FACT: Providing quality products or services is not enough reason for people to refer your business to others. In fact, people are far more likely to talk about your business when they are unhappy with your product or service than when they are happy with it!
Therefore you need to develop an incentive plan that will give people a reason to refer your business to others.
In establishing referral incentives there are some important elements to consider:
• Be consistent and reward referral sources equally.
• Determine the potential cost of the program in advance and plan appropriately.
• Decide if you will be rewarding:
• All referrals
• Referrals that purchase only
• Referrals that purchase above a certain amount
• You could consider doing a tiered incentive program as well.
• Select what the incentive will be:
• A gift?
• A gift certificate?
• A percentage or dollar amount off their next purchase?
• Or plain ol’ cash?
Adding special touches such as unique wrapping or a hand made card make an even greater impression. I have even seen custom gift certificates made of chocolate wrapped in gold given to appreciative clients! They not only get to spend their reward they get to eat it as well! You can continually reinforce your relationships by sending a personal note or inspirational message to your referral sources as well.
There are also other less tangible ways to recognize the people who refer business to you; like recognizing them publicly by thanking them in your newsletter. Or, establishing a section of your newsletter that thanks them and shares what they received as a result of referring. This can be very effective.
Be sure to track and follow up on your referrals. Share with the source that referred you what is happening with that referral. Tell them what you plan to do next and keep them informed. They will appreciate knowing how well you are taking care of the person they sent to you.
The most successful incentive plans to get people to refer you are generally special and memorable, leaving an impression upon the source so that they will be inspired to continue referring your business to the people in their lives. Using an effective incentive plan will help you do better and smarter business.
Outside of direct sales, the art of schmoozing appears on the verge of utter extinction. Not long ago, we were a society that placed importance on the ability to win people over and make friends. However, we now live in a world devoid of trust. As children, many of us are taught to “not talk to strangers.”
In an effort to protect us, our parents have left many of us going out into the world overly guarded – unable to outwardly-project openness, warmth, and show a genuine interest in our fellow man.
Don’t get me wrong, parents aren’t the only reason much of the population doesn’t know how to create lasting connections with other people. There are many environmental reasons, that include psychological scars left by embarrassing situations we had as a child (teasing, etc.)
Some of you may have grown up in a very tight-knit culture and just never quite learned how to feel comfortable around strangers, and thus, never learned how to make strangers feel comfortable around you.
So how does this social dilemma relate to business, you ask?
The best “schmoozers” are those special people who gain trust immediately. They make you feel as if you’ve known them for decades, even though you just met. They listen intently, provide satisfying feedback at the most opportune times, and have that special knack for making you feel like they’re hanging on your every word.
A great schmoozer is a sales genius, a marketing maestro, and a true networking master in the business world.
Learning and honing the ability to win people over quickly and create a lasting relationship with them will transform and elevate your career or business overnight.
1. Leave your ego at the door
Our ego has a way of hurting more than helping in most situations. To clarify: the ego is an outword projection of your level of confidence and/or insecurity. Either way, it has no place in a first meeting with anyone. Your ego can make you dismissive, defensive, non-trusting and just plain undesirable as a conversation partner (learn more about the effect ego can have on your career and relationships here).
Forget that you’re the most interesting person in the world, the best in your industry, or that you have a big zit on your forehead. Whether they approach you, or you them; learn to shut your pride off quickly. Put yourself into a humbled, Zen-like state. Like you’re entering a monastery to learn martial arts or gardening skills from a Buddhist monk!
2. Body language
Words only account for 7% of all successful human communication. Conversely, body language accounts for a whopping 55% (source).You have to open up your body language so you don’t give the other person any indication that you’re closed off, or that you’re only talking to them out of necessity: i.e., crossing your arms, leaning away from them, covering different points on your face with your hands (this faux-pas can, and will also be interpreted as dishonesty).
This realization should put an entirely new meaning to the phrase “you better get your game-face on.” Read through this blogpost to learn how to put out positive vibes to the people you meet through appropriate body language.
3. Eye contact (even if you’re a shy-baby!)
Notice we haven’t actually uttered a word yet at this point in our quest to be a better schmoozer. That’s because again, words account for 7% of the overall impression we’re making on one another when we meet. You don’t have to burn a hole into people’s eyes like you’re trying to activate Superman-like laser vision, but you must maintain eye contact. Don’t let your eyes wander unless you literally hear a bomb going off!
If eye contact makes you uncomfortable due to shyness or a bad vibe you’re sensing from the other person, focus on the bridge of their nose. Do not look at their mouth or other points on their face! While you might have heard this advice before, it can quickly be taken as a sign that you’re focusing on an obvious or even perceived flaw that person has.
