Working Toward a 3 Sentence Rule

Number 5 on post-it | 5-sentence rule | 3-sentence rule | productivityI have a virtual mentor by the name of Chris Ducker. I refer to him as virtual because we live on different continents, and because he mentors hundreds of people like me as part of an online community.

Chris has this great 3-sentence rule that he applies to all emails. Surely he makes an exception now and then, but I believe he relentlessly  stands by his rule. I love this rule, and I totally get it!

The reason behind the rule in one word

Chris includes a link in his signature line that explains the his 3-sentence rule. He sums up the reason in one word–productivity. While it’s true that some emails require a more lengthy response, three sentences will do in most cases. I’ve consider myself to be fairly brief in my own email responses, although this wasn’t always the case. Then I started trying to consistently reply in three sentences or less. It’s not easy.

Does 5 sentences or less work?

I find that I’m both comfortable and confident replying to emails in five sentences or less. I’m also comfortable and confident that I’ll work my way down to a 3 sentence rule like Chris. I simply need to remind myself that this allows me to respond to the people who deserve a response, and to do so in a concise manner. Most everyone I know values their time at least as much as I do; so I figure I’m doing us all a favor. It’s definitely helpful to those of us who receive 100+ emails per day.

Do you have a 3 or 5 sentence philosophy for email replies?

Spreading the Word About Your New Business

I’m always asking new subscribers and community members the following question.

What’s your #1 biggest challenge right now when it comes to growing your business?

Challenge | growing a business | networking

One of our newest community members responded – “My biggest challenge right now is simply spreading the word about my new practice. I’m a start up right out of school…”

Similar responses I’ve heard from other community members include:

  1. One of my challenges for growing my business is exposure to new people…
  2. My biggest challenge right now would have to be getting the word out about my business…
  3. My biggest challenge currently is that I’m new to the area and don’t know anyone…
  4. The hardest part of growing a business for me personally has been starting in a new career in a area…
  5. My number one challenge right now is name flow. I don’t have much of a warm market…
  6. The biggest issue now is getting more quality leads for our product.

Here’s what I suggest to those of you operating service based businesses or who provide other services that require good old fashion person-to-person / people-to-people / face time–and I’m not referring to the iPhone app.

Networking is going to be a huge factor in your initial success. Here are my thoughts on your best options, and in no particular order. Everyone has to find their own jam, so to speak.

Attend networking events – Use social sites such as Meetup.com, Eventbrite.com and Facebook to find events in your area.

Organize and host your own events – You don’t necessarily have limit the event themes to your industry. Branch out a little. People are not surprisingly interested in things like art, photography, gardening, and more.

Join a networking organization or group – Whatever group you choose, be very actively involved. It’ll get you noticed.

Create a networking group – As an example, starting your own leads group or mastermind group. Even if you don’t successfully get a group going, the exercise of pitching a group is going to get you in front of more people.

Volunteer – Do this because you want to make a difference, but also be sure to introduce your self and be very actively involved.

For questions about any of these tactics, you can always reach me via our Facebook or Twitter (@partner4leads).

P4L’s Stance Tardiness & Leaving Meetings Early

What’s the P4L policy on tardiness and leaving meetings early?

A recurring question from group leaders is “What’s the P4L policy on tardiness and leaving meetings early?” Having started and managed several referral based leads groups within and outside of P4L, the best practices are common across the board.

Looking at watch, running late, leaving early

Best Practice: If you arrive 10 minutes late or leave the meeting more than 10 minutes early, you are counted absent.

That’s it, but there is an intersection between best practice and policy. As  group leader, I always exercised discretion and encouraged my team to do the same. Here’s what I mean.

Where best practice meets policy

I’m not prone to penalizing superstar members. Yes, I’m talking preferential treatment for those who are exceptional contributors to the group. I’m also not a fan of penalizing members who have truly extenuating circumstances surrounding an infraction. The fact is that you and your leadership team can be as flexible or as rigid as you want. It’s all about using your discretion as the situation warrants.

