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THE ISSUE:
Someone you’ve been referred to can’t be reached and isn’t returning your calls.  Nothing else can happen until this is done.  It’s frustrating.  But, it can be addressed.

THE INSIGHT/S:
Assume your referrals are distracted and self-absorbed.  Why?  Because they are!  Consequently, ‘breaking through the clutter’ won’t be easy unless you can appeal to what they perceive to be either a) potential threats to their safety or life and/or b) possible opportunities that will improve their position.

THE RECOMMENDATION:
Focus someone’s attention on what they don’t know . . . and ignorance isn’t going to be bliss, either!

THE ACTIONS:

Research . . . your referral to learn what would cause PAIN or offer GAIN

Appeal . . . to your referral’s self interest . . . based on what your research suggests

Wait . . . for a response from your referral . . . it will happen if you’ve done the above correctly

You’re Invited . . .
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Granted, the title sounds a bit naughty, doesn’t it?  But it’s true!

The prestigious Harvard Business Review recently published an article that validates this is, in fact, true.

This particular article originated from a 2006 study in which the researchers demonstrated a direct connection between moral purity and physical purity.  It’s actually called The Macbeth Effect.

In the rather gory Shakespearean play, Macbeth . . .  Lady Macbeth literally has ‘blood on her hands’ and indulges in incessant hand-washing as a result.

Lady Macbeth’s famous line, “Out, out…spot”  wasn’t referring to the dog who wanted to go out to do his business.  It was actually the blood on her hands from the intrigues of the play that prompted that line.  But, I digress . . . 🙂

Why Business Networking Makes You Feel Dirty

Believing that moral lapses lead to physical feelings of being impure or ‘dirty’, these brave social scientists set out to test their hypothesis that when you engage in business networking — it evokes feelings of being non-authentic (ergo ‘dirty’) more often and more intensely than if you engage in social networking with your friends.

I won’t bore you with their marvelous methodology, but . . . they proved their hypothesis!

There IS a correlation between engaging in business networking that produces feelings of being ‘unclean’ that social networking doesn’t generate.  Which, is why we sometime hear someone say, “I need to take a shower after going to a networking event”.  In many ways, they’re not kidding!

Networking Isn’t The Problem, It’s Your Motivation For Doing It

The research study didn’t just reveal that many people feel, well . . . ‘dirty’ when they network for business, they revealed an important insight into why!

One of the groups examined in this study was lawyers.  (Please, no jokes).

The researchers looked at how senior partners vs. newer associates in a law firm felt after engaging in business networking.  They found senior partners felt LESS ‘dirty’ as a result of networking activity than the newer associates felt after doing the very same thing.

It’s About Value . . . Who’s Got It and Who Needs It

The conclusion of the study was that business networking is an activity that does not, by itself, make anyone feel dirty. But the degree of self-interest being exhibited by someone in a networking exchange was far more likely to determine if they felt dirty or not.

Think about it.  The partners were going into a networking exchange with (usually) more value than their junior associates.  In their case, value meant these partners were bringing substantial resources into a networking exchange — their extensive network of connections, access to resources of all kinds, etc. was much greater than what a junior legal associate might bring into a networking exchange.

Are You a ‘Giver’ or a ‘Taker’?

On the other hand, a newer associate has relatively less power to bring into a networking exchange and a lot of reason to seek to take something valuable out of it — can you help me find a good position, can you mentor me in the firm, can you tell me who are the players in town, etc. These newer legal associates bring more need than power into a networking exchange and, that generates feelings that make them feel ‘needy’ and that’s not a good feeling to have.  Neither is feeling dirty.  See the connection?

“Is This About Me or . . . About You?”

The study concluded that you’re LESS likely to feel dirty from business networking IF:

1) you believe you have valuable ‘resources’ — contacts, information, etc. — to offer, and

2) you seek to give value to others more than you seek to gain value for yourself

That makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it?

untitledTake an extreme situation.  Let’s say you’re playing ‘Santa Claus’ for a kid’s holiday party.  Everybody’s going to love you.  So why would your role as the great benefactor (Santa) and the ‘resources’  you bring (presents) make you feel badly or, ‘dirty’ in any way?  Answer: it wouldn’t be possible!

