The More, the Merrier…Not!

May 22, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Posted in Networking | Leave a comment
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It seems that in the world of business networking, the more the merrier seems to be the mantra of the day.

Sure I get it but I don’t believe it. I know that the thinking is:

The more people at an event the more you are likely to meet someone that might be a good connection and vice versa.

But really, does that bear fruit? Think about it. Sure hanging out at a bar or restaurant drink in one hand, business cards in the other can make for a good time. And yes, you can certainly meet people. But unless there is substantive follow-up so that a relationship and trust can be built, nothing further will happen. And many people, even those that fancy themselves to be excellent networkers don’t really take the time to engage in the necessary follow-up and plant those relationship seeds that will, hopefully, bear some short or long-term, fruit.

But what about a smaller, more intimate networking gathering of 6,8 or even 10 people gathered for a meal, each given a few minutes to talk about their business, with ample time for questions and discussion.  All of a sudden the relationship building part of networking starts sooner, right there at the table, and hence the follow-up after the dinner can be much more substantive with a better shot at real networking ROI.

I think there’s a time and place for both types of networking but at this point in my networking, I’d much prefer smaller get-togethers to the ones that make you shout above the sounds of the crowd and the music that is often playing in the room.

What about you?

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How a Busy Sales Trainer Can Also Be a First-rate People Connector

January 18, 2012 at 5:45 pm | Posted in Networking | 2 Comments
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The other day I announced via social media that I had made a New Year’s commitment that called for me to make 10 (networking) introductions per day.

Yep, that’s right. 10.

I immediately received a barrage of emails from folks that were simply incredulous. “How in heaven’s name do you have the time to do that?”. “How in heaven’s name do you know that many people?” (Really, “heaven” was mentioned several times:) )

Simple I said and so in the hopes of shedding some light on my methodology (some might say madness) I decided to share my tips:

1.  I set a quantitative goal and like I said, my particular number is ten. But, that doesn’t have to be your goal, not at all. The important thing is to have a goal and to stick to it. No excuses, just do it. You know that you can. (Hint, like with all goals you should set one that is a wee bit of a stretch but can definitely be achieved if you work at it.)

2.  I’m incredibly proactive and by adopting that model, I am better able to make a higher volume of introductions.  I don’t wait for low hanging networking fruit (“Hey Adrian, do you know someone that can……”). Rather I look for connections that might have longer-term value and don’t necessarily equate to an immediate piece of business.

3.  I keep in mind that introductions to referral sources are as good as, and maybe even better than, introductions to a client. One good referral source can equate to many introductions which should (potentially) lead to business. A client is, well a client…a good thing for sure, but might not turn into many additional referrals over time. (We all know that some clients are truly raving fans and tell many others about our products/services. That’s terrific but there are just as many clients that are very closed-mouthed and don’t spread the word regardless of how pleased they are with our business.)

4.  I keep (mental) track of the folks to whom I make introductions. So, for instance, if you tell me that you network with and get lots of business from ____ firms, I do everything in my power to introduce you to as many ____ firms as I know.  So for example, if you’re on the receiving end of those introductions from me you should be thinking  like this:  Gee, since Adrian is introducing me to so many ____ firms, perhaps she’s like to know more of those types of companies too. Maybe I’ll introduce her to the ones that I know and that she doesn’t.   Makes sense doesn’t it?

5.  I try very hard to be creative when making introductions.  Let’s say that you know some of your contacts share a particular hobby. That might be enough to start to a terrific relationship that can potentially yield lots of business opportunities. How about introducing two of  your own business vendors to each other recognizing that since they are going after similar types of clients (i.e. owners of small business) and since they are not competitive they can probably help each other big-time.  How about 2 people that actually do the same thing but who specialize and work in different segments. They might be able to refer business to each other. You never know and if you don’t make introductions, the possibilities are crushed before they even start.

So there ya have it. Just a few ideas on how to be a more prolific networker.  Told you that it was simple.

Welcome to the New Year: How to Avoid the 3 Deadly Sins of Selling

January 3, 2012 at 9:14 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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So here we are smack at the beginning of a New Year.  Yes, I know that we have simply turned over a page on the calendar but it feels good you know. A fresh start and all that stuff. (Hey, I was the person that actually liked the start of school with its newly sharpened pencils and clean and shiny binders.)  But I digress.

