Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Time for a Break

Well, I am taking a breather from writing each day as tomorrow before dawn, my hubby and I leave for our most favorite place in the whole wide work, Aguila de Osa at the Drake Bay in Costa Rica. It is truly paradise for us, a time to relax and recharge.

It's a rugged trip to get there, two legs from Toledo to Atlanta to San Jose, CR. Then the next day we start with the smaller plane, then a taxi, and finally a small skiff that will take us down the Sieppe River, out into the Pacific Ocean along the coast to our final destination. Those other guests who make their way are usually wonderfully adventuresome people. Dinner conversations are wide ranging and fun. I get to practice my networking skills, seeing how much I can find out about those who are only staying for a day or two.

I have my two subs lined up for each week I will be absent from BNI and have sent my commercials to them. I have books packed that will make my luggage overweight, but since there are no stores where we are going, it is with pleasure that I pay that extra. The house sitter is ready to take over the house and the dogs and the Tuesday night Certified Networker class will be taught by senior trainer Merri Bame. I'm ready and I'll be writing again after we get home in about two weeks.

Nomination Series #1

There is no better way to build a stronger relationship with someone than to nominate them for an award. The process of creating the application will reap benefits that you had never imagined.

  • You will find out new stuff about the person you thought you knew very well. It will give more marketing material when you advocate on behalf of this person.
  • You'll spend time intensely focused on this person. They will feel honored and want to pay you back.
  • Others will see you as someone to know, because you know how to promote the good stuff about people.

Today is the beginning of a blog series that I will write about how to write winning nominations.

1) Research the types of awards in your community, and also in your industry. Determine if your friend fits within the criteria for one. Read the nomination form carefully to understand what is required. Also note the deadline. You'll want to have the completed nomination ready four or five days before that date. If the form asks for two pages of information, don't give three. Having been on several selection committees, I must admit that I had a bias towards those who stayed within the guidelines. Think of reading a hundred or so entires. Extra length was not a good thing!

I will continue this topic with even more information on how to develop a better relationship while writing a winning nomination.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Sharing Information

A lead is a four letter word. It describes something less than a referral. It can have a negative connotation, but really it shouldn't as long as it is understood.

In my world, a lead is information. So while it can be less than desirable if that's all I get from referral sources, if I truly want to share information with others, then it is good!

The training team for Certified Networker here in NW Ohio is about sharing information. I had been emailing them the names of all people I met with each week to keep me accountable for reaching my prospecting goals.

At the last trainer meeting, the team suggested that we adopt two ideas. One was that in my report they wanted me to include the company name along with the person's name. Makes sense, doesn't it???

The second item is that they want to share the names of people with whom they have met. That way as a group of six we can help each other. Already in just doing this for two weeks, there have been requests from and to each other asking to introductions to people on this list. Gosh, why hadn't we thought of this before? Seems pretty simple, doesn't it?

So this list that we're compiling. It's really a lead to the other five in the group. Each name is a piece of information only. But it is the support behind the list that keeps it from being only a four letter word.

How do you share your prospect list?

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Group Strength

I am four days away from vacation, but who's counting? I am always amazed at what needs to be done in the week before I leave. 'Nuf said. If you want to see where paradise is and where I'm going, visit the website of Aguila de Osa Inn.

In my BNI chapter, the medical contact sphere is nicely developed. There is a chiropractor, a physical therapist, a vitamins/supplements person, a massage therapist and a personal trainer. They work together to be more successful.

Last fall they organized an event and invited all the chapter members to particpate. We raked leaves for a family where the dad is overseas in Iraq. The kids came out an played with us, while the mom got some stuff done inside. Did they get more business as a result of this event? Probably not, although they up went up in my eyes and I'm sure if the mom needed any of their services she would ask for them.

