Friday, April 28, 2006

Taking the Sales Person Out of the Sale

Today, without lifting one finger, I got a sale! While I was having lunch with a member of my Board of Advisers, in the very same restaurant a couple other people were recruiting a student for an upcoming class. Why would they do that?

These two people are grads of the Certified Networker training program. They have learned the value of helping others first and thinking of others before they think of themselves. One player in the scenario, Joani Algiere, is a massage therapist and she is about to sit for the Director training at the upcoming BNI conference in Phoenix. Her goal in life is to help others to be more successful with their businesses. She helps people find an open slot in a BNI chapter, she recommends networking events, she invites people to these events, and she helps them to get better connected into the community. Joani knows that when people are more successful, they will have money to spend on massages. She has a clear understanding of the old adage of “what goes around comes around.”

Jeff L
aCourse was also in her lunch group. He is a lender for Alliance Venture Mortgage, and is also becoming a Certified Networker trainer. The third person at lunch was a young Realtor who wants to start a new BNI chapter. Joani was introducing Jeff to the Realtor so the two could think about doing the BNI chapter project together. Both Joani and Jeff knew that the Realtor would be more successful in his career and in establishing a new BNI chapter if he could have the networking and referral based education provided by Certified Networker. Because neither had a direct gain from him taking the course, he really didn't feel pressured. He just saw opportunity. And that's how I got a sale without even knowing it was happening.

What is the best story you have of someone presenting you with a closed deal?

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

You Had to Be There!

Last week the Toledo Chapter of the Women’s Council of Realtors® had their second annual Spotlight on Affiliate Lunch. This event was started last year to begin thanking the affiliate members for all they do to help the Chapter. They sponsor, they volunteer, and generally help the Realtor® members to be more successful. One aspect of the lunch was that each participating affiliate had the opportunity to give a 45 – 60 second commercial. Now with twenty three participants, this could have gotten boring, but several people were very creative in their approach.

Dawn Belzung, who represents Metropolitan Title Company, gave her presentation midway through after three or four other title agencies had talked about how they were unique. Dawn with a very straight face said, “I’m here to make an announcement. Metropolitan will not longer be charging fees.” There was a very deafening silence in the room, as the whole Real Estate market is very competitive these days. Dawn waited just long enough, and then continued with, “Now that I have your attention, that’s not true.” Dawn got the audience to listen to what she had to say, instead of just tuning out. I saw people coming up to her after the formal part of the luncheon, laughing and talking. Dawn achieved her goal of making people curious and also giving them a reason to talk with her. I’m sure there were a few other title agents ready to kill, but Dawn is so fun-loving that she probably killed them with kindness!

What have you done to catch an audience’s attention? Did it work out well or instead backfire?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Libraries Are More Than Books

Friday night last week our community library celebrated the 125th anniversary of its birth. I didn't know what to expect, but knew I wanted to attend, because I love libraries and also I serve on the Way Library Foundation Board. Steve and I drove the four miles "uptown" and arrived just a little past the 7 PM starting time. We could hardly find a parking spot! I think the projection of 400 people attending was right on the mark. With several singing groups performing, giant board games for the children, and birthday cake for all, there was something for every age group. And isn't that what a library is all about?

Library benefactor, Willard Way, even made an entrance from the past. He spoke about how he had decided to provide books and $15,000 to start the library. Willard was an attorney, who made much of his money buying and selling property that had gone to auction because of unpaid taxes. It sounded like he might have been a bit of a scoundrel, because his wife tried to leave him at one time, but he ran after and found her so he could reclaim the jewels he had given her. Williard also tried to remove her false teeth, because he considered those his property, too.

Libraries have played a central theme in my life. In the small Western New York farming town were I grew up, I loved climbing the worn steps to the second floor of the town hall where the librarian always had a good recommendation. By the time I was Senior Girl Scout, I needed a community project. I chose to work in the library, Yates Community Library, which had moved to a store front in the middle of our one block main street. The library cards in the back of the book helped me to know whether it was worth reading or not. If there were many names listed, it was a must read. Conversely, if there were only a few entries, I might place the book back on the shelf. Talk about word of mouth! During the early years of my adulthood, just like Willard Way, local townfoldk, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, gave money to the village to establish a real library building. I don't remember the amount they gave, but do remember that the town had to match the money in order to receive the Smith grant. Unlike Willard, Mr. Smith had made his money canning applesauce from the plentiful orchards in that area.

