Who’s coming to your party?

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If you were opening your practice this year you might hold a grand opening. Invite friends and business contacts to come celebrate with you and get some information they can share with their friends and clients and business contacts. It’s a great way to generate some momentum, make some new contacts, and take the first step toward signing up a few new clients.

Well, guess what? It’s not too late. You can hold a grand re-opening party and accomplish the same thing. Only now, it will be better because you have actual clients and referral sources you can invite. You can use the occasion to introduce your guests to other guests, helping them make some new contacts and get some new business.

You can also use your grand re-opening to make some new contacts.

In addition to inviting people you know, invite people you don’t know but would like to. Invite prospective clients, professionals, business owners, and other centers of influence in your niche market or community. Invite people who can hire you or recommend you. Invite people who are influential with a big network of contacts you’d like to target.

It’s your party; you get to make the guest list.

Imagine what your practice will be like by next year at this time if you invite 50 centers of influence to your party this year.

Everyone loves a party. Start making your list.

Once you meet them, here’s what to do with them

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When your networking isn’t working

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You want it all. Now. So you try to do it all. But when you find yourself overwhelmed or out of time, you go back to doing nothing. We see this a lot with networking events, don’t we?

A professional goes to an event, as the speaker or for networking purposes, with the goal of meeting as many new people as possible. They collect lots of business cards, shake a lot of hands, and go home exhausted. They can barely remember the people they met. The cards they collect sit in a drawer, ignominious reminders of yet another wasted outing.

Sound familiar? Want a better way?

Instead of a goal to meet twenty people, how about a goal to meet just one?

One person to talk to and get to know. One person you can follow-up with, meet again, and build a relationship.

The next time you go to a networking event, set a goal to make one good contact. Do that and you can spend the rest of your time at the event, guilt-free, hanging out with the people you already know.

Networking without leaving your office

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Aim for the top dogs

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You know a lot of people. You’d like to know more. Instead of meeting people randomly, you should meet and work with the biggest and the best.

The ones who influence the right people in your niche or local market. The ones who can send you business, introduce you to other influential people, and show you how to do the things that got them to the top.

They might be other professionals. They might be bloggers, authors, speakers, coaches, or trainers. They might be politicians, consultants, business owners, or industry leaders.

They all have one thing in common. They can help your career take a giant leap.

It may be harder to connect with them but it is worth the effort. One top dog can do for you what 100 other dogs cannot.

Don’t settle for building a network of ordinary people. Set your sites on the biggest and the best.

Start by asking yourself these two questions:

1. Who are the 10 leading people in my marketplace, and
2. How can I connect with them?

Answer these questions and get to work. One day, your name will appear on other people’s top dog list.

Building a successful practice starts with a plan

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Use the familiar to build likeability and trust

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In the first season of the original Star Trek, in an episode entitled The Corbormite Maneuver, the Enterprise crew encounters an alien ship that threatens to destroy them. The pilot of the ship is a bellicose, scary-looking creature who warns the Enterprise of their impending doom.

We later learn that the scary creature displayed on the Enterprise’s view screen is actually a manikin with a synthesized voice. The real pilot is a small childlike alien, played by a young Clint Howard, who maintains the ruse as a way to protect himself.

We like the story because the good guys survive the danger with a ruse of their own. Captain Kirk tells the alien that if he destroys the Enterprise, his own ship would be destroyed, due to the presence of Carbomite within the ship’s hull. There is no such thing but it allows the Captain to buy some time to confront the alien and defuse the threat.

We also look the story because it seems familiar.

Indeed, the same theme was used in The Wizard of Oz, some thirty years earlier. The Wizard is portrayed as powerful and threatening, until we see the man behind the curtain and realize that The Wizard  is actually a gentle white-haired old man.

Familiar themes help moviegoers become more engaged in a story. They are also used in marketing to educate prospects and generate trust.

When a prospective client or referral source sees that they have something in common with you, they are more apt to like and trust you. Your mutual interest also serves as a natural icebreaker.

If you have a small R2-D2 on your desk, for example, prospective clients will see that you are a Star Wars fan. Even if they are not, they might be less intimidated by you, relax, and open up.

Movies and popular culture are just one way to use familiar themes, but it is a good one because they are so well known and because they invoke the emotions of people who remember them. If you are an estate planning attorney, writing about what to do when a loved one has a terminal illness, for example, you could do worse than referencing the 1970’s book and film, “Love Story”.

In your marketing, presentations, and conversations, look for ways to connect with people by using familiar themes, examples, and stories. They can help you show people what you offer and build trust in your ability to deliver.

More ways to build likability and trust

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How to talk to strangers

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Okay, so you know the simplest way to start a conversation with a stranger is to ask a question or pay a compliment.

