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Maybe you should stop networking

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Some folks don’t listen. They know they shouldn’t discuss politics and religion but they can’t help themselves. They’ve lost friends, relatives no longer speak to them, and who knows how many clients will never come back.

The problem is, in today’s political climate, when we meet new people–at parties, at formal networking events, or going out for coffee with a prospective client or professional contact–politics inevitably comes up.

You can (and should) change the subject. But that’s often easier said than done.

Therefore, I propose that you give up networking, at least for now, at least until the craziness dies down. Build your practice without it.

I’m serious. There is just too much at stake. If you go to an event and word gets out that you support someone or something that a preponderance of the group or someone with emotional problems does not, you risk being ostracized, shamed, even physically harmed.

Better to keep people guessing.

Unless most of your clients come from one side of the spectrum and you’ve made a decision to forgo business from the other side, what do you have to gain by flapping your gums in public?

I know, we shouldn’t have to keep our mouths shut. So what? That’s the way it is.

The last time I brought up this subject, I heard from a lawyer who told me he says whatever he wants, he doesn’t care what anyone thinks, and anyone who disagrees with him “can go f*** themselves.”

I didn’t like his attitude so I removed him from my list.

Here’s how to network without leaving your office

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No friends, no problem

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Yesterday, I said the best way to network is to have your friends introduce you to some of their friends. But what if you don’t have many friends? Or the friends you have don’t know anyone in your target market?

You go to plan b. You do everything you can to meet some people (without an introduction or endorsement) and do your best to turn them into friends.

Yeah, it’s work. It’s not easy. It takes time. But you do what you’ve gotta do.

Yesterday, I heard from someone who has started a professional networking group in Manhattan. He’s looking for a few lawyers to come to their upcoming event and check out the group. He asked me to let him know if I knew anyone.

I assume he’s already invited all of his professional contacts and asked them to extend the invitation to their professional contacts. (If he hasn’t, he should.)

But that’s not all he can do.

He can get on the phone and call lawyers in his market, introduce himself, and invite them to the event. If they can’t/don’t want to come, ask them to pass along the invite to their lawyer friends.

If they say yes, they’ll come, offer to allow them to invite their contacts to come with them.

Spend an hour or two, call enough people, make the event sound sexy, offer free food, and you’ll get some folks showing up. Oh yeah, start your calls by reaching out to the contact persons at professional networking groups out of your immediate area. They may know people who are looking for a networking group that’s closer to their home or office.

What else?

He can post the event on his social media channels. He can post the event in appropriate Facebook and Linked In groups. He can do a mailer or advertise in professional journals. He can email his clients or customers (because everyone has a lawyer in the family). He can knock on doors in office buildings near the event and invite the occupants or pass out some flyers.

He doesn’t have to do this every week. Just long enough to get the group going and make some new friends.

Thing is, everyone he invites to his event who doesn’t come is someone he might be able to network with anyway. Call them again, remind them who you are, and get to know them. Who knows, they might become a friend even if they never come to your event.

The attorney marketing formula

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Friends first

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Networking isn’t just about meeting new people. It’s about how you meet them and what happens after you do.

The best way to meet new people is to be introduced to them by a mutual friend. The operative word is friend. Not an acquaintance or a casual business contact, a friend. Someone who knows, likes and trusts you.

When a friend introduces you to another friend, magic can happen. The number one rule of networking, then, is to make friends first.

Friends enjoy each other’s company. They do things for each other and are willing to ask each other for help.

Look at the list of people you know. How many are friends? It might be only a few but you only need a few to start.

Your friends can introduce you to their friends. You can gain access to their groups and meet influential people in them. When you do, look for ways to make new friends by finding out what they need or want and looking for ways to help them get it.

Networking isn’t just a tally of transactions. It’s about friends helping each other because they want to, not because they are obligated to.

If you want to grow your practice or build your career, go make some new friends.

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Find out what people want and show them how to get it

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Legendary investor Bernard Baruch said the secret to getting rich is to “Find out what people want and show them how to get it”.

Ah, you thought you were supposed to “help them” get it. No, you’re busy. You can’t help everyone do everything (unless they hire you). You have a practice to run.

Show them what to do. Showing is easier than helping and nearly as valuable.

Give them direction and feedback. Point to resources. Refer them to experts. Show them what to do. When push comes to shove, they don’t really expect you to drive them to their destination. They will appreciate you for giving them a map.

On the other hand, don’t just “tell them what to do”. Anyone can do that. Anyone can post a list of recommended resources on their website. No, show them.

Talk to them and make sure you understand exactly what they want and why. Then, provide suggestions and recommendations specific to their needs so they can get what they want as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Explain why you recommend A instead of B. Give examples so they understand your rationale. Make sure they are ready to move forward before you turn them loose but let them know they can come back to you if they run into a snag.

Showing is less than helping but more than telling. Find out what people want and show them how to get it.

This is me, showing you how to get more referrals

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Hanging with the big dogs

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“Who you know is more important than what you know”. It’s a law. The Law of Association.

We tend to be like the people with whom we associate most. If your personal and professional contacts consist primarily of smart, successful, and well-connected people, you are probably smart, successful, and well-connected.

We tend to share many of the same habits, attitudes, and opinions of the people in our inner circle. We read the same types of books, talk about the same subjects, and know many of the same types of people.

Your life would be different if your contacts consisted primarily of lazy people with bad habits and a poor work ethic.

Your task is clear. To continually upgrade your associations.

On a scale of 1 to 100, we are all 50s. There are people we look up to–the 80s, 90s, and 100s, and there are people who look up to us. To upgrade your associations, you’ll want to seek out and associate with the 80s and above.

It’s not easy to meet the top people in any field, let alone convince them to invite you into their world.

But you can do it.

Start by eliminating the bad influences in your life. They’re holding you back.

If you now associate with 20s and 30s, people with bad habits, bad attitudes, and poor motivation, stop spending time with them. If it’s difficult to remove them completely from your life, perhaps because they are family or co-workers, spend less time with them.

Then, start filling the void with people who are a little higher up the scale from you.

You’re a 50, right? So find and meet some 60s. People who have more experience, better skills, or more success than you.

Get to know them. Bring value to them. Eventually, you’ll become like them.

Then, as a 60, seek out some 70s.

Work your way up the scale, in increments. Eventually, you’ll be associating with 90s and 100s.

Maybe then I’ll take your call.

How to get referrals from lawyers and other professionals

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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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