Do you have high hopes for this coming year?  Gonna do some things different are you? Well, how about for starters fine-tuning your sales strengths and yes…avoid the 3 deadly sins of selling.

So what exactly are thee sins?  Here ya go:

Thinking that marketing is sales and vice versa. Marketing is not sales…repeat after me, marketing is not sales. Like that old refrain…you can’t one without the other. So why is it that so many people are starting the new year with new marketing campaigns, making resolutions to “jump” into social media and looking to twitter to help them make their way, enhancing web sites et al and are not even thinking one bit about their sales process, sales competencies abilities to follow-up, follow through and close those prospects and leads. Really. If you want to waste your money, go ahead and do it but if not, then please spend as much time and consideration to the sales aspect of your business as to the marketing end. You’ll be glad that you did (Umm, you’ll actually “bring in” that business that marketing attracted in the first place.)

Thinking that networking is an endgame in and of itself. Hah. Wish it would be so but it just isn’t. Networking is an ongoing, never ending initiative that requires eternal vigilance to make it pay off. And yes, you can have a one hit wonder derived from a networking meeting in which nothing more than showing up was involved. But those bits of success are far and few between and what is really required is strategic vision and a plan and design for how you will go out there onto the networking playing field and win the game.  (Hint: the networking game is circular, not linear and if you play it well then you just might be rewarded by what comes back to you.

Taking those leads, contacts, dormant accounts, friends and so forth and letting them languish in your base. Really. Why do you need thousands of people in your CRM or even on your Constant Contact email newsletter list if you are not gong to work these contact effectively and efficiently staying on the grid so if and when a project or a lead is around you will, in fact, be on their mind and get the pleasure of a connection. Why bother? If you can’t deploy the three I’s (and if you don’t know what those are please connect with me and I’ll share the strategy), then you shouldn’t be out there trying to win new business. You won’t be getting any ROT (return on time). Period.

Ok then…make a personal plan to abolish these sins and move forward into your most successful year ever.  Ready?

Are You a CPA Lost in the Land of Introductions?

December 19, 2011 at 8:09 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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In the world of business networking accountants are an interesting lot.

It seems that in almost every networking group there will always be one or more CPAs. Big firms mid-sized and solopreneurs too, by all appearances it seems that accountants recognize the importance and value of networking.

But let’s take a closer look.  (Disclaimer, this viewpoint is based upon my personal experiences and over 25 years of business networking:) )

We all agree that networking is clearly a two-way street.  I help you, you help me and together we grow our contacts and connections that will (hopefully) lead to business.

The introductions don’t necessarily have to be to direct clients but rather, introductions to referral sources are terrific as well. But proactive introductions are the name of the game.

And here’s where there seems to be a bit of a disconnect.  I know that accountants are integrally involved in their client’s business. They see the upside and down and are more than fully cognizant about revenue growth or decline, problems with attrition, management issues and more. They simply have to be knowledgeable in order to do their job effectively.

So, to my thinking if they are armed with these insights, wouldn’t it also make perfect sense for an accountant to introduce clients to various resources that can add value and (potentially) assist in the different aspects of the business that need improvement.

The introduction can (and should) be gentle. This is no “you MUST use this person to help you fix ______, but rather, the introduction is positioned as a suggestion and frankly, a value-added to the accountant-client relationship.

But in my experience and in the experience of many (most) of my networking contacts, these introductions are far and few between. In fact, introductions from accountants to possible referral sources are just as infrequent as those to direct clients.

What gives?

I think that I understand the situation. Accounting professionals will make introductions when their clients asks specifically for the name of a resource, like, for instance, an outsourced CFO or attorney. In fact, if an accountant didn’t have resources to recommend, the client might even question the paucity of their professional contacts.

But, if there isn’t a specific question, if the introduction stems from simply an observation of needs, well, it appears that many accountants don’t take the lead and make the connection.

Who loses? Well, the client for sure but also the accountant because, to repeat, good networking is reciprocal. People who provide introductions to the accountants in their database would appreciate introductions in kind and when they don’t occur, well the introduction flow stops altogether.

I understand the feeling of vulnerability that comes with making introductions. We all do because our professional reputation is on the line, and so, we are careful with our intros making certain to do our own due diligence to ensure that our introductions are solid and credible.

We also know that by making introductions we add value to our business relationships and therefore come to be seen as a true business resource.

I would think that all accountants wish to be seen in a similar light. It is only when accountants start to initiate networking connections with their clients and referral sources that they will be functioning as a true business advisor.