Libraries form a network across the world. They help people connect whether it is through discussing a book or sending email from the library computers. Libraries keep communities strong.

What part of your childhood continues to play an important part of your life today?

Monday, April 17, 2006

Expecting? Go to Sandy's

When I am teaching Module 7 of the Certified Networker training, the most groans and moans I hear from the students is all about choosing a target market. You see, most come into the course wanting to sell to the whole world. Narrowing the focus feels awful. I can empathize. Four years ago when I first started teaching this course, before master trainer, Tom Fleming's enlightenment, I had four separate target markets. I didn't see anything wrong with trying to network to Realtors, Bankers, CPAs, and Financial Planners. I now know that having all four was doable..... if I didn't want to do any of them well.

One current student, Sandy Pirwitz, owner of Sandy's Stuff for Women, says it best. Her store provides gently used and new women's clothing at resale prices. She is one of the few re-sale shops that takes in and provides maternity clothing for sale. Sandy now has focused on that market and guess what? Her sales are growing -- no visual pun intended! Of course, once the new moms deliver the bundle of joy, their old pre-baby clothing may not fit the same, so off to Sandy's they go. Maternity clothing is turned in, and they shop the ranks for new stuff that fits the new lifestyle. Sandy also helps to promote a nearby children's resale shop, by displaying baby outfits on her walls from the partner store. For every $10 of maternity clothing purchased a raffle ticket is given. Once per month Sandy's draws a winner and that lucky person is able to pick one of the baby outfits. Plus, the display of the little tiny outfits sends her customers to that lucky store. It's a win all the way around.

Are you still trying to sell to anyone, everyone and somebody? Would your sales drop if you focus on just one market?

Mastering Master Mind

Friday morning, early, I attended the monthly meeting of the Master Mind group I am a member of. We seven women have been meeting for over a year now. We formed soon after some of the members heard Jane Pollak speak at the Women's Entrepreneurial Network's annual business conference in October '04. We are all busy, so we decided to limit our group to seven people so that our meetings could be accomplished in two hours. We also decided to meet in our homes rather than our offices, so the host is not distracted by stuff. Our agenda includes, Success, Challenges and Goals. We time each part, with each member receiving three minutes dedicated to successes, 10 minutes to challenges and less than a minute to goals at the very end.

We can say that our group continues to be a resounding success. Some of us didn't know each other, others we knew slightly. While it is rare to have all seven of us in attendance as business and vacations take us away, now we are so connected, that we look forward to these meetings.

What is so amazing to me is that when the challenges are presented, usually the answer is so simple that the challenged member has to laugh. It's the old, "Why couldn't I think of that?" Also the few times that we have a full complement, it never fails that one member will need a bit more attention and time. We don't have to say, "Oh we're going to give more time to Debby," it just happens. Still we are efficient enough to finish on time.

We are a very diverse group as far as our work, and there are several other Master Mind groups that we know of, that are set up differently. One is a small gathering of retailers, and another is a diverse business group with both genders represented. Both have an agenda that is different than ours, not so structured.

Friday morning as we gathered around Lori Cannon's dining table, I reflected about our group. I think Master Mind groups are helpful because of the trusting relationships developed within each group. While we devote only two hours per month to each other, our friendship spans the other days of the month, making us want to help our MM friends everyday of the year.

What do you know about Master Mind groups? Do you have something better?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Rubber Bands and Relief

When I hear the word, creative, all those juices that might flow inside my body, come to a stagnant halt. Others tell me that I am a creative person, but when I focus on that word, all I see is a blank whiteboard. Because of this affliction, I love it when others demonstrate top level creativity. Recently, Tom Baur, a chiropractor, caught my attention.