Leil Lowndes, author of several books including “How to Instantly Connect With Anyone” recommends using what she calls “Sticky Eyes”: where you pretend your eyes are glued to the other persons. When and if you have to look away, she recommends doing it ever so slowly, with a sense of reluctance – stretching the invisible taffy as you turn your head or move your eyes.
4. Smile (like you mean it)
I’m going to quote another Leil Lowndes technique here, called the “Flooding Smile”. This little technique, when mastered, will convince those you seek to schmooze that you’re a truly genuine person who wants to engage with them, instead of a fake car-salesman-type just trying to disarm them.
After you’ve positioned your body toward the person in an open posture and glued your eyes to theirs, slowly open up your smile. It should take anywhere from 2 – 4 seconds for your mouth to open up fully. Imagine your closed mouth like a set of closed flood-gates: open your mouth ever so slightly to let a little water creep out of the reservoir, then flood the person with your kindness and warmth.
As your mouth is opening and your teeth begin to show, make the intensity of your gaze into their eyes more intense. Imagine this person is a family member or friend you haven’t seen in ages and you just can’t hold back your excitement. This type of controlled mouth/eye smiling technique is far better than flashing a massive toothy grin straight off, as it has the effect of making the person feel like your two souls have connected and you’re smiling at them due to a true sense of genuine kinship.
The handshake can fall just before or just after you smile, but your eyes definitely should have connected. Preferably, you will have wooed the person with your flooding smile, to make this handshaking-technique have maximum impact.
Not everyone will be able to master this technique, but it’s very powerful. It does require practice and just a bit of timing to get right. Try to find a partner; a friend, spouse, coworker to rehearse with.
• Extend your hand and lightly push the web area of your thumb and forefinger into the same area on the other person’s hand. Don’t squeeze yet!
• Before squeezing the other person’s hand “try” to touch the vein on their wrist. This is the same place you’d touch to take their pulse. Do it ever so slightly…
• Keeping your finger in place on the “pulse vein” and with your “webs” making firm contact, squeeze their hand firmly. AVOID trying to come like your Arnold Schwarzenegger, unless the other person’s challenging you to a grip-strength competition!
• Wait for them to start releasing their grip before your grip loosens.
Hopefully it now makes sense why it’s important to practice this handshaking-technique. The connected feeling that both you and the recipient will feel is profound. You’ll feel a sense of emotional euphoria and one-ness with the person that’s quite similar to how family members feel about each other.
Use this technique with the opposite sex and those who share the same gender as you. The emotional connection described isn’t sexual or inappropriate. In fact, the other person isn’t likely to even realize what you’ve done to them!
6. Listen & Talk (in that order)
Though you may be the first person to talk in the conversation, a great schmoozer will always let the other participant(s) of a conversation do the majority of the talking. This is easier for introverts to do than extroverted types.
Follow these rules for more effective listening and talking:
• Ask their name – Make sure you repeat it immediately after they’ve introduced themselves. “Hi Jim/Julie, it’s nice to meet you.” Then use it frequently, every other sentence or two. Using a person’s name is the ultimate show of respect, and repeating it frequently as you talk will help you remember it for your next meeting.
• Provide feedback/Ask for clarification – You have to be an active listener. When the other person pauses for more than 2 seconds and they’re looking directly at you, they’re expecting you to provide feedback on what they’ve said. Do so by relating your own experiences as they tie in to the topic, or ask questions like “I’m not sure I understand what you meant by…” or “If I’ve heard you right, you mean ____. Is that right?”
• Never interrupt or change the subject – This is toughest for salespeople and promoters to learn. But to be a schmoozer, you have to show a genuine interest in what the other person is saying. Doing either of these no-no’s can show: disinterest, impatience, or that you have an ulterior motive for speaking with them. It’s just plain rude in any social interaction.
• Keep every question you ask open-ended and inviting – Jacqueline Whitmore, author of the “Etiquette Expert” recommends training yourself to use the phrase “Tell me” before every question, to make the other participant feel like you’re truly interested in what they have to say.
Time to Practice!
None of the preceeding tips will be of any use to you if you don’t go out and practice them. Regardless of your personality type (introverted or extroverted), each of you will have specific weaknesses that need to be overcome on your road to becoming a world-class schmoozer.
Introverts may have no issues with leaving their ego at the door (#1) or actively listening (#6) to the people they speak with, but will likely find tips 2 – 5 to be utterly excruciating at first. Extroverts on the other hand, tend to be the exact opposite, with egos that can overshadow a conversation, alienating the very people they’re trying to “schmooze”.
