Great Networkers tell Great Stories

When you meet someone for the first time, you have about 45 seconds to identify an area of mutual interest in order to avoid an awkward end to your conversation. Most people start by looking to their titles and companies: “I’m Tim Klabunde with Gordon, what is your name…” They then expand the circle looking for a connection “John Adams from my office used to work for your company, do you know him?” Great networkers know and use a better approach. Instead of following a linear path to identify connections, they tell stories.

1,000 possible points of connection
Everyone knows that a story paints a picture, and that a picture is worth 1,000 words. What most people have not discovered is that the 1,000 words painted by a story, become just as many possible points of connection for a conversation.

What it looks like
A good story should be about 15 to 25 seconds and it should be current. For me, I often talk about my boy’s recent escapades, current events, or my day at the office. For example, if I tell you a story about my boys stuffing washcloths down an open drain, I have instantly opened dozens of possible points of conversation:

  • My/your family
  • My/your children
  • Plumbing repairs
  • The things you did when you were little (So you ended up in the ER after swallowing coins?)
  • Stage of life conversations
  • Other funny kid stories (Your kids flushed your jewelry down the toilet?)
  • Questions about my story

The point is that the more possible points of intersection we can develop the easier it becomes for us to engage in conversation and thus a new relationship.

Keep it simple
To be effective stories should be simple. In my example above I painted an entire picture for you in 8 words: “My boys stuffing washcloths down an open drain.” Yes, I left a lot up to your imagination, but that only opens the door to conversation, which is a foundation for networking.

Come prepared
Next time you are in the car on the way to a meeting take a moment to think up three stories: one about work, one about family, and one about current events. If you need, practice consolidating them into 15 second sound bits. Then, sit back and enjoy hours of great conversation. Just watch out, you might find that you actually enjoy networking!

 Special thanks to a great networker, Joanna Hoffschneider of Structure Tone, for inspiring today’s blog.

The Perfect Client Relationship Management System

PostItNotesThere comes a day in the life of every rainmaker when they realize that they need a better system to track relationships. John was there. He was failing to return phone calls, several clients were unhappy with his responsiveness, and he was no longer being proactive with his current and future clients. He was falling behind. For John it was simple: he needed a system that was easy to use and easy to implement.  He needed something that made his life easier and reminded him when he needed to reconnect with someone he hadn’t been in contact with for awhile.

You already have a CRM (Client Relationship Management) System

What most people fail to realize when considering the purchase of a CRM is that they are already using one. Be it post it notes on your desk or Microsoft Outlook, you inevitably already have a system in place to track relationships. The question is how effective is your system?

Most people looking for a CRM system are very similar to John. We know that our life would be much easier if we could simply capture and retrieve data in an efficient and effective way. The problem with most corporate CRM systems is that they are complicated because of the need for multiple employees to be on the same system. This has made many CRM systems cumbersome, eliminating one of the foundational reasons CRM systems are needed in the first place: to make us more effective. The result is that many CRM systems sit unused as employees take the path of least resistance and track relationships individually through outlook or other personal systems, eliminating the benefit of crosspollination inside the company.

The Perfect CRM

The future of CRM will be based around the capture of always-up-to-date data streams that can integrate that data into shared workspaces. For example, LinkedIn and Facebook already have data that is always up to date because individuals are always updating their own information. Now, take that data and attach a CRM system that allows you to privately add notes from your last conversation, e-mails, or proposals. The end result would be client contact that is always up to date not just with the information you added, but also with personal information such as where they graduated college, there previous employers, photos, etc… The perfect CRM rests in the capture of public data and information, and its integration with private workspaces that allow you to track the personal conversations.

What You Need to do Today

Today most CRM solutions don’t have the option for integrated data from online environments. However, Outlook, the tool that the majority of people use to manage contacts, does. You can start integrating your contacts with online data today by downloading LinkedIn’s Outlook Toolbar. It continually updates your contacts with up to date LinkedIn profile information, notifies you when your contacts change their LinkedIn profile, and provides you with mini-profiles and photos whenever someone emails you.

Remember, regardless of whether you are a CRM user or you are responsible for establishing a corporate CRM system, the key to its success is making it simple and easy to use and understand. Once you experience the benefits of a great CRM you’ll never do business any other way again.

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About the Perfect CRM Discussion

This post was written as part of the Perfect CRM discussion posted by some of the industries best known marketers and authors. It is a series of essays on the topic of client relationship management tools. Each expert drew upon years of experience to outline their vision of the perfect CRM system. This exercise will provide you with new insights into what works, what doesn’t work, and what you should consider when implementing a CRM system.

The experts include:

Visit these sites to read each expert’s take on the perfect CRM.

Learning from someone that hasn’t been there

Kirsten 1st birthdayToday we celebrated our daughter’s 1st birthday. I was again amazed by the difference in her personality compared to that of her brothers. Her cake was not demolished by her little hands but rather she used them to carefully remove each of the icing flowers on top, enjoying each one independently. Her little crocodile tears told me that she REALLY wanted the sparkly dress shoes and not the sneakers I had placed on her feet (I promptly changed them after realizing my mistake). And she was perfectly content to let others unwrap her presents, and gratefully shared her new toys with her eager brothers.

In just one year Kirsten has taught me so much. I so easily get caught up in life that I often miss what is really happening around me. I push hard to finish things that I am interested in, often shortchanging their enjoyment, yet Kirsten carefully eats her icing flowers reminding me to savor the experience. I often do things to make others happy, yet Kirsten wears shoes because she likes that they are sparkly. I take ownership of new things, yet Kirsten shares them with others and in doing so reminds me that sharing isn’t just something we teach our children in elementary school, it is something that gives us greater joy in life.

Today I am amazed at the marvelous wonders that a person with zero experience in life can teach. I hope you and I both embrace a fresh perspective this week and learn everything that we can from the people in our lives that haven’t been there.

A Final Note

This next week Cofebuz will be taking part in a dialogue about Client Relationship Management (CRM). The discussion will be held in the industries top six blogs written by an esteemed group of authors. I hope you will take a moment on Monday September 21st to check out not only my thoughts on this important topic, but also that of this great group of people. Just be forewarned that any comments you add on Cofebuz may be included in a upcoming article on the topic in Marketer magazine.

The experts include:

Join us on September 21, 2009 by reading each author’s post at the sites listed and contributing by commenting with your own thoughts and experiences.

The makings of a different type of company

whiteduckI sat in my office this morning writing down a list of what makes our company different from our competitors.  After a couple of minutes writing things like “quality, rapid response, and expertise in…” I quickly realized that I wasn’t writing down anything that truly differentiated us from our competition… or Visa, AOL, or HP for that matter.

After thinking about what really sets a company apart I started a second list focusing on what differentiates several successful individuals in our company from others in the industry.  This time I came up with a much different list that noted such things as: honesty, integrity, openness, understanding, humility, and a desire to help others. 

We often use the phrase “what goes around comes around” when we see good things happen to good people (or bad things happen to bad people); what we don’t often make note of is that this same rule applies to business and to companies. Successful companies in virtually every industry are building corporate cultures that embrace a moral centered workplace and values driven marketing. 

The Result

What goes around comes around: Businesses thrive when they provide solutions to problems with honesty and integrity rather than serving the ‘almighty’ dollar.