The CADRE Blog

Don’t look for business love at networking events (Part II)

by Derek Coburn

RifiutoWe all know how difficult it is to find someone at networking events who takes a long-term approach to developing mutually beneficial relationships (If you don’t, check out Part 1.) Like nightclubs, it is possible to meet good people with good intentions at these events.

But when we do go to big events, we might have another hurdle to clear: Trust issues.

We all have to attend events to support a great cause or a great client. And attending events where you will know several other people there can make for a fun and productive evening. What is challenging are those times when we won’t know more than a handful of attendees. All we know is that the majority of people there essentially will be looking for professional one-night stands and as such, many of us are conditioned to have our guards up.

We assume that if someone approaches us, they just want to push their own agenda – even if they use an indirect tactic. If someone says to me, “Hey, I want to learn more about you and how I might be able to help!” it throws me off. What’s the catch? What am I missing? This person could be sincere for all I know. But based on my experience, they are more likely taking this approach because they heard that by initially focusing on the other person, they give the impression that they’re not just out for themselves.

As much as I hate to say it, many of us will always be skeptical of this approach – even if it is sincere – because more than likely it isn’t. I am guilty of this myself.

Let’s go back to the nightclub for another perspective. You’re out on the town for a fun evening with your girlfriends and a seemingly nice guy starts chatting with you. What would your reaction be if, immediately after exchanging formalities, he informed you that he is looking to settle down and get married? You would either decide he is hitting on you and masking his true intentions, or you’d think he’s serious — which is just creepy. Even if you’re looking for a spouse yourself, your reaction will likely not be a good one. Revealing this information two minutes into a conversation at a bar is not consistent with your expectations in that environment.

This same socially awkward scenario applies to me going to an actual nightclub as The Married Guy. (Not that I get out to clubs much these days, but say I had to for whatever reason.) If I went up to some guy or gal and said, “Hey, it would be great to have an extra friend. Tell me more about you and what you have going on.” It would be sincere, but it would also be weird, off-putting, and have the opposite of the intended effect. Wrong place, wrong time.

If you’re going to fit in, whether at a nightclub or a networking event, you have to assume that pretty much everyone there is thinking of what they’re going to get out of it. This is the accepted norm, so we’re thrown off even if someone is legit (which is why sincere people usually pass on attending in the first place).

It reminds me of a quote by George Akerlof, which Dan Pink shared in his excellent book, “To Sell Is Human“, relating to sales professionals:

“Dishonest dealings tend to drive honest dealings out of the market. The presence of people who wish to pawn bad wares as good wares tends to drive out the legitimate business.”

Essentially, well-intentioned sales professionals do not want to be in a business with dishonest salespeople. And since most people who attend networking events are not looking to develop meaningful and helpful professional relationships, the ones who are stayed home.

Have you ever met someone at a networking event and gotten lucky?

If one of these chance encounters turned into a mutually beneficial relationship, I’d love to hear about how it happened. It might give us some hope…but probably not. At the end of the day, I think it’s best we avoid the larger events where we don’t know many of the attendees and spend our time networking in more conducive environments.

What say you?

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Don’t look for (business) love at networking events

by Derek Coburn

ChessAttending networking events where you don’t know many of the people there, no longer seems like an effective way to meet other like-minded professionals.

I have always approached meeting folks at these events with a long-term perspective. Primarily, to learn more about them and explore whether or not we could contribute to each other’s community. However, they end up being a big waste of time more often than not.

The main reason for this, I believe, is these events have evolved in a similar fashion to nightclubs. As the awesome David Siteman Garland of “The Rise To The Top” would say, everyone attending is looking for a professional one night stand. They may be looking to meet a new client, acquire a job or get some free wine. Regardless, their mindset of “How can I benefit immediately from this?” is not aligned with someone who is looking to develop mutually beneficial professional relationships. Obviously there are exceptions to the rule, but for the most part, like nightclubs, these events mostly attract short-sighted people and I don’t think any of us can change this dynamic.

Why is it then that most of the books and articles I have read about networking offer advice centered around how to successfully develop relationships with other top professionals by attending these events?