I highly recommend reading anything written by Leil Lowndes. Her books delve into both the perceptible and imperceptible things that go on in every meeting between human beings. She describes herself as a former closed in tech-geek-type, who had no idea how to start or maintain a conversation, or develop a rapport with people. She became a student of human interaction and is now a leading expert in that field.
If you’re new to the art of schmoozing, start out slowly. Make every meeting between you and that other person really count.
Perhaps you’ll fall flat on your face and make the first person you practise with think that you “stare” too intently into their eyes, like a lost puppy, or make them feel as if you’re hitting on them. Maybe your first attempt at a Flooding Smile will be too long or too short, and make the other person feel creeped out.
The key to schmoozing isn’t being the most beautiful/handsome person in the room. You don’t need to be the smartest or most interesting person in the room either. By using the techniques detailed on this page, you’ll instantly connect with (almost) everyone you encounter, making them feel like they’re the most desireable and interesting person in the room. That’s the real key to schmoozing folks!
Remember: practice, practice, practice!
Small-business owners waste their time on what I call $10 an hour work, like running to get office supplies. Meanwhile, they forgo the activities that earn $1,000 an hour, such as sending the right email to the right person, or negotiating a lucrative contract, or convincing a client to do more business with you.
Entrepreneurs don’t realize the same 80/20 principle — the adage that 20 percent of customers equal 80 percent of sales — applies to every dimension of business. And that includes time management.
We entrepreneurs are extremely prone to rationalize, “I can do it myself.” Then we spend six hours trying to extract a virus from our computer or fix a leaky faucet.
Sure, we may be competent to do that little job. And sure, sometimes you have to do everything when you start out. But now you’re doing a $10 or $20 per hour fix-the-faucet job and you’re not doing your No. 1 job, which is getting and keeping customers. That job pays $100 to $1000 per hour.
Many a promising business has been killed by those little jobs. When someone says “time management,” you probably think of time logs, goal lists, and “Getting Things Done.” But getting busy is not what makes you rich.
We’re tempted to hire out the toughest jobs, like sales and marketing and public relations. These are extremely high-skill tasks. It’s almost impossible to delegate those tasks to someone else. How about hiring someone to do your laundry, or sort through your email?
Five things you should do immediately in order to stop wasting time and start earning the real dinero:
Hire a maid. If you have a significant other, he or she will thank you. It is easy to find someone who knows how to cook. Easy to find people who know how to clean. They will love you for paying them $10 to $13 an hour to do those jobs. Somebody’s praying for that job now.
As a go-getter, your core entrepreneurial skills can earn you hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. So there’s no reason why you should be scrubbing your own toilets. In fact, I argue that it is your moral obligation to hire someone to do that.
Downton Abbey fans will recall that the aristocratic Crawley family thought it was their duty to have servants and provide them employment. Same goes for business owners. The United States would be back down to 5 percent unemployment if entrepreneurs stopped taking out their own trash.
Just get over yourself and….
Get rid of your $10 an hour stuff. Let’s assume you are no longer wasting time vacuuming your own carpets or listening to your own voicemails. You are still hurting yourself if you are obsessed with being “efficient.” That is not an 80/20 approach to time. Instead, ask: “What else am I doing that is so menial, it could be cheaply outsourced? What am I doing that I should stop doing altogether?”
Hire a personal assistant. With some effort you can hire a perfectly competent person at $8 to $15 per hour and they’ll be happy because it is more interesting work than flipping burgers. I don’t care where they are. Virtual is fine. In my case, I hired a friend of a friend, Lorena, whom I heard was looking for work. I started her out changing furnace filters and taking my car to the mechanic. Within six months, she was managing my email box, doing triage to ensure that I only read what really matters. The time she saves me is worth its weight in gold.
Don’t feel guilty about relaxing. The most productive people are a little lazy. If there are really only a few hours a day in which you do $1,000-an-hour work, does it really matter if you screw around for the rest of the day? Downtime gives you the mental space you need to think. You can’t be a great strategist when you’re hustling from morning ’til night. Feed your brain instead, so you’re sharp when you’re negotiating the next sales contract.
Focus on your most productive time slot. Everybody has a timeslot in their day when they do their finest work. Ernest Hemingway wrote first thing in the morning. Barack Obama is a night owl. (He reportedly even outsources decisions on what to eat and wear.) I do my best work between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. I don’t do email before 10 or 11 a.m. I keep that space open. It’s reserved for writing or doing really strategic jobs. That’s the part of my day when I’m most productive.