So it's finally winter here in NW Ohio. We actually have snow on the ground. The medical contact group organized a sNOw School for this past Saturday. The plan was to train middle school kids how to shovel properly, but that wasn't all. They were also going to talk briefly about being business-like and also about networking and marketing. They were able to get their message out at the local middle school and also got a brief mention in the daily paper. You're probably asking, "Will they get more business?" Probably not on Saturday morning, but they will get wonderful visibility with the kids and their parents, just because of the effort. They will get some great credibility within the community, too.

So the question is, what are you doing to link with other providers within your circle? How can you connect and use the strength of the group rather than doing everything individually?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Training is Profitable

Yesterday, my friend, Dave Bodner who is a financial planner with Seymour & Associates, Mass Mutual here in Toledo, OH, introduced me to a new member of the Seymour team. Brian wanted to find out more about the networking education that Certified Networker course might provide.

During the conversation, Brian gave the classic example of how in his own estimation, he's not doing so well with his networking. His very best friend, who he spends a lot of time with, said to Brian just recently, "What do you really do anyway? I know that you are a financial planner, but what does that mean? I know that you work only with people with a lot of money, so I know you can't help me, but who do you work with????"

Brian said those questions were the wake-up call. Here was a BEST FRIEND who probably wanted to help but didn't know how to.

I'm guessing that Brian will jump into one of the Certified Networker classes fairly soon so that he can learn how to educate his best friend and others who also might want to help. That lesson is a cornerstone of having successful referral relationships.

If you asked your best friend (or your mom) to describe to you what you actually do, could they do it beyond just a general description?

Monday, February 19, 2007


I was talking with a friend recently who meets regularly with a group of friends that have a goal of helping each other gain more referrals.

I asked how it was going. She said, "Okay." (not great)

It seems that every other month they focus on one member and she is the one for this month. The members have been giving her suggestions but no referrals. (You should do this or you should do that.)

It's my guess that the goals of the group need to be revisited. They each want more referrals, but are only giving suggestions. In my opinion they can do the following:

  • Set goals for the type and number of referrals they will give each month.
  • Be accountable for bringing those referrals.
  • Actively seek out referral business for the target, instead of waiting for it to happen.
Or they can disband. Or they can decide that the group has a different focus. Or they can continue with status quo.

What would you want?

Sunday, February 18, 2007

I Want.....

Gosh, I just read a post in Seth Godin's blog and I want in the worst way to comment.


Blogger, can you tell me why you will not support trackback?????????

In old Blogger, you did. Now in the "new fancy, dancy, updated version" that you forced me to upgrad to, I cannot. Please help me to understand your definition of upgrade.

There. I feel a little bit better. But I won't be completely on the mend until I can trackback again.

Thank you in advance for your attention to this MAJOR problem.

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Red Ribbon

Today I earned a red ribbon. I was the winner of our Toastmaster club's annual Evaluation Contest.

The TM method of giving feedback is wonderful. It goes like this: "Praise, what could be better, and then more praise."

After the meeting I got to thinking about how important that skill is in the business world, and especially the world or referrals. Giving feedback is all part of the communication cycle. It is especially helpful for when a "bad" referral is received. If no feedback is given, you can plan on getting more of the same.

Giving feedback allows your referral source to save face and yet learn how to do better the next time. Your side of the conversation might sound like this, "Gosh, Jimmy, thanks so much for thinking of me. Let me tell suggest how you might make it even better. If you could personally introduce me to _________that would really be great. It really makes me pleased to to know that you were working on my behalf."

In the Certified Networker class series, we spend a considerable amount of class time talking about how to train a referral source. It is all about communication!

What do you do when you get a 'bad" referral?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Lesson From a Snowflake

Last night I was preparing my 60 second (in my chapter we get 45 seconds) sales manager minute for my BNI meeting this morning. Because of a mid-sized winter storm, I had been able to look out my office window at a beautiful white blanket, instead of the usual farmer's brown field. NW Ohio is much prettier with snow, than without! But I think I am very much in the minority with that opinion.

