Death By Coffee: Seven Effective Networking Strategies for the New Year

By Sabrina Risley, extrapolated with permission from an article by Alecia Huck, Maverick & Company.

It’s the start of a brand new year and you know what that means.  That’s right, it’s time to make New Year’s resolutions!  At the very least, this means the crowd at the gym will quadruple.  Traditionally, it also means the number of professionals who get out and network more than triples.  But just as the gym crowd eventually wanes, so too can the crowd at networking events.  I attribute this waning to ineffective networking which causes wheel-spinning, something for which professionals rightly have little tolerance and therefore let up on networking.

If you intend to do any amount of networking this year, you will want to do so strategically so as to make networking a useful and sustainable marketing activity. Networking without an effective strategy is what Alecia Huck (the sassy CEO & Founder of Maverick & Company) refers to as “Death By Coffee.”  She outlines some incredible strategies for effective networking in her article, The Seven Most Common, Most Surprising Networking Mistakes & How to Do It Better.

START WITH WHAT YOU’VE GOT – One of the biggest missed opportunities is to actually connect, reconnect and interconnect the network you already have. Leverage the work you’ve already done and the relationships you’ve already got before you start spending time and energy trying to build new ones. Identify Strategic Partners, Candidates and Contacts and then focus your time on Strategic Partners and that small group of Candidates that are most likely to become Strategic partners and sources of referrals.

LOOK FOR GREAT STRATEGIC PARTNERS – If you focus on finding clients, you’re focused on finding one person to write you one check.  Alternately, a single Strategic Partner is worth 10-100 clients and can connect you with multiple opportunities on an ongoing basis. Looking for Strategic Partners will get you further, faster, than just looking for your next client.

INVEST STRATEGICALLY, NOT EVENLY – Spending time with bad candidates means you have less time to spend with good ones.  Not all potential connections are a good fit for your business. Not all connections are created equal. Understand who is a good fit and who is not, act accordingly and spend your time wisely.

SEE GOOD PEOPLE 3x’sOne coffee meeting is just the beginning of something, not the completion of it and if the person IS a good partner, one coffee will not be enough. Relationships are built primarily through shared experiences and shared connections. As a general rule for new connections, you want to see good people 3 times in 3 months in order to build a real relationship. As the relationship progresses, follow up accordingly, based on whether or not they end up as a good Strategic Partner.

PRE-PLAN EVENTS FOR EASY RECONNECTING – Each month, look for and put events in your calendar to give yourself multiple options for inviting Candidates to and staying connected or reconnecting with good people. This also makes it infinitely easier to hit your 3 meetings in 3 months goal with good new contacts. Think beyond coffee meetings… power lunches, large open events and educational events. Pre-planning allows you to have events you can mention during a good first meeting AND reasons to call and reconnect after.

BRING A BUDDY – Time is a precious commodity and when you go to an event alone, you miss a golden opportunity to make your investment of time and energy do double duty.  Even if the person cannot attend with you, the simple act of calling allows you to reconnect and they are sure to be flattered to have been invited.  Carpool to get some good one-to-one time or make a plan to meet several people at an event, allowing you to make multiple re-connections at the same event.  Just don’t go alone.

CONNECT TO NETWORKS, NOT INDIVIDUALS – It takes time to build relationships and credibility with new people. It also takes time to stay connected. When you INTERCONNECT your network, you leverage all your past investments.  So connect to existing networks and connect your contacts to your other contacts to build networks around you.  Your old connections will share about other projects results with your new connections. Your people will talk to each other about you. They’ll often do business together, like each other, and build relationships of their own. It’s far easier to stay connected to a web of connected people than it is to stay in touch with a bunch of individuals.

As with most things in life, success is not about working harder, it’s about working smarter. Knowing a few simple secrets and following a few simple rules can make a HUGE difference in how effective your networking efforts will be. While all seven strategies are important and useful, applying even ONE will make a positive difference. Often the source of a major breakthrough is a relatively minor shift in strategy.

