 agree they find work stressful and not enjoyable (coaching opportunity)

80% of them say that early retirement is not one of their goals

9 in 10 say perseverance critical to success and 8 in 10 said failure was, too, vs. 2 in 10 middle class thinking failure was important

50% of middle class say serious setback cause them to give up and focus on other project while another 30% try again, but in a different field

8 in 10 millionaires try again and, in the same field, to leverage the insight from failure to get better at that particular endeavor

-you need to try things that are risk-prone and difficult because that’s where the money is

-there exists a winnowing process, where the tenacious become wealthy by struggling and getting to the top of their field

-success belongs to the rare people who focus, overcome the pain of failure and push through

-for most of the middle class, failure is so painful, they don’t want to hang around long enough to learn from it

-most people feel uncomfortable with even trivial levels of uncertainty, whereas wealthy realize uncertainty provides freedom to discover meaning

7 in 10 self-made millionaires say the most important change they make is within themselves; less than 2% try to change partner’s behaviors

1/3 of Inc. 500 CEOs started their business when they were fired from another company

Failure faith puts into perspective any fear you have because rejection is a form of failure that has no downside

-if you don’t accept this, you tend to hang back and look for low-risk, pain-free opportunities

70% of middle class acknowledge failure but only 20% know others who have failed (they don’t share it)

80% of millionaires have colleagues who have failed, because they surround themselves with like-minded colleagues who acknowledge failure

College graduates in alternative fields (history, biology, math) 2-3X likely to become entrepreneurs than B-school graduates

Same applies to people who change their jobs more frequently throughout their career

LEAP – Learning, Earning, Assistance and Persistence

  1. Write down your goals ( and include incremental/milestone goals along the way
  2. Commit to what you do Best (only 1/3 of employees say they do)
  3. Follow the Money (be where value creation and money exchanging hands takes place)-only 1 in 10 self-made millionaires go there working for others-Climb the line of money ladder-Premium pricing (hourly rate)-Project Pricing-Percentage pricing- Proprietor/equity pricing
  4. Run the numbers (cost to play, stay, how high is up, how hard the floor)
  5. Protect your personal bottom line (minimum reward/maximum risk to make it worthwhile)
  6. Press your advantage
  7. Plan the divorce in advance
  8. Keep your network small and focused
  9. Manage your network upward (look out for new members, cull the underperformers)
  10. Build a team (delegate things you don’t want to do/focus on your best)
  11. Get a Coach
  12. Make friends with Failure
  13. Keep your changes to Yourself (take personal responsibility for everything)
  14. Don’t procrastinate
  15. 15)  Make your own Luck
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Are You an Askhole?

If you hear, “Can I buy you a cup of coffee or a drink?” – you may be talking with an askhole.  Or, if you hear, “Can you introduce me to ___?” – you may be talking with an askhole. Or, if you hear, “Can I pick your brain?”- you may be talking with an askhole. If you listen carefully, I bet you’ll hear one of these phrases today, and chances are that you’ve said one of these lines as some point (I know I have). Hopefully after you read this, you’ll think about it a bit differently going forward. 
 
I became aware of the term “askhole” in an outstanding article in the June 2013 issue of Entrepreneur Magazine titled “Don’t be an askhole.” “Askholers” are defined as people who are takers – and they don’t even realize (or care) that they’re doing it. 
 
The challenge with statements like these is that you are actually asking a lot from your colleagues. You are effectively asking them take an hour or so away from their business and to help yours when you offer to buy them a cup of coffee or a drink.  If you ask me for an introduction to someone in my network, you better already have a strong relationship with me, otherwise it ain’t gonna happen – because I can’t afford to risk my reputation by introducing a schmuck. And if you want to pick my brain, I hear it as “unpaid consulting.” 
 
