CODE Cracking 101: From ‘Met to Net’ Insights from Cracking the Networking CODE

Dean Lindsay, President of The Progress Agents

There is this unassuming little word you often find in the biographies of famous people. The word is ‘met’:

William R. Hewlett met David Packard.
Dean Martin met Jerry Lewis.
Sid met Nancy.
Siegfried met Roy.

We meet people all the time. Meeting people is a part of life. Meeting people is one of the fundamental steps to building priceless business relationships. But it is not the only step.

There is a big, big, BIG WHOPPING difference between meeting someone and building a priceless business relationship with them. There is a long way from ‘Met to Net’ (networking), and because people misjudge this distance, the term ‘networking’ has gotten a bum rap.

I consistently ask professionals who come to workshops and speeches based on my book, ‘Cracking the Networking CODE,’ to share with me what they think of when they hear the word networking. Far too often, they say it conjures up images of manipulative, self-serving, insincere and predatory individuals, who are on the prowl for someone they can pounce on, try to sell something to, or solicit an unearned favor from.

I wish I could say this style of networking wasn’t out there, but it is, and it is a waste of time for ineffective networkers and the unfortunate people they corner. True networking is not about arm-twisting. It is not about trying to get someone to do something that does not make sense for them to do. It is not about scary old backslapping sales shenanigans.

So, how do you build priceless business relationships through networking? This is an important question to consider because, to a large degree, who you know and associate with determines who you become in life. The most successful, well-rounded and happy people are most often the ones who are best connected to other successful, well-rounded and happy people. When these people need support or information, they know who to call.

How well connected you are determines your access to those with the most money, the best contacts, the real power and influence (not to mention the best seats at sporting events). Being connected to the right people opens up opportunities for you and your company.

If you are looking for a new career path, deep down in your blood pumper you already know that you need to get out there and connect with people. Sure, in a perfect world, your track record and past successes would speak for themselves, but without professional and personal contacts, your spiffy two-page résumé on off-white professional-grade paper is likely just going to take up space in a pile on a hiring manager’s over stimulated desk. You are going to have to log off, move away from the keyboard and find a room to work.

Becoming a Progress Agent
To build great relationships, you need to help others be successful. You need to help them progress. Everyone connects with others with the goal of progressing in some way. To build priceless business relationships, you need to be seen as an agent for their progress, a catalyst for them to take a positive step forward. They need to feel that you make a positive impact on their life, that you bring value.

Everything we do, consciously or subconsciously, is because we believe the perceived consequences of those actions will bring us what I label the ‘Six Ps of Progress’:

This goes for eating, shopping, exercising, hugging, crying, working, going to the movies – whatever. Each of us makes decisions as to what to read, who to talk to, what to buy, where to eat, what to eat, who to take phone calls from and who to help, based on whether we think these acts will bring us these Six Ps of Progress.

At each moment, we make decisions based on what we think will bring these benefits – short-term or long-term. At a mostly subconscious level, we continuously think to ourselves: Is taking this action (e.g., talking with this person) helping me move toward pleasure, peace of mind, profit, prestige, power, or helping me to avoid pain? Is this action progress, or is it simply change?

I could (and do in the book) go on and on about this, but basically the people we meet must view being around us as progress, not change.

It helps to think of networking as a creative process: You are creating ways to serve and to help people progress. You progress when you help others progress. To build priceless business relationships and become a truly effective networker, you constantly need to search out ways to help others progress. You must position yourself in their minds as a catalyst in their progress, as an agent in their progress, as a Progress Agent.

Cracking the CODE
A nurturing, giving attitude is the cornerstone to Cracking the Networking CODE. The four letters that make up the word CODE stand for the four steps consistently taken by the most effective networkers to build truly priceless business relationships and be progress-effective networkers:

C: Create Personal Curb Appeal
Effective networkers feel successful and display a genuine desire to help others progress. They are Progress Agents. They look and act the part of someone you would want to have in your corner. They don’t go to networking events looking for success – they take success with them to the events.

O: Open Face-to-Face Relationships
Effective networkers connect with new people everywhere they go. They also research the various networking event options and commit to a networking strategy. They get out and about and reach out. They proactively open relationships. Be aware that it’s possible to go to a networking event and not have any ‘networking moments.’ It is not just about showering and showing up. It’s about connecting with people and finding ways to help them progress.

