The Experts on Networking

Networking ProfessionalsThis weekend, as I prepared for a seminar I will be giving at the SMPS Build Business 2008 national conference on “Building a Company of Rain Makers”, I ran across a number of blogs and articles that clearly articulated the path to success in networking.

If you are a regular on my blog you already know that I believe Networking is about helping other people.  Most people aren’t successful at networking simply because they don’t understand how to effectively network. (Network Like and Introvert and Rethink Networking are two articles I have published on the topic that clearly articulate these thoughts).

It was great to see several experts getting networking so right. Here is what they are saying:

Business Networking Advise
Author: Josh Hinds interviewing Steve Harper, author of The Ripple Effect

“In my opinion a lot of people have the wrong idea about business networking. They think it all begins and ends with a snazzy business card and a creative “elevator pitch” about what they do…  My definition of networking is different. I define it as connecting. Meeting people based on who they are and what they are about not what product or service they sell, represent of simply work for. Though I agree networking is important, I believe people need to do it better and that means setting aside their professional agendas first to really connect with people as people first. In my opinion, if you do that, huge Ripples and often business will come back to you.”

Networking for Introverts on Slaw.ca
Author: Allison Wolf

“Relationships develop over time. Finding the opening for meaningful follow-up is the crucial first step. The ask don’t tell approach allows you to uncover meaningful reasons for staying in touch. Sometimes you will find the next step is simply to continue the conversation over lunch or coffee. Other times it is to send an email or to introduce the person to someone you know. Uncovering the follow-up allows you to continue building the relationship with people who you are interested in getting to know.”

Networking Insight
Author: Jason Jacobsohn interviewing Lillian Bjorseth, Author of Breakthrough Networking

“I define business networking as an active, dynamic process that links people into mutually beneficial relationships. Most people do not know that to be effective you have to network strategically, i.e. they don’t take time to create a relationship-building plan. They often attend events that don’t focus on their target markets… Secondly, I know that large companies have yet to embrace the relationship-building concepts that small businesses have long used successfully.”

Let me just add that I love how Lillian defined Networking as linking people into “Mutually Beneficial Relationships.” I couldn’t summarize it better…

Stress is Good

Tree_FieldFred Premji has a great post on Blog Motivation about how stress can help to build success. Here is an excerpt:

So much has been said about how stress is like the black plague, and it’s all bad and we should all do whatever is necessary to get rid of all stress from our lives. Truth is, stress can be a vital benefit to your life. Under the right circumstances, stress can be your best friend! Let’s look at some of the reasons why you need some stress:

Productivity
Short bursts of stress can really light a fire under you! Whenever you feel some stress about finishing a certain task, it can create the right inspiration to get you going.

Competition

Anyone that’s ever played a sport knows that feeling those butterflies in your stomach and feeling anxious to getting out there and win is absolutely necessary to succeed. … Stress can help you rise above your competition and guide you to succeed at heights you never thought you could reach.

Security

This is an interesting one, because on some level, we do experience this on a daily basis, and it can save our life. … It triggers a fight-or-flight mode within you… In such situations, stress can bring up alertness, higher levels of perception, and quick decision-making skills that can truly mean the difference between life & death.

Health

We all know the damage that long bouts of stress can do to one’s life. It’s the cause of a vast array of cancers and diseases, as well as making us age faster. However, short bursts of stress can actually be good for your health. As a matter of fact, it is vital to your well being. Research has shown that it can strengthen your immune system and prevent against such diseases as Alzheimer’s, in that it keeps your brain cells working at peak capacities. … A short burst of stress is like an energy boost, and that is why it can make us do incredible deeds.

Stress is unavoidable. It’s a part of life. The better we understand how to cope with it and use it to our advantage, the better we will succeed at whatever it is that we are doing. Stress can be a valuable tool in anything that you do. When you feel stress, recognize it and channel it in ways that create a benefit for you. Just like any tool, use it properly and the result is magic.

If you want to read the full blog follow this link:
http://www.ineedmotivation.com/blog/2008/03/4-reasons-why-you-need-stress/

“I plan on living forever. So far, so good.”

Child in hard hatIt has been said that people only buy two things: Solutions to Problems and Good Feelings. What I have found is that most people want to buy both, which is one of the many reasons that relationships are such an important part of most major purchases. Sam Horn has a great story to tell in her Blog about “Sticky Ads and Slogans That Get a Smile and a Sale.” She reminds us that:

“Smart marketers know one of the best ways to get a sale is to get a smile. When customers find something amusing, they find it appealing. And when they find something appealing, they’re often motivated to buy it.”

Are you making your customers/clients smile?

S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely (S.M.A.R.T.) Goals

Goal SettingWe always hear that setting goals are pivotal to our success in life, yet so rarely do we identify what makes a good goal. Gene Donohue of Top Achievement has a great description of S.M.A.R.T. goals from the Top Achievement website that I have adapted here with business applicable examples. Let me likewise give thanks to the guidance of Steve Hulsey, the CEO of William H. Gordon Associates  for first sharing this philosophy with me.