I started to think about how a snowflake is very much like a referral partner. First you have to find the one with the right design for you. Then as when something like a tree or fence slows the rate of speed of the flakes, they clump together to form the magnificent drifts. With referral partners, taking the time to get to develop a stronger relationship, delivers a similar result. If done properly, soon there is a drift of qualified referrals coming your way. Yes, it is a factor of time spent with this person, but it is also the slowing of life. Most of us have to operate at the speed of light without a thought of how to help someone. It's the pause that makes the difference.

What do you think makes a productive referral partner?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


FAILURE! In relationship networking, being safe -- which could mean either:
  • staying in the office doing important stuff or even
  • getting out there meeting with people, bland, safe people.
Either certainly dooms us for failure.

As Seth Godin said in his post today, "Protecting against downside and being conservative in the face of a priority list means that you'll choose the obvious and the predictable instead of the subtle or the remarkable."

In relationship development what does that mean?

It could mean not asking someone to meet with you because you're afraid they'll say no.

It could mean not asking someone if they need the services of one of your referral partners, because they might say no.

It could mean not going to an event because you feel awkward at gatherings.

It could mean (today in NW Ohio) that you think the roads are too bad for you to venture out to meet with your set appointments.

It could mean that you do meet with that person, but haven't thought about how you'd answer their question of, "What kind of help do you need?"

It could mean that you answer the above with a boring, safe answer, not risking what you really, really want.

It could mean that you don't meet with someone because you perceive them as weird or not attractive.

I could go on....and on....and on....

Go back and read Seth's post and decide for yourself.

Are you protecting yourself against the downside (of whatever) or are you boldly stepping into the possibility?

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

5 Networking Mistakes

A couple days ago I received a FORM email.

It was from a person who visited my BNI chapter several weeks ago.

He must have "mined" the business card box.

The email was so obviously a template because it spent a lot of time saying blah-blah-blah about this person's company. It was not so interesting at all. It was all about this company with no thought about me.

Let me tell you the five networking mistakes that were made.

1) The email was an impersonal template, with the salutation in a different font.

2) The salutation misspelled my name.

3) The template said that perhaps a breakfast or lunch would be in order for me to hear even more about this person's company. Yeah, right.

4) The final sentence said that if I was interested in this meal, that I should call for an appointment. Yeah, right.

5) This person did not have my permission to send me information, and if fact did not even speak to me at the meeting he attended.

What are some blatant email marketing mistakes you have seen?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Referral Backfire

Today, I was at a lunchtime networking event. Two people had never attended before. Near the end of the meeting, they said that they had a question to ask all of us about accepting referral appointments. It seems that an acquaintance had given their names, as new business owners, to a CPA. The CPA called them and
suggested a meeting. They agreed.

After meeting for about an hour, during which the CPA said that they didn't really need his services yet, that they were doing everything right. He also said, "Well, it is about an hour of my time at this point, so would you like me to invoice you? My rate is $90 per hour."

These new business owners were shocked. They said that he had spent a majority of the time telling them about his services and what he could do for them. They were asking us for direction. Had they been unaware of the way referrals work?

We assured them that what had happened was unfortunate and not right. We also encouraged them to get back to the original referral source to let that person know what had happened.

I would call this scenario referral prospecting at its worst.

Have you ever been backed into a corner like these business people were?

Sunday, February 11, 2007

All I Can Say Is, Wow!"

Now, I ask you how many of you would willing share the stage with your competition???

And let's take it a step further.

How many of you would be willing to let the spotlight shine on your competition as least as much time as it shines on you?

And let's take it a step further.

How many of you would be willing to give this person a major role in an event you are planning?

The reason I ask the above questions is that my friend Deanna Tucci Schmitt, Executive Director of BNI-Western PA did that just last week. As I have already written , I attended their International Networking Day celebration. In my opinion Deanna understands the two words "team" and "inclusive" better than anyone else. For this huge event she brought people from many groups together and each one of them received recognition as being a part of the team.

