Thursday, July 30, 2009

Networking and Referrals Tips and Advice - Ask questions and post your tips

Although I hope you find my blogs interesting and useful, mine is just one voice, one person's experience and opinion. I also post based on my conversations and experiences.

I want to ensure that you have the opportunity to have your say too, and guide some of the blogs that I write so that they answer your questions.

As well as encouraging comments on the blog, I have now set up other ways for you to ask the burning questions you have or share your own experiences:

1. Ask a question for me to answer on this blog - either by emailing me at or Tweeting me at

2. Join my Facebook group where you can post short questions on The Wall or post longer questions and your own tips and thoughts on the Discussion Forum.

3. Join my LinkedIn group and post questions or join the discussion there.

I'm keen to hear from you and help you where I can with your networking. Help me do so and get involved.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Get Over It

I bumped into Hermione Way at The Hospital Club in Covent Garden yesterday. Hermione is the entrepreneur and presenter behind and Through her viral videos, Facebook updates and Twitter comments Hermione has built quite a name for herself over the last couple of years.

Chatting with Hermione about the future direction of her businesses, she talked about the challenges facing her taking the next step. She has a number of exciting plans in the field of internet video production and social media. The problem is one of funding. She is looking for investment but is daunted by the time involved, weight of work and the sheer scale of the task.

This surprised me. I know a lot of people in Hermione's network, she admits herself that she is extremely well connected. The people I know would be perfectly placed to help Hermione both in terms of advice and connections and getting proposals and plans in place. Yet she is frightened to ask.

"I want to be independent", she told me. "I want people to know that I have achieved things myself."

Hermione's reluctance is perhaps understandable. She is a young woman with a brother who is already a well known entrepreneur (Ben Way appeared in the first series of Channel 4's Secret Millionaire show). However my advice was quite simple, Get over it!

Nobody has all of the talents, skills, expertise and experience within themselves to achieve everything we need in business. Successful people surround themselves with others who have abilities they lack. They see the big picture and get support from others achieving their goals.

In sport the best players have coaches who make them better, caddies who advise them on the most appropriate shot, tacticians who use their experience to help them win. Business is no different.

Hermione may have the potential to succeed, but that potential could be lost if she tries to do everything herself. Having surrounded herself with high achievers who have a wealth of experience, she now needs to swallow some pride and ask for some help where she isn't so strong.

Get over it Hermione. If your businesses thrive, you won't be judged any less for having had the courage to ask for help along the way.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Viral Effect - Twitter for Business

So you don't think Twitter works for business?

Many people still write off Twitter as a waste of time, people boring others with updates on their every mundane move. Twitter has a much more important, viral effect that takes the power of word of mouth and spreads it far and wide.

Dr. Ravi Jain, Medical Director of the award-winning cosmetic clinic, Riverbanks Clinic in Bedfordshire, is very active on Twitter with the username 'VaserLipo'. Cosmetic treatment is not the first industry you might think of benefiting from online networking, but Dr. Jain has recently seen the benefits first hand.

"I saw a new patient and on her 'how did you hear about us?' part of the form, she wrote "TWITTER!" said Dr. Jain. "She was a second generation follower, having seen our information repeated by someone else whose updates she followed.

"She then did some research about us via our website and general Google, and made the journey all the up from London purely based upon word of mouth recommendation."

If you post interesting 'tweets', people will pass them onto their network. This all happens in seconds. Earlier this year I discovered that one article I had written and linked to on Twitter had been 'retweeted' by people in four different continents on the same day.

I'm not aware of anything else that has offered such viral power so quickly. If people trust the updates of those they follow, the opportunities to find new clients quickly and at such low cost is unparalleled.

Whatever your industry.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Learn to make the most of networks - The Sunday Times

Sally Jones has written in this weekend's Sunday Times about the importance of using networking in finding a new career. Sally interviewed me as part of the article.

You can read the full article here.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Connecting is not Enough the newsletter.....and the news

This fortnight's edition of the 'Connecting is not Enough' newsletter is now available here.

The latest edition includes:

- A solution to staff talking to each other at networking events.
- It's who knows you, and what they say about you
- Count to ten before commenting online
- Video - How to get the most out of networking.

In addition, Mike Southon has discussed my thoughts on how to leverage your network in tomorrow's edition of The Financial Times. You can read the interview in the entrepreneurship pages of the Money section.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

What do you do with business cards you're given?