By comparison, most dating books and experts that focus on how to meet an ideal partner do not suggest that you frequent nightclubs on a regular basis. If you are looking for a committed personal relationship you probably should not go to bars every night, since you are not likely to meet many people who are there for that reason. Everyone gets that! So it should be no surprise that the best dating advice (correctly) ignores the part of the equation that you are not likely to change and encourages you to avoid the clubs altogether. Instead, it is suggested that you leverage your friendships and expose yourself to environments that are more conducive to finding a mate, such as getting personal introductions from friends or hosting dinner parties.

Why should we learn how to navigate these professional meat markets when we can identify more ideal ways to network? The next time you are assessing your networking options, I encourage you to consider skipping the big networking event and get creative. Some things that have worked well for me include hosting roundtable lunches and wine tasting events. Dinner parties are another great option and Michelle Welsch of Project Exponential wrote a great e-book on the topic. And if you identify a larger event that seems ideal, why not offer to bring a few of your clients or strategic partners? At least then you will be spending time with your valuable relationships, regardless of who else is attending.

Do you meet the types of professionals you want to meet at networking events? What effective networking endeavors have you participated in or hosted? I would love to hear your thoughts.

You can read Part II here.

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Room & Board Wasting Money & Trees With Their Brochures

by Derek Coburn

A little while ago, I shared my thoughts on the ineffectiveness of brochures as a marketing tool. I recently received a brochure (actually two) from Room & Board that missed the mark on a few levels and wanted to share this experience with you. I thought this story would be best told visually and so I shot a quick video. I hope you like it and would love to hear your thoughts.

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The biggest networking time-waster

by Derek Coburn

timewasterIf you’re anything like me, you’ve wasted more time attending networking events than you care to acknowledge. You show up, and after conversations with the animated hand gesture guy who forgets he’s holding wine spills it on you, and the woman who clearly doesn’t attend many of these rambles on about her business without ever asking you about yours, you never want to attend another networking event as long as you live.

But we keep going, because every once in a while, we meet someone who seems like they are there for the same reasons as us. They have a long-term outlook and are looking to authentically connect with other top professionals. Unfortunately, while encounters like this initially seem to justify venturing out to an event, they typically end up being the biggest time-wasters of all. Let me explain.

Say you go to a networking event and really hit it off with someone. The conversation is great and you think you could really help each other out. So you schedule a follow-up lunch. This either goes well, or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, then from a time perspective you wasted at least one additional hour and would have been better off meeting Mr. Happy Hands and calling it a night. But let’s assume the lunch goes well. In most cases, these meetings do not produce immediate opportunities. (That’s not why you went though, right?) Most often they end with a mutual “This was great and I’ll keep you in mind for potential opportunities!” and you walk away hoping the time investment will bear fruit at some point in the future.

My question is do you have a plan or process in place for staying top of mind with all of the professionals you meet? If not, you’re wasting more time attending follow-up meetings than you would by striking out at the initial event.

Even if you’re good at staying in touch, it’s unlikely your fellow networkers are as organized as you are. After you’ve spent time with someone, will that person remember you six months from now when an opportunity presents itself? If so, will they know where to find your contact info? If not, why go to networking events and follow-up meetings at all?

I always used a manual process that combined my email and CRM software, and took a lot of time to set up. Recently, however, I discovered a phenomenal service called Contactually (affiliate link). It’s an email integration tool that allows you to create various buckets for contacts based on how often you should be in touch with them.

To give you an example of how this works, let’s say you want to check in with prospective clients every 90 days. Contactually cross-checks your email correspondence with other platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter, and sends a reminder email if you do not contact them within this timeframe. The team functionality, which tracks correspondence between your clients and employees, is outstanding. I encourage you to try the 30-day free trial. There is no software to download and it works with all the major email providers.

Now that you know about Contactually, you’ll do a great job of keeping in touch with your contacts. Perhaps you’re already great at this. Either way, if you don’t have an effective process for staying top of mind, you’re probably better off going to an event and not meeting anyone worthy of a follow-up – or skipping the event altogether. Worst case, it’s one hour of your time down the drain versus three.