What do you say after that?

You know you shouldn’t talk about politics, religion, or sex. What’s left?

Here are four “safe” topics that can help you keep the conversation going and allow you to build rapport.

You can remember these four topics with the acronym, F.O.R.M.

F is for family.

Do they have kids? Are they married or in a relationship? Do they have a crazy uncle?

People like to talk about their family but you have to be careful about how you bring up the subject. You don’t want to ask too many personal questions when you first meet. The best way to find out about their family is to start talking about your own.

Mention something interesting or funny one of your kids did recently. Talk about something you and spouse like to do together. Tell them something your brother told you recently. You can then ask if they have kids or like to do what you and your spouse like to do.

O is for occupation.

Ask them what they do for a living. If they are college age, ask about their major or future plans.

When they tell you what they do or plan to do, comment on it. Tell them something you know or heard about their field or tell them about someone you know who does something similar.

You can then ask them what they like best about their job or business or how they got started.

R is for recreation.

What are their hobbies? What do they like to do for fun? You might ask, “What do you like to do when you’re not working?”

If you’re in a sports bar or the other person is wearing a jersey for their favorite team, you can ask if they go to the games or who their favorite player is.

If you don’t know anything about their sport or hobby, ask them what they like about it or how long they’ve been doing it.

M is for motivation.

What do they dream about doing? What drives them? What is their long term goal?

Getting someone to tell you about their dreams and goals is one of the most valuable ways to get to know them and bond with them but it can be difficult to get a stranger to open up to you. Therefore, start with one of the other rapport-building topics and look for clues you can use to ask about their dreams.

If they’ve told you they don’t like what they do for a living, you can ask what they would like to do instead. If they’ve told you their hobby is sky diving, you could ask if they know any professional sky divers and then ask if they’ve ever thought about doing the same thing.

Get people talking about themselves. I guarantee they’ll enjoy talking to you.

When you ask people what they do, they usually ask what you do. Be prepared to tell them

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How to start a conversation with a stranger

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Being able to approach and speak to strangers is a valuable skill to have in your marketing quiver. Like any skill, you can get better with practice.

Yesterday, after my walk, I was at the park cooling down and saw a mother pushing her two youngsters on the swings. The boy, who looked about three, was chattering on about reaching the sky and asking lots of questions about outer space and rocket ships. His mother didn’t dismiss his questions, she patiently answered them.

After listening for a couple of minutes, I asked the woman if she was a teacher. She said she was before becoming a stay-at-home mom and asked me how I knew. I said, “Because you are so patient with all his questions, plus, you had some really good answers!”

Question asked. Conversation started. Compliment thrown in for good measure.

It really is (can be) that simple.

In this case, I learned something I could use to start the conversation by listening to her talk to her son, but I could have just as easily told her she had cute kids or asked how old they were.

If I wanted to continue the conversation I would have asked another question. At some point, I would have made sure to mention “my wife” and “my daughter,” however, to let her know I’m a family guy and not some stalker. Situational awareness is your friend.

Anyway, if you want to improve your conversational skills, start practicing. The next time you’re in line for coffee or sitting next to someone in a waiting room, talk to the person next to you.

If you can’t think of anything to say, ask them if they have the time. When they pull out their phone to respond, ask what model it is and if they’re ready to upgrade.

Sure fire conversation material. Maybe even better than kids.

How to get Maximum Referrals 

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What’s in your wallet? Briefcase? Desk drawer?

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When a client leaves your office, especially after your first meeting, what do you hand them? When you’re networking or running errands, what do you give to the people you meet?

It could be anything, as long as it has your name and website on it. Your business card, a brochure, your newsletter, a copy of your book or report.

I’m all for digital, but nothing beats a tangible handout for helping people to remember you and prompting them to get more information.

Put something in their hand they can take home with them and show their spouse or partner. Give them extras they can pass out to friends. “One for you, the other in case you talk to someone who might need my help”. Plant the seed and equip them to provide referrals.

Don’t rely on your handout to do the work, however. Use it as a mechanism to get their contact information. And make sure you follow-up with them, to tell them you enjoyed meeting them, to offer additional information, and to invite them to take the next step.

Marketing is simple. It’s even simpler when you have something to hand out.

The perfect handout 

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What’s new? I’m glad you asked!

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When someone asks you, “What’s new?” what is your typical reply? If you’re like most people, you say something akin to, “Not much,” am I right?

If so, you’re missing out on an opportunity to promote yourself and your practice in an easy, non-promotional way.

Instead of deflecting the question, tell people what’s new.

Share some news with them. Tell them about an interesting case you just signed up or just settled. Tell them you just hired someone new or you’re looking for someone. Tell them about moving your office, or that you’re thinking about it.