Cheers to you and effective networking in the New Year!

(c) 2012 Behind The Moon, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Feel free to share this article in its entirety and include the Bio information for Sabrina Risley below along with live link back to this blog post.  Thank you.

Sabrina Risley founded Behind The Moon, Inc.® in 2003, a Colorado-based networking organization that sets itself apart with its motto “grow your business by helping others grow theirs.” Behind The Moon offers several networking events across Colorado’s Front Range that attract professionals who network to give rather than get. You will find Sabrina speaking to audiences about effective networking techniques, the power of partnerships, and principles of service and giving as a means to grow a business. Sign up for Sabrina’s free report, Networking For Success at http://www.behindthemooninc.com/index.php/free-report.


Racing For The 2011 Finish Line

by Sabrina Risley

Santa Claus, snowflakes, reindeer and sugar plus… holiday parties, gift exchanges, hustle and bustle shopping.  With so many distractions, it’s no wonder professionals find it hard to focus on December production and sales quotas.  It would seem the perfect time to throw in the towel, call it a decent year and hope to exceed expectations next year, right?  WRONG!!

The fact remains that December is a month where a great deal of momentum can be lost or gained, making it the perfect time to continue working, even pushing, to close out an amazing year and better ensure a strong start in the New Year.  But what type of “work” are professional doing in December?  I conducted an unofficial poll on Facebook and received some great ideas shared with you below.  I’ve also sprinkled in a few of my own, the combination of which I hope includes some ideas you hadn’t thought of to keep you ahead of the curve when January 1, 2012 dawns.

Continue Income-Producing Activities.  Don’t shy away from making phone calls to prospects and clients, setting up appointments, and reaching out to power partner.  If you think people are “too busy” and you wait until January to reach out, you will already be behind the 8 ball.  Call now to set appointments for the first week in January if your contacts are not available to meet or have conversations this month.

Continue Networking! Do not let up on your networking regimen. Many believe December to be a slow networking month but this is not the case.  In December, go to as many holiday gatherings as possible on top of your regular networking venues.  Be social, make friends, add value and keep networking!

Solidify Relationships! A personal phone call goes a long way!  Review your list of clients and referral partners list and make a point of contacting them by phone to thank them for trusting you and doing business with you.  Consider inviting your customers to an appreciation event (lunch, dinner, cocktail hour) in the first quarter of the New Year. Maybe it’s time to send a New Years card to be receive it mid-January when clients least expect it.  Send a simple gift or quote that you know will resonate with your contacts. At all turns, focus on expressing your gratitude and refrain from hard selling your products or services.

Ask For Introductions! Ask those who know you and your business well for introductions to potential power partners. Then take the time to approach prospective power partners to see if they are open to a referral or cross-promotional partnership between both companies in 2012.

Get Technical & Systematic! Purchase and get the technology or software in place that you haven’t had time to address. Do you need to upgrade your computer, copier, scanner, fax?  Have you put off synchronizing your mobile devices with your desktop solution?  Maybe it’s time to finally sign up for systems to manage your customer relationships (www.Zoho.com), emails (www.Zoho.com), newsletters (Constant Contact), card-sending (Send Out Cards), social media (HootSuite). Review current processes and systems. If your accounting is manual, perhaps it’s time to outsource the task or automate and organize with Quickbooks.  What is your process when a new customer comes on board?  Is it consistent and streamlined for maximum efficiency?  How can it be improved, simplified or automated?  Take the time to thoroughly document processes to minimize the learning curve for new staff and as a reference tool for existing staff.

Revisit Your Business Plan!  Sometimes we over-estimate our capabilities and fall short of our business plan and goals from the previous year. Now is a GREAT time to revamp plans and goals so they are realistic and attainable.

Your competition is relaxing and “waiting” to hit the ground running in January.  Do not be fooled into thinking “no one” is doing business this month.  While others are slacking, continue to work smart and with diligence to keep your strong momentum and better ensure a strong start in the New Year!