Tom Reda, TSBN, is Deanna's direct competition and he acknowledged it very nicely from the lectern. I didn't look at my watch, but I think Tom had more visibility time on the podium than Deanna did. Doesn't matter because no one was counting. In the professionally-crafted program we received, Tom had an ad that said, "Pittsburgh's Most Unique Networking Group congratulates BNI, the world's Largest Networking Group for creating the first annual International Networking Day." The ad ended with, "A special thanks to Deanna Tucci Schmitt for her vision, leadership and generosity." Tom, also was one of six people who was asked to write an article for this program.

BNI philosophy is Givers Gain. Could there be any better example of this than how Deanna gathered the team that created the successful event attended by over 300 people all having paid around $50 to attend????

My hat's off to my friend, mentor and idol. Deanna, I hope I can be like you when I grow up.

Who do you want to emulate when you "grow up?"

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Red Cardinals

For the last couple weeks, ever since it finally got cold here in NW Ohio, the birds have been feasting at our various feeders. We have lived in this home for a little over 14 years now. When we moved in it was not much more than a house on a former farm field. If you were nice, you could have described it as prairie. What that meant was there were no trees or other plantings, just flat ground.

We've added many trees and bushes and plants over the years. Even so, our feeders were mainly populated by house finches and sparrows. Ever so often we 'd get a Blue Jay, but not regularly. You can imagine my delight at this year having, several different types of wood peckers, Blue Jays and the best of all, a pair of Cardinals.

What's that got to do with networking?

Well, I've put a lot of investment time into making our property be bird friendly. My hubby takes on the responsibility of keeping the feeders filled and the suet cakes available. It's taken a lot of investment time to get the delight of the flash of red as the male Cardinal flies around the house. It's the same with relationship development, it doesn't happen overnight and certainly not at one networking event. But over time, the investment will pay off.

I am always amused when I ask sales people if they are using a referral method to gain sales and they answer with, "I tried that once and it doesn't work." I think the most difficult aspect of sales and relationship development is to keep on, keeping on, when the payoff feels like it's never going to happen.

Have you had a Cardinal payoff that you'd like to share?

Friday, February 09, 2007

And the Winner Is

Last night at our first graduation of the year for the Certified Networker classes in Northwest Ohio, we also announced the winner of our first ever One-to-One Contest. This event helped to celebrate International Networking Day.
It was no surprise to announce that Kathy Stringham, Coffee News of Monroe, Bedford and Sylvania was the top contestant. I blogged about how Kathy set herself up for success a couple days ago.

Now let me tell you the results.

In three days, Kathy had 29 One-to-one appointments! The contest rules required that each appointment be at least 15 minutes in length. I think Kathy planned for hers to be 30 minutes. Instead of thinking only of herself, she planned in advance how to help the people she was meeting with. Over the three days, she asked each person to come to the meeting with three names of either people or companies that they want to connect with. But let me have Kathy tell you about it!

"From what I count right now I made 44 connection points between the people I met with. I still have some work to do to follow-up, but it is exciting."

When Kathy accepted her award last night, she said that winning was fun, but knowing that she was able to give to the people who had helped her by agreeing to meet was even better. She knows that these appointments will help her in the end, but additionally, she has been able to give back to her community.

How would you have organized this contest to help others?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Full Days

In two days, I feel like I've lived through at least a week!

Yesterday, was official International Networking Day. I started the morning with a Networking Breakfast at the Toledo Club, then had a one to one meeting before being the lunchtime speaker at the Sylvania Chamber of Commerce. As soon as that was done I jumped into the little yellow Cooper and drove to Pittsburgh for their evening celebration.

The PA event was awesome for a number of reasons.

Over 300 people participated.

Scott Ginsberg was the keynote speaker.