Do you already have an effective process for staying in touch with professionals you meet at networking events? If so, I’d love to hear about it.

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LinkedOut

by Derek Coburn
Several people over the last few weeks have told me how technology has made it easier to build a network.  I believe the opposite to be true and that technology has made it more difficult to build a network.  The ease of friending someone on Facebook or adding a new connection on LinkedIn makes building meaningful new relationships harder than ever before.  Where before you had to pick up the phone or set up a meeting to get coffee, today you can just click 1 button and add someone to your “network.”

 

Let’s analyze the theory that LinkedIn has made it easier to build a network.  I get dozens of LinkedIn requests from people I have had very brief encounters with.  Does my acceptance of their request really add any value to either of our networks?  If someone in my network asked to meet that person or asked me something about that person could I provide any real insight?  I tend to actually ignore these requests.  I do not know the acceptable protocol, and I am not trying to offend anyone, but I find it very hard to add someone to my public network unless I really know them.  I have found this becomes even more difficult when you work for a large organization.  For example, at Pariveda Solutions, we are currently up to over 250 technology consultants in 10 cities.  I routinely get LinkedIn requests from distant colleagues in different offices I have never met or worked with.  To a lesser degree, I get completely cold requests from people I have no affiliation with.  I often let these requests sit in my inbox until deciding to hit the dreaded “ignore” button after a few weeks.

 

I see the value in leveraging LinkedIn or other public networks for prospecting, general networking, or preparing for a meeting.  I sometimes ask for help from my network to prepare for a meeting because, for example, someone I know may have worked with the individual I am meeting.  However, I am increasingly seeing a trend that people do not really know the people in their “networks.”  I can’t count the number of times I have reached out to a colleague or contact and asked for an introduction to someone in their “network” only to get a response similar to, “Oh, I haven’t actually communicated with Bob in 4 years.”

 

I have two simple rules for my network.  If I can’t send an email or make a phone call and receive a response in a timely manner, I probably should not have this person in my network.  Likewise, if someone in my network were to drop me a note or give me a call and I would not get back to them in a timely manner, I probably should not have them in my network.  I actually make it a habit to clean out my Outlook and LinkedIn contacts periodically.  This is increasingly challenging because in order to actually use my rule I have to reach out to everyone in my network (you see what I did there).

 

You can easily implement some of the techniques I have found to be successful by doing the following:

 

  1. Reach out to your network (whether they are on LinkedIn or not) at least once a quarter with a meaningful touch point.
  2. If you do not get a response after 3 consecutive attempts, consider ending the relationship.  It is unlikely you have a real relationship with them
  3. Constantly think about how you can help your network.  Just thinking about people goes a very long way.  This thinking will serve you well with technique # 1

 

Do you have any best practices you recommend when it comes to managing your personal relationships?

 

PS – After writing this post I came across a tool online that automatically accepts LinkedIn requests on your behalf:  https://linkedoutapp.com/.
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Grow your business like a prize-winning pumpkin farmer

by Derek Coburn

Just as most pumpkin farmers grow ordinary Halloween carving pumpkins, most entrepreneurs grow ordinary, unremarkable businesses. Yet other farmers know that by tweaking their methods in a few small ways, they can grow giant, award-winning pumpkins that get attention and press coverage.

In The Pumpkin Plan, Mike Michalowicz (who is keynoting the upcoming Trim The Fat Fest on November 15) reveals how the same principles that farmers use to grow colossal pumpkins can be applied by entrepreneurs to grow colossally successful businesses. He writes that these farmers “hold the ‘secret formula’ for big-time entrepreneurial success: they plant the right seeds, identify the most promising pumpkins, kill off the rest on the shared vine, and nurture only the pumpkins with the biggest potential.”

I think one of the main obstacles preventing many good businesses from becoming remarkable ones is the time they dedicate to their less than ideal clients and prospects. We all make exceptions when it comes to bringing on new clients who are not a good fit for one reason or another, and we have a hard time letting them go once we realize it was a mistake. The biggest mistake is that while we’re busy trying to please everyone, we’re not doing everything we can to provide an unparalleled experience for our best clients or to attract more like them.