Specific – A specific goal has a much greater chance of being accomplished than a general goal. To set a specific goal you must answer the six “W” questions:
*Who: Who is involved?
*What: What do I want to accomplish?
*Where: Identify a location.
*When: Establish a time frame.
*Which: Identify requirements and constraints.
*Why: Specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal.

Example: A general goal would be, “Start networking.” But a specific goal would say, “Join a local organization and set-up three lunch meetings with members each month.”

Measurable – Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of each goal you set. When you measure your progress, you stay on track, reach your target dates, and experience the exhilaration of achievement that spurs you on to continued effort required to reach your goal.

To determine if your goal is measurable, ask questions such as……How much? How many? How will I know when it is accomplished?

Attainable – When you identify goals that are most important to you, you begin to figure out ways you can make them come true. You develop the attitudes, abilities, skills, and financial capacity to reach them. You begin seeing previously overlooked opportunities to bring yourself closer to the achievement of your goals.

You can attain most any goal you set when you plan your steps wisely and establish a time frame that allows you to carry out those steps. Goals that may have seemed far away and out of reach eventually move closer and become attainable, not because your goals shrink, but because you grow and expand to match them. When you list your goals you build your self-image. You see yourself as worthy of these goals, and develop the traits and personality that allow you to possess them.

Realistic – To be realistic, a goal must represent an objective toward which you are both willing and able to work. A goal can be both high and realistic; you are the only one who can decide just how high your goal should be. But be sure that every goal represents substantial progress. A high goal is frequently easier to reach than a low one because a low goal exerts low motivational force. Some of the hardest jobs you ever accomplished actually seem easy simply because they were a labor of love. Your goal is probably realistic if you truly believe that it can be accomplished.

Timely – A goal should be grounded within a time frame. With no time frame tied to it there’s no sense of urgency. If you want to increase your corporate billings to a certain level, when do you want to do so by? “Someday” won’t work. But if you anchor it within a timeframe, “by the end of the year”, then you’ve set your unconscious mind into motion to begin working on the goal.

I Throw Away Business Cards

Business CardsI have a tendency to throw away business cards. When someone walks up to me and wants to trade cards without purpose, I kindly oblige, and put their card in my left pocket. When I walk out the door I throw away all the cards in my left pocket. Why? Because the reality is that business cards piled in your drawer or entered into your contacts are pointless without taking the effort to build them into your network.   The reality is that business cards aren’t networking, they are simply a tool for use while networking. I am interested in developing meaningful relationships; ones where I can help other people succeed.

I received an e-mail yesterday from Charlie Martin, the owner of a writing and editing business (Sorry for the lack of a link, no website is available) that has severed some notable firms including Landry Construction, Sheridan Construction Corporation, and Catholic Charities Maine. We traded contact information, learned more about one another, and I developed a base line of information from which I can work to help him build success (Just send me an e-mail if you need a outside writing or editing consultant and I will gladly pass along his information).

During our correspondence he mentioned his relationship with the SMPS Past-President Mike Reilly of Reilly Communications, a person whom I would like to connect with at this years SMPS national conference. Through it all I was able to identify the key items that I can use to help Charlie, and in doing so build him into my network. Now that is a ‘business card’ worth keeping. The reality is that Charlie and I may not connect again in the future, but it is my hope and intention that we do.  Thanks for the e-mail Charlie!

Success And Your Attitude

Sunset“A negative attitude can be very damaging and limiting to one’s life. A positive one can open new doors every day. It can open your mind to new ideas and input and create or sustain great relationships. It helps you through the hard times as a successful person often sees an opportunity within what others would merely see as a problem.”

Henrik Edberg, writing on the topic of successful people couldn’t be more right. Your attitude towards life not only dictates how you feel about your environment, but also how others feel about you being apart of their environment.

One example of this positive attitude is Joe Monahan, Marketing Manager at Alpha Corporation. I have watched Joe excel as he has focused on others and the job at hand. The reality is that Joe has already begun to build a successful career based on his attitude, although I must note that his capabilities readily match his enthusiasm to advance.

As I look at both successful and unsuccessful people it becomes clear that attitude, in many ways, dictates our future.

You Are Not Alone

“I just finished reading your article on Networking in the Marketer. I really enjoyed your approach and have a similar philosophy. I was glad to learn I was not alone.”

Ellen Talley with The New Patcraft & Designweave wrote me this note in response to the article entitled ‘Rethink Networking’ that was published in the February edition of Marketer. Let me reinforce that Ellen and I are nowhere near alone in this approach to networking.

I have known business development people that seem to know everyone, yet when it comes to bringing work in the door, they failed miserably. The reality is that networking is about helping other people, developing relationships that benefit and build up. Those that embrace this philosophy excel at networking. Thank you Ellen for your comments, and trust me, you are part of a large and successful group of people.

Chapter 3 of Rain Making by Ford Harding

In the past year I have bought and given away over two-dozen copies of Rain Making with one condition to the recipients: They had to agree to read chapter 3.