Your news, however inconsequential it might seem to you, is far more interesting than saying “not much” or engaging in small talk. News has intrinsic energy. It shows you doing things, taking action, moving forward. It tells people that you’re growing and successful.

News gives you a talking point that allows you to start a conversation with someone you just met. It also gives you an excuse to contact people you know with something to share.

Never leave home without something news to share.

What’s that? You don’t have any news? Make some. Write an article or report or a short video and post it on your website. Tell people about it–what it does and who it helps. Invite them to go see it or offer to send them a copy. Ask them to share it with people in their network who might be interested.

If you don’t have a new article, tell them about an old one and ask if they’ve seen it. Or tell them about one that you’re working on or thinking about writing.

There’s always something new.

Now, don’t keep your news under wraps, waiting for someone to ask, “What’s new?” Reach out to clients and professional contacts and share your news. Use your news as the excuse for re-connecting. “Hey, I just wanted to let you know about. . .” or “Hey, I wanted to ask if you saw. . .”

When you meet someone new, after you introduce yourself, tell them about your new article or your updated article or the article that just got mentioned on another website, and invite them to check it out.

When you always have news to share, you’ll always have something to promote. You don’t have to promote yourself or your services. Promote your article or report and let it promote you.

How to write a report worth sharing: click here

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Faster than a speeding search engine

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Information. You need it, you want it, and you have it, thanks to the search engine of your choice. But there’s something that’s often better than a search engine. In many cases, it’s faster, too.

I’m talking about experts. People who have the answer to your query on the tip of their tongue. Their real-world experience allows them to instantly provide you with answers, or at least point you in the right direction.

Unlike a search engine, you don’t get 101 links of possible solutions. You don’t get sent down a rabbit hole of never-ending research.

You ask, they answer. Done.

We all need to maintain a list of names and contact information of people who know things, and who know people. A group of folks we can call upon to quickly get information,  recommendations, and referrals.

I’m not talking about paid experts, although we need them, too. I’m talking about friends and business associates and networking buddies who know things and know people and will help us out without sending us a bill.

If we have a computer problem, we have someone who can walk us through the solution, or recommend someone who can fix it for us. If we want to find a CPA on the other side of the country for a client who is moving there, we can tap into our network and get referrals.

An information and referral network can benefit you and your clients and other contacts.

Your network makes you better at your job and helps you bring in business. It also allows you to add value to your relationships with your clients and professional contacts.

Let people know that you know a lot of people in different fields and different parts of the country and when they need information or referrals, they should contact you first.

If you know someone, great. You’re a hero. If you don’t know someone, you can find someone you don’t know and expand your network. Nothing like contacting a professional and telling them you have a client who might need their services.

Your network will make you more powerful than a locomotive and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

Build your professional network with this

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3 ways to make networking less painful

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You know that networking is a great way to build your practice or advance your career but you avoid doing it because it makes you uncomfortable. One reason you feel that way, no doubt, is because you feel compelled to perform.

You’re supposed to be calm, cool, and collected, but you’re not. You’re supposed to come home with a pocketful of business cards but you get tongue-tied and beat yourself up for not meeting your quota.

You’ve read the books about how to make a good impression, start a conversation and keep it going, but there’s too much to remember and you’re not sure you’re doing it right.

No wonder you hate networking. It’s like handling a jury trial the day after you’ve been sworn in.

You don’t have to be good on day one. Give yourself permission to be bad:

1) Forget the rules

Be yourself. Relax. Meet a few people, shake a few hands, and go home.

If you’re uncomfortable, don’t try to act like you’re not. In fact, tell people how you feel. Poke fun at yourself. Watch and listen and don’t worry about anything else.

No agenda, no goals, no pressure. Just go somewhere there are people you don’t know and be normal.

When the pressure is off and you can be yourself, you might actually enjoy yourself, or at least not hate the experience as much as you thought you would. From there, you can grow.

2) Get a wingman

If you’re attending an event for the first time and not looking forward to it, bring someone with you, someone who is outgoing and can help you. Someone who can talk you down when you feel like calling it an early night.

If not, eventually some good soul will see you standing by yourself, come talk to you and take you under their wing. Hang out with them. Watch them introduce themselves to other people. Listen to how they start conversations.

They will introduce you to others. If they’re real good, those others will have something in common with you and you’ll be able to take it from there.

3) Start with easy

Your first time out, go to an event that is unlikely to have prospective clients or referral sources. That way, there’s nothing at stake and you can practice meeting people without fear of embarrassing yourself or blowing a great opportunity.

Go to a car show, for example, if you know something about cars, and talk to some of the vendors. Ask questions and have fun.

Allow yourself to be not very good at networking and you might just keep at it until you are.

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