Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Brand New Website! The blog moves here...

I'm delighted to announce today the launch of our brand new website. You can reach the site at www.lopata.co.uk.

Future blogs will now be posted on the new website, you can reach the blogs at http://www.lopata.co.uk/blog. The archive of blogs will remain on the current site for the moment.

In addition to the blogs, you can also access latest posts from The National Networker and Fresh Business Thinking, videos from my YouTube channel and useful links to networking and general business sites I recommend.

Of course, you can also find more about what I do and who I do it for as well as purchase resources to help you network more effectively.

Thanks to Rubber Cheese for designing the new site and Hatton Marketing for building it.

Please subscribe to the RSS feed on the new site to keep on receiving notifications of new blogs. We will be adding other subscription options to the blog. And please tell your network to pay us a visit!

Monday, June 07, 2010

A Question of Trust : A Conversation with Vanessa Hall Part Two

This article originally appeared in The National Networker

Last month I introduced you to Vanessa Hall, the award-winning speaker and author of Trust in Business. Vanessa outlined her model for understanding the foundations of trust and what you need to do to maintain trust in business relationships and ensure it doesn't erode and destroy relationships.

In the second part of the interview I asked Vanessa to elaborate on the role of trust in referral relationships and how to approach referrals with trust in mind.

A: In my new book I’ve been talking about how a trusted introduction can help a salesperson reach their prospect far more easily than cold calling and trying to get past the ‘gatekeeper’. Clearly that’s valuable for the salesperson, but how can the person passing the referral protect the trust they have with the prospect?

V: One of the key things about referred trust that I talk about is understanding both the benefits but also the risks involved, so we have to be quite careful when we’re referring someone else to somebody with whom we have a trust relationship.  This is where my theory of situational trust comes in as well. One of the important things which a lot of people don’t do when they’re giving referrals is to understand in what situation or what context does their trust relationship with this person exist.

Often what happens, for example, is that I might know somebody through the fact that our kids play soccer together. There’s a trust relationship that’s been built around picking up kids, dropping them off, those sorts of things. There’s still a trust there, but it’s very specific to that particular situation. If I refer somebody into that person, somebody else with whom I have an element of trust, but they’re looking for a business type referral, the person who we’re referring them to trusts me more from a social context. If I’m not clear about who this person is that I’m referring them to and why I’m referring them you can actually open yourself up to some confusion.

In understanding the situational trust that exists between two people we can also begin to develop and understand the expectations that we have, and the expectations that the person referring into them might have as well. The process of referrals works much better when you acknowledge the trust relationship that you have and then communicate the context of that contact.

Often what people do is refer people and then leave the relationship up to them but I’ve been caught out a number of times.  Just giving a contact is not enough if we want to build trust. If we don’t frame it properly, not only is the relationship not bridged between this new person and the contact but it can also damage the relationship between that person and you – the person who’s giving the referral in the first place.

A: Framing is vital. I talk a lot about ‘qualified’ and ‘unqualified’ referrals, based on the relationship you have with someone. You may, for example, pass a ‘qualified’ referral to someone you have only just met, by making that clear to the prospect. Where you know and trust the person you are referring though, the referral is ‘unqualified’. You are clearly recommending their services, by saying for example, “talk to this person, they’re superb’. 

How much time do you spend following up the introductions you make to ensure both parties are working well together? 

V: I like to know and I always ask for feedback whenever I’ve given a referral because there are a number of referrals made and if one of them doesn’t work for some reason then I have to sit back and ask what’s happening in this process. Am I not connecting the right people or am I building up an expectation that’s not being delivered?  What’s actually going on?

If you never ask for that feedback you simply don’t know.  You just keep referring people and sometimes you can really end up wasting a lot of people’s time if you’ve not done it properly, so I certainly look for feedback.

Just going back to your point before about when you say, for instance, talk to this person, they’re superb, what can happen in making a statement like that is you can certainly build up an expectation but there’s also an implied promise.  I talk about the difference between implicit and explicit promises, there’s an implied promise – the minute you give somebody a referral, there’s a very good chance that this is going to turn into a business referral, which to me is the implied promise that can break down trust more quickly.