The term “Rain Maker” has been around for years. It is often used, rarely understood, and almost never implemented properly. Rain Making, by Ford Harding addresses the fundamentals of what makes a rain maker, from building business and developing relationships, to creating new jobs. The focus is not simply on understanding how to become a rain maker, but how to clearly identify a path for implementation.

Chapter 3, devoted to networking, (a personal passion of mine) is by far the best read anywhere on the topic. To give you an idea, I have read literally hundreds of articles on the topic, I have studied the topic as a Fellow at Johns Hopkins University Carey School of Business, and I have read numerous books on building business. Ford Harding simply writes an easy to understand and implement approach to a topic that has long been misunderstood.

Beyond chapter 3, Rain Making is divided into three sections: Generating Leads, Advancing and Closing a Sale, and Strategy: What Works and What Doesn’t.

Generating Leads
The first section on Generating Leads is a “must read” for the marketers, engineers, and architects that are looking for a fresh and relevant perspective on business development. It clearly articulates the various types of marketing tactics, their purpose, and their proper use.

Advancing and Closing a Sale
The second section on Advancing and Closing a Sale, while not as sexy as the other two sections, gives a great review of the basics of sealing the deal, including presentations, writing a proposal, and quoting a fee.

Strategy: What Works and What Doesn’t
The final section, Strategy: What Works and What Doesn’t, carefully articulates plans for both individuals and corporations that are intertwined with a since of purpose and strategy. The section is written towards what can be done today, not simply lofty plans for a future plan that will be forgotten in a week.

If you are looking for a book that will motivate and educate you on the tactics and strategy for becoming a Rain Maker, and provide you with useful tidbits that you can start the day you finish reading, I highly recommend Rain Making by Ford Harding.

The Real Way to Network

“Networking is not about the ‘immediate’, nor is it about ‘take’. Effectively done, it is a long-term proposition.” Mark Buckshon

It is an honor to be mentioned in Mark Buckshon’s recent blog entitled ‘The Real Way to Network.”  Mark, the President of Construction News and Report, has a long history of excellent journalism and one of the best blogs in the A/E/C industry.  His many blogs relating to Networking are well worth reading. Check him out at: http://constructionmarketingideas.blogspot.com/

Network Like an Introvert

If you ever meet John you’d take him for a hard working guy that likes to have fun. He is an introvert by nature that has succeeded at embracing networking. John is one of those guys that can pick-up the phone and bring more work in the door in one day than others do in a year. He has learned to succeed at networking not by perfecting his elevator speech or by collecting business cards, but through the knowledge that developing one strong relationship is better than developing a thousand acquaintances.

For years we have been told that extroverts are better networkers than introverts, and there is no doubt that would be true if networking was about getting more business cards than your competition. But networking isn’t about business cards; it’s about building relationships with the objective of helping others, knowing that as you help others they will in-turn help you. It is time we re-evaluate how we network and learn a few lessons from introverts on networking.

Introverts on Building Relationships
Relationships are the foundation of networking. Introverts and extroverts alike have a God given instinct to develop relationships. The difference is that introverts have fewer relationships, but those they have tend to be more meaningful than those of extroverts. Surprisingly, this innate focus on relationships is the primary thing that stifles extroverts’ success when networking. Introverts succeed because they concentrate on a small select group of relationships that are positioned to make them succeed.

Who would you rather network with: an introvert that is devoted to building a relationship with you and is constantly looking for ways to help you be successful, or an extrovert that knows everyone and treats you as just one of many?

Introverts on Helping Others
While relationships are the foundation of networking, helping people is the objective. For an introvert it is easy to focus on helping a small group of people by providing leads, referrals, information, and ideas to others. Extroverts may think they are helping hundreds of people, but in reality they are failing to focus on the key relationships that are poised to make them succeed. This broad approach leads to mediocre results, because it is strong relationships that truly become mutually beneficial. To succeed at networking, an extrovert needs to likewise develop a small group of key relationships.

Introverts on Small Groups
Why only focus on a small group of people? Because networking succeeds when it creates a sense of obligation and urgency between two people. When someone provides you with a lead or referral you have an innate desire to help them in return. If they provide you with ten leads and ten referrals a month, now you have developed a healthy obligation to help them.
Most people perceive an obligation as a bad thing, yet introverts know that a strong sense of obligation is beneficial to developing a networking relationship. It creates urgency as both people work to help one another. The obligation that is developed by helping someone will keep you in the forefront of their mind, and them in the forefront of yours. As a result, both parties benefit as the relationship develops and they are actively motivated to help one another.

Success is based on your plan, not your relational tendencies
You are not going to succeed at networking just because you were born an extrovert. It is time to sit down and write out a list of your top ten key relationships that are poised to help you succeed. Then take those top ten relationships and start focusing on introvert networking; that is developing meaningful relationships with each of those people and focus on how you can help each of them succeed.

Article published in the June 2007 Edition of SMPS Marketer