(c) 2011 Behind The Moon, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Feel free to share this article in its entirety and include the Bio information for Sabrina Risley below along with live link back to this blog post.  Thank you.

Sabrina Risley founded Behind The Moon, Inc.® in 2003, a Colorado-based networking organization that sets itself apart with its motto “grow your business by helping others grow theirs.” Behind The Moon offers several networking events across Colorado’s Front Range that attract professionals who network to give rather than get. You will find Sabrina speaking to audiences about effective networking techniques, the power of partnerships, and principles of service and giving as a means to grow a business. Sign up for Sabrina’s free report, Networking For Success at http://www.behindthemooninc.com/index.php/free-report.

Reduce the Sales Cycle Through Sensational Service!

By Sabrina Risley

Here’s the scene: You are at a networking event, excited at the thought of meeting new prospects.  You connect with another professional who could possibly introduce you to a plethora of qualified leads.  You shake hands.  Exchange business cards.  Promise to call.  You breathe in a sigh of relief and think, “My work here is done… this is exactly what I came here for!”   As the event goes on, you meet a few more like-minded folks.  You can’t wait to get back to the office to schedule appointments with them.

However the scene is anything but peaceful and serene when you return to your office.  There are voicemails to return, emails to answer, a proposal to complete, paperwork to file, and oh yeah – when was the last time you posted on Facebook?   Before you know it, a few hours go by and the day is done.  Two days are done, and then three days, and four.  Pretty soon, you  can barely remember who you wanted to follow up with and why, let alone find where you put their business card!

And just like that, it happens… time passes and urgency diminishes, you lose the excitement as well as a golden opportunity for creating a collaborative partnership with a new connection.  You’ve lost the opportunity to capitalize on a meaningful encounter and actually building your business through referrals.

You’ve likely heard it mentioned, “The fortune is in the follow up.”  Follow up and follow through is a necessity!  It’s like wanting to pitch a baseball but dropping the ball during the windup.  Following through with new connections is critical if you want to pitch within the strike zone.  It’s an absolute necessity to build real and genuine connections that flourish into mutually beneficial  relationships where referrals and contacts are safely shared between both parties.  It takes trust which you can build and earn through consistent and regular follow-up.

But who has time to follow up?  About 1% of the population actually makes it a priority to follow up with a new connection within 48 hours.  For the remaining 99% of the population, we have every intention of following up but don’t make the time to do so or don’t have a good follow up system.

To be successful at following up, you need a plan, you need a system and you need to follow it!

Good follow up includes consistent and meaningful encounters.  It means people see you, hear from you and have the opportunity to talk to you on a regular basis.  The more often you have meaningful encounters with your contacts, the greater the opportunity to build trusting relationships.  Meaningful encounters can include an emailed or mailed newsletter, mailing or emailing a link to an article they might find interesting, acknowledging birthdays and special occasions with a phone call, card or social media post, remembering and asking about previous conversations you’ve had with them, initiating introductions so they can meet needed resources, sending referrals and leads, inviting them to an event they might like to attend with you, and the list can go on.

Now, let me clarify – I’m not suggesting you “stalk” your contacts.  I’m simply recommending you follow up with and take the time to get to know new contacts, enabling you the ability to really add value, serve and give in a way that is meaningful to them.  Regardless of how detailed and sensational your follow up plan is, be forewarned that relationship building doesn’t happen overnight.

Just remember… it’s a little give, and it’s a little take and it’s a whole lot of follow through that leads to success in the end.

For guidelines, tools and ideas to create and implement a simple follow up plan that you can maintain on a consistent basis, check out BTM’s SERVICE TO SENSATIONAL.  SAVE $40 if you order by September 30, 2011.

(c) 2011 Behind The Moon, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Feel free to share this article in its entirety and include the Bio information below along with live link back to this blog post.  Thank you.