The networking game/exercise was over the top!

The idea behind it was that each person had established goals they wanted to achieve at this event. As they talked with others, they were to ask each other about these goals. There were also worksheets to note what was needed. As the networking continued, people started to connect people to others to solve their challenges.

Personally, I was trying to connect with someone from Malaysia for one of the CN grads here in Toledo. While I didn't make the actual connection yet, I know the person who can make it happen.

Someone else, Neal Griebling, wanted to know about starting a Board of Advisers, or Board of Action. Sandy Pirwitz, who went with me, and I were able to give him information because I have a board of action and she happens to be a member of that board.

We also helped my friend, Michelle Donovan, by talking about the Certified Networker training. Sandy told one woman, Anne Martin, a Mary Kay representative, that she just had to do the program. Anne had considered taking the course in the past, but with Sandy's endorsement, my bet is that she will register for a class real soon.

Wow! Deanna Tucci Schmitt and her team put together one heck of a celebration. I am proud to be her friend.

How did you celebrate International Networking Day?

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Quality vs Quantity

This is an unbelievably busy week.

Yesterday was the first day of our one to one networking contest. I had five appointments in all, and also had to get the oil changed in my car, so that it would be ready to travel to Pittsburgh this afternoon for their International Networking Day celebration. My friend, Sandy Pirwitz, Sandy's Stuff for Women, is going with me. We'll have a giant four hour, one to one on the way there and then the same tomorrow morning on the way back. This trip will hinder our ability to get lot of numbers (of one to one meetings) for the contest, but I look at it as quality, instead of quantity. Sandy and I are in Master Mind together and also have known of each other for a long time, but this will be the first time we have time to really discuss thoughts, ideas and beliefs. Our relationship will hit a new, more solid level as a result of the trip.

With whom would you like to have the luxury of a 8 hour conversation?

Sunday, February 04, 2007

If I Can See It, I Can Understand It

Garr Reynold's post on simple posters is ingenious. For me looking through the examples, I had two reactions. One was to be in awe of the way the messages were powerfully, yet simply, transmitted and the other was that the posters made me laugh. I don't think that was what was intended, but that's what happened for me. I am still thinking about those images, even though I have physically moved away from the blog. I can still see them in my mind's eye. Go to his post to link to others.

Visuals are an important part of every presentation. I must admit that I have a challenge in being creative when I'm using visuals. But for those who are asking their referral partners to find speaking engagements for them, this is important information.

Thinking back to other visuals a speaker used, I still remember one vividly. The speaker, Gayle, was a personal trainer. She held up a white piece of paper with two parallel lines drawn on it. Between the lines were lots of black dots. She explained that that was the way bones looked that are not strong, with the black dots being weaknesses in the bone structure. She then held up a second simple white sheet of paper, with the same parallel lines. Only this version had many fewer black dots. She explained that it showed the very same bone after several months of weight-baring exercise. Wow! Gayle got her message delivered with a punch. She had several people talk with her about using her services. The visual was also easy to talk about with others, maybe even with a quick scribble of the pen to help the description.

What's this have to do with networking. Well, we all network, to in the end, gain more business. If the message that others hear from you is easy to pass on, obviously they will pass it on. If it is more complex, and not so simple, nothing will happen. Simple!

Did you have the same reaction to the Japanses smoking "manners" posters?

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Making it All Work

My friend, Michelle Donovan, owner of Pinnacle Training Services and a co-hort in the Certified Networker training cause, posted to her blog about the call to seriousness concerning developing a word of mouth referral network.

So many people don't realize that, as Michelle says so well, "It takes a commitment to implementing a new system into how you do business. It takes a seriousness towards networking with your referral network to produce results. (read more here.)" I couldn't have said it better.

Networking has a connotation that it's just about hitting the Chamber Business After Hours event, or collecting new business cards. I'm not going to discount those activities, but those are just the surface. It's what happens after those measures that brings the pay-off.

