Thursday, June 28, 2007

Sizzling Summer Strategies for Busy People

Summer’s here! As temperatures rise, so does the need to keep your business growing despite the challenge of juggling vacation-season schedules to call on prospects.

The good news: This is a great time to plan your fall strategy!

For many businesses, the bulk of business is done in the fourth quarter and has tremendous impact on their annual revenue. If you want to capitalize on the opportunities presented during this prime buying season here are some tips for making this your best fourth quarter ever:

  1. Find your starting place: Assess your current revenue position and determine where you need to be to by December 31. Do you have the people, information and plans in place to get you there?
  2. Check in against your business/marketing plan: Having a plan in place helps guide your marketing, sales and new product/service development efforts. Are you on target with your customer contact activities, new product development and lead-generation campaigns? Are you following up?
  3. Measure your efforts: You can only improve when you know how you’re doing now. What benchmarks are in place to measure your successes (and failures)? Are you using the right tools and are they measuring the right activities to keep you clued in?

Best practices in sales productivity boil down to this bottom line: Do you know how many customers, products, or packages you need to reach your revenue goal? From there, who can help you reach more of that audience?

Tap into your network: Take stock of your relationship with the key players in your network. Knowing who shares your market and connecting with key players in your network can be the catalyst to not only meeting your revenue goals but launching you over the top.

Happy Networking!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Evolution of Networking, Part II

Are You a Super Connector?

100% of my clients want networking to be easier. Me too. It seems to come so naturally for some and still others seem to navigate at a higher level. If you've attended more than a few networking events, you've probably crossed paths with them. These are the Super Connectors!

A natural connector sees connections where others may not. They love putting people together, sharing ideas to help others build their business, gain knowledge or connecting them to resources. They share freely with out expecting to get anything back because their joy comes from the connecting process.

If you are a natural connector you are motivated to continuously improve the process. More connections equal more joy and fulfillment. If this sounds like you, you’re on your way to Enlightened Networking. You are a natural born Super Connector.

My personal journey to becoming a Super Connector has included both natural ability and conscious evolution. In every position I’ve ever held, I gravitated toward matching people with people and resources. When I ventured into sales and discovered networking as a business development vehicle, I began as a “Neanderthal” or more gently, a networking newbie. It was all about me and what I was getting. I didn’t see the correlation of tapping into my strength as a Connector and the exponential power of purposefully building a network of mutually beneficial relationships until I joined a leads group in the mid 90’s. While that worked well, I found myself continuing to invest a lot of energy in others to generate the leads I needed to meet my goals.

I had an AHA! moment the year I doubled my sales (kind of like discovering fire) and my paradigm shifted. When I looked back after that experience, I knew I would never work as hard as I did to tap into the abundance of opportunities that could be gained through being a Super Connector.

The Super Connector phenomenon comes about in two ways; either by intentional evolution or by a natural state of being. You probably know people like those we just described. Those who come by their connecting ability so naturally it appears effortless. This may not be you. No matter where you are in the evolutionary process of building a network of relationships that are mutually beneficial, you can move into the benefits of enlightened networking. You moved yourself this far through the process with a hit or miss approach. Now, moving through the evolutionary process to becoming a Super Connector may simply involve doing more of what you are already doing with purpose and focus.

Here is what I have learned about networking over the years:
1. Networking is NOT selling.
2. Not everyone is my customer.
3. Not everyone who could refer business to me will.
4. Not everyone I could refer business to will earn that business.
5. Networking is a strategic marketing tactic that increases visibility, credibility and opportunity.
6. Effective networking is about building mutually beneficial relationships.
7. Networking done on purpose can be the most powerful tool to set you apart from the competition in any marketplace.
8. Networking done with a plan taps into people, resources, and opportunities your competition may never discover and yields amazing results.
9. Relationships built through networking can last a lifetime.
10. You take your network with you no matter where you go.