If You Want To Be A BIG Business, Start Acting Like One

By Sabrina Risley

As a business owner, you are intimately aware of the hard work that goes into growing, building and expanding a business… month after month, year after year.  What do you see when you look back on the previous year and compare it to where you are now.  If you’d like to see expansive growth over the coming year, it might be time to switch things up.  After all, you cannot continue doing what you are currently doing and expect to see different results, one year from now. 

If you want to be a BIG business, you have to start acting like one.  Below are a few strategies you might consider to step up your game.  After reading, I’d love your feedback and any ideas you have.

Public Relations – Raise community awareness of your business by a number of means including distributing press releases, getting involved in professional networking organizations (not just attending), increasing your community involvement, volunteering for charities and non-profits, sponsoring community and other programs, and joining service organizations  such as Rotary,  Kiwanis, Optimist, and Soroptimist.  A great resource for finding volunteer opportunities in your area is www.Serve.gov.  Having read all this, if you are overwhelmed with formulating a strategic PR plan, consider hiring a PR firm for professional guidance and assistance.

Outsource or Hire Staff – Business owners often wear hats belonging to bookkeeping, sales, marketing, advertising, social media, administrative assistants, customer service, plus more.  Outsource what you can or hire experts to handle what you don’t enjoy, can’t manage effectively or is preventing you from focusing on strategy and nurturing important relationships.

License Your or Their Products/Services – If you’ve got a great brand, consider licensing your product to partners, an extended sales force, adding revenue to your bottom line.  You can receive upfront payment and then royalties for each sale.  Or, if adding products/services to your repertoire makes sense, find a company offering complementary products and look into a licensing partnership with them.  Either option can bring great value and revenue to your business.  However, it may be best to hire a consulting firm and/or intellectual property attorney to protect your interests.  I thought these articles were helpful:  How to License Someone Else’s Product and How to Successfully License a New Product or Invention.

Document, Implement & Automate Processes –Free yourself up by investing in CRM software, auto-responders, card sending programs, customer service processes, sales from your website, and… what else?  What are you doing that a system or a person can be doing for you once the process has been defined and documented?   Documentation is crucial to minimize time spent training new or retraining existing employees.   Automate with caution… do not automate what you feel requires a personal touch or interaction.

These are just a few ideas that, with consistent effort, can take your business to the next level.  Keep in mind that results may not show up immediately as it can take time to achieve measurable results.  But once you start seeing that upward curve in your revenue, you’ll see that it was worth the wait.  What ideas can you share with us that have worked for you or what are you switching up to take your business to the next level?

(c) 2011 Behind The Moon, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 

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Five Ways To Avoid The Summer Sales Slump

by Liz Wendling, Sales Coach for Women

The heat is on and talk of the dreaded summer sales slump has begun. The same excuses have surfaced and they have arrived right on schedule. Any of these sound familiar? “I may as well take off early today, nobody’s buying.” “It’s too hot to sell anything to anybody.” “All my customers are on vacation.”  Really?  Are you just going to give up and stop selling for the next ninety-four days?

Many people do take vacations in the summer – a week or so here and there – but they are still working the rest of the time.  Even if your particular business slows down during the summer months that does not mean you throw in the beach towel, take a siesta and wait for fall.

Smart business owners are seeing the summer as a good opportunity to re-evaluate their business plan and goals. They are using this time wisely to plot out new strategies and experiment on new methods to increase their sales performance. Some are even hiring a sales coach to help.

Here are five sales strategies to avoid the summer slump:

Change your attitude – Your attitude creates the space in which you will perform in your business. If you believe the summer is slow and your sales will slump, than that is what you shall receive. Continue your sales activities like it is February or March. Perform in the same manner as you would in those months.

Commit to win – It is the commitment to win that gives you the edge, and gives you the creativity and the innovation to restructure and redesign your sales strategies.  Making a commitment to win gives you the ability to think differently, which creates new opportunities that will give you the advantages you need to succeed.