Should a member bother attending if they’re going to be 10 minutes late or leave 10 minutes early? Heck yeah! Why miss an opportunity to meet a future client or to get a referral. As group members, we’re always making first impressions, which is where better late than never applies.

How would you feel if I was 10 minutes late to a meeting with your best client?

For anyone who thinks this policy is remotely unreasonable, I ask the following. How would you feel if I was 10 minutes late to a meeting with your best client, someone you referred to me? I hope the answer is not too happy.

Looking at watch, running late, leaving early

Implementing this best practice the right way.

Implementing this best practice for tardiness and early departure the right way is pretty simple.

  1. Notify members via a group email
  2. Make an in meeting announcement
  3. Recap the best practice implementation in a post-meeting group email
  4. Rinse & repeat as necessary

And as always, contact yours truly if you have questions or require a little extra guidance.

Looking at watch, running late, leaving early

Building a Virtual Team to Grow Your Business

My coach and many of my peers frequently talk about the importance of building a team for one’s business. Today, it’s easier than ever to build a virtual team, sometimes referred to as a distributed workforce.

You may start out as I have, creating a virtual team on a contract basis and for specific sets of tasks. While I may be hiring for a specific set of tasks, I’m primarily hiring for a specific set of skills. A common way to find people for specific sets of tasks or projects are through services like Virtual Staff Finder and Upwork.

Upwork.com on payment
Upwork.com Illustration on Payment

I’ve found myself building a virtual team in order to move the proverbial needle. The more I want to accomplish, the more I need a team. My intent with this story is to share with you, how I’ve used services like Upwork and 99Designs for graphic design and audio editing services.

Sometimes it makes sense to hire locally

Sometimes it makes sense to hire locally, and I’ve done this too. Other times, hiring a virtual team member or running a contest is the way to go. Your reasons can vary, but it’s flexibility that technology and today’s economy offer to growing businesses and brand builders.

My latest hire has been through Upwork, a marketplace for both freelancers and businesses looking to hire.  Within Upwork, you can either find and hire freelancers or you can become a freelancer. You can also do both, but this would require two separate accounts.

To hire freelancers, you simply create a client account, post a job, and Upwork will provide you with a short list of freelancer recommendations. I recall having to tweak my job posting, but it didn’t take long for me to find qualified candidates and to ultimately hone in on the right one.

Using freelancers & virtual staff to grow your business

Upwork does screen its freelancers, but you’ll have to screen for the one that meets your requirements. The nice thing is that you can see freelancer ratings and their Upwork job history. Candidates are required to submit a proposal to you, and you have the ability to schedule a call with them.

Now I’ve heard several horror stories, and I’ve heard success stories. My impression is that some people are not good at setting expectations for their hires, which of course leads to problems. Setting expectations requires thoughtful communication. In the end, if you make a bad hire, you make a quick fire.

Hiring well is a learned skill

Hiring well is a learned skill, and one that I’m still learning. Upwork offers lots of great tips, and you might check out articles and books on hiring. I love this Harvard Business Review article on the hiring practices of Automattic.

You can arguably find the best tips for hiring, be it for employees or freelancers, by speaking with someone who has a track record for hiring great people. Don’t know anyone with this track record? Ask your network.

 

New Membership Acquisition

“Acquisition” sounds a bit impersonal, but we all want new members. Here’s why…

  • New members bring new business opportunities
  • New members bring new opportunities to serve others
  • Every new member ensures your group’s sustainability

Part of getting new members is inviting people to check out your group. I’ve written plenty about this, but if your new or just want a refresher, check out these blog posts.

Best techniques for inviting guests

Driving a weekly guest parade

Plant, leaves, seeds, growth

The Membership Directive

The guest break out session of part of the bigger process called The Membership Directive. It all begins when a guest walks in the door to your group meeting. It is conducted by a group leader, such as a member of your Membership Directive team; but an important behind-the-scene function that all members should have a basic understanding of.

Key Points of the Guest-Breakout Conversation

Here are the key points of the guest-breakout conversation.