When I launched Connectworks I began to test all I knew about networking at a higher level. I would not be where I am if I’d followed the traditional, safe sales and marketing route. Connectworks is moving into a national presence in the marketplace. We evolved from a coaching and training company into an executive consulting and strategic business development firm. We apply the principles we teach to every aspect of our own business planning and development. We coach clients to apply the principles we teach in the same way. Connectworks is now licensing other consultants and companies to offer the Networking for Busy People model to their clients and employees. We are well known in our local market and are now expanding our reach in the western region. We are on our way to fulfilling our vision of having the Busy People principles in practice in every state in the US. It is a big dream and the only way I could make it happen was to build a SUPER network of those who could derive mutual benefit from our shared growth.

My question for you is, “What dreams do you have for your business? If your business could be all you want it to be, what would it look like?” Now, start to think about how you can build and tap into your network to make that happen.

Ready to evolve? Let’s talk about the fundamental principles of the Super Connector. We’ve packaged them in the Power Principles for Busy People™:

  • Principle 1: Get Clear – Know your business. Busy People who get results know who they are and what they really do for their customers, employees, and community. They also know what they need whether it’s more customers, more partners, more visibility, more resources, or more feedback. And they know how to ask for it.
  • Principle 2: Get Focused – Know your target market. Busy People who get results have a clear picture of their bull’s eye target audience. Not only do they know where they live, work, and play they know what motivates them to make buying decisions.
  • Principle 3: Get Partners – Know who shares your target market. Busy People who get results know two things. One, they know who complements the services they provide. Two, they tap into their prospects rolodex to access a less obvious network of service providers and more. They connect with those other services providers through added value, opportunities, and resources.
  • Principle 4: Get Connected – Super Connectors know where their target market shows up and they put themselves in those places. Busy People who get results are connected. They are visible and credible in the arenas where their prospects and partners inhabit.

In order to evolve to the next level, you have to know where you’re starting point. Where are you in the evolutionary cycle?

The Neanderthal Networker or “Survival of the Fittest”Are you focused on your basic needs? That means SALES. If sales is your only focus you are missing a world of opportunities. Begin to take advantage of the opportunities around you by tapping into resources, partners, and events.

The Medieval Networker or “Man Discovers Tools”Are you using referral sources and organizations yet frustrated because you are giving more than you get in return? Apply the Power Principles above to gain clarity and focus. These tools equip you to craft the right message for the right markets, add the best partners and direct you where to connect for the highest, long-term returns!

The Enlightened Networker or “The Super Connector”Are you already well known within your business community and beyond? Have you positioned yourself as a value-added resource? Fantastic!

Regardless of where you are in the evolutionary cycle, ask yourself these questions to further define your problem areas and what you need to do to move forward:

  1. Am I working too hard to get the sales I need?
  2. Am I working with people who understand the value of reciprocity?
  3. Am I asking for what I want and need? Opportunities, resources, and feedback?
  4. Am I getting what I need from the key players in my network? If not, is it them or is it me?
  5. What needs to change to improve results? Change in players, shift in my own communication, a more focused approach? Fine tune my systems?

Becoming a Super Connector doesn’t happen overnight. Creating the business of your dreams takes planning and focus. Be thoughtful, intelligent and strategic. It’s just smart! When you use your time wisely in the workplace, you have more for yourself and those important to you!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Evolution of Networking, Part 1

Are you an Enlightened Networker?

100% of my clients want networking to be easier. Me too. It seems to come so naturally for some and still others seem to navigate at a higher level. If you've attended more than a few networking events, you've probably crossed paths with them.

I’m talking about those people who seem to breeze into the room and the mood shifts. The energy in the room starts to buzz, ears perk up and next thing you know, people are lining up to talk to them. They seem to know just about every body and those they don’t know, they quickly meet. Although they’re going from person to person in just a few minutes, when they’re talking to you, you feel like you’re the only two people in the room. They’re always gracious, have a helpful tidbit of information and are willing to put you in touch with just the right contact you’re trying to meet. I call them Enlightened Networkers. Don’t you want to be more like them? I know I do.

Here’s the deal. Enlightened Networkers don’t happen overnight. Getting to that level of networking skill is a process that can take years, if it happens at all. To speed up the cycle, you have to understand the evolutionary stages, find your own stage in the cycle and create an action plan to move yourself to the next level.

