Networking: Make certain you are heard

tree_fallingWhen I first started networking I clearly remember referring ten potential clients to a friend in my network. Several weeks later I received a phone call from him thanking me for one of the referrals, it hadn’t turned into a job, but he really appreciated that I was thinking of him. As we spoke I asked him about how things were going with the other nine referrals… he had no idea what I was talking about. As we spoke it turned out that two had become clients, a couple he was still waiting to hear back from, and a handful he had never heard from. I had learned my lesson: the people you are networking with need to know when you help them, and it is your responsibility to communicate it.

Do you make a sound?
We’ve all heard the saying “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” We can ask the same question as it relates to networking.

The foundation for networking is helping other people, but if others don’t know that you are helping them, you are failing to be heard.

Make Some Noise
Two easy options to be heard include:

  1. Send your contact an e-mail with a note about the referral. It is easy to start with a statement like “I just wanted to let you know that you may receive a phone call from…”
  2. Call the person you referred, everyone likes receiving a call about a potential lead.

Remember that your objective is to build mutually beneficial relationships. If you were curious, here is the answer to if a tree falling in the forest makes a sound.

9 Tough Networking Questions

This past week I had the privilege of hosting a training session for David M. Schwarz Architects in Washington DC. After the presentation I offered to answer any and every question about networking that they could throw at me over the following weeks. Needless to say they asked some great questions that I am certain you can relate to:

Q:
When I first moved to DC (almost five years ago now) I was meeting a lot of really great people at all the events that I went to (I had more “spare time” in those days). I lost touch with many of those people as the years have passed, but for many of them, I remember their stories and still have their business cards. Is there a tactful way in which I could contact them now, or is it better to let it be?

A:
There are two foundation stones for a relationship 1) knowing that someone else exists (name recognition) and 2) understanding how they fit into the world around you (develop understanding). If your goal is to expand your relationships then the best place to start is always with people that already know (or have known) you. The goal isn’t to necessarily have lunch with everyone you meet five years ago, but rather to keep these two foundational stones in place. That is one of the goals of this blog, but I also send articles out every once in awhile to people I have met previously. By doing this I am keeping a foundation for our relationship in place, and it is rewarding when I see someone after 5 years and we can “pick up where we left off” because these foundation stones for our relationship are still in place.

Q:
If I walk into an event not knowing anyone, and all people there are already chatting, can I walk up to a small group of people who are already having a conversation and just say hello without coming across as being disruptive/rude? [This is a follow-up to the “I Don’t Know Anyone Survival Basics”]

A.
Look for an excuse to break into the conversation. Do you know the company someone works for? Is anyone wearing a pin on their jacket indicating an Alumni or other affiliation? To “break in” engage one individual in the group with a simple question. Once you are accepted into the group (a split will develop as people open their shoulders to accept you) engage the rest of the group preferably by making a comment on the topic they were previously discussing before you entered.

Q:
If I slip into a conversation like the one mentioned above, and find the subject matter to be from somewhere outside my plane of existence, how long should I just listen without  having anything to add to the conversation? For instance, I often find myself amid conversations about television shows, pop culture icons, or sports. These are all things which I know very little about (and generally also don’t have a whole lot of interest in knowing about).

A:
Never “slip away.” If you want to get out of a conversation have an excuse ready. I often carry around a drink only 25% full, and then if needed one more sip and I need to get a refill “excuse me as I get a refill.” Better yet, is someone else just as bored with the conversation? Invite them to join you or simply split the conversation by asking them a direct question.

Q:
I usually try to plan ahead to avoid this, but I often find myself in an outfit that has no pockets. I generally feel like it would be better not to carry a stack of business cards around in my hand. Would you agree?

A:
It is official, I have been stumped. I can’t remember the last pair of dress pants I bought that didn’t have pockets. Given that you are carrying a purse (or “man bag” for any guys that have found pants without pockets) I would recommend purchasing a business card holder in your purse. Perhaps someone more qualified on this topic can make a better recommendation in the comments section.