I have received the following question from 'Connecting is not Enough' reader Theresa Summers:

How do you deal with business cards you’re given? Currently I write on the back the date, location and maybe a couple of buzz words. Then technically I put them in a database, and then file the card. Although am not sure why I file the card really. Anyway, would be very interested to hear what you do, or what other people do.

The most important thing you can do is follow up as soon as possible. It does surprise me how many people will ask for your card and never follow up personally. It may be that they then add your details to a marketing database, but that's not the purpose of networking. Buying a list for such a purpose probably works out less expensive in terms of time and equally ineffective.

You're absolutely right to put some brief notes on the back of the cards you are given at events. Make sure that you ask people's permission to write on their cards at an event, or do so shortly afterwards while the information is still fresh in your mind. Also be aware of cultural differences. If you are exchanging cards with someone from South East Asia for example, writing notes on their card would often be seen as a sign of disrespect. This is a good article if you'd like to know more about business card etiquette.

Whatever you do, make sure you keep a good record of what you said you would do during your discussion. If you made a promise it is important to keep it, otherwise your reputation for reliability will suffer a hammer blow at an early stage.

Once you have followed up and established the relationship, the business card plays a much less important role. I'm often offered three or four cards by people who hope that I'll then hand them out to other people as a referral. First of all, that's not a referral, it's a recommendation (the subject of another blog perhaps). Secondly, I can't carry the cards of everyone I meet around with me! If you want me to recommend or refer you, you need to be foremost in my mind and that comes from developing a relationship.

I scan all of the cards I receive using cardscan software (available here). I then import the contacts into my Outlook and file the cards. It is worth keeping hold of them, if you are a visual person like me you might remember someone by their business card. However many cards I have, I often know exactly where to look and what the card looks like, but can't remember the name!

The card scanner I use allows us to record the notes saved as well, which helps update your CRM system quickly. You do need to keep a close check on each record as you input it though, as it's not foolproof.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Asking clients for referrals

I've launched a new page on Facebook for people to share links, videos, blogs and ideas on networking and referral strategy. You can find the page at

One of the features of the new page is a Discussion section, where I have invited members to post questions and tips on networking and referrals.

At the weekend, Nikki Pilkington asked the following question:

Andy, in all the time I've known you, you've taught me that referral networking works - and it's true. But how would I go about asking current clients to pass me referrals without making them feel obliged or hassled? Thanks in advance for any insight.

Hi Nikki

Two bits of simple advice to get you started:

- Don't treat everyone as equal
- Keep it simple, make it easy.

1 - Don't treat everyone as equal

Many businesses institute 'get a referral' schemes targetting their clients as a general body, perhaps by offering an incentive if they refer, or asking for help 'if you are happy with what we do'.

Such impersonal schemes are easy to duck. If you're not asked directly and personally, it's not difficult to press 'delete', and very tempting when you are busy!

In other cases, businesses will ask clients individually, but use a general approach. The most frequent example of this is the set of questions at the end of every meeting. You know the form:

"Are you happy with what we did?"
"Do you know any one else who would benefit from this?"
"Can you give us their names?"

At best this approach provides a list to cold call, but can often make the client uncomfortable. After all, you have been there to help them, not the other way around.

Instead of these general approaches, think of each client individually. Ask yourself how much they would WANT to refer you (in other words, how well do they like and trust you?) and how well they understand HOW to refer you.

Focus first on improving these two areas where necessary. There's no point just asking for referrals from people who don't feel comfortable or able to do so.

When you have done that, you have two more questions to ask yourself. The first one is to ask who they know, which I'll come onto in a moment. The second is what can you do to inspire them?

There are a whole range of answers to the second question, running from simply asking to referring them and, in certain cases, financial incentives. The key is that the response is personal to each potential Champion, not a 'catch all' approach that catches none.

2 - Keep it simple, make it easy

The easier you make it for someone to refer you, the more likely it is that they will. A general request often produces nothing. If I asked you for an introduction to everyone you know who has a telephone, how much work would be involved for you helping me? Too much to justify you doing it!

A specific request that is tailored to that person's network is the best approach, hence 'who do they know?'. Be very clear about who you want to speak to and why and it will be much easier for them to make the connection.

The more personal your approach, and the more focused your requests, the more success you'll see.

I hope this helps.

Monday, July 13, 2009

CONNECTING IS NOT ENOUGH: It's a Question of Trust

This article originally appeared in The National Networker

It wasn’t what he expected to hear, that’s for sure!