Start by asking, “What do you think of our group meeting so far?” Then take note of any questions. You’ll be able to answer them in the minutes that follow. Next explain what the group is all about and what being a regular looks like.

Here are your specific talking points.

  1. Our group is relationship-first business community
  2. We meet weekly and ask all members to send someone in their step, if they expect to be absent
  3. We’re expected to meet 1-on-1 with each other, on a recurring and rotating basis. This helps build our relationship first culture.
  4. Everyone is expected to give at least 1 referral per month, to another member in the group
  5. Expected to bring 1 guest per month to a group meeting
  6. Our group is membership based group and professional exclusive
  7. The path to membership is to first visit two meetings, so we’d like to invite you back to attend our next meeting
  8. There’s a $50 onetime fee to join our group + a monthly membership fee, but it’s only $50/month.
  9. First we want you to visit again to make sure that our group is a good mutual fit for you and your business
  10. If all goes well following your next visit, you apply for membership online

Close by asking, “Do you have any questions before we return to the meeting?”

You can read more about our Membership Directive process and best practices in this blog post.

Membership Growth

Did you like or do you have questions about this post? Leave a comment below.

When is the Timing Right to Give an Outside Lead?

Here’s an important question that referral leads group members should ask of one another. When is the timing right to give an outside lead? Put another way, when is the timing right for referring someone outside of your group to another member? Right now, or yesterday are the obvious answers.

Owning a Prospect’s Trust

Building relationships old and new will help you give (and receive) outside leads | People hanging out in grassThe fact is, we can’t refer someone as an outside lead without owning that person’s trust, especially if you’re referring them to someone who provides a big ticket product or service. If you’re referring to someone in financial services or say a business coach, you really need the prospect’s trust. You also need a certain level of own credibility, and a reputation for surrounding yourself with exceptional people–people who deliver crazy amounts of value.

Do you deliver crazy amounts of value?

Do you provide the kind of value and expertise that earns the trust of your clients? If not, you have a big fat obstacle on your hands; but let’s assume for the sake of argument, that you have a reputation that screams trust, credibility, and value bombs. In this case, you have the trust of your clients and prospects. You’re good to go, right? Maybe.

Placing trust in your referral partner

Asking good questions and really listening will help build strong relationships, and might even produce an outside lead | People hanging in cafe, a view from oustide windowHere’s another important question referral leads group members should ask of one another. Do I trust my referral partners?

In order to refer one of your group member referral partners, you need to trust that they can and will deliver value at the highest level. Well do you trust your referral partners? If the answer is anything but yes, the next question is why not? Here’s a possibility. You haven’t taken the time to really know them and their business. Your weekly meetings and recurring/rotating 1-on-1s are instruments for deepening partner relationships and trust. Leverage them.

If you have any concerns with any of your partners, it’s time to have some honest and open discussion. By doing so, you’ll help your member partner and you’ll help your group. Or you could just never refer them and hope that they eventually go away, but I would encourage discourse. Open and honest discussion provides the best chance for you and your partner(s) to overcome situations where trust and confidence are lacking.

The Opportune Time to Give an Outside Lead

The opportune time to give an outside lead will present itself if you’re listening to your prospects–really listening. You can improve your chances of finding these opportune moments by asking better questions. Better questions are those that give you insight into a prospect’s business. If you’re really good at asking questions, you’ll also get insights into your prospects personal life, what keeps them up at night, and why the do what they do. You might even get them asking you questions about your business, your personal life, and your why. The aforementioned trust is all about relationships. You already have some of those relationships. You also have opportunities to improve existing relationship, and to develop new ones. The simple truth where creating and nurturing relationships is concerned, is that you need to be seen and heard in order do create and nurture them. You need to regularly meet with people, with new people. You need to meet with friends, old friends, new friends and friends you’ve not yet made. Go to networking events. Host networking events. Join groups. Volunteer. Schmooze a little, and remember to listen.

What’s an Outside Lead and Why You Need Them

What is an outside lead?

Very specifically, an outside lead is a referral to someone who is NOT a member of your group, but who has direct interest in services provided by a member of your group.

