Thursday, March 24, 2011

Business Networking - How To Effectively Compete When You Are Not Alone

Business Networking - How To Effectively Compete When You Are Networking In A Non-Profession Exclusive Group
As many seasoned Business Networking professionals know, there are a number of organizations that offer the very best training to its Members in the art and science of Business Networking. Personally, the 5 years I that received Business Network Referral training and guidance with the number one Business Networking organization in the world has been nothing short than life changing for me. Learning and mastering proven referral based marketing techniques of accelerating relationship building is the most important factor in my many years of success in business.
Without this education and training, I would have surely failed.
But what do you do when you are outside the confines of your Business Networking organization? You know, in the real world where there may be, in my case, two or three other computer guys in the room. How do you compete with that? The answer is quite simple.
But first, let's talk about what not to do.
First, don't get up tight and defensive. People can sense this. Yes, it's disconcerting at first to realize you are not the only one who, in my case, "sells" computer services. You must get a grip and realize that the way you render your services really is quite different than any of your competitors.
Secondly, don't resort to price competition in your Business Networking. Simply stating that you are cheaper than anyone else is only going to bring you short term customers who will quickly move on to the next service professional who may be cheaper than you the next time they have a need. In the service business, price is much further along in the sales process as it should be. People hire service professionals based on "Know, Like and Trust" and then price.
Thirdly, don't make the mistake of not observing how your competition presents themselves. Remember, it's not about you! It's about your prospective customers and potential referral sources. You can learn a lot about your competitors by watching how they present themselves.
Listen carefully to what they say and how they say it. Pay close attention to their entire presentation "package" - How they look; How they say what say; Be keenly aware of their body language; Watch their audience's reactions as they speak and interact with others. With a little time spent observing and talking with your competition, you'll be amazed how much you'll learn.
OK, so what should you do with this observed competitor "intel"? First things first.
First, adjust your own emotional attitude about competitors being present. You should truly be glad that they are present. If you are mentally defensive, trust me, it will show and you'll be think more about how you feel vs what you should do. You should openly embrace your business networking competitors. Your frame of mind is the most important thing to adjust to effectively compete.
Secondly, you need to show your audience that the services you offer are different than anyone else in the room. Though everyone says they want to save a buck but, in reality, price is usually the last consideration before someone hires a service professional. The most important factors are they need to Know, Like and Trust you first, long before price comes into the picture. (Yes, this was worth repeating.)
In a technical service industry, like the computer repair and network support business, most consumers are afraid of the technical stuff. They need to feel comfortable that YOU are the right person and the process of working with you will be painless; maybe even enjoyable.
Thirdly, Do Not use any technical jargon, what-so-ever, unless it's absolutely necessary. If you do, you should give a very simple explanation of each term, etc. Speak to their fears. Use simple language when describing what you do and, above all, comfort them that they have nothing to worry about if they use your services.
Your message must convince them that you, personally, will take great care of them and their issues. For example, one of the most successful insurance companies on the planet, Allstate, tells their audience that they are "In Good Hands". You need to communicate this same message too.
So the next time you are doing your Business Networking thing and or avoiding going to networking events because there may be competition there, remember the following:
  1. Go with the idea that you are there to learn about other people including your competitors and, yeah, to have an enjoyable time.
  2. Use your Business Networking skill set and do some reconnaissance. Learn how to best differentiate yourself from your competition in ways that are important to your potential customers.
  3. When you have an opportunity to get in front of a prospective customer and or referral source don't use industry jargon, ask questions and speak to their concerns.
  4. If you find yourself talking "price" right away, you're probably not in front of the right prospect anyway. Move on and adjust your approach.
Referral based marketing is one of the most powerful tools a service professional can use to siginficantly boost their business especially during economically challenegd times.
The next step is yours. Learning and mastering effective Business Networking techniques will ultimately determine your business success or failure. Obtaining solid Business Networking training is where you should start. Knowledge and skill in Business Networking separates you from your competition.