I used the term in the opening of “… may be an askhole” very much by design. If you make it a habit of constantly “taking” from others without reciprocating in some way, you’ll quickly find yourself out of the proverbial loop. If you live by the philosophy of “Givers Gain,” which is at the core of BNI and usually at the core of all of the best business people, and you seek ways to help those who have helped you (in some way), you will not become an askhole. When people see you as a one-way street, always taking and never giving (or at the very least, genuinely seeking to give), they’ll will stop wanting to even be around you. 
 
If you ask someone to grab a cup of coffee or a drink, be sure to establish the expectations up front of why you’d like to meet, promise to take less than 30 minutes of their time, and after the meeting send them a nice note with a $10 gift card to their favorite coffee house as a thank you (PS: This is one of the key ways I use Send Out Cards in my Relationship Appreciation System). If you ask for an introduction, only make such a request from someone in your network with whom you’ve already built a strong, reciprocal connection. If you ask someone to pick their brain, and you truly want to learn “how” and are looking for actionable advice, expect to pay for their expertise – drinks and a meal aren’t fair pay for consulting … someone who is worth your request charges for their expertise and experience.  
 
No one likes a taker.
 
It is far too easy, especially in today’s world of unfettered access to everyone, 24-7, thanks to misuse of tools like the internet, email, and cell phones, to devalue time and effort. My time and effort … your time and effort … are incredibly valuable resources, guard them like a hawk. When you ask me to take my time to have a cup of coffee, to open myself up to introduce you to one of my valuable connections, or let you tap into my gray matter to give you my how-to on an idea, I don’t take it lightly. It IS a big deal. Don’t be an askhole.
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Set the Next 1-2-1

Networking is all about relationship building. When meeting
someone at a networking event, keep your conversation light and informal (no one
likes a Debbie Downer) – NEVER hard sell someone within minutes of meeting them.
That’s not the purpose of networking. The purpose is to get the conversation
started, determine if there is an opportunity to help one another in some way,
and set the next 1-2-1 meeting. Simple as that. People are more apt to work with
people they enjoy being around.

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Frequency & Recency

About 20 years ago, my first sales job out of college was in the healthcare field. My company provided home care for high-risk pregnancies (premature labor therapies) and I called mostly on OB-GYN physicians. I was providing a gourmet lunch to a large group of physicians one day (pizza) actually, and I asked one of the docs how he chooses which treatment he uses when it comes to me and my competitors. His answer was, “Since you guys all sell pretty much the same Vitameatavegamin, it’s whoever brought us pizza last.”

After a bit of being crushed because I was obviously not differentiating myself from the pack, I reflected to understand the power of frequency and recency. Frequency and recency are tactics commonly used in the medical/pharmaceutical sales field, whereby a physician is very likely to get “detailed” by different salespeople about the same drug/product several times a week. Kind of a beat them in to submission, shock-and-awe, process that is quite effective. Most pharmaceutical reps are partly measured based on their “frequency” of sales calls to target physicians.

Fast forward to today – in terms of networking and referrals, frequency and recency are equally as powerful. It’s one of the driving principles behind why networking groups that meet weekly (eg., BNI) versus every two weeks or monthly are more than 4X as effective with respect to the number and value of referrals. Out of sight, out of mind you might say. The more time and energy you spend building deep, meaningful relationships with your referral partners, clients, and colleagues, the better your results. When you see these folks on a regular, ideally weekly basis, and you focus on providing value to them, the more they will want to help you.

One easy strategy is to identify who your top 20 referral sources are (or whoever produces the top 20% of your revenue), be they referral partners, clients, or colleagues, and meet with them on a regular, consistent basis. Be sure to always deliver value and seek ways to help them, not just “visit,” or you’ll soon be a pest. Walk that fine line though and the results will be fantastic.

Oh, and the rest of my story about the pizza and the physician, is that you can believe I had a pizza delivered to that guy every Friday at lunch for a full year with a note and my business card – increased his utilization 50%. Frequency & Recency friends.

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