D: Deliver Solid First Impressions
Effective networkers know their first impression sets the foundation for all future impressions, and they make sure it’s progress-based. Effective networkers strive to stand out in a positive way in the minds of people with whom they want future contact. Effective networkers focus on being interested, rather than interesting. They turn people on to them by tuning in to others.

E: Earn Trust
My definition of trust is the promise of progress. Effective networkers follow up and keep in touch. They get to know and stay involved with the people they meet and earn their trust through a series of progress-based impressions. They continually find ways to help – to ‘be progress’ for those in their network. This is where most ineffective networkers drop the ball.

Networking is not about chance meetings. Hard work makes luck, my friend. Go make some luck. Even if your Blackberry or ACT database system is bursting with names, numbers and email addresses, it will not do you a bit of good unless you build the relationships.

Sure, being in business is challenging.
Sure, it’s nerve-racking to look for a new job.
Sure, sales can be tough to come by.
Sure, marketing is a moving bull’s-eye.
Sure, people are often pressed for time.

But here is something else I know for sure: People do business with, as well as help, share information with, brainstorm with and give referrals to people they trust and value. They trust and value people who genuinely care about them and provide progress for their lives. They trust and value people who offer the promise of progress.

Be Progress.


Endless Referrals: Who Do I Talk to Next…*

By Bob Burg, President, Burg Communications, Inc.

No question about it; your company provides the best software around. So, what’s the problem? Only that without an ongoing and ever-increasing number of quality prospects, you’ll eventually run out of prospects. That thought can be downright discouraging, can’t it? Then again, that doesn’t have to happen . . . ever!

Prospecting Hats
One major reason many salespeople are intimidated by the prospecting process is because they feel they must put on their “prospecting hats” before they step out the door. As though they must continually knock on doors or spend hours “dialing for dollars” on that “seemingly 50-pound object of intimidation” known as the telephone.

Perhaps you attend trade shows, social events or even business mixers where you can meet new prospects. Then, of course, once the conversation takes place, you must ask pointed, personal questions in order to discover needs. What this typically accomplishes, more than anything else, is to make a prospect nervous and defensive and you the same. Instead, let prospecting happen naturally, and in such a way that the prospect enjoys the conversation as much as, if not more, then you do.

How? Ask questions. But not just any questions. Ask Feel-Good Questions. Feel-Good Questions are simply questions designed to put your prospect at ease, to make him or her feel good about themselves, about the conversation, and most importantly, about you! These are questions that will not come off as invasive, or “prospecting” in nature.

Feel-Good Questions, by their very nature, will make your prospect feel good; about themselves, about the conversation, and about you. That is key because the fact is – and please internalize this:

“All things being equal, people will do business with, and refer business to, those people they know, like and trust.”

Asking Feel-Good Questions is the first step to accomplishing that goal.

So what are some of these Feel-Good Questions? Again, keep in mind that they have no purpose other than to elicit good feelings toward you from the other person. In other words, you won’t ask this person about problems with current software. And, you won’t ask questions meant to discover any other pains, either in their life or business.

Ask Questions
The first question is, “How did you get started in the ‘widget’ business?” I call this the “Movie-of-the-Week” question because most people love the opportunity to “tell their story” to someone. This, in a world where most people don’t care enough to want to know their story. Be sure and actively listen, and be interested in what they are saying.

A good second question is simply, “What do you enjoy most about what you do?” Again, you are giving them something very positive to associate with you and your conversation. This is much better then asking the alternative question, “So, what do you just hate most about what you do . . . not to mention the wretched life you are so obviously living?” (Yep – jus’ kidding . . . kind of).

You’ve begun to establish a nice rapport with your new prospect. You are focusing on him or her, as opposed to you and your awesome products, as most salespeople do. This person is starting to feel good about you and has enjoyed answering your first two Feel-Good Questions. Now it’s time for the “One key question,” and here it is:

“Gary, how can I know if someone I speaking with would be a good prospect for you?” What have you accomplished by asking that question? Two things; First, you’ve continued to establish yourself as being different from all others they meet who are in business, who only seem to want to know, “How can you help me.” People might not come right out and say that, but isn’t that what they imply when they hand the person 10 business cards, telling them to “keep one for yourself and give the rest to your closest friends.”? Instead, you are letting them know that your interest is in helping them. And that is always acceptable to a person (so long as you are, and are perceived, sincere).

Secondly, since you are asking for help in identifying their prospects, she will gladly supply you with an answer. And the fact is, nothing builds trust and credibility with a prospect than actually referring business to them whenever possible.