Now take a different but equally ‘extreme’ situation.  You’ve lost your job.  You haven’t been able to find another.  You’re low on funds.  You’re feeling depressed, hungry and getting a little desperate, too.  You hear about a Community Christmas party sponsored by The Salvation Army.  There will be food and gifts for the homeless and unemployed.

You never saw yourself ever attending an event like this when you were working but, this year, things have changed.  Drastically.  You decide to attend.  Reluctantly.

So why are you attending?  Are you planning to give anything to anyone.  Nope.  Your motivation is to take value for yourself.

Nothing wrong with that.  Especially if you’re going through a difficult time in your life.  But that also changes your mental framework of the ‘exchange’ event from one where your motivation is to give . . . to one where your motivation is to take . . . value away from the exchange.

The BIG Takeaways!

Networking is a Contact Sport
If you want to network effectively, you have to go and show up.  Networking is, by definition, a ‘contact’ sport. Like the lottery commercials say, “You can’t win if you don’t play”.

Framework Matters
If you don’t view networking in a positive light, you’ll find all kinds of reasons not to do it.  And, if you don’t do it (or, rarely), you won’t develop this important business building skill.

Attitude Matters
An attitude that empowers you to network with others comes when you see yourself as:

1)  bringing great value to others in every exchange you have with people, and

2)  seeking to give your value to others more than you seek gain for yourself

BNI’s Ivan Meisner had it right long ago – “Givers Gain”.  Now you know why!

Life is a Party . . . And You’re The Host
My mother was very successful in real estate.  Her career spanned 42 years.  She threw a lot of parties over the years.  Invariably, she would greet a guest when they arrived and say, “I’m so glad you’re here.  Come with me . . . I have someone I want you to meet”.  Mom was connector.  She was always adding value to other people in her own inimitable way.

One day I asked her the secret for her success.  She said, “Billy, life is a party.  You’re the host.  You’re responsible for making everyone feel good for attending your party.  Do that and you’ll be successful.”  And that’s why I use the phrase, “I want to be a party to your party”.  Life’s good.  Networking makes it even better.  Seeking to serve others ultimately serves you, too.

POINT:
You’re The HOST — it’s your party to share your value with with your guests.

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“How often do you change your value statement . . . AKA . . . your ‘Elevator Pitch’?”

I ask that of people I meet with in workshops and in passing conversations.  Those who say they “rarely change” fall into 1 of 2 camps:

  1. they’ve not given the subject a lot of thought, or
  2. they’ve found something that works and they’re not going to ‘fix what ain’t broken’

But most of the time I hear, “I’m always changing it — when I find one I like, I’ll let you know!”.

The Search for a Good Elevator Pitch Never Ends

While I’m all for having a short, targeted statement that resonates with someone who may find the value proposition you offer is of interest, it’s just a the ‘first move’ in a larger game of marketing ‘chess’.

It may help you capture the attention of a potential prospect, but it’s not going to close a sale. In fact, there’s a long way between your ‘opening gambit’ and the ‘checkmate’ move that ends the game!

What you may want to give as much (if not more!) thought to is what is your value proposition?  That’s not necessarily something that fits the one-size-fits-all approach, nor is it something that you can give out as quickly and easily as an elevator pitch.

Your Value Proposition Is Not Your Elevator Pitch

If your elevator pitch is useful in ‘opening the game’ — like a good serve in tennis or a solid drive off the tee, your value proposition is what sustains the game to a decisive conclusion.

Your value proposition is the ultimate basis for a qualified prospect making a decision to do business with you.  Or, not.  The latter being true if you’re not a good fit for one another.

How Your Value Proposition and Elevator Pitch Differ

An effective elevator pitch must answer two questions:

  1. “Are you relevant . . . to me?”
  2. “What benefit will I enjoy . . . as a result of working with you?”

The relevance issue . . .
is easily addressed by defining or communicating WHO . . . is your ideal client.  One of my clients likes to say, “I work with business owners who are 55 years old or older . . .”.  That’s pretty clear and, I can tell you from her feedback, it’s pretty effective in quickly engaging the attention and interest (or, curiosity) of people who are over 55 and own a closely-held business.