When I was first introduced to networking in the early 90’s, I thought networking was about image, schmoozing, and who you know. This was during the period of my first business venture. When one of my sales people invited me to a leads group, I was curious to see how it worked. It sounded good—other sales people out looking for leads for each other—but did it work? What I experienced at that time was everyone had their hand out looking for sales for themselves not really contributing to each other. This left me thinking that networking was a hit or miss sales tool and a waste of time. In retrospect, I wish I had only known then what I know now about value of purposeful networking. With that knowledge my first business might not have failed.

When I returned to the field of sales a few years later, I found myself introduced to a new form of leads group. With more structure, this organization held each person responsible for contributing leads to other group members. It seemed to work; but I noticed it worked better for some than for others. This got me wondering why and led me to observe the evolution of a networker. Here is what I discovered. When we are new to networking or motivated by sales quotas, many of us begin as…

The Neanderthal Networker or “Survival of the Fittest” Our earliest adventures in networking are typically spent in survival mode. You know how early man was in basic survival mode, always on the hunt for food? When we are sales driven, we operate in the same mode. Our focus is on meeting our basic needs for food and shelter. For us, that means SALES. If you can identify with being a Neanderthal Networker, I hope this article challenges and inspires you to move into the next stages of growth.

The Medieval Networker or “Man Discovers Tools” The Medieval Networker has learned the importance of reciprocity and leverage. They build relationships with other networkers who share a common interest or market and work together to generate leads and new business for each other. They understand that networking isn’t just about sales but also about helping others. While reciprocity sounds good in theory, it works best when working with those who have similar values and are mindful of giving when they get. Many a networker exists at this level and gains consistent results. But here is what I know. There is SO much more to be gained and shared within these relationships. If this is your current networking reality, you might find yourself feeling frustrated because you are giving more than you get in return.

The Enlightened Networker or “The Super Connector” This distinctive group of people is emerging as the new Super Connectors. They are well known within their business community and beyond. This is the ease the rest of us long for. We see them navigate relationships, events, and opportunities with skill and grace. These leaders appear to have a special gift or secret.

Honestly, they intimidate us a little. When we can, we buy their books, attend their workshops, and download their free stuff hoping to glean some information which will give us the same edge.
What makes Enlightened Networkers different? They really do operate at a different level. We mentioned the fact they fully understand and utilize their partnerships, resources, and opportunities. It is more than just simple utilization; they are active participants in creating their reality. They aren’t willing to passively allow the fate of their business to rest the hands of those who may or may not be interested in contributing. They know what they need and are able to ask for it. They get involved in others’ business and personal growth. They are generous with both information and resources. They understand what they have is not unique to them. It is available to all. What differentiates them from others is that they have invested the time, energy, and perseverance to gain this level of mastery and abundance mindset. As result, they unlock exponential results from their network.

So how do you move your own evolution forward and become an Enlightened Networker? It starts by understanding where you are. Let’s do a quick self check to find your current state.
When networking, are you in sales mode? Does your networking focus begin and end with what’s in it for you? In generating leads for your business and closing the sale? I’m not saying it’s wrong to focus on finding clients and customers. After all, that’s why you’re networking in the first place!

Is your referral network not as forthcoming as you would like? Are you working harder than you’d like to get the results you want? Are you counting the cost, both in time and money, to continue working harder rather than smarter? If so, does it hurt a little? Let’s ease the pain and move together into the Enlightened Networker stage!

The shift happens when you do three things.

First, you re-frame your perspective. Take a look around and begin to tap into the wide variety of opportunities and resources available in your network. When you’re open to it, there are more than just sales to be made.

The second and just as important factor in becoming an Enlightened Networker, is to freely offer opportunities and resources to others. It’s about reciprocity. When you give other’s your time, expertise and connections, they remember it and want to give back.

Lastly, you network on purpose. You calculate your activities, partnerships, and opportunities by their return on investment. You build strong core relationships with a long term view. You do this for more than your bottom line. You do this so you can better serve others; your network, your customers, and yourself.

In closing, I know you can evolve yourself. I would not be where I am today if I hadn’t moved myself through the evolutionary stages of networking. If I can do it, you can too.
Stay tuned! Our next post will address more on becoming a Super Connector.

Networking. It’s more than who you know; it’s how well you connect. Connect on purpose!