The Rules in the Networking Playground

December 16, 2011 at 5:32 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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This is a post that I did some time ago but my recent, less than spectacular networking experiences, have indicated a definite need to post this again.

More than ever, networking has become an essential skill for every business person. Taking the time to meet others in your industry and discover ways to help them and how they can help you can be both rewarding and lucrative. Unfortunately, not everyone has learned how to network effectively, and yes, many out there are not playing well in the networking playground.

Could this be about you?  Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do you forget to keep someone who has given you a reference in the loop?
  2. Are you neglectful in saying thank you when someone gives you a reference?
  3. Are you slow to follow up on introductions?
  4. Are you reluctant to reciprocate and give leads because you’re waiting for your contacts to specifically ask?
  5. Do you have difficulty in sharing introductions?
  6. Do you respond to cyber introductions with a sales-oriented email that is “all about you” (complete with attachments)?

If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, you need to polish your networking skills.

The art of networking requires much more than eating a muffin at a Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting. You need to know how to effectively communicate with others, build strong relationships, and make the most out of online and in-person networking opportunities. No, it’s not easy, and it’s certainly time consuming, too. But, the benefits of successful networking can be instrumental in growing your business.

How do you transform yourself from a networking nightmare into a networking pro? Here are five straightforward ways to help you improve your networking image.

Be Appreciative

You won’t keep a contact for long if you’re not showing your appreciation for their efforts to help you. If someone has given you a lead or valuable information, say “thank you” in a big way. Write a hand-written note. Take them to lunch, or send a donation to the charity of their choice. An email “thank you” is weak and doesn’t really cut it when the person has gone out of their way to be helpful to you.

Be Proactive

Don’t wait for someone to ask you for a specific referral. Be proactive. Mention that you have an interesting person for them to meet. Communicate the synergies that can be shared. Introduce influencers to other influencers. No, they might not be the end person who uses the product or service, but they can introduce the person to possible end-users.

Be Efficient

With online networking sites and emails, it’s so much easier than it used to be to introduce others. Use technology to your advantage and encourage those around you to do the same.

Set Up Small Informal Networking Events

You don’t have to depend on large networking organizations to plan your events. Take the initiative and plan your own networking breakfast or lunch for your contacts. Put together a regular get-together with a group of like-minded people and start expanding the circle to increase the networking opportunities. (Contact me for more info about “Six in the City”.)

Follow Up and Follow Through

Establish a timeframe for which you follow up with new contacts and follow through with helping others. If possible, it should never take longer than 24 hours to get back in touch with someone. This is particularly true for email and phone introductions which can become lost in the shuffle very quickly.

Stay on the Grid

Networking is an ongoing process and unless you have the good fortune to be in the exact right place at the exact right time, you will need to demonstrate staying power with all of your valued networking contacts and referral sources.  That old cliche “out of sight, out of mind” is very true in the networking playground.

One last thought, networkers have good memories and bad reputations tend to be very sticky. Pay attention to your tactics and networking manners. It will serve you well.

How to Increase Your Networking Success Stories

November 10, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Posted in Networking | Leave a comment
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Networking works. Or should I say that networking CAN work. We all know that it’s time consuming, often expensive and occasionally, not at all productive.

Here are a few things that you should do in order to make your networking efforts more successful:

1)   Have a goal. How many times have you attended a networking event and wandered around the room only to engage in just a few conversations before heading out the door. Or attended an event only to wind up spending the entire time talking to people that you already knew and walking away with nary a new contact or connection.  How can you ensure that this doesn’t happen? Before going to any event or meeting, take the time to investigate the group and the (potential) attendees. Is this the right place for you to go?  Will it be worth your time?  How many people would you like to meet? Do you expect to meet potential clients or referral sources? The more time you take checking it out, the more beneficial your experience. And don’t forget, if it doesn’t seem like it is the right place for you to network, don’t go. There are many other places to network.

2)   You know this sorry story. You have scads of contacts, cards galore and all sorts of names in Outlook.  Now, what to with them? The truth is that if you don’t stay on the radar screen of your networking contacts you will soon become a case of “out of sight, out of mind”. Touch point management is the key to getting return on your networking time.  How to stay on the grid?  Why the 3 I’s of course! Value-added information and email (that means links to articles and web sites of interest), cyber-introductions to other people that your contact might find valuable, invitations to events and meetings, snail mail, newsletters and more.  The most important thing is to stay visible and relevant and that means being seen as a resource and not a stalker.