Here’s a specific example.

Member A, we’ll call her Annie, is your group’s Photographer. She specializes in photographing people, and even more specifically, loves working with professional musicians.

Member B, let’s call him Hunter, offers Copy Writing services as a member of your group.

  • Hunter knows a professional musician by the name of Michael (NOT a member of your group)
  • Michael is looking for a photographer to do promo shots his band’s upcoming tour
  • Hunter tells Michael about Annie, highly recommending her photography services
  • Michael expresses interest in connecting with Annie.
  • Hunter introduces Annie to Michael

That is an outside lead!

photo: Two professionals walking

Another example is involves a referral to someone who is of direct strategic interest to a member of your group. You can learn more about this type of referral by checking out this blog post.

Here’s why you needs outside leads.

You can refer yourself to other members to your hearts content, but doing only this will limit the growth potential of your business and the businesses of your co-members. It will also limit the membership growth potential of your entire group, predicated on the fact that the value of a group is largely measured on the quality of referral lead activity. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with members doing business with one another. In fact it’s encouraged; but the fact remains that real and ongoing sales growth comes by way of outside leads. This ongoing sales growth in turn raises the value proposition of membership and the group as a whole.

Your group and P4L is a relationship first community, based on a philosophy of abundance and giving. Give outside leads to others, and the universe will send outside leads your way. This assumes your also giving lots of value to others and that you’re really good at what you do.

Have thoughts on this topic? Leave me a comment below.

Photo of women in bakery business

Ask Better Questions and Listen More

Asking better questionsThe topic of asking better questions came up recently in conversation in the context of having productive 1-on-1 meetings.  The person with whom I was having the discussion suggested that everyone talks about asking better questions, but so few people do so.  He went so far as to ask me what questions should we be asking?  That in and of itself is a tough question.

In the setting of a 1-on-1, where I’m trying to learn about someone’s business and their specific customer needs, I typically ask the following two questions.

“Tell me about a project you’re currently working on, or a client with whom you recently worked?”

The response will give me a better picture of the business in question (and the business person). Continue reading Ask Better Questions and Listen More

Membership Growth

Membership Growth is the Product of Two Components

Growing the membership in a referral leads group comes down to the following.

  1. Inviting Guests
  2. Intentional and Methodical Follow-up

Inviting guests is addressed in one of our earliest posts on creating a guest parade, so the focus of this article will be on the follow-up component.

Intentional Follow-up

Intentional follow-up is driven by your group’s Membership Director and her team.  Your Membership Director leads the charge in follow-up that is intentional and intended to qualify member candidates and bring them into the fold of membership.  Here are a few very important points that your Membership Director will communicate to guests on their first visit, during the Guest Breakout Session. Continue reading Membership Growth

Promoting Referral Partners Through Your Social Network

We’ve written about it in the past, but it’s worth reiterating the importance of actively referring your partners. Reason one is that by letting clients know that you’re a hub of resources, you’re strengthening your client relationships; and strong relationships improves your chances for more business. Reason two is that actively referring your partners plays into the “givers gain” philosophy. It’s human nature to want to help those who have helped us.

Part of referring your partners involves actively seeking out opportunities to do so. Promoting partners in your social network can be an effective way to let clients and friends know that a) you’re involved in a referral group and b) that you’re a resource hub. Like any marketing activity, regularity and repetition is key. Social media is a great way to promote your partners on a weekly basis. Choose a partner to promote weekly, focusing first on your your Professional Pod (i.e. ideal referral partners). As with your one-on-one meetings, make your Pod the initial focus, and then expand outward to others in your referral group and sphere of influence.

Here are some examples of social media posts that you can use to promote your partners.

Facebook post screenshot for Copacabana Design USA

 

 

 

 

 

 

Twitter screen shot promoting Partner4Leads group

 

 

 

Your Partner4Leads group website includes easy to use links to Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter (Posting About Your Group on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn). Get creative and get social when promoting your partners and group. It’s easy exposure and could help you find your next client or referral partner.