I was half way through a 1-2-1 with a new networking connection when I surprised him.

“I don’t trust you”, I said.

The expression on his face was, to say the least, interesting. The meeting had gone well, we had shared a lot of views in common, he had shared some of his marketing processes with me and we had some contacts in common. The conversation had just turned to relationship building in networking and the importance of not selling at networking events, instead focusing on developing rapport and, most importantly, trust with fellow members.

“This is where so many people get it wrong”, I went on to explain. “When someone says they don’t trust us, we take it as a sign of distrust. We paint everything in black and white. We either trust someone or we distrust them. But that’s not the way things really work.

“In fact, we all start out either at, or close to, trust neutral. When we first meet someone we don’t have strong enough grounds to any strong feelings of trust either way. Trust is based on evidence; we need to have grounds to decide whether or not we can put our faith in someone. “

Of course, there are instant factors that mean that we may not necessarily start out at exactly neutral. The all important first-impressions certainly have an impact, get it right and people will want to trust you, get it wrong and you will have a lot more work to do to win that trust.

Similarly, a shared background, shared friends or having heard good things about people will give a strong platform from which to build trust. You still, however, have to prove those initial impressions correct.

This concept of trust is key to networking effectively in many ways. There are still far too many people who go to events and expect trust instantly, without earning it. At the other end of the spectrum, there are those who can’t see the point of networking with strangers and who won’t open their networks to them.

You have to find a balance. Don’t wade in to networking events and just expect people to buy from you or connect you because you are there. Trust has to be earned.

I went to a networking event a few years ago where part of the evening was a short ‘Speed Networking’ session. We were all told to move along the line and take it in turns to introduce ourselves and then ask the other person “How can I help you?” Naturally, it felt completely odd. Asking complete strangers how you can help them is a false position. It’s rarely genuine. That question does not occur that early in a relationship; you need to want to help people, and the more you trust them the more likely you are to want to help.

On the other hand, if networking is to work, there needs to be a willingness to trust earlier than you would normally. Networking groups bring people together to provide focused support, whether in terms of sharing contacts, ideas, expertise or experiences. In normal circumstances, what you share in a networking group is reserved for people you know very well. But networks can’t work effectively if no one gives to the process without some degree of implied trust.

For me, a classic example is people who join LinkedIn and then proceed to hide their network from the people they connect with. The whole purpose of LinkedIn is to share connections. If you have issues with implied trust, only connect to people you do trust. But be ready to share with them. Without that you are limiting the network’s effectiveness.

In May I attended NRG Metropolitan, a monthly networking group, for the first time. I already knew some of the people in the group and the organizers, which gave me a good start in terms of winning the trust of people there. I walked out of the meeting with three very promising meetings in the diary and congratulating myself on a job well done.

Initially I had just gone to the group to take a client who might find it useful to join and to see if I could recommend it. The three meetings were a bonus. Then I stopped to think.

I looked at the chemistry between the members there, which was clearly very strong. I recognised that the group was packed with strong networkers, who understood the value of helping each other. And I could see clearly that there was a high level of trust between the members.

It became clear to me that this group offered more if I committed to regular attendance. I also recognised that I would need to win the trust of the members there if I could achieve that potential, and it would need that commitment. I decided to join and attend regularly.

In June I went for the second time. Offered the opportunity to give a two minute presentation on my business, I told rather than sold, sharing some information about what I do without asking for anything in return. Between the meetings I had 1-2-1s with two of the members and arranged two more for the next month.

The aim is to build trust over time. I don’t go into the group expecting business or referrals straight away, but recognise that the potential in that group is huge if I commit and earn that trust.

It’s not that the group distrusts me, but I’m pretty sure that they don’t trust me. Not just yet anyway.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Connecting is not Enough.....The Newsletter

This week's newsletter is now available here


Networking multitasking
The importance of niches
How I use Twitter
The £1 Challenge
and a group of naked Swedes dancing!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Prince of Wales calls for a shift to 'Community Capital'

In last night's Richard Dimbleby Lecture, HRH Prince Charles called for a shift to an approach "that recognizes not just the build up of financial capital, but the equal importance of, crucially, what I might best call “community capital.”

Defining Community Capital as "the wealth that holds our communities together", the Prince of Wales suggested that the diversity of cultures and ideas may provide the solution to the environmental crisis facing the planet.

"I have a hunch that this cultural diversity may provide us with the intellectual and social resilience to the challenges that we face in this moment of transition."