Sharpen your tools – Most salespeople don’t spend enough time working on improving their sales skills and techniques. If your business is slower in the summer, take the time to learn how to sell more effectively and get involved in a sales coaching program. Begin now by putting your own plan in place to sharpen your sales skills and hone your sales techniques. Great salespeople do not blame the seasons for their slump.

Increase sales activities – In the summer months, companies and salespeople cut their sales activities.  They actually have said to me, “If we are not going to sell anything, what is the point?”  It is completely backwards thinking and the type of thinking that will keep you exactly where you are. Increasing your sales activity will increase sales results.

Don’t believe the hype – One of the biggest problems with this summer slump chatter is that salespeople use the chatter to fuel the fire and make excuses about themselves and their business. People tend to believe everything they hear and see instead of challenging the summer slowdown belief.  If you perceive no one is around and everyone is on vacation then you are setting yourself up for a negative, self-fulfilling prophecy and your sales will take a long siesta.

The options are endless to avoid the summer slump; have a summer special, make a few more calls, prospect, follow-up, reach out to old clients, visit existing clients, go to more networking events, ask for referrals. I could go on and shoot a few more holes in the summer sales slump excuses but I think you get the point.

Liz Wendling, the sales coach for women is one of Denver’s top sales coaches. Liz believes everyone is in sales and specializes in teaching women and business leaders how to prosper by overcoming the fear and anxiety inherent in sales. She coaches women (and smart men) on how to create immediate sales results, achieve lasting business success and permanently raise their bottom line. For a FREE download of the Seven Deadly Sales Mistakes And How To Avoid Them! Go to www.salescoachforwomen.com or e-mail Liz@salescoachforwomen.com.

(c) 2011 Behind The Moon, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Collabora-Preneurship May Be Your Next Step

By Sabrina Risley

While many professionals I meet are solo-preneurs, they are not necessarily flying solo.  Ditto with regard to employees building a portfolio or book of business for a small, mid or large sized organization.  In fact, many professionals are recognizing the power of collaborating with others to leverage resources they may not have at their fingertips.  They are becoming what I like to refer to as “collabora-preneurs.” 

A collabora-preneur is someone who collaborates with others in business to meet a common goal.  You see, you can’t do everything on your own and still give 100% of your attention where it is needed most.  Whether working for yourself or someone else, collaboration is one of the golden tickets to your success.  If something stops you from meeting your goal(s) or from expanding, find someone who or a company that can fill the space.  Do not make the mistake of thinking you and your company have to deliver what the market demands when you can leverage expertise that already exists. 

Some of the benefits to collaborating include:

(1)  Making use of someone else’s expertise

(2)  Leveraging manpower and resources

(3)  Cross-promoting and co-marketing

(4)  Brainstorming ideas and masterminding

(5)  Expanding without losing focus of core competency

(6)  Offering more to existing customers.

Allow me to offer up my company as an example of collabora-preneurship.  Since 2004, Behind The Moon (BTM) has offered networking events to Colorado professionals.  After five years, I thought it was time to expand our services and in 2009, BTM ventured into offering referral groups to the professional community, known better as leads groups.  It was not my forte but, with the proper due diligence, would be a nice complement and stepping stone to further our success.  Instead of additional success, what I found was that developing and operating leads groups was a distraction and took me away from the forward progress of BTM’s core competency, networking events and educating professionals on effective networking techniques.  I found myself overworked and under great self-inflicted pressure, attempting to over-deliver on a service with which I had very little experience and expertise.

After 18 months of reinventing the wheel (which I highly discourage), I realized I lacked the available time to dedicate to fully developing and delivering an outstanding leads group service.  However, rather than discard my efforts, I decided this would be an ideal opportunity to collaborate with another company.  It is June 2011 and I am thrilled to announce that BTM has joined forces with Mark Hiatt of Business Leads of America (BLA).  As long as BTM has been offering networking events to professionals, BLA been offering leads groups, and has done so very successfully.  BLA operates 12 leads groups throughout Colorado and 5 in Arizona.