So in not being clear about that and making a simple statement like “this person’s fantastic” or “they’re a real go-getter” or “they’re really friendly” or whatever, you’ve made an implied promise and built up an expectation in that person’s mind about how their interaction might play out, and if it doesn’t play out exactly in the way they expect and the way they believe it was promised to them and it doesn’t meet their needs then their trust in you can break down very quickly.

It’s about respecting the trust that you have and I talk about handling it with care. I compare trust to an egg, it can break very easily so you need to handle that trust very carefully and respect it for what it is.
It’s a gift when people trust you.

A :  Would you introduce someone you’ve only just met to somebody who is a very important client of yours?

V: If I’ve got a very strong sense about the person, but again I’d make it very clear that I’ve only just met them, and I can’t vouch for them other than I’ve got a sense that they were nice, or the right sort of person, but yes I certainly do qualify it in your terms.

A:  Do you find yourself from holding back from introductions that you could make until you feel the trust is at the right level?

V: Yes definitely. I think to some extent it depends on the nature of the contacts. For example, the more work that I do in senior government levels and with people connected with the UN, a lot of people want to know the people who I know. I don’t believe it’s my place to just suddenly open the doors and pour all these people to them, so it’s also being clear about what’s the nature of the relationship between me and these other people and what are their expectations in terms of protecting that relationship too.

It’s a difficult one, because on the one hand you certainly want to help people and help their business to grow and networks continue to increase, and I love connecting people but there is an element of – you know – I’d really love to understand more about you as a person and what you are trying to achieve; what’s the goal?

And what are you expecting out of this connection as well, because I’ve seen it go terribly wrong in many situations

A: You talked about referred trust, you talked about situational trust, can you just explain the other types of trust in your model?

V: In the book I talk about blind trust. With blind trust we jump in, we don’t think about what we’re expecting, about what we need, and we don’t articulate that. And so what happens in a blind trust situation is we are often left quite disappointed and we often blame the other person. But we had a role to play in that by obviously not being clear about what we expected out of this relationship, this interaction and what we need? You should also ask can this person actually promise to deliver on those, are you trusting the right person for the outcome you are looking for?

I talk about sceptical trust, which is the opposite.  We’re very, very clear about our expectations and we want to get right down to the nitty gritty detail before we step into the trust relationship. Very, very clear about our expectations, very clear about our needs, We’ll only trust somebody who will 100% promise to meet those.
I talk about middle ground. There’s a balance between those two, both of them can work very well in some situations but both of them can be very detrimental so there’s a middle ground there. We have to articulate and be clear about our expectations and needs and be sure that the person we’re dealing with can make promises to deliver that.

We can’t go down to the nth degree and people can’t always promise every little detail and so there is a point where we have to step into the relationship but by understanding the model of trust we can also continue to communicate effectively as well.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Free Teleseminar tonight!

This evening, at 8pm BST, I'll be interviewed by Richard White on the subject of 'Leveraging the Power of your Network'.

This is a free teleseminar, and you'd be more than welcome to join us. You can get more information and sign up here.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Are there cultures where networking just can’t work?

Last week I spoke at the ‘Antreprenor 2010’ Conference in Bucharest, Romania. A number of people came up to me after my talk and asked me whether there were cultural differences between the UK and Romania and, if so, whether those differences would make it harder for networking to take hold.

More than once I was told that people in Romania are less willing to share ideas, contacts or advice with their competition. I was told that people are ‘closed’ to each other and it was unlikely that such interaction would be successful.

While I admit to not having a tremendous grasp of Romanian culture in just three days spent there, I would be very surprised if networking didn’t take off there. The people I met were very warm and friendly and they engaged with each other positively. I didn’t see people left alone or struggling to integrate themselves into conversation as I often do in the UK.

Romania is a young country in democratic and market terms. Under communist rule until twenty years ago, entrepreneurialism is still growing and many complained that small businesses are not effectively supported by the Government.

It’s not that long ago that people in the UK would have made the same complaints and would have doubted the chances of networking working here. In fact, I still meet many people who write off networking as a serious business tool and see competition as ‘dog-eat-dog’, rather than providing opportunities for collaboration.

