How can I help you?

As 2010 comes to a close I have been thinking about the lessons learned since I began Cofebuz almost 3 years ago. You, my friends here on Cofebuz and throughout the world in the Design and Construction Network, have been such a great part of my life.  It has been during this time that I have realized that true success comes from relationships and that helping others is the best way to build great relationships.

As I look towards 2011, I realize that my network of relationships is stronger today than it ever has been. It is my desire to use this network to bring people together.  I want to help others build relationships where they did not previously exist and to create friendships that stretch far beyond business into the parts of our lives that truly matter. So, how can I help you? What can we do together in 2011 that will really matter on January 1, 2012 and beyond? Please post a comment here, or send me a note directly to tim-at-cofebuz.com. It is your turn… how can I help you?

Your approach matters

This morning I received an email from “Mark” (his real name will remain anonymous) requesting approval to join the Design and Construction Network (the 10,000+ person networking group I founded early last year). While I receive these emails all the time the content of this email had me taking a second look, it simply said “What benefit or contribution can I get out of joining?” 

In 10 words Mark proved that he does not understand real networking, and I don’t think that Mark is the only one. For the past 20 years we have been taught that networking is a means to generate sales, while in reality it is about building relationships. Imagine if Mark walked up to you and asked “What benefit or contribution can I get out of meeting you?” Instead of building a mutually beneficial relationship his approach would undermine any reasonable chance at building a true relationship.

How are you approaching networking? Do you proactively build relationships through your actions and interactions? The real secret to building great relationships is to help others first, the result is friends that enjoy being around you and know that you have their best interest in mind.

The Relationship Development Process

Success in business starts with successful relationships. Because of this, the relationship development process is often the guide that is used to govern the marketing and business development roles in companies. As you look at these stages of the relationship development process note that marketing plays the pivotal role of effectively laying the foundation for relationships, while business development facilitates the initiation of those relationships.

The Relationship Development Process

Name Recognition – During the name recognition phase of the relationship development process a company or an individual goes from being an unknown, to being known. This foundation sets the groundwork for a relationship as others are at least aware that you or your company exists. Name recognition is one of the primary objectives of a strong marketing department and it often takes the form of advertising, promotions, mailers, and press. It is also handled in business development and sales when a new relationship starts. A common introduction when you meet someone new for the first time often builds name recognition: for example: “I’m John Adams with ABC company.” Note: I have found that if your company is an unknown, prior to initiating a new relationship, your chances of turning the relationship into a sale are reduced significantly.

Develop Understanding – During this part of the relationship development process, a company or individual goes from just being a name, to being recognized for how they fit into the world. This stage establishes a thorough understanding of your company, the services you provide, and how others see you in the industry. Most importantly, it is during this stage that others will learn how your company can be of benefit to another individual or company. This stage should be handled by marketing at the company level and business development at the relationship level. In marketing, this often takes the form of websites, brochures, newsletters, and articles. In business development, it often happens during conversation and should include how the individual fits into the corporate structure.

Interactive Communication – During this part of the relationship development process you must begin to engage at the human level. This is no longer about facts or information, it is about building a personal relationship. Because of this, business development should take the lead at this stage with minimal marketing support.

Solidify Relationship – Relationships are solidified when you engage in mutually beneficial action. When you call someone that you have solidified a relationship with, communication is easy and most of the time you will be able to quickly find direct and indirect topics of conversation. This stage should be headed by your business development staff in conjunction with your project management staff. Often, this is the point at which new work or projects are begun with your new client.

How are you doing?

Looking at this process, you can see the importance of both business development and marketing in the sales process. Take a moment to identify the areas that you need to strengthen in order to improve the effectiveness of your sales process. Is your marketing department truly laying a foundation with name recognition and developing understanding, or are they just producing glossy brochures? Is your business development staff regularly initiating interactive communication with important potential relationships, or have you yet to identify who is responsible for business development at your company? As you think about these questions, I hope you can see the steps you need to make to improve your sales process.

My First Triathlon

I knew very little about triathlons this past November when I added the words “complete a triathlon” to my list of goals for the 2010. I knew that triathlons are considered an “individual” sport and that they push your personal limits as you compete in three sports back to back. What I didn’t know was that to reach my goal of completing a tri I would need a great group of friends.

I never have enjoyed running since a knee injury in junior high, so the idea of training for the run portion of the tri seemed next to impossible. It had been over a decade since I had even run a mile when this past December when I received a call from someone I barely knew inviting me to join him and another friend running on Tuesday and Friday mornings. (My loving wife tipped him off that I needed to get running in order to reach my goal) The next day I ran a painful 2.6 miles. Since that day in December we have been running together twice a week and surprisingly, while it has been hard, I have enjoyed it more than I ever thought possible.

A triathlon will always teach you something

I have been told by many triathletes that a Triathlon will always teach you something. It taught me about the unique paradox of life: that in order to succeed as an individual you must first succeed as a friend. In life you need true friends, the type that will call and give you a hard time if you didn’t run just because it was raining and cold.

Business is no different, if you are simply inward focused you may do fine for awhile. You might even make it for a couple of years as you push (or pull) yourself up with your own strength, but eventually you will burn out and find a loneliness where relationships should have been all along, helping you along the path of life.

If I am convinced of anything it is this: that we were designed for relationships. It is not simply a want, it is a need. How are you doing, are you focused on helping others succeed and in doing so allowing them to help you as well, or are you taking on life all by yourself?