Calling for a return to a local relationship between communities and their suppliers, and bemoaning the economies of scale that have severed that relationship, Prince Charles suggested that engaging communities would help to create a new form of economics, one that was more in tune with nature's needs.

Does the solution to problems in our societies lie in going back to the "grass roots"? Perhaps control lies too much in the hands of a few powerful people and organisations, and the drive and innovation to find the right solutions is best found by creating networks of people in local communities, particularly those most immediately affected.

In Prince Charles' opinion, "we do still have within our societies and within our existing technologies the solutions that will enable us to transcend our current predicament. All we lack, perhaps, is the will to establish a more entire and connected perspective."

Perhaps it is the case that leaving the discovery and implementation of solutions in the hands of the few creates a narrower perspective, and it is the 'wisdom of crowds', the collective ideas of communities that will make the difference.

What do you think?

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Can you Tweet with your Hands Tied Behind your Back?

I met with a client last week to look at their networking strategy. They were particularly interested in how online networks, such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, could benefit their business.

As we looked into opportunities open to them, it became clear that they were well set up to use online networks very effectively to engage with their customer base, make key connections, boost their profile and reputation and to drive traffic to their website. They also had the advantage of a member of their team who is a very talented writer and a freelance journalist in his spare time.

One key strategy I recommended was for this member of staff to start a blog about their industry and share some interesting, challenging, funny and possibly the odd controversial story. They could then use Twitter and other sites to signpost the blogs and, assuming the copy was engaging enough, spread the word.

A major obstacle then became clear. The UK/European office of this company has its hands tied by their head office in Australia. There is already a company Twitter account, but if they want to add to it, they have to send the tweet to Australia first for approval. This loses any advantage of spontaneity and engagement that Twitter offers.

Any other blogging or social networking is also restricted by Head Office, who are more concerned with protecting the company brand than the advantages offered by new media.

I do not wish to dismiss the importance of a company's brand and the threat posed by social media. However too many companies are focused more on the control of such media than on the opportunities they offer the business. Those that have taken a risk have, on the whole succeeded.

With the media coverage of Twitter recently, more companies are creating their own Twitter Feed. While brands that automatically have a following may benefit from this, others lose the point. With a few exceptions (such as news feeds) people want to follow people on Twitter. They will warm to and engage with an individual sharing their thoughts, actions and responses more than they will with the one-way broadcasting approach taken by companies.

Why not allow more than one employee to each have their own Twitter account? It shouldn't be difficult to set ground rules to protect the company from damaging behaviour. In the meantime, potential customers are more likely to build brand loyalty from the relationships they build with those individual employees.

Control over social networking hampers their effectiveness and perhaps it is time for companies to trust their employees rather than control them.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The Need for Greed

One of the key underlying principles of networking is the mantra introduced by Dr. Ivan Misner across BNI Groups worldwide. The principle of 'Givers Gain' dictates that you must be focused on giving to your network first and the rewards will follow and it is one that I agree with.

Sometimes, however, it's possible to go too far.

A good friend of mine is a case in point. He has a tremendous reputation for his generosity. He is always looking to help others and goes out of his way to be amenable. This is despite the fact that his own business is struggling and he really needs to focus on his needs first. He said to me recently that if he doesn't win more business in the next month he may have to find employment and shelve his company.

It is possible that his amenability is a actually a cause of his own struggle. My friend is so focused on seeking opportunities to help other people he forgets to ask for help for himself, or doesn't recognise opportunities for himself when they come along.

Last week I said to him that I was going to introduce someone who could be very helpful in opening some important doors for his business. As soon as I described some of the projects this contact was working on, my friend began to list who he knew who could help on those projects.

"That's tremendous", I said. "But this is a connection for you and your business. You need to focus on that initially, don't lose the opportunity.

"I know you're right", he said. "But I'm not greedy."

"You've spend the last twelve years not being greedy. Maybe that's one reason you're so needy".

My friend has been so focused over the years on helping other people, not only has he not asked for the help he needs, when a new introduction has come his way he has been more focused on who else could benefit from the new contact than focus on his own needs.

He has a bank of people who he has helped and who would love to help him, but he doesn't feel comfortable asking for their help. As a result, they cannot recognise the right opportunities for him and he is struggling.

Givers Gain works on the understanding that your network will want to help you if you continue to help them. That only works, however, if they understand how to help you and if you accept that help when it comes your way.

It's fine not to be greedy, but not to the extent it leaves you needy.