Category Archives: GAINS

Meeting Opportunities

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In my job as a sales and marketing trainer and coach, I often work with small groups of salespeople.  After a couple of months working with a group of new salespeople, I asked what they had learned. One of the answers was, “Every interaction is an opportunity.”  What a wonderful perspective to have, not just in business but in life as well.

While I am delighted by this answer, it deserves some explanation. We’ve all run into people who saw every interaction as an opportunity…to promote themselves, their products and services.  To them, every interaction is a selling opportunity. They never stop. They are the people that even family members avoid sitting next to at Thanksgiving.  That interpretation is not the one that delighted me nor is it the one intended by the salesperson who offered it.

“Every interaction is an opportunity” means approaching each conversation with an attitude of seeking ways to help; help the person you are speaking to, identify new resources that will meet the needs of clients, and to help those you have business referral relationships with. Opportunities are uncovered by truly communicating: asking questions, listening and speaking in sentences, not in paragraphs. As we let people get to know us and we find those similarities that we share, we create connections that can become meaningful and productive.

Entering every conversation with the expectation of finding ways to help others adds a pleasurable dimension to attending meetings and networking events.  It’s all in the attitude; get out there and meet opportunity.

It’s OK To Not Want To Have Coffee With Me

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A colleague posted an article on his Face Book page by an individual explaining why he didn’t want to have coffee with you. (Click here for article)   It sparked quite a few responses, not only on the Face Book post but also on the original article.  Folks were upset with the audacity of the author in refusing to accept coffee invitations from just anyone.  There were the obligatory comments of “Givers Gain,” “you don’t know who they know,” and so forth and so on.  What an ungenerous soul!

As for me, I support him.

I think I am as helpful a spirit as there can be.  After all, “To know me is to love me.”  But there are other things to consider, the biggest one for me being to have a purpose for the things that we do.  Too often, we offer to have coffee because we feel we should.  Our referral group supports it.  Books tell us to never eat (or drink coffee) alone.  Others have met with me and what goes around comes around; just a few of the reasons we say “yes”.  But is that smart business?

Our time and resources are not unlimited so maybe we should have some rules to follow when considering these meetings.  The author of the article related his rules and was verbally flayed for having them.  Were I his business coach, I would applaud him.  He might be a bit transactional (what’s in it for me?) in his policies but at least he has a purpose for setting these meetings and sticks to it.  Which brings up another point.

We talk about behavioral styles but are offended when someone displays theirs.  This guy may well be a high “D” expressing his get-to-the-point tendencies.  Or he may be a high “C” needing policies and rules to comply with so that he can make rational decisions.  Either way, it’s the way he is and we should recognize that.  Personally, I may be a bit put off by that behavior but I know plenty of folks like this and I seem to get along with most of them just fine.  The ones who are out of control “D” or “C”, well, I’ll take a pass.  Little chance of a meaningful relationship developing from it anyway.

But back to my theme: having a purpose for the meetings we schedule.  Many of these coffee meetings arise from the need to get to know members of our referral groups.  I’m good with that.  If I intend to be a good member and contribute, I need to get to know the membership.

Other meetings are solicited by people you meet at networking events.  Some of these are welcome while others may be less appealing.  The latter can be handled in a number of ways.  One is to suggest that the initial meeting be done by phone.  This is less intrusive on your calendar and easily accommodated.  Another is to invite them to a function such as your referral group, a business lunch or an after-hours event that will provide opportunity to talk more.

There is another reason that should be considered.  While we are generally looking for mutual benefit when business networking, sometimes we may just want to be helpful.  Certainly nothing wrong with that.  In fact, it’s a commendable attitude.  But just like an attorney doing pro bono work, you need to determine how much you can afford to do.

So, Gene Marks, I agree with you…kind of.  While it important to be generous, it is also important to have a purpose.  Successful networking is purposeful networking.  Be smart about the meetings you schedule.  You can do so and still adhere to the “Givers Gain” philosophy.

Thanks to  Referral Institute San Francisco Bay Area colleague, Mickey Griffiths for posting the article and instigating the discussion.

Lead Generation – Sources of Referrals

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The theme for this week seems to be leads generation.  So let’s take a look at it from a few perspectives.

First, why are you gathering leads?  The obvious, first answer is getting names of prospects for your business.  But you may be building a mailing list for a newsletter, or building your support or information network.  Or maybe you are positioning yourself as a hub firm so that you become a referral producing machine.  Let’s assume you are developing prospects. 