The benefit issue . . .
is easily addressed by pointing out, in a very tangible way, what someone stands to gain (or, avoid losing) as a result of using the problem-solving expertise, products and/or services of the person who’s answering the questions, “What DO you do?”  Another client describes the beneficial difference he makes in a client’s life this way: “I help my clients achieve their 5 year plan goals in 3 years or less”.  Again, a measurable outcome he offers as a meaningful benefit that attracts the attention and  engages the interest of someone he’s just met.

If your elevator pitch is a one-size-fits-all statement of WHO and WHY, your value proposition is more of a custom-tailored response that perfectly addresses the questions:

  1. “Why You?” and
  2. “Why Not?”

Why YOU? . . .
The fancy-schmancy marketing term this suggests is ‘positioning’ or ‘differentiating’.

It goes to the issue that, all other things being equal, what makes you the preferred provider of the beneficial solution to the problem that you used your elevator pitch to capture my attention back when we first met?

If you’re no different — or, better — than other providers of the solution I may (now) be interested in . . . any competitor with a clear and compelling reason to chose them over you could . . . beat you out at the box-office.  So you’d best find out why you’re not only different but better than the alternatives.

Why NOT? . . .
In sales, there’s an old adage that says, “A decision to do nothing, is still a decision”.  I’d argue it’s the default decision that each of us must assume when talking with a prospective client.  They’ve been doing something before we showed up and they may feel that’s good enough UNLESS . . . they learn of a compelling reason to do something different.

This raises the issue of ‘risk’.  No one likes to make a mistake.  So they make a decision to do no thing that will change their situation — for the better or, the worse.  It’s a big reason behind why people don’t take actions that could, potentially, benefit them.

You probably hear of many people who didn’t jump back into the stock market after the big crash in 2008 out of fear of getting ______’ed again.  But they lost out on the recovery, too.

You’ll need to manage the risk of action vs. inaction in the value proposition you offer someone or they may just decide to ‘stay put’.  And that, for both of you, may be more costly than either of you like.

The 3 Keys . . . To a Successful Value Proposition

If you want to build a value proposition that will move people to make a decision about working with you, consider what you must address with whatever and however you communicate it . . .

Interest . . . you must focus your prospect’s attention on WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?).  Everyone has more choices for investing their time and money than they have time and money to invest.  Unless you’re talking about what your prospect cares about, you’ll be talking to yourself before too long!  So focus on the benefit you offer and hit it . . . hard and quickly.

Competitive Position . . . despite what your mother told you, you are not the only game in town.  You have competition.  You know it.  Your prospects know it, too.  So embrace the obvious.  The ‘elephant’ in the room. How?  By acknowledging your prospects’ alternatives to you.  Reference your competitors and position who you are, what you offer and how you’re better . . . relative to your alleged competitors.

Avis rental cars claimed, “We’re #2, we (have to) try harder”.  By adopting that position, they re-positioned the #1 car rental company (Hertz) very effectively . . . “They’re #1 . . . they don’t have to . . . (give a _ _ _ _!)”.

Credibility . . . prospects are not clients (yet) because they’re already doing some thing else!  Think about it.  They are already doing some-thing by simply doing no-thing . . . with you or anyone else in your field!  A decision to do nothing is still a decision to do something . . . to maintain their status quo.  Why do people do this?

Life coaches Walt Hampton and Ann Sheybani teach that the desire to avoid possible pain is, for most of us, more powerful than the desire to make changes that may lead to greater gain.  We may want to ‘steal 2nd base’ but we know keeping our foot on first base won’t get us tossed out of the game.

Never mind that doing no-thing may be more costly than some-thing you may be suggesting.  We don’t make changes easily until we believe the cost of doing nothing (different) poses a greater risk of loss than the benefit we may gain by doing something new, different, and . . . possibly better.

Your value proposition must address these three issues — interest, position and credibility. How?  Often with client testimonials that your prospect can relate to as credible parties whose situation was similar to what their’s is now and whose outcomes were more promising to seek than maintain the status quo they’re living with now.

POINT:
Your Elevator Pitch can start the game, but a solid Value Proposition can close the sale for you

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I just received an email from a dear friend . . . Kathy Vincello who helps smaller business owners manage their finances as a QuickBooks Advisor and VFA (Virtual Financial Assistant).