Q:
As a young woman, I am fairly attune to who is safe to give my contact information out to, and to whom it is questionable. If I have been giving cards out at an event and then encounter someone to which I would rather not give my business card to, do you have any advice on the best way to decline?

A:
Great question! The key is to bring a relatively limited supply of cards and only hand them out to people you really want to connect with. If you are uncomfortable with someone when they hand you a card simply tell them that “I didn’t bring a lot of cards tonight but I can follow-up with you, thanks.” Another note here is that if this happens often make certain that your cards don’t contain personal information such as your cell phone number. Main business phone numbers are acceptable and expected on business cards.

Q:
My name is unusual. I know this can be good or bad. Will it be insulting for me to write a phonetic spelling on my card when I give it to someone? I feel as though, similar to the days of sending out my resume, people are less likely to call someone if they know they are going to “butcher” the pronunciation of their name.

A:
I am a firm believer in making nametags and business cards easy for others to read, but giving someone the phonetic spelling is probably going too far. Instead of Timothy M. Klabunde, MBA on my cards they simply say Tim Klabunde. You have several options with a unique name, of which my favorite is using a “short” for your professional relationships. For example, if your name is Rhiannon you could use Ann on your cards and nametag. As an added benefit you’ll always know where you stand when someone calls you as your friends will still call you your preferred name.

Q:
Similarly, if I get a business card from someone else, can I write a phonetic spelling or notes on it, or is that considered rude as well? I know in Japanese culture defacing a business card is somewhat likened to a direct personal insult.

A:
Yes, it is perfectly acceptable to use the back of the business card to add notes or other information. Unless you have told them you will follow-up on something however it is not acceptable to do so while you are still talking to them.

Q:
In your talk you mentioned the importance of being able to recommend others. This is easy once you know a few people worth recommending, but what if you are just starting out? If someone keeps sending contacts my way and I don’t know anyone that I can recommend to help them with what they do, they might quickly decide that I’m not useful enough to be on their “hot list”.

A:
It is easy to recommend people on your hotlist because they typically start as people you have worked with previously and they are people you enjoy and respect. If you don’t feel that you can recommend anyone, and thus don’t yet have a hotlist, start by working on developing friends in your industry. Get involved on a committee at a local association, invite someone out for coffee, but generally speaking actively seek out new relationships.

Q:
Last year our firm celebrated its 30th anniversary. There were a lot of people a our celebration, but I chose not to talk to very many people for fear that I would say something to the effect of, “So how do you know our firm?” and the answer would be, “I’m David’s brother” or other special honored guest or relative. I don’t mean to be ignorant, but there is some information in my office that just doesn’t reach everyone’s experience. Although I know that I can not avoid being in a situation where I might be expected to know more than I do, my question to you is: was I right or wrong in this particular instance to save my company the embarrassment of me asking questions that clients might expect me to know the answer to?

A:
Nametags. As of today Scott Ginsberg has worn a nametag for the past 3,376 days (not kidding check him out here http://www.hellomynameisscott.com). Scott is a well known author and speaker on approachability, the one thing that has stuck with me after reading many of his articles is that name tags are not intended to help the person wearing them; their entire purpose is to help the other people you meet. (aka: you already know your name) You and many others at the same venue were experiencing a relationship barrier that could have been easily fixed with some simple Avery nametags. Next time have some fun and be the first person to put on a nametag, I guarantee you’d be one of the most popular people at the event because I’m certain you were not the only person that felt that way.

The Introvert’s Secret to Networking

I am excited to announce that on Tuesday November 17th I will be presenting a new seminar entitled “The Introvert’s Secret to Networking” at a national webinar for the Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS). If you are interested in attending or would just like to find out more about this new presentation you can check it out on the SMPS national website

As always, my goal is to help others (introverts and extroverts alike) to build great relationships that improve their businesses and lives. I hope that you will be able to join me for this webinar or at a future seminar.