To those that dragged me along

I simply can’t say thanks enough to my running friends Matthew Hatley and Jason Vandorsten, to my biking friends Ron Klabunde, Ken White, Brian James, and Marty Smith, and to my loving wife Mary who encouraged me every step of the way. It is because of all of you that I was able to reach my goal for the year. Thank you all, it is truly great to have you as friends.

I don’t like networking events

I don’t really like networking events. To be honest, I have been struggling with this over the past several months because no matter what I do it seems that networking has become, and is becoming, a bigger part of my life. I write about networking, speak about networking, coach others on networking, I founded a massively successful commercial network, I have even been a conference keynote speaker presenting on the topic of networking! So how is it then do I not like networking events?

I’m normal. That’s right; most people do not like attending networking events. According to Susan RoAne (Author of Face to Face) 93% of people self identify themselves as “shy,” and networking events are not a happy place for a shy person to be. I have finally come to the conclusion that the reason I have been successful speaking, writing, and building networks is that so many people struggle with the same things I struggled with. I had to work hard to figure out how to succeed at networking by building great friendships (something that anyone can do even without attending networking events). As a result it is really easy for me to explain to other people how to succeed at networking, because I have struggled with the same things.

You are an expert

One amazing thing about life is that our successes are the greatest in areas where we struggle the most. I have read a lot about networking and have come to realize that many of the “experts” are wrong. When I hear someone using “elevator pitch” and “networking” in the same sentence I run (if you are in sales you don’t need to run, these are great sales tools, they are just NOT networking tools). If networking hadn’t been so hard for me, I never would have understood why these things don’t make sense.

Your Turn

What are the areas of your life that you struggled with for years? Did you have to learn management, leadership, or graphics through the school of hard knocks? If so you are probably more of an expert than you ever imagined. If you are open to sharing, there millions of people that need to hear and learn from you, not from someone that was a “natural.” You many never be able to (or desire to) connect with millions, but can you start this week by sharing some of what you have learned with at least one person.

Sled Hill Champions

I have been sledding more in the past three weeks than in the past three years. My excuse: two boys ages six and five and three feet of snow around Washington DC.

It was just in the past year that my boys graduated from our neighborhood sled hill to the ‘big kids’ sled hill just a couple of miles from our home. With the new sled hill comes more speed, more risk, and the ultimate goal of making it down the hill with enough momentum to make it up a small dirt mound to sled down a second hill for another drop off into a frozen creek bed.

After one of the recent snow storms I found myself standing at the top of the big kids’ hill with 40 or so other parents as Evan (my six year old) worked to maintain his momentum and make it down the second hill. It truly is amazing to see the persistence of a little boy who is focused on reaching a goal. It was exciting to see him try new things, shifting his weight, looking for the perfect line, and learning to steer. After what seemed like forever it all started to come together… the perfect run. After giving him pointers and watching him for so long I was beyond excited as he started up the dirt mound, I just started yelling “GO EVAN! GO EVAN!” As he crested the second half of the hill I raised my arms as if our team was somehow the newly crowned sled hill champions. I was letting out a final “YES!” just in time to see the top of a tree at the bottom of the hill shake from the impact of Evan running into it.

Been there

I’ve been there before. More than once I have been so focused on a goal that I have lost sight of what happens next. I somehow think that if I just reach this one goal everything else will just come together. Instead as I have grown up I have begun to realize that life is the goal. Sometimes to achieve true success we have to look outside of this day’s, week’s, or even year’s goals and remember what is really important. For me I have come to realize that my personal successes pale in comparison to relationships, laughter and friendship. It isn’t that our goals are bad; rather it is that we need to look at them in light of true success. When we do this we will find that the journey to reaching our goals is much more enjoyable, and the success once we are there will be that much sweeter.

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 Power of not having a Website

RainmakerThe following article written by Tim Klabunde was published in the September edition A/E Rainmaker, a PSMJ Resources publication.

I received a message the other day from a friend telling me that I needed to visit Skittles.com. It wasn’t that Skittles had an incredible website and they were not giving away free candy samples, instead it was that the Skittles website isn’t a website!

I have been enjoying watching the evolution of the web for years, so you can only imagine then that a message about a non-website was well worth a trip to the world-wide-web. Here is what I found:

Skittles.com home page is a Twitter page with a little box in the corner of your browser window that has links to each of their other “pages.” If you click on “Products” you will be taken to Wikipedia to learn more about each of the different types of Skittles. If you want to see videos or pictures, you are directed to YouTube and flickr. If you want to know what people think about Skittles, you’ll end up at Twitter. Actually, the only time you end up on a Skittles webpage is when you click “contact.”

Web 3.0

Could it be that a candy company was the first to Web 3.0, where customers create content rather than owners? Skittles has captured something incredible by creating a non-website: they have shifted the focal point of the content to the customer! We often focus on creating fresh and new websites that provide great information, yet to often the content of a website is designed more to make an owner feel good than to benefit the customer. Skittles turned the tables by reaching to their customers and giving them a voice. In doing so they turned over the ownership of the Skittles website to the people the site was created to reach in the first place.

Your non-webpage

What would a potential customer learn about you and your company if your corporate website was suddenly down for a day? Are others writing good things about your service and your capabilities? Do you have a blog, a Wikipedia page, a LinkedIn group, or a twitter group that gives an active voice to your company? Take a couple of minutes today to Google yourself and your company, and take special note of the information on page two and three of your search. Is your web presence painting a picture of your company that you want to see?

The future of the web

We truly don’t know what will happen next on the World Wide Web, but one thing is certain: it is the people that are searching for information that will dictate the future of the web, not the website owners.

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