Be Personal in Networking But Don’t Take Things Personally

man and woman sitting in front of table with books and cup of coffee facing each other
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How much value do you add? That’s the key question I ask each day when I am out in the world of business. It may not be a perfect question, but the free market is open. People are free to make decisions on their own on what they value.

You are valuable when you can connect, articulate and deliver value to another person.

You can’t insist.

You can’t force people to do what you want.

You can’t whine and hope others will pacify you.

We have choices and we tend to choose in our self-interest.

The great thing is that every day your customers spend money and look for value.

That’s why in your networking, you have to keep tilting the odds in your favor by being helpful and clear in what you are offering. It’s about being personal but not taking responses personally if they don’t go your way.

Consider Mark Ford’s tips on networking:

Gain interest first, earn trust later.

Always be specific and sincere in your praise.

Don’t expect to receive an answer to every note you write.

Ask questions.

Be grateful for answers.

Suggest business only when your target person is ready.

Business is people. And the business of people relies on you being valuable out there and networking in a way that is consistent, clear and respectful.

Every day I am looking for those that would truly add value to my life. Hopefully, we connect in a way that makes life better because we met.

Get Real and Ignore Vanity Metrics

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Are you wasteful with your time?

My clients and friends know that I beat that mantra, “Most things don’t matter.”

One area that this particularly applies to is vanity metrics. These are the stats, conversions or data that simply do not matter or are too cluttered to manage towards the one thing that does matter – results.

Your carefully defined goals are what matters. How much money do you want to make? Are you clear on this?

Who do you want to have a strong relationship with?

Where do you want to live? What work do you want to do on a daily basis?

What activities will make you happy?

Put a number down or a specific person or place for your goals.

The activities you choose to engage in will produce results that either get you closer to these carefully defined goals or simply make you feel better emotionally.

We have to be careful of simple feel goods. You can’t say you want a fit body and feel comfortable running 5 miles, but you spend your time eating donuts and socializing when you should be putting in the work. The results are not related to the goal.

You can’t talk about growing a business with a team and ignore or misjudge each member’s competency because you favor personal likability more.

We have this amazing ability to rationalize our choices and activities and insist on goals we want, regardless of whether those actions are related or not. This is where getting real with yourself, either from someone advising you, or your personal choice to wake up, becomes critical.

You may be feeling good because you see things like:

  • Lots of Facebook likes
  • Many different social media logins
  • Lots of emails in your inbox
  • PR in an industry publication
  • Hundreds of handshakes at a conference
  • Flying all over to meet prospects

Perhaps you have a dashboard and you measure these activities. It feels good to talk about the social connections. How long have you been connecting with this many people, and how many customers have you gained?

What about all that traveling or activity? What did it turn up in business or friendship?

We have a lot of sexy technology that arises in our lives. But does that translate to meaningful results? We can be seduced into thinking that the activity we experience matters, when it does not.

If you are looking at vanity metrics which have no relationship to your goals, then its simply delusional. What you claim you are wanting will not happen. The activities don’t relate to the outcomes.

The better strategy, if you are serious about winning, is to ignore all the hype and do the following:

  1. Decide that most things don’t matter and are a waste.
  2. Define clearly what you want. Quantify it.
  3. Review how you have achieved your desired result in the past. Evaluate whether you can replicate the process.
  4. Set up a scorecard that measures the activity that contributes to the result.
  5. Look at the scorecard daily. Keep yourself accountable or have someone that will do the job honestly hold you to your goals.

This takes thought. You have to think it through and get off the high of vanity metrics and get real with yourself. It’s how winning is done.

Most Things Are a No

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I like to start my days working my ongoing Gmail Task list. The best way to complete a project is to simply delete it, forget about it and move on. So, the first thing I do is eliminate tasks and projects that may have originated with sincere intentions but lack impact towards my goals today.

Those are my first No’s in a day. This simple productivity practice keeps me evaluating what’s important towards my business and life goals. I start with the assumption that most things don’t matter.

I tell my kids that there are two kinds of people in the world:

  1. People that are waiting for something to happen
  2. People that are making things happen

Most people are waiting around waiting for something to happen. Our family is about making things happen.

However, that kind of initiative comes with a lot of No’s. Putting your ideas out there, making deals and driving towards results disrupts the status quo most people find security within. Perceived risk scares most people. So, being someone that creates ideas and makes ideas happen comes with a lot of knee-jerk No reactions.