Of course, if they are not in sales, per se, your question might be more along the lines of “How can I know if someone I’m speaking with could be of benefit to you?” (in other words, you’re focusing on them. The exact words are not as important as the intent, and that you communicate that intent in a way that shows that person you desire to “add increase” to their life).

Your conversation has ended and you never even brought up your excellent products. Good, since your relationship with this new prospect may not be far enough along for him or her to be receptive to it (at other times it’s VERY advisable to bring it up, but that is after the “Know you, like you, trust you” relationship has been established).

That’s fine. Hopefully, you’ve asked for and received your prospect’s business card. Notice I did not say, “Hopefully, you’ve ‘given’ your prospect your business card.” Why not offer him yours? Because he doesn’t need it or want it right now (unless he directly asks for it – then, of course, you’ll give it to him), and since you have his, you are in the position to follow up correctly and systematically.

Meeting New Prospect
First though, if you are at a public gathering where you met this new prospect (Chamber of Commerce function, charity event, social gathering) make sure to introduce him or her to others who you already know or have met. Give each person a nice introduction, describe what each does for a living, and suggest how they can each know how to know who would be a good prospect for the other. Do all this without ever mentioning your products or business. You are now positioning yourself in their minds as a true “center of influence.” People are very receptive to meeting with, and receiving business advice from, centers of influence.

Whether meeting new people in a one-on-one situation during any day and for whatever reason, or meeting people at small or large gatherings, following the above will help you to very quickly build your names list with high-quality people, and in a way that is fun for both you and your prospect. You’ll never again have to feel the “discomfort” in the pit of your stomach, knowing that you have to nervously and clumsily approach someone who you don’t want to approach, and whom you can just sense, does not want to be approached.

*This article was previously published in the September 2006 issue of Software Sales Journal.

Try to Impress Your Prospect: Lose the Sale

By Paul McCord, President, McCord Training

Knowledge should be one of the most powerful tools in our toolbox.

Knowing how to use specialized industry vocabularies should also be one of our basic and power tools.

In reality, for many of us, knowledge and specialized lingo are powerful—in costing us business.

Naturally a great many new salespeople are tempted to try to impress prospects and clients by demonstrating their product knowledge and slinging their newly learned industry vocabulary around. They tend to oversell, answer questions no prospect has ever had, dazzle with words the prospect and client may not be familiar with. They talk about the fine points of their product or service; discuss how their service or product will impact ROI; how best to onboard new employees or products or services; how their product or service creates a new paradigm to address the prospect’s issues or needs; and the list goes on.

Impact ROI? I see, you mean whether or not it makes me more money than it costs. Onboarding new employees or products or services? I get it, you mean purchasing and integrating a new product or service or hiring and orienting a new employee. Creating a new paradigm to address issues or needs? You mean a different way of dealing with the problem, right?

You can say ROI, onboarding, or paradigm, or you could just talk to your prospect. Some say that if you want credibility with your prospects and clients you have to speak their language. I don’t have a problem with that in the least—if you’re actually speaking your prospect’s language. But how many prospects actually talk about onboarding a new product or service or creating a new paradigm to address an issue or problem? And there’s certainly something to be said about just talking to the prospect in plain English.

And very often new sellers butcher their newly acquired vocabulary and confound and frustrate their prospects with their enthusiastic demonstration of their knowledge of the minutiae of their product or service. Many lose more sales than they capture because of their lack of discipline and their need to impress.

Unfortunately I’ve noticed over the past three years that this desire to impress isn’t confined to new sellers. I consistently run across experienced sellers who should know better that are making the same rookie mistakes. The only real difference between these experienced sellers and new salespeople is experienced sellers tend to have a better grasp of the industry lingo.

In the current tough selling environment even experienced sellers are falling into the trap of trying to oversell and to impress with their knowledge and ‘deep’ understanding of the prospect’s issues. We tend to pull out all the stops and often end up losing our discipline and the prospect’s attention. We try to force the sale.

Rather than creating new clients, we end up alienating them.

Whether you’re a relatively new seller bursting with enthusiasm and wanting to impress your prospects or an experienced seller feeling the pressure to produce, you need to step back and relax. Giving in to the pressure to oversell and force the sale is self defeating. Address your prospect’s needs and leave the unnecessary demonstration of knowledge and the impressive vocabulary at the office.