Lose the bad apple

The bad apple. When it comes to referral some of us are our own worst enemies, don’t you think?

I’m writing in business context here, my young friend Ben had told me about a referral that sounded promising. Naturally Ben was upbeat about the connection and as is good practice, he followed up right away.

It turns out, this referral wasn’t picking up the telephone, made excuses via email and over the course of a couple of days the opportunity petered-out.

Seen it before folks? Here was another example of fast-track to oblivion in terms of referral marketing. Who was going to refer such a person after speaking with Ben? It’s true, bad news does indeed travel fast via word of mouth.

I did my best to reassure Ben that not all of his networking efforts are deemed to go the same way although I could see he was disappointed.

Trust is so important, Ben knows this, he had already made some great contacts so he could move on.

It’s six months now since I began working with Ben and his family as they establish the ‘new generation’ and over that time we’ve managed to avoid the unreliable ‘apple,’ determined the USP, covered ‘The Plan’ and worked on our ‘top ten’ attributes developing the dependable referral network … how do they compare with your own?

Attitude Do you have one? Ensure that it’s the positive kind.

Enthusiasm. Just like attitude, it’s contagious and brings out the best during networking.

Good Listener. Be sincere, how do you know what others want unless you listen?

Sharing. Share the knowledge, the good news and more, develop the relationship.

Trustworthy. Build trust by trusting others, sit down and listen to those new contacts.

Showing Gratitude. If someone helps out – that’s a great reason to say ‘thank you.’

Enjoy Helping Others. Some don’t ask it, so make sure you do: “How can I help you?”

Work Their Network …be on hand to support your colleagues.

Recommend others. Then ask them to recommend you.

Follow Up On The Referral. Nothing poisons the relationship faster than not following up on your promises. (Just ask Ben.)

Hey Charlie, that guy doesn’t bother me. He’s his own worst enemy and as far as I’m concerned, I cannot afford to be associated with him.”

That’s understood Ben just like your colleagues in your referral network.

Less trauma, less stress

Most in business understand that reaching out to new customers is key to growing the business and certainly contributes to our own personal development.

Some though, find that engagement through networking can be stressful, traumatic and in some cases, less than profitable.

So we shall keep it simple. Let’s take the stress out of PTSD.

There are just the three essential ingredients in becoming successful when networking:

Preparation.

Know what it is you want, know your audience, understand what makes you different and be prepared to ask for referrals. Work on the USP before you start your network journey.

Timing.

Once you’ve prepared, be there. All the preparation comes to nothing if you are not prepared to step out and engage your potential next best customer. Be Miss (or Mr) Consistent. Sure ‘being there’ creates its own opportunity through luck … although remember, the practice is called netWORKing …

Delivery.

When the time comes to introduce yourself, do so with confidence in your abilities, boldly outline what it is you are looking for, people will love you for it, show sincerity, don’t forget to smile … and be willing to ask for the help you need.

That’s it, work on the fundamentals as you invest your time in people and others will start to invest their own time in you.

The outstanding multitude of magic ingredients? These become more obvious over time.

follow up … follow up … follow up …

 

‘How is business, Ben?’

Great Charlie, had a couple of enquiries last week which sounds just about right for business.

Fantastic – take a donut! What kind of work was that?

Well, nothing has happened just yet, I need to follow up.

Now I know many of you reading this would have been in this situation, and I don’t wish to sound churlish … but please follow up …

I shall when I get the chance Charlie, I’m rather busy just now …

Ben, put yourself in your referrers shoes, look at it this way … if the roles were reversed … say you asked someone to provide services or quote for provision. Would you take kindly waiting days for a response? How do you think this impacts the opinion other prospects may have of you?

Perhaps they’re thinking – or worse, talking: maybe Ben is too busy for more business? Perhaps he can’t handle our kind of enquiry … or worse – our business may not be suitable …

‘Maybe Ben is too busy for more business? Perhaps he can’t handle our kind of enquiry … or worse – our business may not be suitable …’

Ben, do it.

Think about it, you are working for referrals, on the lookout for leads that just may turn into business, it takes time. Then – as if by miracle, you are lucky enough to be handed an introduction to what sounds like ideal business, what is the first thing you do?

Follow up.

Ben, put the donut down and do it now … follow up the enquiry before the opportunity is lost, otherwise, all the time, energy and groundwork you have spent promoting your personal service have gone to waste.

Nothing undermines the relationship, the potency of a network forum more quickly than neglect.

Networking works, it’s simple, we pitch our interests, we develop the understanding, the relationships which lead to partnerships and trust and when the time is right we earn the opportunity for more business.

Follow up the business Ben, do it quickly and show your potential new client how you intend to fulfil their faith in you, how you intend to carry on.

It’s the reputation we are building Ben …

Talk about

Talk about others. It’s great for business.

Referrals are something we all aspire to, some of us go out of our way to cultivate the new business by doing all the ‘stuff’ we’re told by the gurus, those abundant soothsayers and community influencers.