But that’s ok with me. I do wish people were more naturally creative and driven. But the challenge is less about convincing others and more about finding the people that want to take action. Patrick Riley summarized it well when it comes to the vast majority of unresponsive, maybe people:

A maybe tempts you to sit around and hope for a yes. I treat a maybe as a no. Waiting stalls the process, makes you anxious, and takes the wind out of your sails. I say give her a few days to decide, then call her. If she says no, move on. If she isn’t available or won’t take your call, move on. You are looking for a person who wants to take action. A maybe person will never get you where you want to go.

There are a lot of maybe people out there. They can’t say, “No,” and they don’t want to say, “Yes.” But their lack of responsiveness is an implicit No. Too bad. Practicing the habit of inaction or lack of conviction has long-term consequences in business and relationships.

With the ever-increasing world of inattention and the fact that most people are highly disorganized, there’s going to be a lot of No’s out there in deal making, regardless of how apt the fit or valuable the proposition.

Accepting that reality helps me with my own sanity. But even more so, I can move on knowing that there are only the few that will take action. Most things are a no because of inertia; it’s easier to remain where you are.

The challenge becomes about being efficient and asking, “Is there any way this person can be a Yes?”

Persuasion or motivation may work. But if the case has been made and the best foot has been put forward, the rest of the Yes people out there are waiting to engage.

How good are you at moving on and assuming No’s?

You Have Limited Options for Selling

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When we discuss sales strategies with clients, there’s commonly a misnomer about what options are available. We live in an attention-starved world full of information and glamorous messages that cloud our thinking.

The reality is that for B2B Professional Selling, especially of professional services, you don’t have that many options for selling consistently and growing your business.

Here are your options:

  1. Inbound Selling. You set up selling systems to get people to contact you.
  2. Outbound Selling. You reach out and engage people that can say, “Yes.”

The Challenges of Inbound Selling

If you are not famous, it is very hard to get attention. Yes, it’s easy for you to set up social media profiles and put video and written content out there. But it’s also that easy for everyone else as well. You are competing against the entire world.

There are millions of blogs, Youtube videos and posts on Facebook and Instagram. And your last post or Tweet is out there within various users’ streams for an extremely short while.

If you are going to make inbound selling work, you must be fully committed and not miss a day. You have to work extremely hard for a long time to dial in the messaging. You have to be interesting and build an audience that looks forward to seeing the next ideas, entertainment or story that you put out there. It’s a long game based on attention, consistency and quality.

The real questions to ask are:

  • Will you remain consistent for years?
  • Will you invest in resources to keep your branding out there.
  • Can you be interesting and stand out?

The Rigor of Outbound Selling

Getting people to call you is a continuous process. You need to be set up like a media company that puts your message out there for building a critical mass of attention.

Your other option is outbound selling. You reach out to people who may not be aware you exist.

In outbound selling, you have the option of two approaches:

  1. Mass contact
  2. Networking one-to-one

If you approach people with numbers and communications blasts, you risk being labeled as spam. Approaches like cold-calling, email blasts or any other form of spamming will only get you ignored. We are used to blocking out unwanted or non-personalized messages.

Look at what you do with your junk mail, advertising and caller id blocking. The numbers for conversion are extremely poor.

For professional B2B selling, deals happen based on trust. If you work backwards for how deals are made, you can see a pattern:

  1. A signed deal happened, but before that
  2. A negotiation occurred, but before that
  3. A conversation happened, but before that
  4. An appointment was scheduled, but before that
  5. You got a referral or attention in a personal way, but before that
  6. You reached out to someone via networking

The outbound selling approach works because you are human and interacting in a personal way. However, it is a lot of work that also requires being organized, efficient and consistent. It’s building relationships, remaining professional and increasing trust.

Ironically, we pay attention to someone addressing us personally. It breaks through the enormous amount of noise.

The question then becomes whether you will do the outbound selling or partner with someone that will execute day in and day out.

We all need to sell and keep a pipeline of opportunities and deals flowing.

Can you think of another selling strategy or option? What makes sense for your B2B business?

Building a Money Making Foundation

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Money is flowing every day. Deals are made. People pull out their credit cards continuously  to buy what they want.

We don’t have to create demand as much as we need to sell things that people want to buy and make it easy for them to do so.