Friday, March 18, 2011

5 Business Networking Tips Anyone Can Follow

Learning how to network well is essential to job search and career success. It doesn't matter what level of business networking skills you have. These 5 business networking tips can either help you get started or serve as a good reminder. Use these 5 business networking tips at any event and see results.
  1. Be focused and specific - know exactly what you would like to get out of a business networking event. "I want to build more contacts" or " I hope to find some good leads to job opportunities" are good intentions but TOO VAGUE. If you only have a general idea of what you want out of an event, you will only get general suggestions in return. Try this instead "I want to find entry-level product manager positions in the high-tech industry. As a result, at this event, I want to connect with product managers or recruiters in high-tech companies - to 1) find out what it takes to get into product management or 2) see if they would be willing to give me feedback on my resume by email or 3) find out what they like or don't like about their job." You can have 2 or 3 areas of focus for one business networking event. This way you can adapt your conversation based on who you meet. It also helps to know well what kind of people will be at an event so you define your focus accordingly.
  2. Have low expectations - Now you know what you hope to accomplish, it's important to NOT expect it. Expecting a certain level of results puts undue pressure on yourself and can lead you to sound stiff or pushy or rigid at an event. I usually tell myself, if it doesn't seem like I am having fruitful conversations then I can always leave early. This gives me a relaxed mindset and any results I get would be bonus. Also, there are plenty of networking events out there. It's better to go to a few more and therefore allow some to be "duds" than force yourself to make each one very productive. Maybe you are just off one night as well - better cut your losses and go home early.
  3. Practice being bold - Once you are at the event, remember to talk to strangers and engage in conversations that may help with your focus. It's amazing how many people go to business networking events only to stand in a corner with a drink or food or talk only to their friends and who they know. I know I have done this plenty of times. Most of us are shy with strangers. But the nature of networking well requires us to go beyond our comfort zone and talk to new people. Remember why you are there (see #1). Don't go with friends to networking events. They can become an easy crutch. Go by yourself and if you have access to a description of the people who are attending, look at it in advance and circle anyone you may want to meet. Then just do it when you are there - start conversations to get to know people. Most likely they also have a level of discomfort and probably appreciate you striking up a conversation, so they are not standing alone. Also remember #2 - you may not always be smooth or graceful in every conversation - how you start it, how you lead it, how you end it, but it's okay. You are allowed to make mistakes - it's the only way to practice. Besides, these are all strangers. If it doesn't work out or you did something awkward - shake it off! They don't really know you anyway.
  4. Pay it forward - You cannot just take from networking events. You also gotta give when you can. This business networking tip is essential as you also want to build a reputation as someone who can help others. No one likes "networking stalkers" who just want stuff. If you know a recruiter who specializes in the finance function and you met someone looking for work in that area, offer to connect them. This person will be super appreciative and they do not need to be someone who can also help you. Think of this as good karma and you are just paying it forward - you help someone and they can help someone else. Eventually, that will come around in a good way for you. Trust me. So in your conversations, not only guide it toward what you need but also consciously listen for how you can help.
  5. Follow up - it's fruitless to follow all the business networking tips above at an event if you don't put efforts to make the most of it afterwards. Follow up does not mean emailing everyone you met. Remember your focus and prioritize your follow-up activities - they can include connecting with people on Linkedin, sending emails to people who agreed to provide information to you, and also emailing people to help them with something.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Securing Your Business Network

This article is going to explain how to secure your business network. There are a number of things every company should have implemented whether they are small, medium or large. Improving your network security and policies will help to prevent any problems that could occur now or in the future.
The first one is rather obvious, or at least I would hope it is. A good antivirus is essential, there are a number of software packages available for business users, however if you are a very small business (below 5 computers) you can probably use free antiviruses legally.
The second is another given, a good firewall to protect your business network from the outside world. This will prevent any bad packets accessing your network and help to prevent hackers from breaking in.
Peerblock is another great program you should have on your network. This program can be configured to block bad servers, known hackers and other various people from accessing your network. It works using pre set lists and blocks or allows all the IP addresses on each list. This program also helps keep your online and downloading habits protected.
Every user should be made to have a strong password. As well as this they should be made to change their passwords every few months. A good password policy is essential these days to help fight against brute force attacks and dictionary attacks, as a simple password would be cracked fast.
Site blocking is another option. Some businesses may choose to block specific websites such as Facebook, MySpace or YouTube, to try and improve worker efficiency and to prevent users going on bad websites and exposing the computers to malware.
User access rights must be properly set, this means that a new user doesn't have full access to the network as they are not yet trusted. By implementing this change, if a new users account gets breached the attacker will only have the same rights as the user they breached.
Although there are a number of things you can do to try and protect your network, unfortunately there is never anything yon do that will protect your data and network 100%. You will usually find, the thing that lets the whole system down will be the users. so it always essential to make sure all your business network users are fully trained and know the consequences for their actions.