BTM and BLA form a strong partnership as, among other reasons, both our organizations can now leverage services of the other without distraction from our core competency.   As a result, BTM and BLA members gain greater value, a stronger community, plus tools and resources now available to impact their personal and professional growth.  This is an alliance that benefits both communities.

If you are itching to venture into a new market or offer a new product or service, collaborating or collabora-preneurship may be the next step to consider.

See Tips For A Successful Joint Venture for information about what to look for in a partner.

(c) 2011 Behind The Moon, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 

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Take Action!

Lately I have seen a lot of people who are overwhelmed, confused, and unhappy.  What I have noticed about some of these folks is that they don’t take action or they spend all their time doing the wrong things.

I know there have been many days when I have been sitting at my desk all day, perhaps longer than just the normal 9 to 5, and then asked myself, “What did I really get done?”  On these days, I definitely did not feel productive and instead, I just felt overwhelmed, even though I had put in more than a full day of work.
 
Then there are some days when I felt great and I knew what I was accomplishing was bringing me closer to my goals.  Those were days in which I was in action modeworking on the right things.  And it felt great!
 
So what sets apart inaction versus action and right and wrong activities?  Well the action is when you are working on your “high payoff activities.”  These are activities that bring you closer to your goal.  They do not include the normal “to-do list” items such as answering emails, filing and shuffling papers, and balancing your checkbook.  However, they do include anything that literally brings you one-step closer to your goal(s).  To figure out your “high payoff activities,” you need some clearly defined goals that you can break down into little fragments or mini-goals.  These mini-goals then become your daily high payoff activities to focus on.
 
We all have “to-do” lists that really do not bring us closer to anything but maybe a cleaner house or less junk mail on the counter.  Be kind to yourself.  Sometimes these things can wait longer.  Learn to ignore the little distractions in your life.  If I paid attention to all of them, I’d spend the majority of my day cleaning and re-cleaning my closet. While I’d have a clean house, that’s all I would have.
 
How do you get into action?
If you are having trouble getting into action, you need to assess a few different things.
 
1. Am I not taking action because this is not something I want to be, do, or have?  Or is my desire to take action not greater than my desire to not take action?  If this is the case, you may need to reassess where you are going and get aligned to your purpose and passion.  Maybe you are working toward goals that do not fit you or your purpose anymore.  In this case, it is okay to release them and start working on something that does bring you passion and purpose.
 
2. Is there a belief that if I try to do what I want, that I might fail?  If you have fear of failure or fear of success, know that this is normal and that many people go through these same emotions.  BUT the only way to get over it is to start doing something that counteracts that belief.  You will raise your self-confidence and self-esteem with each action step you take, so it is VITAL to keep taking action.  It builds momentum.
 
3. You do not know the “HOW” of reaching your goals. Many people have big dreams, but they are paralyzed because they cannot see the how.  “How” is a dirty little word when it comes to achieving goals.  Stop asking yourself (or others) this question, because the fact is, until you commit to your goals, dreams, or purpose, the how will never show up.  You have to first commit to them and then you have to be open to seeing the signs and receiving divine inspiration.  I promise, make the commitment and the “How” will magically show up. 😉
 
If you are having trouble getting into action, get support whether it is from a friend, a mentor, a coach, or a group of like-minded people.  Start taking action today. There is no time like NOW.
 
“To be successful, you have to do what successful people do, and successful people are highly action-oriented.”
~Jack Canfield
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(c) 2009, 2010, 2011 Behind The Moon, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 

Feel free to share this article in its entirety and include the Bio information below along with live link back to this blog post.  Thank you.

Thank you Andrea Costantine for this contribution.  Andrea is a writer, speaker, and wanna-be artist, focusing on the good things in life.  She is a perpetual optimist, lover of nature, yoga, travel, and new experiences.  Learn more about Andrea at www.andreacostantine.com

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