If you are so impatient and frenzied to get the next sale and have to continually hustle without creating a selling machine, where will you ultimately be in six months? Still hustling and struggling to get the next deal?

If you are so busy that you make it hard on yourself, it’s because you undervalued or ignored the need to build a solid money-making foundation to your business process.

Maybe you have a few sales already. Great! You could step back and learn a few things to build a foundation that could drive continuous sales. Here are some key strategies to build such a foundation:

  • Profile your best customers. People that already pulled out their wallets bought from you for a reason. Did they have urgency? Were they in a certain demographic? Were they motivated by guilt? Seek to find the pattern.
  • Identify the place your best customers hang out. Perhaps your best customers are executives. Do they tend to congregate in a LinkedIn Group? Are your customers opinionated consumers that pin frequently on Pinterest? Work backwards and fish in the pond where the fish tend to be.
  • Design your message to attract your best customers. There is a problem of attention and focus today with the onslaught of instant information at our fingertips. What gets people to look your way? How can they tune into your signal? Be sure the message pushes on their problem that they may not be considering. Study how the copy in your articles or messaging in your headlines speaks to your ideal customer’s pain.

These are a few thoughts to start your process of building a foundation for selling. There are many other details, but if you are always hustling then scaling your efforts becomes an ongoing problem. How about simply starting with these strategies and seeing if you can build a foundation that attracts and makes selling easier?

Growth Hacking Approach to Avoid Stupid Selling

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Manners matter. We know that interrupting people face-to-face is rude and can be quite embarrassing. Our social norms make it too risky to attempt to force our agendas and wills upon people we encounter in person.

However, with distance and virtualization, there are still the unimaginative souls who persist in trying to violate basic manners. Playing a numbers game, trying old school approaches such as cold calling or other forms of spam gets knee-jerk blocking from recipients. As buyers, we have the power to block out those who invade our attention space pretty easily.

Selling without imagination is a waste of everyone’s time. Instead of trying to force your will on others, how about working on your personal sales process first? Think about how to earn someone’s attention.

Earning someone’s respect, attention and business is hard work. You have to think long and hard about how you are perceived. Then think about the touches that make sense and who will pay attention. Each step has its own intrinsic ratchet down ratio.

Testing what you have in your head and how people actually react to your overtures and gestures takes quite a bit of vigilance.

Ultimately, you can shape a sales funnel that makes sense for those you who can say, “Yes.” You can attract the right people, start conversations, and keep attention towards a path to doing business together.

You have to do this while competing with the entire world. The great thing is that if you are creative and persistent, you have the opportunity to have your own personal flowing pipeline of opportunities and deals. You can differentiate and have an asset by designing and staying consistent with your custom approach to selling and making connections with those that you can bring value to in this noisy world.

Yes, it’s strategy. It takes time. But it’s much less wasteful and more efficient to do business by figuring out what scales.

How can you design and test a better, more human approach to connecting?

Nobody Wants to Meet for Lunch

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Lunch was the way business got done. But it’s not the way of the world these days in a connected economy. A few reasons people don’t want to meet you:

  • It’s going to take 3 hours. Maybe an hour lunch, but fighting traffic, getting out of a groove and getting back into a groove is a lot of time.
  • We can access every vendor out there we want from Google and social media.
  • We can educate ourselves.
  • Our inboxes are overwhelming.
  • We build relationships with our thumbs.

We know the cost of time and attention and when we have demands for proposals, project deadlines and our personal lives, it’s hard to justify lunch. It may serve you well to build a relationship but we are counting the cost of a wasted day of productivity.

So, if nobody wants to meet for lunch like they used to, how about thinking about how to become even more valuable. You have to stand out by getting personal and being an increasing person who puts value in front of people consistently and with insight.

Take that hour lunch and use the hour to make the person you want to connect with become more successful. You will do that by getting them to think about things they may not have considered or connecting them with people they need to know. This takes precedence over selling your product to them directly. You have to get to know them and think about their problems.

Selling with intentionality and care is hard to do when we are pulled to treat everyone like a commodity. Don’t do it. Go the other direction and be human by using your creativity and your ideas to lead on discussions you haven’t had before.

It’s the way selling is done today. It’s still personal. It’s just delivered differently.

Want to learn how to do this? Ping me.