He stood in his BNI meeting to give his weekly commercial. He had distributed small rubberbands to each member before the meeting began. He asked all to wind the band around the end of a finger, so that it was rather tight. Each members began to experience swelling of the finger and of course, the actual feeling of discomfort. All Tom needed to add was, "This is what happens when something in your body is constricted. My job is to remove the rubberband, (all took off the band) to help my patients feel relief."

I loved this info-mercial because not only was it creative but it was visual, and it also was easy for the members to pass on. Great job, Tom.

What creative ways do you market yourself?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Tasty Toledo Sauce

Last week The Women's Entrepreneurial Network (WEN) has their annual trade show. I decided not to exhibit this year because I feel trapped when I have to stand at a booth. I'd rather be free to mingle. There were many who did not feel this way, in fact WEN had 17 business people on the waiting list for any cancellations.

Now even though I didn't exhibit, I still planned to attend. I wanted to meet as many of the exhibitors as possible and maybe even connect with a few other attendees. I figured I could be in and out in an hour or so. With over 50 exhibitors, I guess my planning was not so realistic. I was also supposed to attend The Toledo Free Press tail-gate party for the opening game of the Toledo Mudhens. I figured I'd just head down from the trade show. Well, 3 1/2 hours later I was still connecting with people. It was fun! And it was productive. People were coming up to me saying that they'd heard about the Certified Networker training and wanted to know more. For me being a participant felt better. Unfortunately, I missed the tail gate party.

One exhibitor that caught my attention was Randa of Sweet Louise Sauces. She and her partner, Steve, had little cups of ice cream that they then covered with their yummy chocolate sauce, Randa's secret recipe. She made it one night when she was rummaging through her kitchen in the midst of a sugar attack! Randa is a new member of WEN, she tested her sauce in another WEN member's test kitchen; found her CPA and attorney through WEN, and received start-up business training from WEN. She's as sold on WEN membership as I am on her sauces! She did say the only exception was that she found Steve on her own.

What groups do you find helpful for your career or business?

Thursday, April 6, 2006

Charity Requests, Part II

If you haven't read the post entitled Grouchy, read that first. I shared that I was out of sorts because of the way I had been solicited by a charity. Now I want to tell you about an charity event that made me smile.

First you need to know that in the Northwest Ohio are, there are almost 300 people who have taken the Certified Networker course. This community of grads is very supportive. They each realize that if they help each other to be more successful, that it will come back full circle. One benefit is that when someone in the community has a need, they can email it to me and I then forward it out to the whole community.

Kym Sloan, Boy Scouts of America, Erie Shores Council, did just that for an event the Boy Scouts had this week. I attended to be supportive of Kym, and was nicely surprised to find at least six or seven other CN grads there too. This was a direct response to Kym's call for help. I think the reason this solicitation didn't bother me, was because Kym didn't hide behind anonymity and had already developed relationships within the community to give her the right to ask for help. She had given to others before she asked for something in return.

As I continue to think about this whole issue of charitable giving, I am beginning to form opinions that my be somewhat controversial. I think that many people who work in development for non-profits just see their job as getting as much money as possible from the general public. Some don't seem understand the part about relationship development; the part about giving to others first, the part about being visible in the community. Now I know that many charity's operations give back to the community in their mission, but I am talking about the people here. How do they individually link and freely help others in the community?

What is your opinion about this?

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Target Market Connections

When one of the graduates of the Certified Networker (CN) training has a quantum leap in using the material, it makes my day. Monday eight people met for the third session of the new grad series. They are the first guinea pigs to try this new graduate series. This two hours was dedicated to re-visiting and learning more about training a referral partner. To do this, three of the participants had brought a partner to the class, while two of the students from the class decided to partner for this session.

The particular event that made my day is all about networking in the right way; that of using networking to help others be more successful. Meredith Moore, a business banker with Huntington Bank, had just stumbled onto her target market (trucking and transportation) in the first session in February. Or I should say she found the one that made more sense than the one she had elected when she went through the initial CN training. She had shared this information with another CN grad, Dave Bodner, who happens to be in her BNI group. He met with another grad, Darlene Robinson, a CPA with a local firm. At this meeting Darlene told Dave that the firm had just divided their customer base and assigned a Senior person to lead each area. Guess what, Darlene has been assigned transportation and trucking. Dave suggested that the two women should get together. That is how they came to sit with each other during this training where they were learning from each other, figuring out how to introduce clients to each other and determining how they could work as a team.