Tim Klabunde

Leveraging your marketing dollar

iswm_logoThe following article written by Tim Klabunde was published by the International Society of Weighing & Measuring.

“It’s not that I am cheep, it is just that I like getting a lot of value for my money.” 

I believe many people feel this way when it comes to their marketing budget.  We all want to figure out what is going to give us value when it comes to getting work in the door.  To that end here is a list of the three “cheapest” ways to get more work.

  1. Existing Clients – Ever wonder why the cable company is always trying to up sell you a 100-movie channel package?  It is because the least expensive way to bring in more revenue is to expand service to your existing clients.  This same model is utilized in almost all service industries.  So when you are looking to get more work in the door start by trying to solve more of your current clients problems first. 
  2. Referrals – When I had the siding redone on my home this last year I received 3 quotes for the job.  The most expensive was a national company, the least expensive was a company I saw on a yard sign in our neighborhood, and the middle bid was a referral from a trusted friend that had their siding redone a couple of years prior.  I paid the extra money for the middle quote because I felt comfortable and trusted the advise of my friend.  Did you catch that? The referral transferred the trust that I had in my friend into the company she endorsed!  Firms that use referrals make more money and their clients begin the relationship with confidence in their ability to do the job right.
  3. New Relationships – Note that I didn’t say clients I said relationships. Clients are expensive to get, but a network is not.  Networks of relationships in your industry allow others to provide you with leads that you can follow up on for minimal cost.  Here are some examples: the attorney that passes along leads to an accountant; the brink layer that that tells the roofer what projects he’s working on; the civil engineer that tells the architect which developers are considering building on a piece of land.  Your network can provide leads must faster and for less expensive than trying to find them yourself.

Time and time again I note that it is people that provide the biggest return on our marketing investment dollar.  Whatever you do, however, don’t give up on your advertising budget.  Advertising, networking, press releases, etc… are each only one tool in your marketing toolbox.  Every marketing tool has its place and must be used appropriately in order to achieve true marketing success.

The Old Rules Still Apply

MarketerCoverThe following article written by Tim Klabunde was published in the October edition Marketer.

Successful businesses are built on foundational truths that do not change with market conditions or time. To be successful in 2010 you are going to need to focus on the same things that business leaders needed to focus on in the last century: the people inside your company, the clients outside of your company, and your network in your industry.

People are the ultimate reason that businesses succeed or fail. Regardless of your placement in your corporate structure, your success and that of your company will be defined primarily by your relationships with people. The key is to build mutually beneficial relationships where people want to help you succeed as you help them succeed.

Rules that build success

We all know that relationships can be complicated, but there is a fundamental truth that determines if you are building up or tearing down relationships: relationships grow if you selflessly help another person succeed; relationships dwindle when you focus on yourself and your own wants.

If you meet someone for the first time, and they subsequently help you, you will be appreciative of their efforts and probably remember them. If that same person were to help you three times over the following month, you would keep an eye out for ways to help them in return. If they helped you a dozen times, providing you new client introductions, referrals, and leads, you would develop a strong desire to help them in return. This desire to help is the foundation of a mutually beneficial relationship where two people are constantly looking for ways to help each other. One important key to this happening is concentrated effort on a specific group of people that over time develops into multiple mutually beneficial relationships.

Rules for inside

Most everyone recognizes that they need IT support to succeed, yet many people approach their IT department with a focus on their own needs and then can’t understand why their requests are always at the bottom of the to-do list. In marketing we often seem to forget that the rules of building success with people outside our companies also apply to people inside our companies. We need people, both inside our companies and outside our companies, to succeed. People that focus solely on achieving their own success are rarely able to achieve it in the long-term because they lack the support of a team that wants to help them succeed. Consider what would happen if you started helping your IT department succeed by cleaning up your server space, purging or archiving old e-mails, and supporting their efforts in meetings. I can tell you from personal experience that the result with be that your requests will likely be given a high priority. The same applies to accounting, marketing, operations, human resources, other project managers, and even management. When you focus on helping others your build a team that wants to help you and make you succeed.