Growth Hacking With Your Learning

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As you are growing your business, ultimately it comes down to how much value you gain and add to other people. The more value you add by being valuable, the more your business grows.

Unfortunately, most people are just looking for the money without realizing it is a correlation to how much value they can add. It’s why business is so awesome. You win by figuring out how to add the most value to a customer in comparison to the next person. It’s a game of adding value.

And every day, if you are in the game, you are continually learning new information and gathering new ideas. Your inbox is filled with content. Your social media feeds are full of content, happenings and what’s new.

One growth hacking approach to becoming more valuable and driving more business is by using a strategy of repurposing. As you are ingesting immense amount of information you can drive these 2 strategies into your workflow:

  1. Immediately share your content by email or by social media with people you are thinking it connects with.
  2. Tell them how the content matters to what they are pursuing.

The first step may be a bit easier. The hard part is actually thinking about other people rather than yourself.

The second part is harder. You have to really care about what other people are pursuing and think relevantly about how the information you are sharing is not just added work. It has to have meaningful context. You can answer questions such as:

  • How does this content drive your bottom line?
  • What ideas from this content should your recipient care about and why?
  • What are some steps they can take to make it actionable now?

Many times people simply share content leaving the interpretation up to others. But if you can take that extra step, then you can create a growth hacking strategy that is continuous and creates opportunities as your ideas make an impact for your recipients. You become more valuable and invited into deals that might otherwise be dormant and without form.

How can you take something you read today and share it in a way with a bit more thoughtfulness for a person to win?

Growth Hacking by Networking with the Business Cycle

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If you notice there’s a weekly business cycle. Try getting someone’s attention on a Monday morning and you will find unreturned calls and a frenetic pace.

Now try touching base with people on Friday mornings and you have a much more relaxed conversation on the phone.

There is a weekly cycle we are on, and if you study the moods of your network and prospective customers you will find the best timing to connect.

As you are building your business, try an additional growth hacking strategy built on natural relationship building cycles.

Block out 2-4 times in your calendar that make sense to make phone calls, catch up or start new relationships.

Share your ideas for how to build someone’s businesses. And most importantly, don’t create work for people. Create value instead.

To do that, you have to think insightfully about what is important to them. And that is different for each and every person.

Your networking can be compressed and focused if you apportion specific times and stay organized and disciplined about when it makes sense to reach out to people.

I like to help principals, owners and executives get a natural growth hacking boost by setting up their workflow with a few tweaks they may not see:

  1. Organize and clean up their address books. Using Google Contacts is easy and fast. Ensure it syncs up with their iPhone or Android cleanly as well.
  2. Pick 10 people to touch and set them apart using a category or the Star function.
  3. Schedule 2-4 times weekly to network.
  4. Send emails that add value within those time blocks
  5. Set up calls for the following week or the current week depending on how you connected.

Now, I don’t believe in wasting people’s time. So you have to use your own time to share content that helps or ideas that build revenue or efficiency.

This is something that will cost you in intention and focus. But you can also save all the grief from being inefficient and untimely in your approach.

What do you think of adding a bit of organization to your own workflow and create a long-term networking strategy?

Find the Disproportionate Sales Channel

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The power law is alive and well. If you have not figured it out already and are one of those souls insisting in a flatter, linear and evenly distributed world, your aspirations might be highly elusive and frustrating.

For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. ~ Matthew 25:29

The natural world shows us repeatedly that there is disproportionate reward. It’s hard to embrace this if on the one had we are looking for stasis – routines, monthly mortgage payments, stable food prices, predictable friendships. We can set up our businesses and life to have constants.

However, that can be in vain if we see continuous volatility as we are today. What worked a few years ago is irrelevant and does not work so well today. And the speed by which obsolescence is occurring has left many well-intentioned people left wondering what happened.

There are channels that work right now. It may not be forever, but looking for where the currents are moving is a much better strategy than grinding out a sale here or there. It’s better than simply working harder and hoping nothing changes.

Look where people are buying in your market. Look at how they are buying. Then set up the deals, sales process and positioning to work in that disproportionate space.

This is strategic thinking. You have to use your powers of observations rather than an insistence on what may have happened in the past or how you think it should work. There’s only reality served on a cold plate.

There is a disproportionate sales channel that will work much better if you stop and think it through.

What do you think it is or moving towards in your industry?