What the best teaming you've ever done with another person?

Was I Just Grouchy?

I'm going to tell you about something that happened today that you may have a totally different opinion about. I just arrived back at my office after a long afternoon meeting. I must admit that I was not in the best mood. The phone rang, and the caller at the other end identified herself as representing a local chapter of a national charity. She said that a "friend" of mine had identified me as someone who could be his/her "cellmate," meaning I would have to dial my way out of jail by calling friends and begging them to donate money to the charity. Of course the friend wanted to remain in the "secret witness" program. Unfortunately, it was a day that is already fully booked and I just couldn't make room in my schedule to don prison stripes.

I gotta' tell you that the whole thing left me out of sorts. I am a huge believer in giving to my community. Certified Networker has given a $50 check to the favorite charity of the MVP of every class we've taught since the very beginning. That's almost $2000 to date, plus we had a drawing at our December monthly lunch, and for each person in attendance we gave $5 per person to the lucky person's charity. Guess what? It happened to be to the very group that called today. In addition my husband and I give generously to several local organizations that always can use more. I know that charities, like all businesses today, are facing tough times. But I just don't like the connotation of forcing people to give to a group that they may not want to support just to get me out of jail. I can't quite put my finger on it, but it has something to do with the feeling of being used.

What's your take on this particular method of fund raising?

Monday, April 3, 2006

Sunday Dinner

While this isn't a blog about food, I have to tell you about a great meal my husband, Steve, made last night. I knew we were going to have salmon, because before he headed out for Kroger, he asked me what I wanted for dinner. I hesitated and he came up with the answer that sounded great to me.

I had work to do in the afternoon, so at some point he announced, "Debby, dinner's ready!" Now I've got to tell you that he is the more creative one in this family when it comes to cooking. In fact he's shouldered more than his share of chef duties in the last five or six years. But let me tell you about last night. There's not going to be a picture, because the leftovers are gone. But he poached the salmon in the liquid from some fresh salsa that was also first used for something else. He diced some jarred mangoes that had been in the frig for awhile and added some of that syrup to the poaching potion. The combination was great, sort of sweet sour, but not really. I can't describe the taste other than to say delicious!

So what leftovers have you turned into a feast?

Sunday, April 2, 2006

Part II of the Mixer

As I told you, Thursday I was on my way out the door to go to a graduation networking event for our newest graduates of the Certified Networker(CN) training here is NW Ohio. The members of the CN Board of Action are the ones who coordinate and run this event. They have decided that one way to make this event friendlier for our guests is to have some sort of icebreaker in which everyone can participate. At our November event, it was just before the big Ohio State/Michigan football game. Being almost equal distance from each school, there is lots of rivalry when that Saturday approaches. Accordingly, each person was given a ribbon to wear that signified who they would be rooting for. It got the buzz happening!

Leasa Maxx, of Maxx Grafx, was in charge of the icebreaker for this graduation. There were many possibilities proposed, some of which were declined because they weren't so appropriate for polite audiences. Those suggestions did gives us a few giggles though! To keep it clean, Leasa decided to use two questions from Scott Ginsberg's book, The Power of approachability. The two were: "When driving, do you listen to CDs, tapes, the radio or nothing?" and/or "When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?" To make it easy for people, Leasa had these put on business card sized pieces of paper which each person received as they registered.

When the formal part of the celebration began, Leasa asked for volunteers from the audience to share what the questions had done for them. Rebecca Booth, Imagine That!, delightfully shared what she had learned from several people including the fact that Phil Bollin, a financial planner from Modern Portfolio Management, told her that he had wanted to be a starting quarterback with a professional football team. She said, "Having those two questions helped me to really get to know people and learn something about them that I probably wouldn't have if the question prop hadn't been there for me to use."

So fill us in, what did you want to be when you were growing up?