I met young entrepreneurs in Romania who are very active networkers, enthusiastic about forming groups of young professionals such as Junior Chamber of Commerce (JCI) and independent groups. BNI Chapters are growing and other networks meet successfully.

As for a ‘closed people’, the journalist who interviewed me the day before my speech had the completely opposite view. “Why do we need such networks?” she asked me. “We do this naturally anyway.”

I may be na├»ve but I don’t believe that an existing culture is a bar to networking becoming an important and accepted part of business life. It may be slower to take off in some areas than others but a generation is coming through worldwide who want to work together and support each other.

Perhaps the most important influence in Romania was the fact that networking hasn’t been widely discussed in such terms before. I hope that last week’s event is the start of a conversation that will change people’s perceptions.

Monday, May 24, 2010

"Buzz Off": How to Destroy a Buzz Marketing Campaign

According to the site BuzzMarketing.com, Buzz Marketing is "capturing attention of consumers and the media to the point where talking about your brand becomes entertaining, fascinating, and newsworthy" or, put more simply, "starting conversations."

Buzz Marketing has become an increasingly popular route to market for many businesses, large and small. Companies recognise that more buying decisions are made because of recommendation and referral than any other factor. The growth of review sites, such as TripAdvisor demonstrate this perfectly.

I have been part of a Buzz Marketing campaign this year. It was one that I originally thought was well thought through and inventive, but increasingly demonstrates the dangers of a buzz marketing campaign that is not fully supported.

As a member of a Private Members club in London's West End I was offered a free Palm Pre mobile phone. Intended as a competitor to Apple's iPhone, the device had failed to get much traction in the UK market and it was thought that the members of our club mixed in the right circles to generate some positive word of mouth about the phone. We were given the handset with no contract and unlocked, so that we could use it with our existing network, and a card with details for support.I was also connected on Twitter to the independent Palm Pre Guru for constant tips and hints on using the phone.

A few weeks later I received a short questionnaire about how well the phone was working for me, with a quick reaction to the questions I raised. All good so far.

Then it began to unravel. First of all I lost some pictures when trying to transfer them across to my computer. I sent a tweet to Palm Pre Guru and an email to Palm for advice and support but received no response.
Then last week my battery, which had been performing increasingly poorly, died completely. I tried again to contact Palm through their Twitter account and by email. Again I got no response. I even tweeted my dissatisfaction with Palm to see if it would raise their interest, but they remained silent.

Palm's aim in giving me a free phone was to get me to talk about their product. I was picked because of my membership of a Club on the basis that I would be likely to be well connected in their target communities and likely to spread the word.

In that case, doesn't it make sense to ensure that the word I spread is a positive one, rather than negative? Palm appear to have entered into this campaign half-heartedly, thinking it is enough to simply give away phones and hope their performance speaks for itself. Not if the battery dies it doesn't!

If you engage in Buzz Marketing and select people who will speak about you, make sure that the word you give them to spread is a positive one. Treat them as your most important customers, not as an afterthought or irrelevance. Buzz Marketing has to be backed up by superlative customer service if it's going to make the impact you seek.

If my experience is not unique, this campaign could possibly turn out to be a complete disaster for Palm.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Importance of Building your Profile and Managing your Reputation - Latest newsletter from Fresh Business Thinking

The new issue of my networking newsletter for Fresh Business Thinking is out today. In this latest issue, we've focused on your personal profile and brand. I have turned to experts across this field for their advice. 

I have developed my thoughts on focusing on what people say about you, a theme that Person Branding expert Lesley Everett then takes on.

We then turn to two experts on becoming the expert in your field. Mindy Gibbins-Klein discusses why this is so important and Jo Parfitt looks at how writing can strengthen your personal profile. 

Find out more about why it's so important to build your personal profile and how to do it here. 

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Connecting is not Enough - The Newsletter

In the latest edition of Connecting is not Enough I get my teeth stuck into the British political system and what our politicians could learn by engaging in a little bit of networking. And it's not just the UK politicians who should be thinking more about collaboration.

Also included, of course, is the usual blend of networking tips, referral ideas, social networking suggestions and video. With, of course, the latest from The National Networker, a new video and just a little bit of fun.

If you're not a lucky subscriber and haven't had your copy hand delivered yet, you need wait no longer.