Make these changes and you’ll hit consistent stretches of $1,000 an hour many days of your week.
Then and only then will you reap the true rewards of being an entrepreneur.
Networking is one marketing idea that is well worth the time and effort. If it’s not working well for you, you could be making one of these five networking mistakes.
Are you networking to grow your business? Are you constantly looking for more prospects? If you’re wearing yourself out attending scores of networking events and still have very little to show for it, it’s time to try something else. A good way to get started is by learning from your mistakes…
How many of these five mistakes are YOU committing on your quest for more sales leads?
• You go to networking events ‘expecting’ to find clients.
• You try to pass out as many business cards as possible at every opportunity.
• You don’t like to waste time with ‘chit chat’ and instead tell people about what you have to offer as soon as possible.
• You try to close the sale right then and there — after all, you may not have another opportunity.
• You follow up with everyone, making them an enticing offer they can’t refuse — and are puzzled that they decline anyway.
So what should you do instead?
1. If you’re going to networking events focusing on getting clients, you’ll miss out on what you COULD find: connections.
Focus on getting to know people instead. They may not buy your product today, or ever, but in time they may send numerous people your way who could – but not unless you develop a relationship with them.
2. If you think passing out business cards is a numbers game, you’re sadly mistaken. Instead, focus on getting to know people — and get their cards as well.
Quality is far more important than quantity. Make sure that you have made enough of a connection that people actually remember you when you call later or see them next time — and remember you in a positive light.
3. Don’t jump in with your offer.
Instead focus on the other person, get to know more about them and their business. Start by building rapport and connections. Try and find ways that you can be of service or help them, make introductions and refer them if you can. Ultimately, just get to know them.
4. The hard sell is dead.
If you want to chase away prospects, this is exactly how to do it. It’s ok to talk about what you do or offer, the problems you solve and outcomes your clients get. Where you cross the line is when you assume what you do is what they need and start selling and pushing your product or service on them.If the person you’re talking to is interested in your services – schedule a sales appointment. You’ll be much more likely to make the sale once you’ve established a relationship.
5. When you follow up with people after networking events, don’t start selling them.
Again, develop the relationship by finding out more about them, seek to be of service and continue to build that relationship. If your follow-up is by email – don’t send a sales pitch. Instead reference a point in your conversation and offer them something of value – an informational article, resource link or introduction. Keep thinking about ways to build ‘relationships’ and be of service.
You’ll find your networking will start yielding more connections, friends, referrals and opportunities!
Ready to get more out of your own networking efforts? Join Sue Clement at her FREE webinar on networking success strategies and get ready to take your business to the next level: http://www.sueclement.com/webinar
Determine the value of referrals to your business.
• Are referrals an important part of your business?
• What percentage of your business comes from referrals?
• What percentage of your business do you want to come from referrals?
• How are you currently developing referrals for your business?
• What, or who, are the sources of your referrals? Your clients? Friends? Contacts?
• What is the basis for you to receive referrals? Your reputation? Credibility? Quality of services?
Once you have determined the value of referrals to your business, look for ways to develop good referral sources for your business.
Ask yourself the following:
Are you professionally visible? Being an “expert” is not enough. You need to be visible, approachable, understood, trusted and be able to leave a lasting impression. Check your professional visibility by answering these questions.
• How visible am I in my community?
• Do people seek me out for my expertise?
• Is my impression better than my competitors?
• Do people view me as a credible resource?
• How do people react when I present information about my services?
• Are my “networking activities” productive?
Networking Do’s and Don’ts:
• Have a networking plan in place. Know what you want to achieve from your networking activities and how you plan to get it.
• Know your own strengths, talents and resources. Listen for when a situation may be right.
• Help others build relationships. Make only those offers you intend to fulfill. Relationship marketing only works when you are genuine.
• Have business cards with you at all times.
• Develop a system to track your networking activities and the results.
• Follow up promptly and professionally on the referrals you receive.
• Remember to thank the person who referred you.
• Wait until you need a network to develop one. It takes time to develop the right relationships.
• Give out your business card indiscriminately. Ask for a business card from someone you would like to give your business card to.
• Don’t be afraid to jump in and network! Networking is a contact sport; it requires your physical presence.
Once you have begun your journey of doing better, smarter business with Relationship Marketing, there will come a time when you need to take those relationships to the next level. You have worked on building relationships with your “Power Partners”, other networking partners and with the professionals in your local chamber of commerce, perhaps also a community service organization or in your own personal/social sphere. But do you really know them? Better question, do they really know you?
Getting together for a meeting once a week or once a month is good, but what would happen with your relationships if you invested the time to meet with your networking partners outside of the normal networking meeting, business mixer, committee or board meeting? I call these meetings “Coaching Sessions”.