Here are five steps you can take to advance your word of mouth marketing strategy.

1) Identify specific people you want to meet. It is the hallmark of a great networker if s/he knows those people before the event happens. But sometimes that is impossible. The important part of this strategy is to single out just a few people to focus on.

2) Make a time to meet individually with the targeted people. You have to find out if there is synergy between the two of you. If that's not there, nothing will ever happen and you can move on. If it is there, you have established a foundation for a profitable relationship.

3) Figure out if there are ways you can each help each other. You may not find this information at the first meeting, but at a second or third meeting, you need to share your business goals with each other.

4) Strategize about how to help each other. It's not just about passing referral business to each other. In fact, early in the relationship, it may be more about making introductions or getting speaking engagements for the other person. Instead of going to networking events alone, you may go with this referral partner to find people for her/him to meet.

5) Commit to action for each other. Yep, that's just another way of saying, "set goals." You may want to help someone and also have the best intentions. But life will get in the way unless you set and commit to doing specific acts for the other team member. This doesn't have to be a big production. It can sound like this, "Before the end of next week, I will contact _____ to schedule time to introduce the two of you." I'll talk more about this in another post.

What strategies have you used that have helped you gain more word of mouth business?

Friday, February 02, 2007

Somebody Really Gets It!

The International Networking Week contest begins Monday, February 5. Many people have registered at the Certified Networker of Ohio website to participate. I am so excited about the effect this contest could have on the businesses of the people who get it! They realize that this three days can be like a shot of concentrated orange juice, with the infusion of lots and lots of energy. Kathy Stringham is one who clearly has it all figured out. Kathy and her husband, Dale, are the owners of several Coffee News franchises in SE Michigan and NW Ohio. Read Kathy's email to me.

"I decided last night to join the contest and it has been a pretty interesting day. I sent out that e-mail you received last night and people started to respond with times. I even have a couple of new referrals to people I wouldn't have thought of and those people set appointments with me too.
I am setting appointments with people because of the contest but I realize the power these appointments will have going forward. The response I am having makes me realize how many people I touch and hopefully I can positively impact them too."

That email made my day, because there had been some scuttlebutt that people could not participate in the contest because it would take them away from their business day. Yeah, I was pretty stunned by the comment, but realized that I probably had not done a good job of communicating about the benefits of being a contestant.

Kathy continued to make my day with a second email.

"I wanted to send a note to thank all of you in advance for meeting with me next week. I look forward to having fun, getting to know you better, learning more about each of your businesses and of course drinking lots of coffee.
If you have a question about our scheduled time please call or e-mail. I have some homework for you - I want to use the 6 Degrees of Separation principle and see if we can make some connections within my appointments. I am asking you to bring the name of 3 people or 3 businesses that you would like a connection to. I will keep a list of those people during the 3 days and share it with each of the people I talk to. If I find someone who has a connection to the person or business you want to meet, I will introduce you to them the following week. Make sure you are specific in your request."

Now I ask you, does Kathy get it???? Do you have someone you've met who displays the same networking savvy that Kathy does?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

A Snake in the Walls

Last night I attended the annual meeting of the Way Library Foundation. At dinner I sat with the new president of the board, Jody Foster and her husband. I had known Jody in passing, as our board only meets quarterly. I found out what a funny and neat lady she is.

Her husband, who is quite the lover of nature, told us that for a period of time they had a Boa constrictor lose in their house. The Fosters happen to live in one of the historic homes in town, so that snake had plenty of mice to eat. Jody said that the whole time it was on the lam, that several of her friends would not come to her house. When they finally caught the snake again, it was quite a bit larger around than when it got out of its cage.

The whole time this story was being told, Jody just sat there with a bemused look on her face. I understood a whole new sense about Jody. She's going to make the best of any situation and she's not squeamish at all.

What's the most interesting animal you've had in your house (excepting spouses!)?