Now, what activities are you involved in that produce leads?  Making a list of all of them is good, then reviewing the eight sources of referrals: clients, contact spheres, power teams, people you do business with (or who expressed interest in doing business but didn’t), people whose business benefits from yours, referral groups, business and social groups, staff members and friends, and key referral partners.  Hey, wait!  That’s nine.  Well, I guess you can’t have too many. 

Let’s start with clients.  There is no end to the ways suggested to extract referrals from your clients.  My caution has always been that your relationship with them is the most important thing.  You work hard to gain their trust and thus, their business.  You do not want to damage that in any way, so how and when you ask for referrals will depend on a number of factors.  Have you laid the ground work for asking?  Have you earned the right?  Some people are not concerned with these questions but most of us are.  So it is important to prepare your clients for their role as a referral source.  You might start with the idea that you will encounter a broad spectrum of attitudes in your client base regarding making referrals.  This runs from first-date- spill-their-guts-tell-you-all-and-everyone to the more cautious “I don’t normally do that” client who will require a long relationship-building process to convert.  How you go about asking for referrals and when you do it depends heavily on your behavioral style, your client’s style, and the quality of relationship you have built with them.

That’s plenty to get started on.  Next time we’ll talk about making yourself a resource for your clients.  Remember don’t come out of the gate asking for something before you have made the deposits.  Focus on building relationships and the referrals will follow.

“Who” Is More Important Than “How Many”

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Building a productive network doesn’t require you to know a lot of people.  It just requires that you know the right people.  On occasion, I’ve mentioned “Drive-By Networking.”  Most of us have experienced the Drive-By: Networking Man swoops in on your conversation and opens up at the cyclical rate with who he is and what latest and greatest product or service he represents.  He quickly screens you as a prospect, listening only long enough to determine whether to go for the close or move on to the next victim.  Cards and brochures are passed (yours stuffed into a pocket) and poof, he’s gone.  They may follow up with a canned “It was good to meet you” email with an offer to set an appointment if you are interested in learning more about them.  Networking Man knows a ton of people.

Then there is Smart Networker who networks with a purpose.  They know who the right people are for them to know because they have clearly defined their market.  They have a clear compelling message and are focused on meeting the right people.  They get to know those people and seek ways to contribute to their success.  Their follow up is personalized and offers something of value.

There has been debate about what is better with a network: broad or deep.  Numbers are important, don’t get me wrong.  Most sales people suffer as the results of too few names in their database.  They don’t have enough leads.  But going deep with people who you expect to provide you with referrals is what makes it work.  Go deep with the right people and you’re on your way to good things.  Smart Networker has a broad network but more importantly, has the right people in that network.

GAINS’ing Your Way Through Life

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Doing one-to-one meetings with new networking contacts has become a common practice and if you’ve been to a coffee or sandwich shop lately, you’ll see the phenomenon in abundance. Having participated in more of these than I care to remember, I can tell you that most people come to these appointments completely unprepared. Occasionally someone will check a Linked In profile or even visit a web site. But as far as having an agenda or goals for the meeting, well, not too often. Most of the people who have prepared for the meeting have prepared to sell something to me. But that’s another story.

I like the GAINS Profile approach offered by Dr. Ivan Misner in World’s Best Known Marketing Secret and that we utilize in the Referral Institute. GAINS is an acronym for Goals, Accomplishments, Interests, Networks, and Skills. Another, popular with some realtors is FORD: Family, Organizations, Recreation, and Dreams. Both can help guide conversation into productive getting-to-know-you information. And I like the idea of GAINS as a verb, as in, “GAINS your referral partners.” It’s also good to remember that GAINS’ing is an on-going process. We all have examples of the bar tender, mechanic, barber, shop owner, fill-in-the-blank, who chats up the customers and makes them feel valuable and appreciated. (Think Matt Capozzi at Capozzi’s NY Deli.)

GAINS is a tactical tool that becomes much more effective when used strategically. As part of an on-going referral marketing effort, it becomes a part of the way you do business. And gathering this information on a continuing basis demonstrates interest and continues rapport building.

Read a book recently, “Click, The Magic of Instant Connections” by Ori and Rom Brafman. They cite 3 critical elements in making connections with others: the VSP model. Hmmmm. (I like the model because it only has 3 elements. After only a few hours of repetition I was able to remember them.)  Applying VSP as we GAINS our way through life can make these activities even more effective.