3)   Patience is a virtue. Isn’t that what our moms taught us and we learned in school. The fact is that in networking patience is the only card to play. Networking takes time. While doors can be opened at events and meetings, relationships must be built before business can be earned and relationship building takes time. Beware of the networker that wants to get your business before earning your respect and trust. Don’t get caught up in a matching contest. Sure, you might find yourself on the lead “giving” side more often than on the receiving end.  Give it time and you should see something coming back to you (Remember that old patience quote!) But don’t get me wrong. If after a reasonable amount of time there is nothing coming your way it is perfectly okay to reach out to your connections and in a more direct manner, ask for their help in making introductions for you. What goes around comes around. It just might take some time.

So there you have it. Three quick tips to make your networking time more productive.  Now go out there and open some doors.

WTF!!! Why Network If You’re Not Going to Play The Game?

November 2, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Posted in Networking | Leave a comment
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Excuse me if I sound a bit exasperated but well, I am. Seems there’s quite a bit of NFT (no follow-through) going around these days and honestly, I can’t figure out why. Sure we’re all busy but that’s not a good, or even rational, reason.

The simple question:  Why bother going to networking breakfast, lunch or dinner meetings and NOT continue to network AFTER the event?

You know the deal. You attend a meeting or event and circulate around the room, making contacts, exchanging cards and doing what needs to be done to START the business ball rolling.

Yes, that’s right…START the business dance but certainly not finish it while at the event.

Business development takes nurturing, time and attention.  You need to establish mutual respect before any sort of introductions can be made and this respect can only be established in (ongoing) follow-up conversations and meetings.

The blatant truth:  if you don’t take the initiative to reach out proactively and/or respond to your networking contacts you are simply wasting your time going to these events in the first place.  You might as well stay home.

 

Do You Believe in Magic (aka best practices on how to NOT win more new business)

October 31, 2011 at 6:34 pm | Posted in sales | Leave a comment
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Do you believe in magic?

These last few months of 2011 are extremely important not only to scoop up every last remaining piece of business but to also lay the groundwork for 2012.  There’s lots of work to be done, magic be damned. Elves and fairies have nothing to do with it…or do they? What are YOU doing to develop the kind of revenue stream that you want? (Wishing, waiting and hoping do not count as strategies.)

Okay, now that we know that wishing on a star doesn’t mean a thing, let’s take a close look at the actions that can make a difference:

Action 1:  Go through your database with a fine toothcomb and pay critical attention to dormant accounts and proposals that were never won. Can companies in these two categories be resurrected? And what about your existing accounts? Are you getting ALL of their business or are you leaving some of their business on the table? If you are then consider yourself open and vulnerable to the competition because you can be sure they will try to come in and snatch up your share of the work as well.

Action 2:  Are you engaging in “strategic” networking or are you simply attending as many events as you can. This quantity vs. quality approach will ultimately cost you valuable time and henceforth money and can you really afford to waste either?  (I thought not.) Develop a strategic networking plan paying careful attention to the events and groups that you visit and join. Remember that “6 degrees of separation” is an important networking mantra. One or two good “people connectors” can be vastly important in your business development efforts since they can “lead” you to an infinite number of contacts and connections that may ultimately turn into business.

Action 3:  Now that you’re re-engaging with select prospects and clients in your database and are networking with care, you MUST develop an effective “touch point management” system. Business development is like a garden. You plant seeds but then you must nurture them in order to have anything grow. It’s the same with business development. Unless you are engaged in a highly transactional business, generating clients takes time.  And you MUST stay on the radar screen of everyone that you deem “worthy” whether they are a potential client or even an influential referral source. (Utilize the three I’s for the best results!)

Action 4:  Throw pennies into a fountain. Okay, not really but if you are not doing all of the above, you just might believe in magic and you never know, maybe those pennies might be just the ticket to sales success.

Maximize Your One-to-One Communication

October 4, 2011 at 1:44 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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My guest blogger Diane Diresta is a speaking strategist, professional speaker and consultant and I think that her insights here are incredibly important and relevant to salespeople in EVERY industry.

Here’s what Diane has to say about one-to-one communication (because after all, isn’t that how we sell!)