Whatever you do . . . I hope you realize the IMPACT you have when you exchange value with a fellow business owner.

Here’s what she just sent to me . . . WOW!

When you stop and think about it . . . it’s so true.

I recall a very wise mentor of mine who once said, “If you can infuse the majesty of what you’re doing into the mundane  actions you’re required to do . . . you will never feel you are stuck doing ‘little’ jobs because EVERY job is . . . magnificent!”

Well said, Kathy . . . well said.  ‘-)

By the way, if you (or, someone you know!) ever needs a truly quality individual to handle your virtual bookkeeping needs . . . just call Kathy and you’ll be very glad you did . . .

I just read where Apple has become a largely iPhone company.

In 2012 Q1, the iPhone generated 58% of Apple’s revenue.  58%!!!

A mere 5 years ago, Apple didn’t even have the iPhone, much less the enviable position in the cell-phone marketplace it now commands.

So I guess the blog title isn’t quite correct, eh?  Some things DO change.  But wait . . .

What Made This Possible?  
Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, in a related story, talked about why Apple would remain a ‘top choice’ even though some cell-phone carrier subsidies may be reduced in the future:
“. . . our focus is on making . . . a phone that delivers an off-the-charts user experience that customers want. At the end of the day, I think that carriers . . . want to provide what their customers want to buy.”

An ‘OFF THE CHARTS USER EXPERIENCE’
Ironically, while the MODE of Apple’s revenues has changed to reflect it’s huge success with the iPhone, the BASIS of what makes Apple so successful has NOT changed.

As Cook pointed out, Apple’s ‘secret sauce’ is to create such a compelling and exquisite experience for people who buy and use Apple products that, all things being equal, there’s really no basis for comparison with an Apple product.

There’s a lesson there . . . I hope you see it.  More importantly, I hope you APPLY it!

KEY POINT:
Understanding what your client wants . . . and providing it in an elegant and compelling manner . . . generates an experience that produces repeat sales, increasing revenues, more profit-ability and growing brand loyalty.   

In the end, clients want . . . a valued result.  That’s what they’re buying from you.

How you make that desirable result happen for a client, while important, is less critical to generating a client than understanding what they want and why that’s important to them.

“I’m Getting a New Knee”
Some years ago, I received a call from my mother who had moved to Ft. Lauderdale, FL for her retirement.  She said, “I’m going to do it, Bill!”  Mom seemed rather excited and I was very confused.  “You’re going to do WHAT, mom?”  That’s when I learned that ‘it’ was a ‘total knee replacement’ –– a serious surgical procedure.

I was a little freaked out at hearing that.  I asked, “Why are doing that, mom?”  “I just want a new knee”.  Again, I asked, “Why?”  Mom replied, “I just want to dance again, Bill”.

How It All Happened
Mom told me she’d been invited to a ‘lunch ‘n learn’ session sponsored by her church.  As she entered the gym/theater of the church, she heard music playing and saw all these people (some of whom she knew) dancing upon on the stage!  As people continued to arrive, the music and dancing continued.  Apparently to the delight of those in attendance, I’m sure.

The Shortest and Most Expensive Presentation . . . EVER!
Mom told me that once everyone was seated, the minister welcomed the guests and introduced the doctor who was speaking that day.  “Dr. _______ (name not used to protect the guilty!) is an orthopedic surgeon at the Holy Cross Hospital here in Ft. Lauderdale.  He’s an expert on Total Knee Replacement surgery. Blah, blah, blah . . . so now, without further ado, I give you . . . Dr. so-and-so”.

The doctor then stood up and gave a 1 minute presentation to the people at mom’s church:

“I won’t bore you with all the details of knee replacement surgery — as fascinating as that is to me.  Instead, what I’d like you all to learn today, before you return to your lunch, is this:  Everyone you saw dancing on this stage when you came in today . . . is a patient of mine.  They had been unable to dance BEFORE they had knee replacement surgery. Many of them attended a lunch ‘n learn similar to this one today and, like many of you, required canes, walkers and even wheelchairs to simply get around.  After surgery, they’ve been able to dance and do many other things they feared they’d lost the ability to do ever again. 