If you find that you’re always “busy,” I encourage you to examine how you spend your time and ask yourself if you’re only working with clients who are truly a great fit.

As Mike suggests, “you can’t just go with revenue, and you can’t just go with your gut. If you truly want to pull off this whole entrepreneur thing, you’re going to need awesome clients you really connect with, clients who make you want to go to work in the morning, not hide under the covers. You want clients who have potential, who are open to new ideas, who have the money to pay you what you’re worth, who respect you, who are going places and who want you to be part of it. You can’t leave finding those awesome clients to fate. And you most certainly can’t wait for your awful clients to suddenly realize how great you are and turn into awesome ones. That never happens.”

If you have clients who are not a fit in terms of revenue AND difficult to work with, you should fire them. Today! As long as these clients remain in the picture, they can have the same effect on your business as the small pumpkins that take resources and growth potential away from the best ones on the vine. In some cases, firing them may be too extreme. You may only need to evaluate these relationships and make some changes so they’re more mutually beneficial.

Mike suggests taking a look at your clients and as a starting point, identifying those who do not pay on time, never refer you and/or always question your advice. Is there a way for you to create new policies or reset expectations in these situations?

Several years ago, I noticed that a block of my wealth management clients were no longer an ideal fit due to the amount of time I was spending with them. I enjoyed working with them, but I was traveling to them, and on average, spending four hours in drive time annually on each one. I was reluctant to make a change, but I also knew I couldn’t continue to grow my practice with so much “dead time.” I reached out to each client to let them know that going forward, we would need to meet in my office. The majority of them were fine with this. The ones who said no were effectively telling me that my advice was not valuable enough to justify them coming to me, which made it easy for me to move on from these relationships. In the end I freed up a lot of time, and liberated myself from relationships that were not a good fit.

Are you spending all of your time working with clients you love? Have you ever revisited certain relationships to reevaluate what you’re providing, and whether they’re worth it?

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Why you are not getting referrals from the clients who love you

by Derek Coburn

First off, I understand that if you’re not getting referrals from clients who love you, there could be any number of reasons why. The human factor is a wild card and every situation is different. But I wanted to share a reason that might not have occurred to you.

I’ve talked about how to make it easy for your raving fans to refer you. For the purpose of this post, let’s assume you’re already doing everything you can to make this happen. Yet for some reason, certain clients are not coming through for you.

Mike Michalowicz, who wrote my favorite book of 2012, The Pumpkin Plan, and will be keynoting cadre’s upcoming event on November 15, suggests it could actually be that they love you so much, they don’t want to risk a dip in service if they share you with someone else.

Case in point: As the parents of a 3-year-old and a 3-month-old, Melanie and I are fortunate to have the world’s best babysitter. We can almost always count on her to be available, and more importantly, we can enjoy our time away knowing the kids are in great hands. I have had a few friends ask me to refer her to them. But you know what? I never have. If I make that introduction, it’s less likely she will be available for us when we need her. Perhaps this hurts her. Perhaps this hurts my friends. But she’s just too important to us. Selfishly, I don’t want to risk ever having her tell me she’s unavailable because she’s watching my friend’s kids.

This is just a fact of my life as a parent, as it might be for some of you. Yet I had never considered that this same dynamic could be at play in my business.

In The Pumpkin Plan, which is loaded with incredible business insights, Mike suggests that your clients don’t want to risk referring you to someone else because they want to keep you all to themselves. He also introduces a solution, which he calls “Tapping the Vendor Well.”

He writes about a realization he had one day: “If my top clients get me, and I get them, it stands to reason that they also have this relationship with other vendors who get them. And those vendors probably have a similar relationship with their own top clients. They may be concerned about referring you to prospective clients, but ‘matching you up with other vendors in order to serve them better’? That they can do. They want to do it.”

Mike would then contact these fellow vendors and say, “Larry referred me to you. We’re his Hedge Fund Technology Specialist, and I’m hoping we could meet so I can get your advice on how I should be working to make your job easier, and how we could both do a better job for Larry.”

This has not only enabled him to improve the quality of service he provides his clients; it has also led to numerous referrals from his clients’ vendors.