One-on-one conversations happen more frequently than any other kind of communication. One of the biggest mistakes people make when speaking one-to-one, is not treating it as a presentation.  While people prepare extensively for group presentations, when it comes to one-to-one, they wing it. Even the most casual conversation benefits from preparation.

Speaking to an individual is different from the group experience. Whether you’re training someone, selling, coaching, or asking for a raise, here are some tips for speaking one-to-one.

Eliminate distractions. Choose a comfortable setting-perhaps your office or a conference room with good lighting. Block off distracting window views and minimize interruptions. Clear the table of clutter.

Sit next to the person at eye level. Sit side by side rather than across a desk from each other. This has psychological and physical effects. It creates a feeling of being on the same side and allows both people to look at materials from the same perspective.

Maintain good eye contact but don’t stare. In a group, you make eye contact with everyone. With individuals, you don’t want to lock eyes. Break eye contact from time to time. A good guide is to look at the person 70% of the time.

Use visual aids. Props, pictures, and objects can serve as effective visual aids. Visuals are important learning tools, and you shouldn’t overlook them in a one-to-one situation. Be sure your visuals are appropriate to the situation. A few carefully placed props and occasional use of a table easel can enhance your presentation.

Clarify but don’t repeat questions. In a large group, you repeat the question so that everyone can hear it. But in one-to-one settings, the same technique would be silly. You may ask for clarification: “Are you saying that you need more practice?” Or you may restate the question in your answer: “The procedure for this project is…”

Maintain a comfortable physical distance. Don’t invade the other person’s space. When sitting side by side, don’t lean in or take over the person’s materials. Ask permission to demonstrate with or alter their materials.

Pause. The brain needs a few seconds to process information. Don’t overload the learner with too much data. Pause between thoughts to let the information sink in.

Use smaller gestures. Show enthusiasm and get involved with the learner. Allow yourself to be natural and expressive. But contain your gestures, because the physical space is smaller in one-to-one situations. Wide, sweeping movements will seem out of place.

Prepare and organize. It’s easy to lose track of time when you’re working with only one person. Whether you train one person or a hundred, the preparation is the same. Without adequate preparation, you’ll seem disorganized and unprofessional. Prepare an outline and establish time frames.

Watch for nonverbal cues. In a group, different personalities react in diverse ways. Someone in the group will often say what others are thinking. In a one-to-one situation, however, the person may feel reluctant to tell you that he or she needs a break or doesn’t understand. Watch for body language and continually check back: “You look like you disagree.” “Are you ready for a break?” “Is this something you can use on the job?”

Whether you’re speaking to one person or a thousand, communication happens one- to- one.  It’s all public speaking.

Have You Abandoned Your Social Media?

September 12, 2011 at 7:58 am | Posted in Adrian Miller Sales Training | 2 Comments
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I truly appreciate the following blog post by Julie Levitch, of SayCurrent but I feel the need to chime in with another “must-do”.

Even WHEN you have ongoing execution of your social media campaign and have captured the eyes of readers on Facebook, Linkedin, your blog and more, you MUST have a follow-up sales program in place or you will surely not recognize the ROI that you should be getting.  Sales is a people game. The social media cocktail party tees you up but YOU have to hit the ball!

From Julie:

Social media continues to grow by leaps and bounds. Multi-national corporations, local restaurants, and retailers of all sizes are setting up Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, and blogs to engage their audiences and hopefully increase their sales. This is all good stuff!

But, what we’re seeing over and over again are businesses that have gone through the efforts to start social media campaigns, only to give up after a short while. We’ve even happened upon several large-scale companies that have all but abandoned their Facebook pages and blogs. What’s going on here?

We think we have the answer. Businesses spend the time and money for the initial setup of their online marketing efforts, but don’t consider the ongoing investment in maintaining them. Social media is not a one- time project! It’s a process, and the longer you keep it going, the more successful it becomes.

Part of developing a social media plan is figuring out who is going to execute it over months and years. If you have someone in-house to do this, then consider yourself lucky, and give them the time to get the work done! If you don’t know who is going to do it, find an outsourced social media provider who can become part of your team to generate the copy and manage the flow.

Neglecting your already established social media efforts is literally akin to paying for a space at a tradeshow and not showing up. There are huge opportunities in social media for those who take the time to generate fresh content and keep their online communities engaged. So, if you haven’t updated your blog in months and have no idea who is “liking” you on Facebook, it may be time to regroup and start again!

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