So what happens when you do all that which you’re supposed to be doing only to find that the recommended ground work is just not working, literally, the only new life you’re hearing are those crickets again … away in the distance …

Let’s get unselfish. Good business comes our way when we stop worrying about why it’s not coming our way – have you noticed that?

Try this, it works for me, it may not be right for you just now but just give it a go – after all, it’s just those pesky crickets, right?

Each of us in business knows lots of other people, some we see more often than not and of course, it’s natural that those we do see most regularly are those we tend to want to help when required.

‘Help? Ok, but how?’ I hear you ask

Simply talk about them. Spread a little good news about your mates.

For instance, when you meet up with a friend and they ask:

‘How’s it going, what have you been up to?’

Avoid dwelling on me, me, me for just a minute …

Try telling them you met up with a great professional the other morning, someone who has a unique line of business and someone you would highly recommend.

Give them a reason why your mate is so referable. Talk them up, shine the light and really give your friend a reason to make mental notes as you both discuss …

‘OK, so I talk them up, but how is this helping me?’

Bear with me. Chances are the next conversation your friend has with you in mind he is going to also mention your recommended new best friend – he’s going to mention your mate and of course he’s going to talk about you, your business, how he knows what it is you do, and how well connected you really are.

Word of mouth, let’s not underestimate the power of a good conversation – especially when you are talking about someone … behind their back!

He’s no one hit wonder

 

Ben, it’s great to hear you enjoyed the holiday. Welcome back.

 

“Thanks, Charlie, I did enjoy the time away from the factory, I took the opportunity to do a lot of thinking …”

Holidays are good for thinking Ben, have another biscuit with the tea … what do we need to discuss?

Ok, I’m thinking of offering our tailor made line online, you know, the additional income stream you talked about? Networking is great although I’m not getting a lot of ‘hits’ with my engagement – any reason why do you think?”

Hits Ben? The online store is a great idea …

The efforts you put into your business, your people and your network are a progressive development of the ‘reliable, dependable, Ben.’ It’s about you becoming the person your contacts can rely on, not only for the so-called ‘hits’ but for direction, advice and support.

Sure, you will find and always welcome the odd single order for your fine, bespoke footwear although is that the end game here?

What do you mean? Of course, I want orders, that’s what I’m networking for isn’t it?”

Ben, anyone can buy a pair of shoes that suit the budget, we get free financial advice, accountancy solutions or websites in a box, logos for not much more than a fiver, it’s all ‘out there’ Ben.

The meaningful partnerships in business surpass all of the above. The reason those ‘in the know’ are networking is the fact that the road to fruition is that much shorter with the help of our colleagues. Even if your network is the slow-burn, the odd order here, the single referral there … think about what you are cultivating Ben.

Your scope of contacts – even over a short time networking while developing the relationships and trust is enormous. Think of the connections others have and who they are able to refer you to given the relationship. Never underestimate leverage. Think also of the advice and support, the range of services at your fingertips for the sake of caring about others a couple of hours per week.

It’s not about the ‘hits’ Ben, it’s about your leverage and quality of connections, who knows you and who may then introduce you to others.

Have faith Ben, you are no ‘one hit wonder.’

So, what else did you do on holiday apart from thinking about work?

Doubt your happiness ?

‘Thanks Charlie, I’m back in a fortnight, without the doubt I promise, and we can follow up then, ok by you?’

Ben was away for a well-deserved holiday. Together we’ve put in place a short-term strategy for success, something Ben is more than capable of achieving if only he could lose his doubt.

Stepping out of the shadows of his parents business was hard for him. Finding himself now in charge, the dynamic had changed for him. Ben found all this uncomfortable and he needed to swap those shoes.

Considering his was the successful business of footwear – as a Cordwainer – you’d be right to suggest it shouldn’t be too difficult …

Ben was indeed a ‘worry-guts.’

 

‘The existing clients love mum and dad. What if they don’t like me, Charlie? How do I maintain the relationships, the status-quo in the community? I know not a lot about sales either, what happens if I don’t hit the targets?’

Ben’s expectation of life was scuppering his happiness – it was time for a holiday.

As a young man, unclear about how he should follow in mum and dad’s footsteps, Ben was beset with doubt. You know, the kind of uncertain feelings we all collide with from time to time, for whatever reason.

Ben … I replied, we have the contingency in place – no doubt you and half the population are taking a break this time of year, you have a trusted support staff who know the business. Your only concern should be how to cope with the business of ‘holiday mindset.’

What do you mean?”

When we’re away from site Ben, ‘off the familiar patch,’ life works the magic, releasing the not so important ‘stuff’ enabling us to realise what is most valuable …

Our happiness.

Success Ben, is the progressive realisation of a worthy ideal.

Take some time, enjoy the holiday and understand that each small step takes you closer to those goals of personal and professional happiness.