Rules for outside

We all know that when we market we need to focus on existing clients and prospective clients. What most people fail to realize is that, after marketing to your existing clients for additional work, the least expensive marketing approach is usually to market to others in your industry that can’t hire you! Networking is the art of building mutually beneficial relationships that provide a wealth of leads and referrals from others. Many people fail to build strong networks because in America we have improperly aligned “networking” with “sales,” and sales is something most professionals avoid at all cost. Sales should not drive the relationship; instead, the relationship should drive the sales. True networking is the development of relationships, and relationships are something that all of us have a God-given instinct and need to develop. What this means is that everyone in your company can help bring work in the door simply by being relational and developing an effective network.

The rules that still apply

So, there are some important old rules that still apply. A true network of relationships is not to be confused with the self-serving “good-old-boys” network.  Instead, success in business is derived from genuine relationships. If you are ready to build the foundation of your business this year, then it is time to refocus on people. After all, it is the people in your company that will make you profitable, and it is the people outside of your company that foster your growth.

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.

Something about all of us

business-relationshipsToday the Design and Construction Network will break 1,800 members, our expansion into Philadelphia for the next networking event is already exceeding expectations, and to date over 500 people that have attended our networking events in Washington DC. It leaves me wondering how it is that the network has experienced such incredible growth.

Something about all of us

I am not alone when I say that, when it comes down to it, I just want to be myself. I want to laugh with friends, experience the ups and downs of life, and leave the world a better place than I left it. I have found more value in relationships than in money, and more monetary profit in building friendships than in making a sale.

Actually, not only do I think I am not alone in these thoughts, I believe that I am in the majority. Yet somehow in business many of us seem to have gotten off track; we have traded relationships for things of lesser value.  We often know that the best results are found in the long-term, but find it difficult when we see the immediate results of others that are focused on short-term success.

Back to the network, back to you.

The Design and Construction Network isn’t a success because of me, it is a success because of great people like Mark Buckshon, Matt Handal, Melissa Allen, Deborah Hayward, Kevin Smith, (the list truly goes on and on) that believe in building long-term relationships, not just creating value for themselves (note that I did not exclude it being of value for them also, I personally believe and hope that each of these people receive a ten fold return from the network). They are great people that simply want to be themselves, to help others, and to laugh with friends. Success is being born simply by bringing these types of people together and building positive momentum towards a shared goal of building relationships.

Your turn

This week it is your turn, to be yourself. To get back to the passions that brought you to where you are at today, to laugh with friends this week, to experience the ups and downs of life, and leave the world a better place than you left it. I hope this week that you experience the long-term gain of helping your friends and building some new relationships.

Return the Favor

Has someone ever helped you to the point that you sat at your desk and tried to think up ways to return the favor?

One such time happened for me in 2006 when a friend worked to get me on a team for a major project that resulted in an $800,000 contract from my company.  What took her 15 minutes (time spent selling someone else on using my firms services) would have cost me 40 hours of phone calls, multiple lunches, and numerous meetings, and even still I wouldn’t have been guaranteed a spot on the team.  Needless to say, I was not only thankful to my friend for her work, but I literally sat at my desk working up ways to return the favor.

 The key to this story wasn’t how she helped to get me on the team; it is how your actions can motivate other people to help you.  Those 15 minutes of work have resulted in dozens of referrals and project leads as I have worked to return the favor.  As my friend focused on helping me, she was developing a mutually beneficial relationship that resulted in me working hard to help her.

If you are looking to increase your effectiveness, start by helping other people in your network.  What can you do today that will leave someone else pondering what they can do to return the favor?