Then, he ‘closed’ his presentation very simply (and highly effectively!):  “If you have any questions about whether you may be a qualified candidate for knee replacement surgery . . . please see me before you leave.  Thank you”.

And THAT . . . is all it took to get my mom to ‘go for it!’ and get the surgery.

KEY POINTS:
•  Prospects for your services want to know the RESULT you offer, not the way you create it
•  Gaining access to quality prospects in an ‘endorsed’ manner is a huge help
•  Be laser-focused on your point — it means a shorter message and . . . better results!

How do you communicate the essence of your Mission to your market?  Your Message, of course!

Actually, there are many messages you can use to do that . . .

Message
You’ve heard, I’m sure, about ‘Elevator’ pitches — the short, pithy ‘commercial’ you can use with a stranger to help them think you’re ‘All That’?  Well, that’s not the same ‘message’ I have in mind here.

Behavior Speaks Louder Than Words
There are messages and then there are messages.  I’d like you to think about this.  You want to find a way to be so clear about your Mission that your Market really understands why you’re a better provider of what you do than others in your field.

I worked with a remodeling contractor once.  He paid his workers to wash their trucks each night, paid for them to dryclean their uniforms (yeah, he gave them uniforms, too) and insisted that they always put on surgical booties before entering a home to do a proposal or actual work.

What do you think all that did?  It gave a lasting and memorable Message that this man cares about what his customers care about . . . their home!  Think you can find some ways to get your Message across without using a big neon sign?  I hope so!

KEY POINT:
Messaging isn’t always about words said or put on paper . . . Actions speak for themselves! 

This week will be focused on five (5) keys to getting better at marketing the services you offer.

First up:  MISSION
Sure, it sounds like you’re about to launch off the deck of an aircraft carrier.  But sorry.  No. You’re not going to have to do anything like that.

What you will do, however, is find what is known as the ‘Beneficial Difference’ you make in the life of your client.

It’s WHAT you do ‘for’ someone and, it’s WHY they care to part with their hard-earned funds and hand them over to you.

One of the best ‘Missions’ I’ve ever heard:
You’ve probably heard the VP at Craftsman — the Sears subsidiary that argued, “We don’t sell hand-drills . . . we sell holes”  or the executives at Kodak that said, “We don’t sell film (well, not anymore!) . . . we sell memories”.

But the ‘top prize’ has to go to Helena Rubenstein, the cosmetics mogul who once was reported to say to a reporter, “I am not in the cosmetics business, dear . . . I’m in the “I want to get lucky on Saturday night’ business . . . and if I forget that, I won’t sell very many cosmetics!”

KEY POINT:
Mission . . . is the beneficial difference you make in the life of your client 

If you meet someone at a business event, a conference, etc. you have a very (VERY!) short window of opportunity to communicate your value proposition to them.

16 Seconds . . . it’s all you really need!
Here’s a product that’s using a YouTube video to explain what it does . . . in 16 seconds:

Can you do as well?  If not, study this little video . . . you might learn a lot . . . about clarity and focus and getting your value across.

KEY POINT:
Making your message . . . moving . . . takes work . . . but not a lot of time 

Ever wondered what your prospect wants?

Ever get someone something ‘less than’ what they wanted for a holiday gift?

Was it because you simply did not take the time to learn what mattered to them? Regardless, once you blew it, you blew it.

Gift Giving for Your Prospects? (no, it’s not what you think!)
I’m not pitching anything.  But I will suggest that you give a very powerful and deeply appreciated ‘gift’ — your commitment to care enough to learn what matters to your prospective client.

We all have hopes and fears and dreams and . . . well, you get the idea.  Your prospects are people who have been frustrated at getting their dreams to become reality, their fears to go away and their hopes to have a chance in you-know-what of actually happening.

“Givers Get” — Ivan Meisner, Founder of BNI
Ivan’s advice to networkers is very true for you, too.  IF . . . you give a prospect your considered attention and sincere interest in learning what will make them happy, you’re likely to make a sale to make that happen.

Bonus Question:  “Why do you think I chose the image for this post?”  Do you really know . . . me?

KEY POINT:
Hopes, fears and dreams . . . all make the world go round and . . . the deals go down!