Connecting and Staying Connected for Business Longevity and Life

Connecting and staying connected is important to business longevity. Connecting is about inviting people into our business lives, our communities, and our weird personal worlds. We hear a lot about authenticity these days, and that’s what we’re talking about here, at least to the extent that when we connect the right way, we let people in on the proverbial inside. We give them a glance of who we are, something that only insiders get to see. Connecting also presents opportunity for friendship, collaboration, and growth, both personal and professional.

It’s a unique time we live in, because we’re able to maintain connections like never before, both online and offline. While we can give much thanks to social media for this, it’s by no means all about social likes and follows. Even so, social has arguably improved the means by which we can connect offline. Social event sites like Partner4Leads.com, Eventbrite, Meetup.com and others, bring the power of event promotions right to our inboxes. And though we have a twisted love affair with our inboxes, we can’t life from within them. Thank goodness we have so many events to choose from, events at which we can connect and reconnect. Social media, along with email marketing, also empowers us to knowledge-share & give, give, give value. Everybody loves real value. Social and email also affords us the ability to maintain existing relationships and to build new ones. It’s amazing, if you stop and think about.

Social’s obviously not enough though. We also need a little enthusiasm where connecting is concerned. Because I’m so intwined in P4L, I can use referral leads group content as an example and reason for enthusiasm. Active referral groups are built upon quality relationships, referral activity, presentations, and educational components. People are typically impressed and amazed by all of this when visiting your group for the first time. They’re impressed because they see potential for personal and professional growth. Plus people LOVE community. This gives great reason for enthusiasm when connecting, but there are many other reasons to muster up genuine enthusiasm. It could be what your business is doing, what a friend’s business is doing, or something remarkable in your own personal life.

Another component in all this is serving. You can serve by connecting others to your business, your communities, and your peers. Most people embrace the idea of connecting with others, especially when it’s to people who inspire them. So we can easily and enthusiastically look at connecting and staying connected as an act of giving and serving. When we do this, it gets much easier to bring people into our weird personal worlds, our businesses, and into your communities.

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.

How and where to best allocate time for generating outside leads

Because every business owner is unique, so should be their approach to generating outside leads.

How and where to best allocate time for generating outside leads is a broad topic. Every business owner has their own unique schedules, selling strengths and networks. Because every business owner is unique, so should be their approach to generating outside leads.

Perhaps you love telesales or reaching out to existing clients by phone. That makes you a bit of a freak–not really; but even if that were true, I’d say wave that flag high and hard.  🙂

Believe it or not, connecting with someone by phone for business can actually be a pleasant experience for both parties. It can in fact be the next best think to meeting in person, which is why I was always been a fan of calling people to refer one of my group partners. Certainly it affords you to get a more honest gauge of a person’s willingness to be part of a referral introduction.

Making a referral in person can be the ultimate opportunity to deepen your relationship with a little face time.

Making a referral in person can be the ultimate opportunity to deepen your relationship with a little face time. It can also be a great opportunity to get the best gauge of a persons willingness to part of a referral introduction. It’s a good excuse to do a little business development of your own, and an even better excuse to help your client or prospect.

An online campaign can be a super efficient and fast way to qualify and execute outside leads.

Online is one of my favorite approaches to developing outside leads, as it requires arguably less time of all the different methods.  There are many ways to approach outside lead generation online, such as by personal emails, automated email campaigns, social networks, service listings, and probably something else I’ve not listed here. An online campaign can be a super efficient and fast way to qualify and execute outside leads.

Part of consistently producing outside leads involves intention…

Part of consistently producing outside leads involves intention, and nothing says intention like scheduling time for something as specific as generating outside leads. How much time depends on you and your network. If you find giving outside leads effortless, you may not need to schedule time; but if you’re like most, you’ll probably benefit from carving out 30 minutes to an hour per week to do things like think about who you can connect. That time can be used to make connections where opportunity already exists. The point is, as the saying among business professionals goes, if it’s not on the calendar, it’s not going to get done.

I’m a fan of batching activities, so if you have an opportunity to line up appointments, calls and any other outside lead generating activity within a condensed time span, do it! Batching will optimize your time.

Your existing network of clients and prospects may be ripe for giving outside lead introductions.

Finally there’s your unique network of people, clients and prospects. Your existing network of clients and prospects may be ripe for giving outside lead introductions. If not, my guess is that you may need to take a second look. It requires that you do a little research in the form of conversation and asking questions like, “What can I do to help you or your business this month.”

Need to grow your network? Of course you do. I recommend you devote some of your outside-lead-generating activity to new business development. Make some new friends–I dare you. If you don’t generate an outside lead for one of your partners, you have the perfect backup plan–generating a lead for yourself.

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

Morning Routines and What I’ve Learned from Them

Two or three years ago I was introduced to a book called The Miracle Morning, by Hal Elrod.  That book got me to shake up my own morning routines.  Over time, I kept hearing more and more about morning routines and rituals, including the routines our planet’s most successful and productive.  Turns out that the highly successful and uber productive all have morning rituals and routines, some more consistent than others, but they all have them.

Morning routines & rituals, Miracle MorningAdopting and trying new morning rituals has really helped me start my days off with a much better mindset than when I payed no attention whatsoever to the first 30 to 60 minutes of my day.  For me, the introduction of specific routines has made a noticeable difference in my life.  Here are my current morning routine and rituals.   Continue reading Morning Routines and What I’ve Learned from Them

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

Generating Outside Leads

Everyone loves doing business with fellow group members, but the real value of a referral leads group is getting (and giving) referrals from outside of a group’s membership. This means that you’re being referred to the clients, prospects, friends and family of your fellow members. When this happens, you’ll know you’ve reached the mother load of trust and respect.

The Key to Receiving Outside Leads

Three women in meetingHerein lies the key to receiving outside leads–trust and respect. This key can elude some. Sometimes it’s merely lost between two individuals. Trust and respect in this context can be a challenge. For example, if I refer you to a client of mine, I expect follow-through and awesome customer service. Continue reading Generating Outside Leads