For your networking partners to refer business to you, they must first get to know who you are and what you have to offer. Meet for lunch or coffee with a different networking partner each week. At this meeting, use the time so you can each share information about one another. Getting to know your networking partners will help you give more referrals and receive more and better referrals.
Here is a guideline to use when you get together:
• Share information about who your clients are, where they live, work, etc.
• Share with each other your background, education and any recognition/awards you’ve received.
• Tell each other about your family life, hobbies and interests.
• Talk about other organizations you participate in.
• Exchange literature and/or selling tools.
• Schedule a visit each other’s place of business.
• Take the opportunity to make these “Coaching Sessions” part of your marketing plans.
Kelli C. Holmes is the Founder of TEAM Referral Network, a professional referral organization that turns success-oriented business people into a strong team of networking professionals who work together to build their businesses by referral. Relationship marketing is a better, smarter way of doing business. For more information visit their website www.teamreferralnetwork.com or call (866)311-TEAM.
Congratulations, you’ve joined a networking group. You get to come in once a week and the referrals will be dropped in your lap…. Wouldn’t that be great?
It takes time and effort to become part of a sales team. When you first join TEAM, we ask that you start with getting to know everyone, by having Coaching Sessions. Once you know and trust the people in your chapter, you (and they) will be comfortable in knowing that you are a person of integrity, and will feel comfortable in sending you referrals.
It’s important to always expand your circle. There are so many different events that happen around town. Make it point to go to a chamber mixer, ribbon cutting or any other event that will be an opportunity to meet new people.
FOLLOW UP!!! If you take someone’s card, ALWAYS call or e mail them, and let them know you enjoyed meeting them. You never know where it may lead.
by Karen Cormier, Owner
TEAM Referral Network Ventura County
1. ATTENDANCE – It is crucial to be at every meeting (on time) to develop relationships with members and get the referrals you need. Out of sight is out of mind.
2. WELL PREPARED 1 MINUTE COMMERCIAL – You must communicate effectively to your networking partners what your needs are so you can get the referrals you need.
3. WELL PREPARED 10 MINUTE PRESENTATION – An awesome, well thought out and targeted presentation will educate your networking “sales team” to get the referrals you need to grow your business.
4. COACHING SESSIONS – You should do a “Coaching Session” with every member of your chapter. If you have, then do it again! Businesses change, families change, our focus changes. Successful referral partners know, understand and like one another. This can only be achieved by meeting outside of the structured meeting.
5. COMMITMENT – Each member must commit to the success of every member and in turn, the success of the chapter. This means showing up, getting involved, being specific about your referral needs and assisting members with their referral needs.
Want to make your business networking more effective? Here are ten tips to keep in mind.
Effective business networking is the linking together of individuals who, through trust and relationship building, become walking, talking advertisements for one another.
Keep in mind that networking is about being genuine and authentic, building trust and relationships, and seeing how you can help others.
Ask yourself what your goals are in participating in networking meetings so that
you will pick groups that will help you get what you are looking for. Some meetings are based more on learning, making contacts, and/or volunteering rather than on strictly making business connections.
Visit as many groups as possible that spark your interest. Notice the tone and attitude of the group. Do the people sound supportive of one another? Does the leadership appear competent? Many groups will allow you to visit two times before joining.
Hold volunteer positions in organizations. This is a great way to stay visible and give back to groups that have helped you.
Ask open-ended questions in networking conversations. This means questions that ask who, what, where, when, and how as opposed to those that can be answered with a simple yes or no. This form of questioning opens up the discussion and shows listeners that you are interested in them.
Become known as a powerful resource for others. When you are known as a strong resource, people remember to turn to you for suggestions, ideas, names of other people, etc. This keeps you visible to them.
Have a clear understanding of what you do and why, for whom, and what makes your doing it special or different from others doing the same thing. In order to get referrals, you must first have a clear understanding of what you do that you can easily articulate to others.
Be able to articulate what you are looking for and how others may help you. Too often people in conversations ask, “How may I help you?” and no immediate answer comes to mind.
Follow through quickly and efficiently on referrals you are given. When people give you referrals, your actions are a reflection on them. Respect and honor that and your referrals will grow.
Call those you meet who may benefit from what you do and vice versa. Express that you enjoyed meeting them, and ask if you could get together and share ideas.
Stephanie Speisman is a Success Coach who coaches groups and individuals in business networking skills based on her booklet “99 Tips for Successful Business Networking.” Contact info: (301)469-8015, firstname.lastname@example.org.