Have you ever considered that your best clients may not be referring you because they don’t want to share you? Have you ever tried getting introductions to your clients’ other vendors?

I will be sharing some other ideas from The Pumpkin Plan over the next couple of weeks. In the meantime I strongly encourage you to pick up a copy, and plan on attending our Trim The Fat Fest on November 15.

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You want to push your services at my networking event? I don’t think so!

by Derek Coburn

If you attended Cadre’s Event of Business Awesome last week, you probably (unfortunately) received an email from someone named Ajay Sagar in the days that followed.

Ajay, who is not a Cadre member, apparently looked up all of the attendees’ email addresses and added them to an email list in an effort to promote his software. I received more than 10 emails from members who forwarded this correspondence to me citing how un-awesome it was. He also mentioned that he met everyone personally, even though at least half the people who contacted me said they had no interaction with him.

This is one example for why many of us have soured on networking events. It’s also one of the main reasons I started Cadre: to minimize interactions with people like this and create opportunities for remarkable professionals to connect with each other authentically. While most of our events are member-only, we have a larger event once per quarter that nonmembers can attend. Even though most of them are invited by members and fit in extremely well, this situation reminds us that there will always be a handful of people who are only looking to push their own agenda.

The biggest irony in Ajay taking this approach is that it completely goes against everything our featured speaker, Scott Stratten of UnMarketing, communicated during his keynote that night. Some of the key takeaways from Scott included:

  • Do not think that just because you met someone, you can add them to your list.
  • Respect the inboxes of your subscribers (assuming you have their PERMISSION to contact them in the first place). Scott only sends out a blog post when he has something awesome to say, and because of this, his open rate is 91 percent!
  • We are ruining QR Codes! So many businesses are misusing this technology. One of the more ridiculous places to use a QR code is in an email. As Scott pointed out, “We are already online!” Ajay apparently included a QR Code in his uninvited email to compound the pleasure of receiving it.

This is completely unacceptable to me, and consequently, Ajay has been banned from all future Cadre events.

I could stop there, but I feel Ajay needs some help in the authenticity department. It would be great if we could have Homey D. Clown pay him a visit. Do you remember Homey from “In Living Color?” If someone was engaging in an activity that was unacceptable to Homey, he would bat them over the head with a sock and say, “I don’t think so. Homey don’t play that!” (Here is a short compilation of Homey’s greatest hits if you’re in the mood for a good laugh.)

Since Homey is not available to pay Ajay a visit, we need another way to let him know that this approach does not benefit anyone (especially him) and that he needs to stop it. If you haven’t done so already, please join me in helping our friend Ajay by unsubscribing from his list — unless of course you want to continue receiving emails that you did not sign up for.

While Ajay won’t be attending any more Cadre events, having more than 150 unsubscribes hit his inbox at the same time might just make him think twice before taking this approach after attending another event. Not only will you be doing your part to defend quality and authentic networking, but as Scott Stratten would say, you’ll be saving the lives of baby unicorns in the process.

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Stop letting your inbox drive you insane!

by Derek Coburn

I have written about productivity in this column before (here and here) and many of you have asked me about the tools I use that make me more productive. About three months ago, I started using a service called SaneBox to help me manage my email and it saves me approximately 3 to 4 hours per week. (What would you do with an extra three hours each week?)

There are so many things I love about this service and it is currently my favorite time-saving app. In addition to sharing with you how I use it, I was able to catch up with Founder, Stuart Roseman and VP of Growth, Dmitri Leonov to better understand how others are benefiting from it as well.

After signing up for SaneBox, which is incredibly easy and requires no software to download, you are assigned a SaneLater folder. Imagine coming home every day to your actual mail to find that the important stuff (bills, party invitations, etc.) has been separated from everything else. This is what SaneLater does with your email. By scanning your past behavior, it determines what is important and relevant, and what is not. As Leonov puts it, “We automatically help you group important emails (in your inbox) and filter out unimportant ones into a separate folder for bulk processing.”

Since signing up for SaneBox, I now wake up in the morning and have six emails in my inbox that are all important and 10 to 15 in my SaneLater folder for me to come back to later. These emails typically include newsletters, updates, etc., that I may in fact want to read, but they are not worthy of interrupting my day. For example, if you sign up for this service, my blog will likely go into your SaneLater folder. (See, I like this service so much I am willing to have my emails go into a folder other than your inbox!) Even though you probably love reading my articles, they really shouldn’t be interrupting your day.

Notice, though, that I did not say junk mail, which they have a separate solution for as well. Compared to unsubscribing, SaneBlackHole, which Roseman says is their most popular feature, is a much safer and effective way to never let junk mail bother you again. You can just drag an email into this folder and all future emails from this sender will automatically be deleted without you ever seeing them. If you hate getting emails from me (or anyone else) you can drag them into this folder and you won’t hurt my feeling because I will have no idea you did this. Smile

My favorite SaneBox feature is called SaneRemindMe. I send a lot of emails that require a response and, unfortunately, I do not always get one. With SaneRemindMe, I can Bcc SaneBox with a certain time for getting a reminder when sending an email that requires a response (i.e. one day, one week, etc. @sanebox.com). If I do not hear from them by this time, SaneBox will put the email at the top of my inbox. The emails are stored in a separate folder the entire time if I need to access them before the reminder date and if I do get a response, they are moved to my sent items (and I do not get a reminder). This feature has saved me a tremendous amount of time, as I no longer have to manually keep track of responses I am waiting on.

In fact, SaneBox is great about providing me with updates regarding how much time I am saving. I receive weekly emails from them providing me with feedback like “You saved 1.4 hours this week! Thank goodness you didn’t have to search the 301 emails to get to your 128 important emails.” and “You are a Rock Star — you had a 7 star week! (Days when your INBOX had less than 50 emails).”

SaneBox includes many other features that I will let you discover on your own and, as Roseman puts it, “They all speak to our core value which is to allow users to control their email instead of having it control them.”

While SaneBox is a fairly new company, I believe they are here to stay. They have been profiled by Time and TechCrunch, among others. They are currently in discussions with many Fortune 500 companies about providing this service to all of their employees. While it will be great for so many people to have access to this timesaver, it also will put the pressure on all of us to make sure our emails are relevant.

Believe it or not, this service only costs $4 per month! And if you use this link, you will save $5 on the purchase (full disclosure- I will receive a $5 credit as well).

In the meantime, I appreciate you taking the time to read my blog and will continue to write as if you have the option to send my emails into the abyss, never to be seen again.

How do you currently manage your inbox? I would love to know!

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Being a guru is like being good-looking

by Derek Coburn

For those of you who don’t know me personally, I am a pretty good-looking guy!

How obnoxious does that sound?

Well, how about this? I am a leadership guru (or a coaching guru, a website guru, a pie-baking guru…you get the idea). Not much difference, I say!

I think anyone who refers to themselves as a guru/expert/the best at something sounds off-putting at best, insecure at worst. Yet I hear so many folks referring to themselves as an expert or the best at what they do. If I am to believe you are the best, it better be at something extremely niche.

For example, let’s say someone announces that they are a leadership guru. Compared to whom? Are they a better leader than Steve Jobs? Ted Leonsis? Vince Lombardi? If they have the audacity to refer to themselves as an expert, or the best there is, I sure hope they have a narrow focus.

Here’s another example. If you say you’re a real estate expert, no one will believe you (and you will sound silly). However, if you are the expert on a particular neighborhood, that is within the realm of plausibility. And if it’s true, you likely have many happy clients who will support this claim. Having it come from them changes the context entirely.

If someone else says you’re good-looking, it’s a compliment and you should take it. The same applies to being a guru or an expert. If other people refer to you as an expert, then you probably are – at least to them, within their realm of experience. So let them say it. In fact, showcase their praise of you by providing a testimonial section on your website or creating a YouTube channel.

The more others refer to you as an expert or the best, the more credibility you’ll have and the easier it will be to get the opportunity to demonstrate just how good you are. But no matter how much of an expert you consider yourself, don’t think it is ever okay to say so yourself. It seems like the only people who refer to themselves as a guru are the ones who can’t find anyone to say it for them.

Do you know anyone who is a “guru” or “expert”? According to whom?

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